Writer/Producer Bill Flanagan of MTV/VH1 wrote a superb novel four years ago called A & R. Somewhere in the narrative one of the primary characters conveys the cyclical nature of musical trends, his point being that past musical styles are usually modernized and presented again, but by young artists. The way he puts it, “The public doesn’t want some old white-haired guy with a mustache who looks like he escaped from the farmer’s market. They can get this kind of music from the old artists they love or they can get it from good-looking young acts.” It sounds awful, but in fact may be the horrible truth.
Ryan Green initially described RyanHood’s music to AUI as “Simon & Garfunkel meets Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds.” S & G = last generation; M & R = new generation. Ryan Green and Cameron Hood, known collectively as RyanHood, vocalize harmonically in the S & G style, but play instrumentally more like M & R. It’s an updated take on a musical style still very appealing to middle-aged listeners, but Ryan and Cameron present it in an electrified fashion that makes it fashionable for the youngest of listeners as well.
RyanHood made their debut
this Memorial Day Weekend at the summer-long Street Performer’s Festival at the
Faneuil Hall/Quincy Marketplace. Despite
what I previously wrote about the Marketplace, it is a major attraction in
The daunting task for the performers is to entice passers-by to stop and pay attention to them. This can be an overwhelming chore for the musical performers, who must compete with various magicians, jugglers, and acrobatic acts that are very popular and well established in this series. Typically it is they who draw the largest and most enthusiastic crowds.
Musical performers can’t compete effectively unless their music is very good, accessible, and relevant to as many onlookers as possible. Uniqueness in itself isn’t adequate; many of the musical performers are outright eccentric, and come off as oddities which make them interesting to hear and watch for a short period of time but usually fail to keep people’s attention for too long. In addition, musical performers MUST interact with the crowd between musical selections in a manner comparable to the magicians, jugglers, and acrobat barkers, who integrate sharp and quick impromptu comedic wit in their act. Most of the performers are seasoned pros, having performed in the series for several years.
I’m happy to report that Ryan and Cameron were phenomenally successful in drawing crowds AND retaining them. The attraction began immediately upon beginning their sets. They’re good looking; they dress well; their act is more visually alluring than the mostly solo musical performers because they are an ensemble; and Cameron Hood’s interaction with the crowds rivals even the most seasoned professional performers.
The appeal of RyanHood’s music cuts across gender and age. Many observed that they sing as well as they play; a couple of young guys from Syracuse didn’t sound particularly nice about it when they pointed this out to Ryan and Cameron, but they were sincere—merely talking in their natural brogue. Women appeared to like the harmonies; men seemed to enjoy both players’ guitar technique and the muscular aspects of RyanHood’s musical presentation. Older men appreciated RyanHood’s folk element; other’s perceived diverse factors inherent in the music.
For lack of a more concise phrase, I have described what Ryan and Cameron do as “fusion folk.” What is being fused into the mix is in the ears of the listener. One middle-aged male told me that he loved Ryan’s playing; to him it had bluegrass rudiments, and he said that he absolutely loved the soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou and thought it was great that a young person played this wonderful music. Another college-aged male told me that he thought Ryan played in the great jazz tradition. These two observations were made in regards to the same song being performed!
Younger listeners were equally enthralled with RyanHood. An enthusiastic 15-year old female told me that she thought RyanHood was “funky.” I think this was an excellent observation! I’ll revise my description of their music to “funked-up fusion folk.” College-aged females love them too (check out a very recent post by AUI’s resident sweetheart, Tamra W.). Kids enjoyed watching and listening to them and many toddlers danced tirelessly to their music throughout the weekend.
Ryan and Cameron’s music grabs your attention immediately, and is presented with vigor. Their sets begin with the short and effective “Oh No,” whose lyrics are very appropriate for a show starter; the harmonies define them as singers in addition to players. They then segue into a new song, the musically brawny “Separate” (which you can hear on their Web site). This tune typically draws the crowd’s attention. They then transition to their ultimate showstopper, another new song called “Welcome to My Head.” Cameron introduces the song with an effective anecdote about how they wrote the song (you’ll have to see them for yourselves for the specifics), and how Ryan’s mind-boggling and startling intro was crafted. Ryan’s astounding guitar work on this song doesn’t let up for even a nanosecond and it simply astonishes everyone in RyanHood’s proximity. In fact, on Memorial Day RyanHood were assigned a less-than-desirable location, being directly adjacent to one of the Marketplace’s most popular attractions—a juggling act. RyanHood had to contend with loud and enthusiastic cheers from a very large audience directed towards the juggler. This same juggler interrupted the middle of his own act, ran right up to Ryan and demanded that RyanHood turn down their volume (they’re an acoustic act, folks!). The juggler looked magnanimously silly in the process—complete with clown pants and beret—as to be surreal, and RyanHood’s crowd found it entertaining. The always-clever Cameron transformed the situation into great extemporaneous comedy for his crowd, which is what I think seriously concerned the juggler in the first place—the notion that even a scintilla of HIS crowd were being siphoned to RyanHood.
The remainder of the set includes many of their excellent compositions from their Sad and Happiness CD, in addition to some clever integration of cover tunes, such as a unique take on The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” which grabs the attention of the baby-boomers, who still apishly slave anything Beatles.
One woman I spoke
to books special events for the United Way in Florida and told me she would
hire Ryan and Cameron in a heartbeat should they ever tour her state. Another fellow told me he had connections to
92.5 The River, which is one of the
I would confidently declare Ryan and Cameron’s Street Performer’s Festival debut a resounding success. I realize that I’m very biased, but this opinion is being submitted to all at AUI from a professional observer. And I know what I’m talking about.