“I probably look a little different from the last time I was here.”
Singer-songwriter Dylan Gardner took his new sound (and new look) on the road, bringing the Let’s Get This Started Tour to Valley Bar on Friday.
Local group Damn the Weather opened the evening with their brand of folk-rock and the perfect touch of violin. The talented quintet played a range of newer songs, telling stories with their lyrics that had plenty of friends and fans stomping their feet and clapping their hands. The end of the set brought a soft and unexpected cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” that had an initially shocked audience laughing and singing along.
Foreign Figures was another surprise in the evening. The Mormon quartet from Utah introduced their stomping, anthemic alt-pop to a more crowded venue, winning those who hadn’t heard of them prior to the show. Each member contributed to the vocals, with stunning four-part harmonies throughout the set. Lead singer Eric Michels was engaging and theatrical, getting the audience involved in the set- even bringing a superfan onstage to sing “Heart of Gold”.
The band also took a moment to address the mental health issues that plague so many people across the world, performing a song written in honor of a friend lost to suicide. They also added in their take on the meme-able “Africa” by Toto for an uplifting version of the recently-resurfaced hit.
At only 22, Dylan Gardner has seen more of the music industry than people twice his age. Shaking things up from his last tour, Gardner is on the road with a new group of musicians, a new look and a shiny new sound.
The focus of Friday night was definitely the new sound, with the majority of the setlist filled by new (and mostly unreleased) tracks. Opening with the sleeper hit “Privacy”, Gardner’s most dedicated fans pressed closer to the stage to sing along. The biggest surprise of the evening happened on only the second song, “New York Times”, a powerful moment so early in the set.
Gardner is still having the time of his life onstage, clearly excited to show off his maturing musical skills. Ever the guitar prodigy, he made sure to inject plenty of impressive solos, while also highlighting the considerable talents of the musicians joining him onstage.
Keyboardist Kerri Stewart took some of the vocal duties, with Gardner looking on proudly, while bassist Hank Fontaine and drummer Mark Gardner kept the beat strong. The group added in an ethereal Frank Ocean cover, before playing older songs like “Nothing Without You” and updated arrangements of the usually-poppy “You Got That Thing” and “Let’s Get Started”.
The new versions of Gardner’s old sound brought his first two records on par with his new musical direction, an effective way to keep the previous staples in the setlist. The fans loved every minute, singing along with even the newer songs like “Dark Side” and learning quickly to assist with “Catching Fire”. Gardner closed the evening with a brand new version of “I Want It Like That” before beelining to the merch table for hugs and selfies with a venue full of longtime fans. Watching Gardner interact with fans that he now knows by name was genuine and endearing, and proves that his star is only beginning to rise.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel