Rock

Three premier singer-songwriters return home for the holidays

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Erika Wennerstrom performs at Cloverdale Dec. 22; photo: Kendall Bailey Atwater

Every once in a while, a super bill of live music comes together that immediately raises eyebrows—a show featuring musicians with such impressive critical accolades and accomplished resumes that the sheer amount of talent in the same room simply cannot be ignored. That will certainly be the case Thursday when Erika Wennerstrom, Kelley Deal, and Paige Beller—three of the most heralded and respected Dayton-based singer-songwriters—take the Cloverdale stage in downtown Dayton.

Headlining the show is Erika Wennerstrom, who now resides in Austin, Texas, best known as a founding member of local favorite Shesus before moving on to becoming the creative mastermind behind celebrated indie rock quartet Heartless Bastards in 2003. But Wennerstrom was writing and playing her own tunes long before that.

“I’ve been writing music since I was around 8-years-old,” she says. “I started writing on piano, and I’ve wanted to sing for as long as I can remember. I think as an awkward introvert, writing has been a way for me to communicate with the world.”

Heartless Bastards have recorded for Fat Possum Records and have released five critically acclaimed albums to date, two of which charted on the Billboard pop chart. Along the way, the band has toured relentlessly, playing concert halls and festivals all across the globe, sharing stages with the likes of Lucinda Williams, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, Avett Brothers, and Wilco. Earlier this year, Heartless Bastards headlined a sold-out concert at Oddbody’s in Dayton, a performance that resonated with Wennerstrom.

“I don’t get to spend much time in Dayton, [so] when I see old friends and family come out of the woodwork it’s really special,” she says.

This Thursday, Wennerstrom will perform for the first time in Dayton since the wild success of Heartless Bastards as a solo act with full backing band. Attendees can expect a mix of new songs freshly minted in the studio this past month in Austin, as well as some choice cuts from the Heartless Bastards catalog.

“I’m really proud of this new material,” Wennerstrom explains. “[While] these new songs are very much in the vibe of Heartless Bastards, I think I’m growing as a songwriter and these songs are going to be taking familiar fans to a new place. I hope this work moves people to feel something, whatever that may be.”

Joining Wennerstrom on this all killer, no filler bill is R. Ring, featuring Dayton’s own Kelley Deal, and aided by Cincinnati-based musician Mike Montgomery. Deal is famous for playing guitar for ’90s alt-rock heroes The Breeders, whose 1993 LP Last Splash sold over a million copies, a band whose success and influence has been well documented.

“The Breeders have been such a big influence on my life…” Wennerstrom says.

For this rare hometown concert, Deal is taking time off from the work she’s been doing on The Breeders’ new LP, due out this coming year. However, R. Ring isn’t resting on The Breeders’ past glories, as they are going in with each member’s very own material.

“R. Ring is releasing our first album, Ignite the Rest, next year, [so] we play brand-spanking-new songs, a couple songs from The Kelley Deal 6000 records, a couple of songs from Mike’s other band, Ampline,” Deal says.

According to Deal, the chance to share the stage with Wennerstrom for a hometown holiday concert came about by chance, but was an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“Mike [Montgomery] and I are friends and fans of Erika and the Bastards,” she explains.  “She invited us and we said ‘yes’ immediately.”

Rounding out the bill is local singer-songwriter Paige Beller. Beller has quite the musical resume and may just be the Gem City’s hardest-working musician, operating not just as a solo act but also as a member of popular local outfits like Jasper the Colossal, Duderus, and Sidekick Complex. Not to be outdone, Beller will be celebrating the release of Sad Sack, a new solo EP featuring cello and bass provided by Peter Mills, who will also join Beller on stage for this very special evening of music.

“To be on this bill is a complete honor,” Beller says. “I got to see Heartless Bastards last year for the first time and I can’t wait to hear Erika’s voice in a more low-key context. Kelley and her band, R. Ring, has influenced the direction of my solo work, and I’ve really taken a lot of inspiration from The Breeders over the years, so this whole night is going to be pretty surreal for me.”

As for the icing on the gingerbread cake, Deal says that she and Wennerstrom have something special in store for the hometown crowd perfect for the show’s proximity to the holidays:

“We are attempting to collaborate on a Christmas song via text—let’s see if it happens!”

Erika Wennerstrom, R. Ring, and Paige Beller perform Thursday, Dec. 22 at Cloverdale, 101 St. Clair St. in downtown Dayton. The doors open at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance for patrons 18 and over. For more information, please visit CloverdaleNightClub.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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