The Ridges
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The Ridges

Athens, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Athens, Ohio, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Folk Classical




"The Ridges at Casa Cantina"

Strings. Brass. Bows. Capos. That neck harmonica thing. Flannel shirts. This was to be a spectacle. Somewhere among the tangled hell of amps and chords that occupied the Casa stage Thursday evening lingered a tangible air of wonder.

Weaving its way through the well-occupied stage into the possibly fire code-violating mass of bodies on the floor, it lasted well into the evening, transcending the drunkenness that typically consumes all by midnight.

Wonder of the musicians, who played with the kind of dexterity usually reserved for concert halls and jazz clubs. Wonder of the audience, which packed together so tightly there was hardly any room for the inevitable dancing. And most of all, wonder at everyone coming together on a cold Thursday night to marvel at the magic made by the people under the red lights shouting, stamping and feeling the primal passion…

As the nine members of The Ridges piled on to the stage, it was clear that they were once again about to bond all the individual drinking, moving bodies of Casa into a single entity under their command.

The banjos, cellos and accordion were all par for the course for this monolith of Athens music, who took its salad bowl of influences and dunked the head of each listener into it.

In fact, from the way the members warmed up on the stage, you would hardly guess that they were about to play the same kind of music, let alone be in a band together.

There was a trumpet player in jazz concert attire playing licks, one member looked straight out of Appalachia with his banjo and flannel shirt, and the drummer was the rocker, sitting down to the kit in jeans and a white shirt.

Always unpredictable, those Ridges. Upon hearing a martial drumbeat, rollicking guitar, or impassioned vocal during the sound check, I always thought they were going to start their first song. But could you blame me, when their songs could start with wild screaming, rapid bowing, or a classical cello solo?

Now, I could tell you that they played songs with titles like Jackson Pollock, Dawn of Night and Maritime Death Waltz. I could tell you that there was a virtuosic trumpet solo here, pizzicato string plucking there, or a stomping indie beat everywhere. I could mention that they switched between what sounded like 5/8 and 7/8 rhythms.

But that's not what The Ridges are about. Despite having a rock-solid setlist of awesomely-named songs developed in the year since I've first seen them, despite having their technical face together and then some, despite the wide swathe of instruments, none of this was the point.

It was the passion. As proved by everyone on stage. The intense "oh" tribal vocalizations all over every song, the boundless dancing energy of guitarist/singer Victor Rasgaitis, the rapid-fire sawing from the violin and cello players, the tense and heavy slow numbers--this was not a group of songs, this was an experience.

As if any more passion were needed, it was hot. Like really hot. But that's ok, It's pretty much scientifically proven that a concert isn't really good until you feel the need to remove some article of clothing.

Rasgaitis took the opportunity to talk to everyone somewhere in the middle of all of this and asked, "anyone feeling hot?"

"That's what happens when you get so many sexy people in one room," responded cellist Talor Smith, to the whooping and hollering of the flattered crowd.

Rather than standing there stiffly like most bands of their ilk, The Ridges pulsated with life. Every single person on that stage, while intently focused on their particular part, was contributing to something far bigger than anyone in the room. At a time when indie bands' limited formulas burn out after an album or so, this band has created a boundless frontier for themselves, one not built on posture or gimmicks, but on drive.

And, as usual, they ended with reminding us that "we'll all be dead in the end." But instead of leaving on that carpe diem-flavored note, they brought back their grand old tradition of dancing on chairs. Rasgaitis boldly stood on a chair in the middle of a crowd who turned in on themselves to stare at the frontman while the rest of his group provided accompaniment back on the stage.

Showmanship at its finest. - ACRN (Athens, OH)

"The Ridges Daytrotter Session: The Burn Of The End Of The Line"

This past fall, we took our Barnstormer tour out east and on the way back to familiar grounds, we stopped in Akron, Ohio, not far from where the members of The Ridges live in Athens, Ohio. The old, Civil War-era barn that we brought the tour to that night was a beaut, nestled into an open valley, between some steeper hills. It was an old farmstead that was incorporated into a national forest somewhere along the way and it benefitted from the glory of feeling like it was in a bubble. Though just a quarter of a mile off a county highway, it felt as if you could be lost up there, as if nothing could get at you if you didn't want it to - just your own sick and painful thoughts, if you had any of those. The mosquitoes could find you, for sure, building like a chorus in the weedy, overgrown fields and kept grass. On the mild night that we were there, it was hard to tell what was rolling in, the thick fog or the thick skeeters. We soon found out that it was a little of both, but it seemed that the fog won out. Up there on that hill, with the ghosts of old farmhands sticking to their hiding places, we felt isolated and safe in that clean night air.

Ridges lead singer Victor Rasgaitis was there that night and in listening to the songs that they recorded with us a few weeks after that night, it's easy to appropriate that place for what they're all about as a group. Leading up to the barn, you cross over a set of train tracks, laid over a bed of gravel, surrounded tightly on both side by thick trees and your mind takes you on those rails, considering them able to take you wherever you might want to go. It's the lure of the tracks and being swallowed up by a dark night of travel and oak tress, coursing through the forest until you pop out in the middle of nowhere and the tracks just end. You're let off and you're then even more isolated, at the end of the line where you're stuck. "War Bonds" is a song that as a rolling as a memory, as scenes elapsing and tearing out of town. It's a reminder that "we'll all be dead in the end" and that "we'll be just like all of my dead friends." It puts you into a context to say fuck it through the lies and through the loves, more easily than perhaps you would have before thinking such things.

