Something beautiful can happen when you plant yourself in fertile ground and tap into – as well as become – a natural resource in your environment. The best of that beautiful, on an artistic front, manifests itself when you allow yourself to learn, grow and thrive and others to do the same. At her recent sold-out show at the Troubadour (and as has been done on the regular at local shows in her adopted hometown of Los Angeles), Lauren Ruth Ward deployed an arsenal of extraordinary that she counts herself fortunate enough to call not just artistic colleagues, but friends. Friends like show openers Dean Passarella w/ Kameron Grae and Josiah and the Bonnevilles, Liquid Courage Light Show making the room feel like the inside of a lava lamp, Lust and Fond Vintage for fabulous fashion assists, Sarah Prinz with expressive movement and Caroline Blaike performing the songs in American Sign Language making the live show deaf accessible.
Ward has made herself at home and allowed herelf and her community garden to grow; a skill she has figured out like a boss, but it took a moment.
Before settling into LA the Baltimore native briefly made what even she admits was a half-assed go of things in New York City.
“I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was.” Ward confessed. “I was dating somebody who wasn’t really gung-ho about my choice… I was allowing them to influence me, where I was spending my time. I had a day where I wasn’t super busy in New York, I’d go home, I’d go back to Maryland and stay with them.”
“I still had my foot in the door in Maryland.”
But moving some 3,000 miles away from home was an exercise in finally – and bravely – cutting the cord.
What she found in her new city of angels was an atmosphere as laid back as it was energetic as it was welcoming along with a “groovy-dressed tribe that you see in movies.” On her fourth day in LA she was exchanging phone numbers with musicians who would become good friends.
Marking three years as a Los Angeles resident and on the heels of the release of her debut album, Well Hell, Ward made a magnificent musical spectacle of herself at a Troubadour packed with lovers of Ward’s pointed, personal, inclusive, and sharp-tongued lyrical nature, soaring throaty vocal rasp, and her fierce queerness: She may very well be the LGBTQ queen that we all need.
With bandmates guitarist Eddie Rivera, drummer India Pascucci and Liv Slingerland’s final appearance on bass (she’s off to focus on her own project, Slingerland), Ward worked her 60s-00s encompassing sound such as the Laugh In-style groove “Sideways,” defiant identifier “Blue Collar Sex Kitten” and the brush off ode “Make Love To Myself” with what can be labeled her trademark fiery, controlled abandon which the crowd devoured in adoration. Bonuses came in the form of “We Are Grown Ups” (a song I can’t wait for a recorded version of), feeling some deep 60s psychedelic bones with a rich cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” plus Ward with Josiah and the Bonnevilles taking Blur’s “Song 2” for a pretty stunning alternative spin.
And cheers to the Liquid Light Courage folks for the comical happy birthday homage to Ward’s fur baby, Orson Johnny Valentine and to Ward, herself, for guiding the room in a moment of collective remembrance of Emery Becker.
With Dean Passarella as one of her opening bands, Ward ensured that her band wasn’t the only source of female musicians on her stage: during her previous residency shows at the Echo/Echoplex, she stacked it because representation matters.
“Damn right my residency was 85% female-fronted,” Ward boldly states “but that’s just because there’s so much fuckin’ great female music and yeah, I definitely want to strategically give females an upper hand because it’s about fucking time.”
But narrowing that gender gap on stages is a tricky balance to maintain particularly in a town so talent deep on all gender fronts (the Yip Yops are one of many local male-fronted bands that she loves), yet doing so is damned important to Ward; she is determined to be a source of empowerment and to do so her way.
“If we’re gonna fight for feminism and equality, I’m definitely going to focus on females because we still have not been given all the same opportunities that males have been given.”
That’s certainly one way – and one with pure purpose – to make your community garden grow.
Photos: Lauren Ruth Ward @ Troubadour, 3/29/18
Photo Credit: ZB Images