Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boise Bohemia and The Josh Ritter Concert

I went to Boise, Idaho for my birthday, a surprise trip from my boyfriend. When I told people where I was going I got what I call the Pace Picante Sauce reaction (New York City!?! Boise, Idaho!?!). But there was a method to Chad's madness. A singer/songwriter named Josh Ritter, a favourite of ours, was playing a two night show at the Egyptian Theatre on my birthday.

So, we fly in and as we approach the city, it's nothing but desert wasteland. But, as soon as you're in the city itself, you're surrounded by trees! In fact, the airport boasts a banner that states Boise is indeed the city of trees. We stayed in this very retro hotel called The Modern. It's an old 1950's drive up motel that has been remodeled beautifully. They served croissants every morning that I still dream about. There were surprises every corner I turned in Boise. People with tattoos and piercings everywhere- I don't picture Idaho people being all sewn up. The sidewalks were lined with lavender plants. They have an extensive hike and bike trail that follows the Boise River. And speaking of the river, we floated it on our second day there. But, it's a float where
you have to pay attention, couple of small rapids that could capsize your kayak. All the restaurants we ate at were part of a widespread eat local movement. A couple of places even listed all their purveyors on the back of their menus and had composts in their basements. The Italian place we dined at for my birthday meal served pastas that were made on site that day. The wine list was very nice at a very reasonable price point as well; always a plus in my book. And everyone's mode of transportation? Bicycles. It's a small enough town that it's very easy and pleasant to get around on a bike. The weather is mild year round, hardly any snow in the winter, but skiing is a mere 20 minutes away. It was a bit warm our last day there, but upon arrival to Boise, it was 76 degrees! Coming from Texas where it was 104 at 10am, that's downright freezing! Just on the other side of the desert hills, is a huge national forest. All in all, a great town! Several residents compared their fair city to an aspiring Austin. Which is cool with me.

The Egyptian Theatre was built in 1927, around the same time as the discovery and exhuming of King Tut's tomb. So, the entire theatre is like being in a pharaoh's tomb, except there's a stage and seats. Originally, a cinema theatre, it has hosted all three Bourne movie premieres.
Josh Ritter was playing there the night of my birthday with his full band. The second night would be him on acoustic guitar backed by a string quartet from the Boise Symphony Orchestra. He comes out on stage dressed in all black- Johnny Cash style. He can barely contain
himself, jumping up and down on stage and
repeatedly saying, "This is so cool!" He is so excited to be back in his home state. Ritter and his band are constantly on tour, mainly up north and in the UK. The Irish love him. He rarely makes it below the Mason-Dixon Line, and NEVER to Texas (hence our trek up north). Josh plays all of his classics and shares some new songs as well. He brings a girl named Dawn Landes on stage to sing. We all suspect this is his new wife, but Josh neither confirms nor denies. As he sang a couple of songs sans guitar, unsure of what to do with his hands, he picks at his fingernails and plays with the hem of his jacket. This makes him more human less performer to me. His bassist is quite the character himself. Sporting a handlebar mustache, he twists it into shape each time before playing. At the end of the second night's performance, the bassist does a solo piece for one of the encore songs. And it was hilarious! The subject of the song? You guessed it, his mustache. I wish I would have recorded it.

The opening acts both nights were spot on as well. Blind Pilot, an acoustic band not unlike Death Cab for Cutie- maybe a little less electronic- played the first night. With an accordion and a xylophone as part of the band, you might expect the sound to be a bit cacophonous, but they incorporated the instruments beautifully. I liked the music so much I bought their album, which has yet to disappoint. The morning after the show, we spotted the band at our hotel. They grabbed breakfast and then waited outside their dirty, old conversion van to continue on their tour. I would hate to travel the country in such cramped quarters. I guess I did my good deed of the day by supporting them instead of pirating the music. The second show's opening act was a woman named Tift Merritt. She was so genuinely nice and very personable on stage, despite her apparent nervousness. Her voice ethereal, her sound bluesy. A good pairing with the string quartet performance that followed. Both nights were filled with absolutely impressive music. My kind of birthday!


  1. Very cool. I never would have pictured Boise like this... Maybe I should go visit some friends up that way one of these days.

  2. What a great present! You are so lucking to have someone who loves you that much and is that thoughful.

  3. I ran across this blog while googling for the name of Josh's support act that first night. I was there too, from Texas, staying at The Modern! I enjoyed reading your comments very much.