Ralph Roddenbery & Friends perform at Hendershot's Coffee Bar in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (Photo/Taylor Perry, email@example.com) Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 3:00 pm | Updated: 7:28 pm, Thu Feb 28, 2013.
Ralph Roddenbery feels at home singing and joking
The college crowd missed out Wednesday.
While students spent the evening stressing out over midterms, older Athenians crowded Hendershot’s Coffee Bar to hear Ralph Roddenbery play roots rock with guitarist Beetle Andrews and bassist Tommy Jones.
Roddenbery’s voice ranged from a low gravel to a high whisper but always bore a warm, gritty timbre. Capable of the belting at which so many fail, he sang about love, loss and disappointment with a sincerity of experience.
Though Roddenbery’s music wasn’t by any means groundbreaking, it was strengthened by simplicity. The group, anchored by Jones’ steady fingerwork and Andrews’ well-placed guitar solos, played unassuming but energetic music that spoke for itself.
The upbeat “Get Up Off Your Hands” was a cheery soundtrack for optimism, whereas the soulful “Boo Coo Disarray” was a humorous reflection on the frustrations of life.
The singer acted as musician and comedian, regaling the crowd between songs with tales of a naked recording session, a third grade affair — once, a Chris Rock impression. Even Roddenbery’s songs were occasionally interrupted by his rendition of a baby’s cry or a dog’s woof.
The crowd loved him. It was a dance party for 50-somethings. Instead of playing an anonymous show for strangers in a bar, the musician played for friends and friends of friends.
It makes sense for Roddenbery to have a local following — he spent 20 years in the Athens music scene and wrote most of the songs in his set here. Wednesday night was a homecoming celebration of sorts, complete with cupcakes.
“People in Athens, you know,” he said. “It’s always different because they bring it.”
Midway through the first set, Eddie Glicken hopped on stage to jam on djembe. Though the musicians had held their own sans percussion, his addition amped the energy even more.
The band played off that energy and kept the crowd going well past 11 p.m., which was later than this girl wants to dance at 19, much less at 51. But Roddenbery’s people knew good Athens music and rejoiced in it.
Roddenbery sees a future in the town much like the past that brought him to his present.
“So many great musicians in Athens,” he said. “Especially y’all’s generation, as well. Now it just keeps going.”
- Sarah Anne Perry