Artists like Ron Pope are rare these days. It is not often that a talented, humble artist can write meaningful lyrics that connect with audiences. But, when one does, it is truly magical. That magic was felt when Pope, an NYU alumnus, returned to the East Village on Sept. 28 to perform at Webster Hall.
Von Grey, a synth rock band from Atlanta, Georgia, opened the show. The four members are all sisters, and their tight harmonies made their strong relationships apparent. While the synthetic drum tracks and little stage presence made the performance somewhat unexciting, the band’s unique sound captured the audience’s attention and offered a fun introduction to the evening.
The second act of the night was Frances Cone, an indie-pop band from Brooklyn. Each song was enjoyable, but the set as a whole was static, carrying the same emotion and tone throughout.
The crowd was brought to life when Pope jumped onstage to sing harmonies for one of Cone’s songs. At around 9 p.m., Pope began his three-part, 20 song set. Joining him were his bandmates, who happen to be friends he made through a songwriting circle during his time at NYU.
Pope transferred to NYU from Rutgers University to pursue music after his baseball career ended in injury. He majored in anthropology in the College of Arts and Science, while also building a following for his band The District. The District toured across the United States for two years after the members graduated. Since then, the band has recorded three albums.
Had anyone walked into the room having only heard “A Drop In The Ocean” prior to the show, they would have been pleasantly surprised by the energetic pop-rock show that ensued. The obvious chemistry between Pope and his bandmates made for a fun performance. Pope played many songs never heard before by a live audience, including “White River Junction” and “The Stage.”
During the first part of his performance, Pope brought out solo artist Alexz Johnson, who joined in on “Nothing.” Johnson showed off her soulful voice through powerful verses and blended voices for remarkable harmonies during the chorus.
As the second part started, Pope accidentally broke his electric guitar while going solo for “Hotel Room.” Left without it, his talents especially shined when he dropped the PA system and picked up his acoustic guitar for an intimate moment with the audience during his song “Perfect For Me.” The entire room was silent, except for the fans who were softly singing along.
Pope chose “A Drop in the Ocean” as his encore. There could not have been a better choice to end the night’s performance, as fans confidently sang along to his lyrics.
After the show, Pope joined the friendly crowd on the VIP deck.Pope recalled a poor review he received whe he was a student. The District competed in a Battle of the Bands on campus, and the reviewer did not like the performance.
Pope now looks back on this negative review without any embarrassment. Based on the Webster Hall performance, The District and Pope have matured into something much better than anyone could have imagined.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Email Allison Stubblebine at [email protected]