by Hellen Meigs
John Craigie performed at Sisyphus Brewing on Sunday, Sept. 24. He is a folk artist based in Portland, Oregon touring for his new album No Rain, No Rose.
Craigie is an incredibly good live performer. His voice was beautiful, accompanied only by his own guitar and harmonica playing. The real highlights of his live show were the anecdotes sprinkled throughout the set. They ranged greatly in topic and tone, which added a key personal touch to his set. His knack for storytelling carried over to his songwriting as well. As he mentioned during the show, his job is to make you laugh and to make you cry. Craigie accomplished both on Sunday night.
Sisyphus Brewing is a very small venue, and there were only about thirty-five people in the crowd. The cozy atmosphere was a welcome departure from large arenas and rowdy crowds, which enabled Craigie to interact with the audience throughout the show. During intermission, he encouraged everyone to approach him at the merchandise table. His personality and genuine interest in every person only added to the warm and inviting atmosphere of the night.
Craigie’s songs are both personal and topical, with subject matter ranging from serious to downright silly. In a song about Trump, Craigie sang, “Don’t let the darkness break you, my friend, there are so many of us and only one of him.” He went on to mention a silver lining. “It’s historically proven that when the president is Republican, we have better music,” he sang. This clever song-writing made listening a satisfying and joyful experience.
His more serious songs were beautiful and moving. In the song “Vast Dead Forest,” he sang: “Open your eyes, all of your fears are a lie. You’ve come too far now to give up control. For this year is still so young, and there are songs desperate to be sung. And there is rain we must convince to fall.” His lyrics often tie love, nature and even humor together. When talking about love, it is mostly stories of love that has ended, like in his song “Light Has Dimmed”: “Oh maybe your light has dimmed, maybe your light has dimmed, Maybe, I only got one specialty, So tell me your light has dimmed, tell me your light has dimmed.”
There are some songs that make you laugh, such as “Pictures on my Phone.” This song is about having inappropriate pictures saved and people seeing them accidentally. It was clearly a crowd favorite, generating the biggest laughs of the show. Craigie added to the humorous effect by teaching the chorus before the song started and the crowd sang it passionately at his cue.
Everyone can find something to relate to, laugh about or cry about in John Craigie’s music. The sixty-five-year-old lady in front of me chuckled at the same lyrics I did, and for two hours all thirty-five people in the crowd were united through tears and giggles.