Ginger Root Plays Brand New Setlist in Austin

todayOctober 19, 2021 113 2

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Samantha Oesch
Music Journalist

Cameron Lew, the multifaceted mind behind Ginger Root, played his first show back in Austin, Texas, with a full band on October 18th at Mohawk in the Red River Cultural District. Currently, on tour as support for the Australian rock band, Middle Kids, Lew and his two other band members, Dylan Hovis [bass] and Matt Carney [drums] played a set jam-packed consisting of mostly new tracks.

Lew had an unconventional set up of what looked like small synths with different presets and a red vintage telephone installed into his mic. Lew sang into the telephone to mimic his lo-fi vocals on the records while effortlessly shredding the keys. From playing energetic jazz chords to translating the climactic saxophone solo in “Loretta” to a dreamy synth solo, Lew filled in all the gaps where other instruments like guitar and saxophone would be played.

Although the live band consisted of only three members, the sound was full and left a hungry audience satisfied with live renditions of tracks that had not been performed publicly due to the COVID-19 pandemic until now. This tour is the first time Ginger Root is playing songs from Rikki [2020] and City Slicker [2021] in front of a live audience.

“I spent a lot of time making Rikki and everything was postponed. I was really sad that we couldn’t tour off of those songs live, so tonight we’re playing a lot of stuff off Rikki and City Slicker. 90% of the set we haven’t played in front of any human beings before, so it’s both exciting and super nerve-wracking,” Lew said. “I’m super thankful that I was able to still put out music when the world was kind of on pause. Making an album and an EP during that time was a good way to keep myself busy and I really enjoyed how both of those projects turned out. I’m just glad that Rikki can finally come into the real world, so to speak. I hope everyone enjoys City Slicker that just came out two months ago, too. They’re both very different projects, which I think is interesting and I’m excited to see how people receive those two music bundles.”

The music video for the smash single “Loretta” from City Slicker became a viral YouTube hit, raking in over 2.8 million views and counting. The video features Lew and his many clones playing as a full band behind a ’70s VHS filter.

“I was not expecting that at all. I love making music videos. I try to do a video for every song when I can because I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s a big part of Ginger Root now, the whole video aspect of it,” Lew said. “I was just like ‘I hope people watch it’, but wasn’t expecting it to be to that level of people watching it. It’s still going, which is really funny, and I think it’s about to hit 3 million views, which is insane. I never thought that that would happen.”

“Loretta” is not the only viral hit of Lew’s. In 2009, he created a stop motion video called “Paper Laptop” that has over one million views. Lew has made videos since he was a kid, and now produces and edits his own music videos for Ginger Root.

“YouTube was just a new thing, and in middle school at the time I wanted to be a YouTuber, because it was like the cool, hip thing or whatever. I started doing video in middle school, we had a video club. In high school, there was an after-school TV production program, so I got a lot of experience editing stuff there. At the time I was trying to think whether I wanted to do music or film in college, and out of the two creative gambles of the career, I went with film instead of music. I ended up not liking film in college because I was overworked and burnt out in doing film stuff and turned to doing music more as an escape, which I think kind of helped both rekindle my love for video making and filmmaking as well as finding that outlet from school through music.”

While Lew was still in school, he recorded a series of covers in his Honda Element in between classes called Toaster_music, after his car’s nickname. The series featured old school covers such as “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder, and even Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Lew enjoyed his time in college integrating film with music while surprising colleagues with his musical talent at local house shows and parties.

“The greatest part of doing music when I was in school, at that point and that configuration of Ginger Root, was that I would just play backyard shows and my friend’s parties in their living room,” Lew said. “It was funny because I didn’t really talk to anyone or socialize in class, so some people would come up to me and be like, ‘You’re in my scriptwriting class. I didn’t even know you talked!’ and stuff like that.”

Since the college DIY backyard show days, Lew has shared bills with big names such as Khruangbin and Omar Apollo, and he pulls a loyal crowd as an opening act. Much of the Mohawk attendees made it obvious that they came to support Ginger Root, although Middle Kids also clearly had loyal fans at the show. Before the Ginger Root set, fans were already decked out in their new merch.

The eager crowd roared in joy as Lew and his friends came onstage to set up minutes before they struck a single chord. As soon as Lew opened his mouth to speak, the crowd went ballistic, clearly surprising him by the shocked look on his face. One fan made a custom jacket for Lew with the Ginger Root logo and other art inspired by his discography. Between songs, he happily put the jacket on and gave a heartfelt shout-out to the fan who made it for him. Those kinds of moments throughout the Ginger Root set showcased Lew’s humble and genuine character that makes his demeanor so refreshing.

“I still don’t think anyone listens to Ginger Root, so it’s really funny that when people show up they’re like, ‘We’re here to see you!'” Lew said. “When we did our first two shows with Middle Kids, there were people there that were like, ‘Yeah, we came to see you!’ and I’m like, ‘That’s amazing! I can’t thank you enough, so I’m excited to play music in front of people again.”

After Lew ended the set with “Weather,” the audience immediately started shouting, “three more songs!” and eagerly pleaded for Lew and his crew to perform a few more songs, but their set time was up, and it was time to tear down. The audience erupted in over minute-long applause before Lew snapped a picture of the elated crowd with his iPhone in gratitude.

Starstruck fans were praising Lew and the band with how much they loved the Ginger Root set as they nonchalantly packed their things and left the stage. After the set, Lew took the time to visit fans at the merch table, where the line exponentially grew as soon as the man of the hour arrived at the table. Although vinyl is difficult for many smaller artists to currently press, Lew had VHS tapes of the City Slicker music, and lyric video series, which fit perfectly with his ’70s themed aesthetic for the EP.

Look out for new music from Ginger Root playing on KTSW 89.9.

Featured Image by Samantha Oesch.

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