Review: The quiet warmth of Mitch Rowland at 9:30 Club

On March 11, Mitch Rowland stopped in D.C. as a part of his Come June Tour. The 9:30 Club is known for welcoming artists of all genres and backgrounds into an intimate space—and that was exactly the vibe in the room on Monday night. With his eclectic mix of blues, folk, and alternative music, Rowland brought his Ohio-turned-Los Angeles attitude to the city of Washington, D.C. This was met with a warm welcome from the numerous teenage girls in the room who—whether there as fans of Harry Styles, Rowland’s most famous collaborator, Sarah Jones, Styles’ drummer and Rowland’s wife, or Rowland himself—happily dragged along many of their moms and dads. Perhaps as a little nod to the parents in the room, the 9:30 Club staff played David Bowie on repeat as we waited for the show to begin. 

Accompanying Rowland on his North American Tour is indie singer Harris Harper, along with her brother CJ Harper. Both happen to be the children of Ben Harper, who collaborated with Rowland on the track “All the Way Back.” Harris’s voice was impossibly delicate, inviting the audience into the emotions of his performance with authenticity and vulnerability. With Harris on acoustic guitar and CJ on the keyboard, the siblings spoke very little, instead letting the music speak for itself. Only near the end of their set did Harris chime in to thank the audience for showing up 30 minutes early to hear them play. All in all, the singer-songwriter duo filled the venue with a warmth that persisted throughout the entire night.

Around 9:00 pm, Rowland quietly walked on stage and began to play his set. Standing in front of his classic snail and flower logo in an all-black outfit with a Wilco hat, Rowland perfectly embodied his well-studied yet subtle psychedelic sound. The band, with whom he wrote and produced Come June, surrounded Rowland. To Rowland’s right, indie rock producer and icon Rob Schnapf donned a PBS t-shirt as he played the guitar; behind Rowland were bassist Matt Schuessler and drummer Sarah Jones. Rowland’s friend, Aiden Finn, rounded out the band on keys. Impressively, each member of the band, save for the drummer, changed instruments several times during the show. Schuessler even brought out a standing bass. 

Rowland started with “See The Way You Roll,” “Bluebells,” and the soon-to-be-released “Carry On With Your Tea.” While on stage, Rowland maintained a rather straight face, giving little remarks only when he felt moved to do so. As you listen to him sing, you cannot help but hang onto his voice, which comes out as almost too quiet and raspy to grasp. At one point, Rowland introduced “When It All Falls Down,” commenting that he wrote the song after watching a wrestling match while on holiday with Jones and her family in Spain. He lamented that despite how bad some people want to win, they sometimes still lose. Here the audience fell quiet, cherishing this little hint of vulnerability offered up in Rowland’s Ohio drawl (who knew Ohio had a drawl!). Later on, however, the crowd erupted into cheers as Rowland introduced “The One I Love,” remarking that, although it was the shortest track on the record, the song “may be my favorite…maybe.” Rowland glanced at Jones, who was beaming right back at him. 

Rowland ended the night with “Medium Low,” “Here Comes the Comeback,” and the titular track “Come June.” The relatively small crowd seemed to fill the space as a disco ball lowered and the energy on stage picked up. During this concluding chapter of the show, Rowland grew quite comfortable on stage while Jones and Schnapf shone as instrumentalists, infusing energy and optimism into the songs. Although each of the band members had remained relatively in their own realms during the set, they joined together before the last song to wave to a child who had begun dancing on the balcony. Rowland observed that the set “always goes by too quick” before saying goodnight and returning for a one-song encore that consisted of “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” by the Velvet Underground. Altogether, the show was a beautiful blend of Rowland’s soulful sound and the crowd’s mellow vibe. The Come June Tour will continue onto several cities in the coming weeks, including New York, Philadelphia, and my hometown of Chicago, where he will be playing the iconic Thalia Hall.

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