Reminiscing over some of my favorite shows in the past five years, I began to see a pattern in what made me truly connect to them and think of them fondly. I came to the conclusion that it was summed up in two words- atmosphere and heart. True, it was the music and the people and the hype and the crowd singing along and moving to the beat, but at the core of it all- an incredible atmosphere and the realization that the artist or band truly loved what they were doing resonated deep within me. Memories are built on pictures, and pictures come to my mind when I float back to some of my favorite music performances of all times with some of my favorite people of all time. Below is a list of my top 5 in the last 5 years and why:
1. Railroad Revival Tour– This show was hands- down one of the greatest concert experiences of my life so far. My brother and I had tried to get tickets to see them where I lived in Austin, but it sold out insanely fast. So, we quickly decided a road trip out to the west Texas town of Marfa would be our destination to see Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I could gush, but I’ll save it. First, my undeniable obsession with vintage trains was met with sheer excitement when I discovered that they would travel by them to each stop on the tour. As if that wasn’t perfect enough, they performed in Marfa at an airstream trailer Hotel called El Cosmico, where you could stay for the night in any one of the airstreams, Indian Tepees or campsites. Nothing can compare to bouncing and singing and smiling with my younger brother as our favorite band played an incredible show on the eve of Easter Sunday. In this West Texas heaven, as a crowd of people moved to the music, an ethereal cloud of dust rose above it all, making the atmosphere completely magical, albeit probably terrible for our lungs. To top the perfect evening, my brother and I sneaked backstage and met Marcus Mumford, Jade from Edwarde Sharpe and Willy Watson from OCMS. I’ll never forget it. I don’t want to, and I’ll tell my kids the story of me and their uncle travelling to see one of our favorite bands and the music that will live on forever in our hearts and on our stereos
2. The Head and the Heart at Cannery Ballroom in Nashville this spring. This show was a breath of fresh air for me. The atmosphere was not so much of the pull as the genuine love of music that seemed to exude from every player onstage. They just seem to be a group of kids hanging out in the park, dancing to the beat of their own drum and playing with more passion and heart than I see in most bands today. With Charity (who I might add used to attend church with one of my gal pals back in Seattle) belting it out on Rivers and Roads, the crowd was in awe. It made me remember why I want to be involved in music. No matter how old I am or where I may be in life, I will always be a songwriter. And that means even if the world never hears a single note or word- you are who you are. It doesn’t make you any less of an artist someone told me just because the world doesn’t know who you are. Meeting Terry, the keys player outside, was awesome. And then, several days later, while en route to my then restaurant job in Brentwood, I saw two members of the Head and the Heart crossing the street. I rolled down my window and said “I love the head and the heart.” They turned around and smiled thankfully. I’ll never forget it.
3. The Belle Brigade– This brother/sister duo became one of my favorite finds of South by Southwest 2011. My best friend, Kayla, and I, saw them perform several times. One was at Cedarstreet, in which I was nearly capped in the jugular by a security man because I wasn’t wearing a wristband for the event. We also saw them at South by San Jose down on South Congress, where the most raw and natural happenstance occurred. Something went wrong at the end of their set regarding the power, so Barbara, Ethan and their band came down off the stage and into the small crowd. Donning guitars and genuine smiles, they did an incredible acapella version of Losers, which is one of my brigade favorites. Oh, and just a little tidbit of interest for you- not only are these two related, they are also fortunately the grandchildren of great composer, John Williams. The icing on top of this is that Barbara used to drum for Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley. Words cannot express how much punch mingled with heart the Belle Brigade packs behind their awesome indie/folk/pop sound. Not only did they have a killer performance, the joy and energy they project in a performance is flung off the stage right into your heart. Kayla and I had met Barbara the day before. And when she saw us standing near the stage at our 3rd and final experience of them at South by SouthwestKGSR morning broadcast, she did something quite endearing. She looked at us and made this really hysterical awkward face and started waving. Kayla turned around, unsure to whom she was directing the wave. When she realized it was to us, we both waved back, and I threw back my own crazy face for her enjoyment. She was so real, so genuine, so happy to be herself. When we talked to her afterward, she put us on the list for their upcoming show back in Austin. Though we weren’t able to attend, we sent cookies to the venue for them. We even heard from them on facebook about it. They love their fans and show it, and who can’t help but love a genuinely appreciative artist.
4. KGSR morning broadcast during South by Southwest 2010-Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace Potter is a female rockstar. End of story. But when she walked into the lobby of the Four Seasons that morning bright and early in her vintage pink frilly pajama nightgown, I fell madly in musical love. Her amazing voluminous hair and pipes to boot, combined with Catherine Popper (previously the bassist for Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) and her dapper dudes clad in vintage robes, were picturesque. This girl strutted her stuff and rocked the crowd surrounding her in this living room setting in the Four Seasons lobby. Sadly, the next year, they moved this broadcast into one of the event rooms, so it no longer has that same feel. Should you have the itch to see this rock princess, she (and I) will be at the Ryman Auditorium October 12-13 for a two-night stint. Be ready to have your world rocked, because you can expect it from the illustrious Miss Potter.
5. The last one, like a good record, is a repeat. Mumford and Sons at the Ryman Auditorium with Dawes opening. Dawes is one of my new favorite bands. Why? Because the lead singer has the gift of being a thought-provoking lyricist as well as writing perfect melodies to match. Since they only sold 2 tickets max in pre-sale and regular sale, we had to get creative with seating. Being down on the Ryman floor singing Dawes at the top of my lungs with Bradford and rocking our harmonies will not soon be forgotten. Nothing compares to shows at the Ryman, and any musician is fortunate to play that stage. If you’ve never seen Mumford, I highly encourage you to take the opportunity. Their lyrics and anthems are truly larger than life, and they play with a world of heart and enthusiasm. At one point they played the famous Paul Simon cover, The Boxer, which was completely intoxicating. That song has graced Jerry Douglas’s new album, because Douglas plays on the tune as well. Much like Douglas, anything Mumford touches is pure gold. He is currently the king in my eyes of the folk/Americana music world.
cheers and happy wens-day,