If her oversold show at the Bootleg revealed anything, it’s that Lauren Ruth Ward is LA’s worst kept secret. Filling the venue last Friday were all of Ward’s friends–both current and future, she reminded us. This made for a wild and endearing show, opening up with Laura Jean Anderson and Vanessa Wheeler, showcasing her new project Vava. Ward was the main event, celebrating her new single, “Well, Hell,” but love permeated every corner of venue that night.
A brief, but groovy set from Vava led directly to the joyful acoustic-pop of Laura Jean Anderson. Anderson put out an EP called Righteous Girl in February of 2016 (was it that long ago?!) and I finally had the privilege to hear it live at the Bootleg. Her voice has an Americana twang, and her guitar sings as passionately as she does when she’s strumming. And without her guitar, her hands are free to move with her hips, feeling the music throughout her limbs. We heard more than her four Righteous tracks that night, but they flowed expertly, leaving me with a blurry memory of sound, movement, and Anderson’s contagious grin.
Music fans in the city of angels are often coy around their local idols, but we were shameless for Lauren Ruth Ward. She came out with the band to do a final tech check a few minutes before showtime, and everyone cheered as if it were the damn encore. To be fair, the cheers weren’t just for her. The suave and talented Eddie Rivera is the principal guitarist, and co-wrote all the songs on Ward’s new record; Liv Slingerland released a solo project last month with the power I have come to expect from her as Ward’s bassist; and India Pascucci is the band’s drummer with an impressive pedigree, who also put out a solo EP last year that knocked me on my heels.
It was no shock to hear them play with precision and power at the Bootleg. Ward will be releasing an album called Well, Hell fairly soon, and she seized the opportunity to play it in full for us on Friday. Ward made the show one to remember, going from singles we’ve loved like “Make Love To Myself” to ones that may be new such as “Travel Man.” Her bandmates were in sync, which left Ward the sole responsibility of performing, tossing her hands up, leaping to and from the edges of the stage, and belting lyrics like they were her last words. She brought her fiancée onstage (who is worth far more than the label of ukulele enthusiast!) to join her in a cover medley, and they also sang together on “Sheet Stains,” which features LP’s vocals on the studio record as well. Ward did take up the guitar toward the end of the set for an acoustic number that put a lid on our energy for those few moments, only to explode for the final song of the night like a spring-loaded snake puppet in a can of peanut brittle.
On the surface, Ward is charismatic and sassy, but a closer listen will reveal deeper nuances to her songwriting. “Staff Only” opens with lines of seeming self-deprecation, but reveals a tougher side to her narrative: “Wanna throw a punch? Well I can take a punch,” she seethes. As far as vulnerable songwriting is concerned, “Blue Collar Sex Kitten” is a work of sheer brilliance. She wears her queer identity on her sleeve, and “won’t apologize for [her] tribe” neither. Her newly minted rainbow bangs glowed under the Bootleg’s lights.
If it wasn’t clear already, understand that Ward not only depends upon but propels everyone in the arts community around her. This harkens back to the main characteristic one can glean from even just five minutes in a room with the Baltimore-bred artist: her immense amount of love. Every time we speak, she shows her appreciation for the piece I wrote back in February, and she introduces me to others grinding in this industry, including photographers, other musicians, and even fellow bloggers. And those are just my personal experiences; imagine, then, the experiences of every other artistic type that has the pleasure of knowing her. You actually don’t need to imagine it because everyone came together at the party last Friday. She incorporated live visual accompaniment from Liquid Courage Light Show, or rather, she let them have free reign over the her dynamic backdrop. She also was spotted wearing her signature branded denim jacket, made by Rachel Quiles at Vintage Redeux; the other three bandmates also have jackets to match. Even tangential acquaintances turned out to be a huge force at the show, creating a collective excitement that affected all in the crowd that night.
It is safe to say that in this enormous city, Ward’s light shines brightly. It’s no secret, her having toured Europe with LP this past summer, earning herself fans internationally. She now has a nine-track LP finally ready for launch, but it doesn’t have a release date yet; expect it sometime next year once her label gets everything together. Until then let the title track, and Lauren’s entire existence, inspire you.
You can hear “Well, Hell” in the embed above. Follow Lauren Ruth Ward on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Follow Liquid Courage Light Show on Instagram. Follow Vintage Redeux on Instagram. Bask in the glory of her band on Soundcloud: Eddie / Liv / India. Support your local community any way that you can.
words: Zoë Elaine