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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

IN PHOTOS: ​​Ryan Beatty takes it slow at the Basement East

Beatty led the sold-out room through a winding tour of his second studio album, ‘Calico’
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Katherine Oung
Ryan Beatty performs at the Basement East, as photographed on Feb. 19, 2024. (Hustler Staff/Katherine Oung)

With no opener on the bill, the crowd at the packed Monday-night show seemed to grow ever more impatient to see L.A.-based singer-songwriter Ryan Beatty perform.

“You know musicians, never on time,” an attendee next to me whispered to her friend, eyes flitting to the stage.

About twenty minutes after the event was slated to start, a pianist walked on stage to play an extended intro of the album’s first track, “Ribbons.” Then came Beatty, wearing a waffle-knit sweater and jeans, with the other four members of his band. Beatty sat on a small black box and donned headphones throughout the set, as if he was recording a studio session rather than performing at a sold-out show.

While sipping from a steaming cup of tea between songs, Beatty explained that his lateness was due to a bout of tour-time sickness. He promised the crowd that together they would “just enjoy themselves tonight,” a sentiment echoed in “Cinnamon Bread,” where he crooned, “Why don’t you make yourself at home?”

Beatty’s discography charts a slow but steady deepening of intimacy, which culminates, for now, with Calico. His career began at 16 with the early 2010s tradition of going viral singing covers on YouTube and almost immediately being slotted into the role of a straight teenage heartthrob. 

“I was being perceived as somebody that I just absolutely wasn’t,” Beatty later said in an interview with Notion Magazine, after firing his initial management.

At 20, Beatty came out as gay and began releasing music that explored the dimensions of queer love: wide-eyed and euphoric in the 2018 Boy in Jeans EP and more mournful in the 2020 echoey dream pop record Dreaming of David. 

Though Beatty constructed his early solo works with stylish synths and playful spoken segments — perhaps a vestige of his early collaborations with indie rap group BROCKHAMPTON — Calico is largely acoustic. In its live rendition, layers of guitar, slide guitar, bass and piano shape a lush soundscape of chords, chimes and sand blowing across West Coast dunes.

The album focuses Beatty’s artistic lens toward the more explicitly autobiographical. Beatty grapples with his relationship to religion and healing from difficult relationships. The lyrics reference his hometown and current residence in Southern California — in “Andromeda,” he sings “My sister’s raising a baby / In the house where my mother grew up.”

“It seems to me I’m playing in front of a crowd that really knows the music,” Beatty reflected about halfway into the set. “That’s so special…Y’all are even hitting the background vocals.”

And hit the background chords they did, filling in all of the “Oh yeah’s” in Dreaming of David’s “Casino.” 

Before closing the set, Beatty paused to address the crowd one last time. “Hearing you guys sing [the songs] back to me, I’ll carry it forever,” he said, as the opening notes of “Little Faith,” the quietly hopeful meditation on mental health that closes Calico, began.

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About the Contributor
Katherine Oung
Katherine Oung, Data Editor
Katherine Oung ('25) is majoring in political science and computer science and minoring in data science in the College of Arts and Science. They are from West Palm Beach, Fla., and were previously Deputy News Editor and Managing Editor. Katherine enjoys working on freelance journalism projects and making incredibly specific Spotify playlists. They can be reached at [email protected].
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