Opening to a large crowd that isn’t familiar with your work is never an easy task. Playing to a restless, slightly-tipsy bunch of college kids waiting to hear the latest top 40 radio hero (in this case, Mat Kearney) when you are tired, moody and armed only with an acoustic guitar, a breaking voice and one bandmate on electric guitar? That's even worse.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving at Atlanta's Roxy saw Griffin House opening for Kearney, a songwriter who amounts to a poor, American version of Chris Martin with extra awkward, white-guy rapping. In front of a chatty crowd, House took little time on stage before berating the audience for not keeping quiet.
But when he finally launched into the raucous “The Way I Was Made,” introduced as the song about his “grandparents having sex,” House and his guitar player made great noise, filling the hall with fervent chords and zealous - if strained - vocals.
By the time House ended with live-only track “Volkswagen,” the crowd had warmed up sufficiently enough to sing along with the easy-going chorus, repeating “I need love” as resounding joy bounced off the walls.
Bare bones can be a great sound for House. To be able to hear every word of his poetic lyrics and every lick of his sweetly-strummed guitar, shimmering with echoes of roots music and '70s balladeers, is always a treat. But without a backing band and a truly-attentive audience, the exposed sound was wasted. Here's hoping the crowd pays attention in the future so others can hear his sweet, soulful voice.