Posted by Devin Weakland on 09/20 at 10:17 AM
Last Friday, Ryan Tennis and his accompanist, Brahm Benzlinger, brought their original folk acoustic sound to Penn State. They performed at the HUB’s first-floor lounge as part of the Student Programming Association’s (SPA) Noontime Concert Series.
Ryan played his acoustic guitar for the whole show. Brahm switched from the electric guitar, to the bass, and to the tambourine. The duo’s passion for music was obvious from their facial expressions and from the lyrics themselves. It definitely helped the audience connect to the show. The songs they played ranged from slow acoustic to upbeat acoustic with electric guitar. Some songs were more of a classic rock genre. I was especially partial to the upbeat acoustic songs that featured Brahm on the electric guitar. These songs had a high energy vibe that helped the noontime crowd get into the performance.
“Heaven Can Wait” was one of the first songs they played. Ryan introduced the song by telling the audience that it’s a song about “loving Philadelphia.” It was a slower song with descriptive lyrics that seemed to slow everything down and remind listeners of the simple pleasures in life.
Most of Ryan Tennis’ catchy choruses have made up words, which give his songs a unique sound. Ryan even admitted to this during the show: “You might have noticed that I use a lot of make believe words,” Ryan said. “I believe that make believe words can capture meaning better than real words can.” And with that, he started into his next song, “Wicky-I-Oh” from his newest album Goodbye to the Ground. As the title alludes, the chorus goes into “hey ho wicky-i-oh, wicky-i, wicky-i-ay.” It then transitions back into normal lyrics. This combination gives the song a creative flare and makes the slower melody quite catchy. This song reminded me of something by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It had a nostalgic, almost sad sense to it. Brahm was on bass and added the tambourine toward to the middle. It was definitely a nice touch that made the song feel more complete.
Then Ryan and Brahm covered Ocean Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” Ryan’s modern folk sound worked great with this song. This number showed off the duo’s ability to harmonize vocals. Personally, I really enjoyed this song, as did many other audience members.
The next song they played was “Clicking Through Pictures.” Ryan explained that it’s about a girl that he met while traveling in Thailand. Sometimes he clicks through pictures of her on Facebook because he really misses her. This song is a simple acoustic tune that tugs at emotions as it reminds listeners of their own past times that are now kept alive through Facebook. The lyrics are filled with quirky details, which made the song feel real and genuine. This was one of my favorite songs of the show.
Continuing with the nostalgia theme, Ryan’s next song was another one from Goodbye to the Ground called “17 years.” This one really struck home with me. It’s literally a walk down memory lane about the neighborhood that Ryan grew up in. This song is very relevant to the college scene. As college students, we all move out after “17 years in our parents’ house” and say goodbye to all the things we’ve come to know and love. The ending lyrics definitely pull the song together: “It’s been good to get to know you, but I’ve got to get a move on.” This song’s melody starts slow and builds up to a faster tempo toward the end. Ryan’s voice and Brahm’s backup vocals harmonized beautifully to give the song a solid ending. “17 years” reminded me of everything I left behind at home to come to Penn State and how much I missed all of those things during my freshmen year. I am willing to bet that I was not the only one in the audience that felt this way.
Ryan didn’t introduce his last song, but he didn’t have to. From everyone’s excited faces, it was clear that the audience knew what it was from the first few chords. Ryan and Brahm closed the show by covering the Beatles’ “Come Together.” This classic was definitely the crowd favorite of the afternoon. The song was perfectly executed—Ryan hit all of the extra “heys” and “shoops.” They made me want to jump up and start singing with them. Everyone else was getting really into it, too. Some people started clapping to the beat and others sang along.
Ryan Tennis adds new ways of playing the folk acoustic music genre. He tells stories of personal experiences, which makes his lyrics relatable to a wide variety of audiences. He is also very enthusiastic about his music, which was evident from his performance. You can often catch him dancing with his acoustic guitar as he sings into the microphone at a show. Watching him was a really fun experience.
Interested in seeing one of his live performances? Check out his Facebook page for upcoming shows.
Ryan Tennis’ latest album Goodbye to the Ground is available on Amazon.com:
Author: Devin Weakland
Bio: Devin is a junior at Penn State double-majoring in print journalism and marketing with a minor in international business. Playing the piano since age six, Devin has come to love and appreciate the art of music. Her favorite genres include indie rock, techno and pop punk, but she also has a soft spot for acoustic stuff. You’ll almost always find her listening to Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Blink-182 or Ben Folds. In her spare time, Devin enjoys reading, writing and traveling.
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