Rasgaitis, percussionist/vocalist Johnny Barton and cellist/vocalist Talor Smith - along with an assortment of auxiliary players and characters - make the kind of Americana music that falls off the bone, but it's hidden with turn of the century and Dust Bowl-era themes that make it understood that there's bone there still. It's tough meat that we picture hobos camped out just off the rails of that track cooking over their makeshift campfires. They're making beans in the can and biding time until they can hop the next bullet as a stowaway to take them somewhere else where they'll encounter more hardship and more alone time to get the demons rolling. They'll need something that burns on the way down to fight the cold that comes when the fog - the fog like that night - moves in and nudges. -

"Official MPMF Guide Critic's Pick: The Ridges"

The Ridges take an almost symphonic approach to Indie Pop - even in the more straight-ahead songs, there are patterns and movements sliding in and out, played on glockenspiel, cello, trumpet, accordion, mandolin or any number of other instruments close at hand. The band's recent, self-titled five-track "album" - which followed two live EPs - features plenty of lush, orchestral intros, outros and bridges, making it feel fuller than most artists' 14-song long-players. Don't let the wide-net instrumentation fool you, though - The Ridges' folksy, hyper-melodic music is often celebratory, a joyous listen probably indicative of an even better live presentation.

DIG: Apples in Stereo and The Arcade Fire combine forces. - CityBeat (Cincinnati, OH)


Still working on that hot first release.



The Ridges are an orchestral folk rock band from the Appalachian college town of Athens, Ohio. Rooted in the collaboration of Victor Rasgaitis (guitar, vocals) and Talor Smith (cello, vocals), the duo is supported live by a rotating cast of musicians adding classical and folk rock instrumentation ranging from cellos, violins, upright bass, and horns to banjo, mandolin, accordion, and drums. By augmenting their aggressive, high-energy performances with haunting, all-acoustic instrumentation, The Ridges craft their own unique brand of indie rock compositions. It’s a distinct sound that overflows with the dark romanticism of their ominous namesake — Athens' abandoned Victorian-style insane asylum where the band recorded their self-titled EP.

Known for bringing an electrifying energy to acoustic music, MidPoint Music Festival called them "a rootsier, catchier Arcade Fire," while described their sound as "the kind of Americana music that falls off the bone." It’s this unique duality that has found The Ridges just as comfortable sharing the stage with folk favorites like Ben Sollee, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and Horse Feathers, as when they're playing with indie rockers like Ra Ra Riot, Kishi Bashi, and Good Old War. A live band in every sense, they've honed their dynamic performance by supporting national headliners and independently touring the Midwest, East Coast, and South, while bringing stand-out showcases to Ohio's MidPoint Music Festival, New York City's CBGB Festival, and at total of 13 showcases at SXSW in Austin, TX.

Never satisfied with anything less than unforgettable, The Ridges are committed to finding new ways to surprise their fans with fresh ideas. From an in-theater live film score to a Record Store Day exclusive choral recording, The Ridges' passion for creatively customizing their definition of an indie band has gained them national momentum that is giving way to a full-length debut album expected for release in 2014.

Press Highlights

"The kind of Americana music that falls off the bone" - Daytrotter

"A rootsier, catchier Arcade Fire" - MidPoint Music Festival
"Brooding folk music that is both mature and fresh" - Delusions of Adequacy
"Fuller than most artists' 14-song long-players" - Cincinnati CityBeat
"A chilling and intriguing journey into the realm of the unknown" - AltOhio
"A well-honed folk-pop machine" - WOUB
"Darkly romantic and entrancing Complex and intriguing" - ACRN
"What Arcade Fire would sound like if Phil Spector were a member" - Other Paper
"If Fleet Foxes had a shady underbelly" - Red Said
"Spoon's indie pop for smart grownups and Beirut's Old World instrumentation" - Other Paper
"Moody strings and beautiful but fraught vocals" - No Depression
"This was not a group of songs, this was an experience" - ACRN
"Nice!" - Robin Hilton, NPR's All Songs Considered

Performance Highlights
The Ridges have notably supported Ra Ra Riot, Kishi Bashi, Good Old War, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Ben Sollee, Horse Feathers, Mother Falcon, Ha Ha Tonka, Margot and the Nuclear So & So's, Cayucas, Lydia Loveless, Miracles of Modern Science, The Soil & The Sun, Lucius, The Bright Light Social Hour, These United States, R. Ring, Those Darlins, Hrvrd, The David Mayfield Parade, Bad Veins, and The Seedy Seeds. In addition to 13 SXSW showcases and a CBGB Festival showcase, The Ridges have regularly performed "Critic's Pick" showcases at Cincinnati's MidPoint Music Festival. The Ridges have also recorded a Daytrotter Session, an Audiotree Live Session, a Threadless Warehouse Session, a Live from Bad Racket session, and produced The MidPoint Sessions.

Band Members