Ginger Roots’ dreamy, aggressive-elevator-soul melodies have had a second home on the RadioUTD airwaves since the release of “Rikki” in Fall 2020. At the time, I was the new station manager for the upcoming school year, when programming and DJing remotely was the only option available. The radio community had been fragmented, scattered across the state with no reunion in sight—especially with the pause in live music events. Morale was low, and we had lost many members because “it just wasn’t the same as going into the station.” For those that stayed on, the one element that brought us together, the routine we all shared, was listening to new music from the NACC (North American Community Chart). “Rikki” was one of the most memorable ads of that season for me, with its melodies bringing comfort, warmth, and a glistening-sunshine energy that had been lost in those months of self-isolation.
A year later, in-studio operations had started back up for the station, and we were able to interview Cameron Lew—the imagination and artificer of this music project—before Ginger Root was slated to perform in Ft. Worth. Last Thursday, Ginger Root was once again passing through DFW on tour, this time coming to Deep Ellum Art Co. in the second leg of their tour. We got to interview Cameron once more before the show, catching up with how much of a following Ginger Root gained, and how ‘80s media and City Pop influences have influenced his music and visuals for these latest releases.
The opener for this leg of the tour was Vicky Farewell, a record producer and synth-pop RnB artist from Orange County. Prior to performing under this name, she performed live with artists such as Mild High Club, WILLOW, and Kali Uchis. Once she started her set, the whole floor went silent in awe. I felt like I had been overtaken by a psychic blast with how strong that bass was, and I was mesmerized once she started singing. She made sweet and funny conversation between songs, remarking “One-b*tch band stuff is hard,” and admitting “I talk too damn much, I can’t finish my set on time.” My favorite track of hers was “Kakashi (All of the Time),” which can be found on her newest album Sweet Company. The last song of her set, “Turn Me On,” was a brand new song with an undecided release date.
“Another horny thirst-trap song. Surprise surprise.” – Vicky Farewell, Nov. 10, 2022
Vicky Farewell was a fantastic opener for the night. After she had left the stage, My +1 (Sai from Hear the Kings) for the night commented “I like singers who sing while smiling… you see their love pour out into the music.”
There was about a 20-minute intermission between the opener and the headliner for set-up, as we were about to be a part of a beautiful, intense multimedia experience. I had recently come to the same venue for a psychedelic band, but it felt like I was in a whole other setting with Ginger Root’s stage lighting, projections, and working CRT TVs on-stage. It felt like we were in the live audience of a late night talk show; the venue was sold out, the stage projection had changed to a ‘80s news channel-esque waiting screen, and everyone was waiting in anticipation for the night’s talent to emerge. Sai spotted a literal ginger root in attendance, being contained in a plastic bag by a crowd member.
The live-band emerged on stage as the screen projection and CRT TVs played the Kimiko Takeguchi JOSN Interview, one of many fabricated ‘80s news channel updates Ginger Root has produced on YouTube to promote and add world-building to his latest release Nisemono. I never realized the potential those videos had for enhancing concert performances until that moment.
With Cameron on keyboard, supported by Matt Carney on drums, Dylan Hovis on bass, and David Gutel on live video camera, they started the set with “City Slicker,” a track off Ginger Root’s previous ‘80s inspired EP of the same name. Following “Neighbor,” they made their first of many hydration break bits before jumping into “Karaoke” and “Le château.” Throughout the set, David’s video was directly sent to the wall projection and CRT TVs, showing close-ups of the band members for the entire crowd to enjoy. Another JOSN video played, this one promoting “Ginger Fresh” drinks, and Cameron clarified that they unfortunately were not sponsored by the water bottle company.
An exciting twist to their lineup was the bundle of ‘90s anime theme songs they covered, such as those from Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The entire crowd completely lost it at the latter of the three. I’ve never heard so many people “doot-doot” along to a song so fervently.
Like Vicky Farewell, Cameron and the others on stage made conversation between songs, with the hydration bit increasing in intensity. The crowd cheered them on to continue hydrating, which led to Cameron chugging the whole water bottle very dramatically. The cowboy hat initially worn by Matt became the group hat by the end of the night as well.
Serving as a climax for the night, the beginning of the official music video for “Loneliness” began to play, and Cameron role-played along with the skit onscreen. After that performance, he took a break to tell us that Texas in general seems to have the rowdiest concert goers, and that we were officially sponsors of this entire operation, which received many yee-haws from the crowd. Following that, he said “This next song is sponsored by…the YouTube Algorithm,” and proceeded to perform “Loretta.” They ended the set with “Weather,” one of their older beloved tracks, and David went olympic-gymnastics-level-all-out to whip the camera between the band and the crowd.
For their encore, they played “Mahjong Room” and closed with a cover of “Dress Down,” a city pop classic by Akimoto Kaoru. There wasn’t a massive exodus once their performance was over. It was as if we were already at the afterparty, with half of us headed to the merch line and the other half chatting amongst ourselves on the floor. Setlists from stage were given out by members of the band, including one transported off the stage in a paper-airplane format, and both Matt and Dylan came back out to sign people’s merch. Cameron headed to the merch table on the floor to sign merch and greet fans after the show as well. David re-emerged from the green room with his recording gear, ready to begin collecting memories of the west coast fan base like how he did with the east. Ginger Root Tour Testimonials (Leg 1) can be found here.
This was hands down one of my favorite concerts of all-time; the music, atmosphere, visuals, and loosely-narrative flow combined to create a beautiful night. So many little moments happened throughout the night that I have the urge to distill into Ginger Fresh memories; if the recordings from the tour ever get put on VHS, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. A central theme of Nisemono revolved around Cameron’s feelings of impostor syndrome following his boost in popularity online, but I hope at the end of this tour he can see how much his music has meant to people. We adore all the creative effort he puts into every release, and the algorithm isn’t the reason he’s successful: It’s him. His drive, the years he put into this project while balancing a day job, and his joy in performing when he gets on stage. That’s what we’re here for—who we’re here for.