Chuck Ragan
Show: Chuck Ragan
Date: May 9, 2014
Venue: The Fonda
City: Los Angeles, CA

Chuck Ragan
Photo by Nicolas Bates
Written by Dan Sinclair

First it was Hot Water Music’s reunion tour kicking off at the Satellite, then it was the last stop on 2013’s punky-folk Revival Tour at Miracle Mile’s El Rey. This year, RUKUS keeps up with the man with one of the most memorable, passionate voices on the fucking planet, as Mr. Chuck Ragan returns, backed by his dedicated Camaraderie live from The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

After some delicious pre-Chuck food and beers at Blue Palms, this writer headed inside to catch the end of The White Buffalo’s set and cannot say I was not impressed. Especially since the man closed his set with “The Pilot.”

And I wasn’t the only one impressed. When Chuck Ragan takes stage, the first thing he does is ask everyone to give it up for White Buffalo. That’s Chuck Ragan at his very essence; he’s not only a great songwriter with unforgettable vocal chords, he’s also a humble man who is thankful for every single fan he’s ever had. I got the chance to meet Chuck when he did a free show at Amoeba Records a couple months ago, and I can say without a doubt, the man’s about as genuine as they come.

Chuck stands alone playing “Fixin’ to Die” before he even introduces himself. “I’m Chuck Ragan and it’s an honor to be here this evening.” And believe me when I say for Chuck, the word “honor” is no exaggeration (even though most of the crowd would agree that they are the ones that are honored).

For “Between the Lines” Chuck is joined by the band, most notably his long-time collaborators Jon Gaunt on fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on stand-up bass. Those two instruments combined with the raspy, bold, earth-shattering vocals are what fans know the Chuck Ragan sound to be. The crowd claps and dances along.

This tour supports Chuck’s new record, Till Midnight, his fourth studio album. And after “The Trench,” Chuck lets the grateful fans know that he and Camaraderie would like to play a few songs off it, kicking it off with the song that kicks off the new record, “Something May Catch Fire.” And while his bandmates are all on-point with their respectable tools, it’s Chuck’s vocals that, as always, prove to be the most dominant instrument, and the one that everyone is there to hear. There’s just something so moving about his love for music, which comes through with every word he bellows out.

“Non Typical” gets everyone moving as it’s the song that may allow Chuck to break into the mainstream with its peppy, yet strong punk-esque rhythm and soothing melody along with the memorable chorus: “Well, I need you like I need all my blood and my breath/Swallow the sentimental truth/And it’ll never be ‘as good as it gets.’”

Chuck goes right on thanking the crowd for every single song through “Whistleblower’s Song” and “Rotterdam.” He even dedicates “Nothing Left to Prove” to the tour’s bus driver Greg Walker before playing “Let It Rain” off Gold Country.

Around the time the Camaraderie plays “Gave My Heart Out,” a group of very drunk frat-like morons start moshing into one another because apparently that’s what you do at folk-rock show nowadays.

Chuck dedicates “The Boat” to his original indie label Side One Dummy, and it’s one of the best versions this writer has ever heard of the most recognizable Ragan song. It’s mellower and more lullaby-ish than the original with plenty of Gaunt’s famous fiddle.

Producer Christopher Thorn dons a cowboy hat and an electric guitar to help out on Bedroll Lullaby,” and Dave Hause sneaks on stage to do some backup vocals for “Revved.” Chuck gives it up for each and every man up there (besides himself) during “Right as Rain” and “Meet You in the Middle.”

Chuck closes the set with “California Burritos” because how could he not? This is California and we all love burritos. But not as much as we love the line “I can’t stand for nothing when standing up is all I know.”

For the encore, Chuck comes out alone and thanks all the fans for all their support over the years. And since it happens to be the 20th anniversary of Hot Water Music, he serves up an amazing solo rendition of “Drag My Body” before closing it out with the rest of the band with “For Broken Ears.”

As expected, Chuck is grateful for each and every person there at the Fonda that night (probably even the drunk douche bags farting and slam-dancing into each other). Do yourself a favor, if Chuck comes to your town, go see him (even if the show goes till midnight).

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