COLUMBIA — Ben Folds and the weather did not disappoint concertgoers during their Summerfest appearance last night. While Folds led the crowd in frequent sing-a-longs and inspired haphazard dancing, the weather held off from anything more than a periodic misting through the second half of the nearly two-hour show.
Folds, a 42-year-old singer-songwriter, was accompanied by a four-piece band. Although the instrumentation was not unusual at first, the piano, bass guitar, drums, keyboard and tambourines eventually were joined by autoharp, plastic maracas and Altoids metal mint boxes.
The show consisted of a set that covered roughly 20 songs and was followed by a 10-minute, two-song encore.
“This was my third time seeing Ben,” said Jessica Ames, who was celebrating her 30th birthday with 18 of her friends at the concert and frequently attends Summerfest. “I’ve been to almost every Summerfest show since I was 21 — you do the math.”
She said she enjoyed the song selection and liked that Folds played some of his older material that appealed to his longtime fans.
Songs covered fan favorites such as "Landed," "Zak and Sara," "Rockin’ the Suburbs" and "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces." There was also a rough cover of the theme song from the television show "COPS," "Bad Boys" by Inner Circle, and an improvisational piece about how it was going to rain in Columbia and create an impromptu wet T-shirt contest.
Folds interacted with the audience throughout the night, encouraging the crowd to sing parts of songs by staying silent or conducting them like a symphony orchestra. He also provided entertaining commentary and humorous quips between songs.
For some, the night’s draw wasn’t as much Ben Folds as it was the Summerfest concert.
“This was my first experience here at Summerfest, and I decided to check it out,” said Travis McMillen, 29. “It was a great show, and I was able to stand right up front.”
“I hadn’t heard of Summerfest until last week," said Brian Westhues, 23. “I would have liked to have seen Willie Nelson, but thought (the Ben Folds show) was cool.”
Although he hadn’t heard a lot of the songs before, Westhues said he thought the show was “worth the money” and is planning on attending another Summerfest show.
Chick Orscheln, co-owner of Smokin’ Chicks BBQ, reopened his Ninth Street location for the evening’s concert.
“Summerfest is always good for us and it’s always fun,” he said. The restaurant closed its doors earlier this year due to the economic downturn, but has reopened for special events like Summerfest. “We are planning on being open for all the Summerfest shows,” he said.
The Blue Note owner Richard King estimated attendance to be between 1,600 and 1,700 people.
“The day went smoothly, and I got to stand down here for the last 15 minutes, see people sing, a lot of happy people, and no fighting,” he said.