Article by Jillian Blumberg
Photography by Jeremy Elder
Walking on stage at the Ogden Theatre on March 21st, The Paper Kites looked like they had something on their mind. The group is formed by a handful of close friends: Sam Bentley, Christina Lacy, Dave Powys, Sam Rasmussen, and Josh Bentley, who came together in 2010 to play at a local music festival.
So far, the band has had a steady release of singles, adding a couple to their repertoire each year. After coming out with their newest studio album, twelvefour, the wave of praise is still coming the groups way, lifting them into the spotlight.
It’s easy to see how the group has stayed relevant for almost seven years straight, with the easy-going sounds of their voices and guitars drawing their fans together to slowly smile and sway along in rhythm with each other.
Although it’s been known that the altitude here has challenged many performers , The Paper Kites stuck through it, clearly winded but delivered a quality and memorable performance. To compare their live performances to their studio sound would be unnecessary--- their sound stays exactly the same, to a lot of people’s amazement. With the help of the audience, the group was able to create a calm but intriguing atmosphere, just like their tracks in the studio.
Next was the honest sounds of Mike Rosenberg, a little more well known as Passenger. After the break-up of the band he was a part of in 2009, Rosenberg opted to keep the band’s original name for his solo career.
After dropping out of school at the age of 16 to pursue a career in music, he joined up with his future bandmates and immediately started writing tracks. During breaks between songs, Rosenberg joked about when he used to play on street corner during the day and at night he would perform at pubs with an audience of about nine or ten people, three of those being bar staff. Throughout the night, he amused the audience with truth and incredibly blunt stories of his hardships and fondest memories, turning most of them into witty jokes about his appearance or state of mind.
The unique sound of his voice mixed with his mastery of his acoustic guitar allows Rosenberg to create a performance unique from any other, especially mixed in with his plain-spoken personality. It was apparent that he loves to be on stage, sharing his music with whomever his audience ends up being that night. Banging on his chest, screaming for the audience to be louder, smiling and laughing with the band playing background for him— it draws him as such a normal, vulnerable human-being.
Along with his lyrics, the stories he told were lovely life lessons. He mentioned that he didn’t start writing music thinking he would make money, he just did it to cheer himself up. Ends up, his music cheered other up as well.
On one of his trips in Europe, Rosenberg found himself singing on a street to a one-man audience. Rosenberg talked to this man for a while, who was travelling by himself, as his wife had wanted to go travel, but died before they could do so together. On another trip, Rosenberg found a woman sitting on a bench outside his hotel, smoking a cigarette. Her story consisted of a serious relationship with the man she loved, a lifetime of plans, and after ten years together, the man left her for a younger woman. She was alone, too. In Rosenberg’s song, “Travelling Alone”, he tells the stories of both these people, wandering alone, not in search of something, but accepting what had happened in their lives.
There is a strong belief that Rosenberg is so loved because of how applicable his lyrics are to regular people’s lives. He mentions in some of his songs that he’s never felt silence until he felt it with these people he talked to, or when he was completely alone in his fancy hotel, and how hard it was.
He joked that we were expecting some great superhuman, some man who could make our lives better, but “instead you get this weird neurotic English man” who just screams about his problems. Not knowing it, I think the audience identified with Rosenberg as lost travelers who are just trying to get their lives together.
There was also a mention of how “Let Her Go” was written in forty-five minutes, backstage at a gig. Somehow, that song written in about as much time as a Netflix episode, turned his entire life upside-down. He emphasized how our lives can change dramatically with any little thing we do, and to go along for the ride and see where it takes us.
Looking at the crowd after Passenger left the stage for the final time that night was a mixture of wonderful and sad. The audience’s faces were glowing—so fulfilled to have been there that night. Obviously unhappy to leave the concert hall, most of the crowd stayed until the security team started raising their voices.
As the night ended, it’s safe to say everyone who left Ogden Theatre that night was a little more content.
And, as Mike Rosenberg wanted to make very clear, Passenger only has one really famous song. “Let It Go” is not his song, he does not write songs for Disney, and he hopes that people see a difference between a snow princess and letting someone you love go.