Reviews

Lauren Ruth Ward: When Retro Meets Right Now

“I am the Lizard King / I can do anything.” The infamous Jim Morrison lyric sums up a few things about Lauren Ruth Ward: her title of Lizard Queen, her feminist outlook, and her no-boundaries way of life that applies to aspects as small as her vocal nuances to major pillars like her very identity.

Ward started out in small-town Maryland working at a movie theater, a Marshalls department store, and eventually cutting hair after high school. It was on a whim that she auditioned for The Voice in 2012, and even though she was cut in the first round of selected finalists, she was determined to follow down the path of being a musician.

“This was very spontaneous me, just wanting to do something fun,” she told Noisey. The auditions were in New York, so she got a hotel room and “conned two of my friends and my boyfriend at the time into coming, like, ‘It’s gonna be fun! If I don’t make it, we’ll fuckin’ party. If I make it, we’ll party harder.’”

Three years later, she couldn’t resist the West Coast any longer and took her music to L.A. in 2015. She conquered the local scene by performing weekly and has played over 100 gigs since, all logged on a list she keeps. It’s a testament to her work ethic and commitment to the long haul.

Ward’s 60s-style riffs and bold sandpaper-y voice are an immediate callback to Janis Joplin, but her fresh take keeps the whole feel modern. In essence, she embodies the genre fondly known as Angry Girl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion — and it’s not without merit. She’s angry and outspoken, especially in the midst of the industry’s #MeToo movement.

“One night we went to [a rock bar in Hollywood] and all the bros were out in full force,” she said to The L.A. Times. “One of them was belligerently hitting on me. He had that thinking where I was just there for his entertainment.”

Afterward, she went home and wrote the empowering “Make Love to Myself,” the song she says was the “middle finger” to him. She doesn’t take bullshit from anyone, not random men nor her critics that challenge her brazenness and her queerness.

Part of Ward’s no-boundaries identity is her engagement to LP, a fellow female singer-songwriter who she began dating in mid 2015 after several years of relationships with men. Her pointed lyric, “I’m a dyke, dated guys, won’t apologize for my tribe,” speaks to the confidence and blissfully blank slate she found when she moved to L.A.

Ward’s tribe also includes her live band, drummer India Pascucci, bassist Livia Slingerland, and guitarist Eduardo Rivera. They’re a tight-knit group that brings Ward’s gritty bravado to a deafening crescendo with each song. They leave it all on the stage at every single performance, and it’s impossible not to scream with the crowd.

Lauren Ruth Ward is opening for Shakey Graves on Thursday, June 21st, at The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. Click here for tickets.

Taylor Gilliam

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