Ben Fuller Plays The Roxy

By Taylor Van Arsdale

It only takes the slightest hint of a drizzle to send Los Angelenos into a housebound tailspin, fortunately inclement weather couldn’t stop a cozy, intimate crowd from gathering at the Roxy to see the Ben Fuller Band and opening act; Shay Astar.

Acoustic singer/songwriter Astar opened the show with hauntingly melodic songs—her sultry voice and country/rock songs calling to mind Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. She sang gently of the futility of putting on a good face when you’re heartbroken, in “Don’t Break Down” “I want to love you forever / what’s the use of holding it all together.” Of the song she said, “We’re all so conditioned to be “cool” and keep our emotions in check and then when you fall in love, you find release from all that. It’s about allowing yourself to be free, to feel.” She also sang about, “boys who done me wrong.” Amongst her fans were celebrity Keith Carradine (“Dexter”) and his lovely wife, actress Hayley DuMond. Astar’s ethereally maudlin ballads seemed the perfect accompaniment to the rain.

Headliner, Ben Fuller, a Lake Tahoe native, stepped on stage to deliver his upbeat blend of Americana/Folk-Indie Rock to Los Angeles…for the very first time.

Fuller’s show featured genuinely gregarious acoustic and electric tunes with indisputable hooks. He’s able to weave the sad lyrical strains of “Ashes” “Family fields are turning brown / I’m gonna lay your ashes down / fires burning / wind swept the wheat off the ground / I’m gonna lay your ashes down” and eloquently combine them with up tempo rhythms and bridges; a wistful songwriting quality you don’t typically see too much of today; though think Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy In New York” and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Fuller describes his sound as, “Kind of like Tom Petty mixed with something a little newer and more alternative,” and says he didn’t “really get into songwriting until college” yet in a short amount of time, he’s brought forth an insightful group of songs on his debut solo EP, “Aquarian Son.”

Produced by Scott Fisher, “Aquarian Son” has several breakout songs—in addition to “Ashes”—including “Handsome Loser,” a track that feels very ‘Gin Blossomy’ and “California” a song Fuller sardonically told the audience he wrote, “about California.” The EP’s been getting AAA college radio play from coast to coast on stations such as Oregon’s KINK 101.9 FM, KRVM 91.9 FM and New Jersey’s WBJG-FM 90.5 FM.

Joining him on stage were Keyboardist/Synth master Eric Matlock, who worked the Nord to serve up just the right hint of blues and Calypso melodies, along with funk-inspired drummer, Michael B. Adamo and “slappin’ the bass” bassist, Steve La Bella. Matlock said he tries to, “keep it very versatile, depending on what’s called for in the song,”

Fans, some of whom traveled from as far as the south bay to check out the show, were pleasantly surprised to see Fuller with a full band and watched in earnest as Fuller ripped out a solid 45 minutes of inspired compositions. Surprising us all; a rousing rendition of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World.” No doubt about it, Ben Fuller’s got the makings of a prolific songwriter.

Photos by Taylor Van Arsdale