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The Blue & Gray Press | October 23, 2017

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Ben Folds Brings Piano Pop to UMW

By AARON RICHARDSON and RYAN MARR
Ben Folds has been a staple button on every indie kid’s satchel bag since the 90s. Though he’s never been the hit generator that bands like Third Eye Blind were, he’s got definite staying power, and he’s still on tour.

His seminal albums “Songs for Silverman” and “Rockin’ The Suburbs” remain in constant rotation on the iPods of kids of all walks of life, from scowling hipsters to Hello Kitty-clad high-school girls.

Fan favorites like “Rockin’ The Suburbs,” with its Great Hall-ready chorus: “y’all don’t know what it’s like/ being male, middle-class and white,” and Dr. Dre cover “Bitches Ain’t Shit” are sure to hit close to home when Folds performs on campus Monday night.

Giant Productions co-chair Chrissie Woolsey, like most of the campus, is especially enthusiastic about the upcoming performance.
“We had been trying for the past three years to book [Ben] and it never worked out,” Woolsey said. “The Giant Productions staff is working hard to make this show as great as possible and we’re expecting it to be a phenomenal experience for everyone who attends.”

For me, Ben Folds was the proverbial gateway drug into the acoustic sad bastard music I seem unable to escape today. What Ben Folds does, more simply and concisely than anyone, is make it ok to be the sensitive kid.

Mostly, he’s accessible. His songs are poppy but well-constructed and his lyrics remind you of simple-yet-poignant tenth-grade poetry.

The piano man for a generation of self-aware slackers, Folds is known for laying down catchy, melancholic pop in the tradition of Elton John and Billy Joel with a sarcastic bent.  Whatever your preconceptions about Fold’s ability as a songwriter, there’s no denying that the dude is a virtuoso behind the piano.

Sure, you could classify Folds as “sad bastard music,” but next to contemporaries like Elliott Smith, he looks like Mickey Mouse. While the majority of Folds’s catalog deals with fairly common sentiments, he has proven his capacity for a higher emotional range. His song “Late” deals with the apparent suicide of Smith, a friend, and proves Folds isn’t an overgrown high-schooler.

Fast-forward a few years to the present and Folds is touring behind a less-than-stellar album, following up acts like Matt Nathanson and the Flobots at a tiny liberal arts school and probably wishing he’d never left his old band mates in Ben Folds Five behind.

Get your tickets now, because “sad bastard music” will never sound this genuine again.