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2013 Spring Issue 3 (April 26, 2013)

Singer-Songwriter Josh Ritter Comes to Carleton

April 28, 2013
By Joe Steigmeyer

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band will be visiting Carleton tonight to give a musical performance in the Concert Hall starting at 8:00 P.M. Ritter made time in his schedule to drop by Northfield between a performance at First Avenue in Minneapolis last night and another stop at The Vic Theatre in Chicago that will take place tomorrow night.

Ritter has produced six studio albums and is currently making his way across the Midwest on his “The Beast In Its Tracks” Tour—named after his most recent album—before heading to the East coast in May. The Idaho native weaves his narrative lyrics through folk, country, and rock music. In 2006, he was named one of the “100 Greatest Living Songwriters” by Paste magazine and recently his song “In Your Arms Again” was featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Determined not to limit himself to one artistic medium, Ritter also published a novel, Bright’s Passage, which the Los Angeles Times called “Intensely beautiful, tragic, and also funny…a rich, beautiful story with shape.”

Given Ritter’s impressive resume and his audience here on campus, it is not difficult to believe that the 300 tickets made available to the Carleton community a couple weeks ago were sold out within hour. Ritter “is a very Carleton sort of guy,” said Andy Flory, music professor and chief organizer of the event who worked along with music performance activities coordinator and lecturer in music, Gao Hong to make the event possible.

When Flory had an opportunity to suggest a musician to bring to campus, he immediately thought back to the first time he had tuned into KRLX just before coming to Carleton and was excited to hear students broadcasting Ritter’s music. He believes that Ritter’s experience in music and writing really “speaks to the liberal arts student,” which is why he decided to pitch the idea of inviting the Oberlin alum to campus to his colleagues in the Music Department. “The faculty [in the Music Department] work well together to decide what to do with the budget for the annual concert series,” said Flory, adding that “they are all very supportive” when it comes to their colleagues’ proposals.

Flory initially contacted Ritter’s manager, Darius Zelkha, to suggest that the college and the Northfield community would make for a great performance atmosphere, only to find that Zelkha not only knew about Carleton, but that he has preexisting connections to the school as well. Once both parties were in agreement, planning began for what will certainly be one of the “biggest shows the Music Department had ever done.”  

Doors will open at 7:15 tonight to ensure that any unclaimed seats are filled by some of the many eager students who were unable to get tickets before they sold out. In addition to the high number of students, there are also looks to be “tons of faculty and staff” who will be in attendance, said Flory, going on to say that “the response has made us think a lot about what we’re doing in the future,” as far as the potential for larger concerts is concerned.

Given the overwhelming enthusiasm generated by Josh Ritter’s impending visit, the decision to hold the performance in the concert hall encountered some criticism because of its limited seating capacity. However, the organizers are “trying to increase seating as much as possible,” while maintaining the comfort and safety of the audience. It was a difficult decision to make the concert a ticketed event, said Flory, because “it’s not a very Carleton thing to not have something available,” but the necessity for using a site on campus with proper acoustics was an essential factor in selecting the concert hall.

Given the persistently high demand for tickets in the weeks following the sell-out, the Chapel was proposed as a higher-capacity venue, as it has played host to numerous musical performances in the past. However, it was ultimately declined because of the logistical impossibility of moving the necessary heavy performance equipment up stairs, combined with the higher volume of noise that Northfield residents near the campus would be subject to during the night concert. Said Flory, “we want to be respectful of the community.”

Ritter’s concert promises to be a momentous occasion with entertainment and a high turnout guaranteed. If you do not have a ticket and would still like to try to get a seat, line numbers will be handed out at the Music Hall at 2:00PM this afternoon. Though there is not a guarantee that any seats will be unclaimed, those that are unclaimed 7:50PM tonight will be given to those who received numbers at the Music Hall, with priority going in ascending numerical order.

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