You can take the boy out of Ohio, but you can’t take the Ohio out of the boy, or at least that is what Springfield native Griffin House proved to his audience at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton on Saturday, June 25th. While the singer/songwriter now calls Nashville home, there is something inherently Midwest, or more specifically “Ohio” about House. As talented a musician as he is, he is also humble, charming, funny, and overall just a likeable guy. As he talked about his songs, told amusing anecdotes and stories, and after his set when he walked around and talked with the people lingering about, House gives off a friendly vibe, one that this reviewer, at least, associates with Ohioans.
Having seen Griffin House play both solo and with his band numerous times in packed venues, it was a pleasant surprise to listen to his solo acoustic set at the legendary Canal Street, with roughly about thirty other people. The intimate setting matched his songs and stories well. House came on stage just after 10:30 and played a 12 song set (including encore) that lasted just over an hour.
House opened with “Better Than Love” the first track off his LP ‘Flying Upside Down.’ The steady timbre of his voice, along with the melody, and sweet lyrics of the song had the person sitting next to me, who was newly introduced to House’s music, utter one word, “beautiful.” The second and third songs are, as of now, unreleased. House introduced the third song as a “murder ballad,” the song garnered laughs and applause from its lyrics: “I had a gun in my car at the topless bar, I was far away from the Lord…” which progressed into the chorus, “I wanna go down, down to the river with you, and watch you drown, if it’s the last thing I do. I wanna go down, pain and rage running through my veins when I saw you standing there at the bottom of the hill what a thrill to kill you for the woman with the beautiful hair.” Even in the small setting, the end of this particular song brought hoots and hollers intermixed with more laughter from the crowd.
As the show continued, House sang “Standing At The Station” from his most recent LP, ‘The Learner,’ and then asked the crowd if they’d like to do a “sing along.” They did. He then asked, “Do people in Dayton like Johnny Cash? Well, I guess we’ll see.” He covered Cash’s “Ring of Fire” encouraging the audience mid song, “You gotta sing a little louder, it’s Saturday night.”
To add to the music and venue setting, House weaved stories in with his songs, which truly added to the overall experience. He talked about pulling up to Canal Street and getting into the backseat of his car to change from shorts to jeans. He then mentioned how he headed to a local place for dinner and recounted his conversation with the bartender. During their talk, the bartender admitted to him that he had the same eyes as a local wanderer and she had wondered if maybe he’d cleaned up a bit. Amused, he told the crowd, “It’s not everyday you get mistaken for a homeless wanderer.” In another story, he talked extensively about his 90, almost 91, year old grandfather whom he described as a cross between an old Cherokee Indian and Johnny Cash – and a “certified badass.” As he spoke about his grandpa, obvious love and admiration radiated from the singer. House told the crowd that his grandfather even appeared in his video for “I Remember (It’s Happening Again).”
He rounded out his set with “Liberty Line,” “Judas,” and “Volkswagon.” Prior to playing “Volkswagon” House again told an amusing story about working as a server down in Cincinnati while he was trying to make his way as a musician. He described one particular day when he’d worked for several hours only to walk away with $2.50 in tips. After his shift he went down to Hyde Park Square with his guitar and sat and played with a basket and a sign that said “My real job pays $2.50 a day.” That night he left with $60 dollars in his basket and said “Needless to say, I never went back to serving, and I’ve been paying the rent by writing and playing songs ever since.”
The crowd wouldn’t let him walk off stage so he immediately played a two song encore, leading with “The Guy That Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind,” a song that House called one of his biggest blessings. He ended the night with another sing along to his song “The Way I Was Made,” which he introduced as a song about his grandparents having sex. The audience helped sing the chorus demonstrating that everyone was truly having an awesome time. Grateful, House thanked everyone for coming and said he often has to miss Dayton on his tours, but he is playing some acoustic shows in several cities as he prepares to release an acoustic album so he was glad to play at Canal Street Tavern.
After his show, Griffin walked around and talked to almost everyone who was at Canal Street that night. During his conversations he signed CDs – which he gave out free of charge to the first twenty-five people in the doors. As this reviewer chatted with him, he mentioned he’d be back in the Buckeye state performing with his band at the Summer Arts Festival in Springfield on Saturday, July 9th. Although that event and venue will be completely different than the intimate setting at Canal Street Tavern, with attendance at The Turner Pavilion in Veteran’s Park packing in a thousand plus people, Griffin House’s show in his hometown is one not to miss. If you haven’t checked out his music yet, be sure to do so, this singer/songwriter is something special – and not just because he’s from Ohio.
Written by: Linda Turk