Run Boy Run makes a regal return to Tucson at Emanu-El

This time last week, Run Boy Run made their triumphant return to Tucson after some time away from their home city. Accompanied by a talented upright bassist, the bluegrass quartet and Old Pueblo favorites made their mark as the first artists to perform at Temple Emanu-El. They helped kick off the synagogue—the first in Arizona territory’s—now-ongoing concert series. And as expected, they did it in style.

It was one of the band’s first shows in their ongoing Arizona tour and the first in a more traditional space. Prior to their Sunday showing at Emanu-El, they performed at the Tour of the White Mountains Festival the day prior. While “Bluegrass and a Synagogue” doesn’t come across as catchy of a phrase as “Bluegrass and Bikes” does, Run Boy Run still held their own in the gorgeous conference room provided by the temple for listening.

For those who somehow haven’t heard of one of the best bands in the west before, Run Boy Run is comprised of two sets of siblings. Fiddler Matt Rolland is joined by three stellar vocalists and multi-instrumentalists. They are his sister, Grace Rolland (mostly known, from an instrumentalist standpoint, for her work on the cello), his wife Bekah Sandoval Rolland, and her sister Jennifer Sandoval. They’re known for their melding of traditional and progressive bluegrass stylings, as well as for their three-part vocal harmonies and strong songwriting chops.

At Emanu-El, they kicked things off with a “hello.” Namely, they kicked things off with the “hello” that starts off the final track from off of their latest EP, I Would Fly. You can hear it in their album track, but that they are capable of pulling it off just as effortlessly as seem to do on their mastered studio jam when they break out those gorgeous three-part vocal harmonies before ceding into an upbeat roots performance is incredible. From there, they continued to amaze with some of their self-penned songs throughout the evening, including the remaining three tunes from off of that 2016 EP: “Who Should Follow Who”, “Lay These Stones”, and the titular “I Would Fly”.

During their two-set show at the temple, Run Boy Run snuck in several fan favorites from older efforts. They hadn’t pulled out tunes like “Cora Belle” or “Red Rocking Chair” from their first album, So Sang the Whipporwhill, in a while. Yet, they did at Emanu-El. You wouldn’t have known it if they didn’t tell you that they were dusting the tunes off after a while on the performance shelf. They were just as consummate in their performance as they always have been, and that extended throughout all of their songs that night, including some sweet tributes to Tom Petty and Leonard Cohen.

Some props have to be given to the staff from that night, as well. The band wouldn’t have gotten off of the ground and soared with their performance had it not been for the sound mastery of Marshall Jones. Furthermore, all of the folks working with Emanu-El made sure that the night went by smoothly and without any hitches. For their first-ever concert series installment, they sure knew how to rock the show with steady transactions from their will call tables, to their pews for seating, and back to the sales booth after the show for CDs and merch from the band.

Respectfully, Emanu-El asked guests to keep their phones off or to themselves during the show so as to not distract their fellow guests. Yet, as always happens at these shows, someone managed to sneak a photo anyway. Not to endorse breaking the rules, but you at least see in Instagram user crzyabe’s post just how gorgeous the listening space was because he was willing to bend them. Check it out below, and make sure to visit Run Boy Run’s website for more information on the band—including where they’ll turn up next!

@runboyrunband show. Always great

A post shared by David Smith (@crzyabe) on

Words by: Jonathan Frahm

Photo Credit: Luke and Mallory Photography

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