XPN Fest Recap: Ruston Kelly delivers a set more beautiful than the slowly setting sun

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Ruston Kelly | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

Ruston Kelly played at the perfect time. The sun was in the process of setting and cast a golden glow over Wiggins Park, the air cooled a bit, and everyone was in the mood for country. Not only did Kelly’s soaring ballads fit the scene perfectly, they surpassed it in beauty. With his gorgeously raw and earnest voice, a harmonica, a guitar, and a band that included his father, Kelly eased the crowd into XPN Fest’s final hours.

Where many country artists are dead-set on changing the definition of the genre, Kelly celebrates the beauty in straight-up country tunes. “Cover My Tracks”, “Big Brown Bus,” and “Hurricane In My Head” all radiate with country simplicity. Kelly’s father played steel pedal throughout the set, providing it with a woozy and authentic feel. When paired with Kelly’s voice, it makes the sadness in “700 Angels” and “Paratrooper’s Battelcry” more than palpable. Like the best country music, Kelly’s songs transport you and insert you in whatever story he is telling. 

Instead of covering “Old Town Road” like many others have done this weekend, Kelly covered Wheatus‘ “Teenage Dirtbag”. This, of course, delighted everyone watching at the Marina stage. Those that weren’t already swaying along to Kelly’s set quickly joined in. Thankfully, the swaying will continue through October 27th, when Kelly and co. will be at World Cafe “doing the same shit but a little bit harder.” We’re counting down already.

Listen back to Ruston Kelly’s beautiful performance below and check out a gallery from the set.

Setlist
Cover My Tracks
Hurricane In My Head
Paratrooper’s Battlecry
Dying Star
Faceplant
700 Angels
Teenage Dirtbag
Mockingbird
Big Brown Bus

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