Charleston, South Carolina is a musician’s town. Bereft of big city music venues it forces national acts to play the same ruddy stages as regional favorites and local hopefuls. Steeped in a southern culture that prizes authenticity above all else a Charleston crowd is less than forgiving when it comes to the bumbling performance of the disingenuous. Geographically isolated there remains for this close knit city the old tribe like distrust of outsiders. Even references like Nashville, or Asheville can elicit the muttered condemnation of ‘Fucking Yankee’ from an audience that demands quality above all else. For Charleston, you sink or swim based on merit alone. As such, it’s the perfect proving ground for those still cutting teeth. When garnered the warmth is generous, but applause isn’t mandatory. Far from it.
Perhaps this was why upstart Americanist Adrian Krygowski chose Fiery Ron’s as the terminus for his summer touring schedule. The DC native and Nashville transplant, former tele-com employee looked a bit out of place taking stage after the local openers. You see, Krygowski doesn’t act the part. In contrast to the rabid meth glean in the eyes of the snakeskin donned blue jean and sweat faded band t-shirt wearing locals Mr. Krygowski appeared rather harmless. It seemed as if the crowd could eat him up should his presence falter. Without benefit of his normal backing band for protection the clean cut musician seemed rather exposed on the stage. To his left the lovely Ms. Merideth X rosined her fiddle and together they took a leap of faith.
Opening with the titular track from 2013’s Roam EP their acceptance became rather obvious after some few measures. Mr. Krygowski’s omnitonal vocals aren’t easily digestible, but much like Jeff Mangum or Hank Williams before him these vocals lend a credence to lyrics no forced southern accent could ever hope to imitate. If appearance alone was enough to distance Krygowski from audience expectation the non-standard timing employed on a thin majority of the set list created him a musician apart.
Introduced as an accompanying musician it was revealed as the set wore on that Ms. Brown was a bit more than just a tour mate. More couple than duo, Brown’s fiddle work was a perfect antithesis to Krygowski’s roughshod rhythms. Though her role on Roam was ancillary at best, in the live setting her near flawless fiddle work provided soaring melody which propped up when performance when the desultory pallet of Krygowski’s blues key preference threatened to monotony.
The pairing was a delight and though it was doubtful many were fully aware of young Krygowski’s music before the show, rapt attention and willing applause between songs on the short set list was perfect indication of Low Country endorsement. If authenticity be prized above all else, Krygowski and Brown prove great music doesn’t require flashy image, catchy stage names, or desperate antics. All a solid performance really needs is talent, passion, and the balls to stave off and then obliterate expectations of what Americana means. It is here Krygowski and Brown triumph.