Rhythm n Blooms 2016, Day Two

Nina Brown (now Howell) and Brad Howell, Celebrating their wedding at Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Nina Reineri (now Howell) and Brad Howell, Celebrating their wedding at Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The beginning of day two of a three day festival is a sweet spot of sorts: Day one was fun, building expectations for day two and exhaustion won’t set in until late in the day. It’s an optimistic moment. My day two started with moderating a panel on Re-claiming Spaces. I’m really appreciative of its inclusion and Chyna allowing me to lead it. We had a fun conversation with about fifteen-to-twenty people which, it seemed to me, was a good crowd for the topic at a music festival.

From there I went to the other end of the festival site for Green River Ordinance on the main stage and they gave a good performance. By this time I was running into lots of friends and making a lot of new ones. I appreciate the people who introduced themselves as readers of this blog and enjoyed meeting you. Repeat your name loudly and often and it might stick. I’m bad that way, plus, there’s a lot of you.

Panel on Re-claiming Spaces, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Panel on Re-claiming Spaces, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Green River Ordinance, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Green River Ordinance, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Green River Ordinance, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Green River Ordinance, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

I met people from a number of different cities – it seems Nashville was quite well represented – I guess they don’t have such great music in that little town. My favorite conversation with an out-of-town person came the first night. She said she came from Sweden with a group of friends last year and, when she learned they would be unable to return, she made the trip by herself this year. She said she feels very comfortable here, so it was an easy decision.

My second favorite encounter was seeing my friend Nina and learning that she’d gotten married that morning and was spending her first newly-married evening with her husband at Rhythm n Blooms. Beats any reception I’ve ever encountered.

Crane Wives, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Crane Wives, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Crane Wives, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Crane Wives, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

I left the main stage and walked back to Jackson Terminal (of course) for Crane Wives. They were also very good and a perfect example of the fine music available all over the festival. Afterwards I walked the length of the festival, once more, to hear Lone Bellow and was blown away for the first time that day.

Urban Woman also fell in love with them and they were our second purchase from the artists we heard at Rhythm n Blooms (the first was The Banditos), and we purchased both their debut self-titled album from 2013 and their 2015 release, “Then Came the Morning.” If soulful harmonies riding a layer of folk sensibilities with a capacity to rock is appealing to you, you might give them a listen. “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” was a big hit at the show and I was impressed generally with how many audience members sang along with that and other songs.

The Lone Bellow, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Lone Bellow, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Lone Bellow, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Lone Bellow, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Lone Bellow, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Lone Bellow, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

A word on photography: The venues were generally great for photographs, though I still struggle to make decent photographs at Pilot Light. The main stage was great to shoot at night – the lights and back-drop were spectacular, but the day shots presented problems with parts of the stage in different light. With Lone Bellow Kanene was in full, direct sunlight while the others were in shadow. Tough shooting. I had a blast shooting with friends. Larry Crowell said we looked like roaches scrambling about at the foot of the stage, but it’s a great group of roaches and I really appreciate their friendship.

The Mavericks, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Mavericks, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Mavericks, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Mavericks, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Mavericks, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

The Mavericks, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

It just got better, for my taste with two great back-to-back shows when the Mavericks took the stage. Great musiciansip, showmanship and excellent songs just can’t be underestimated. The Mavericks have the whole package. Raul Malo has one of the best voices in any kind of music and the Tex-Mex (even though he is Cuban-American) music veering often toward a fun old-school country music sound made for a great party. This must have been the most fun show of the festival. Jerry Dale McFadden – in his purple plaid suit – kept the crowd entertained with his own brand of fun.

Mutemath, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Mutemath, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Mutemath, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Mutemath, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Mutemath followed on the big stage and I won’t say I didn’t like them, but they left me a bit cold – and it was cold outside, so they needed to be compelling to keep me outside. People with better musical tastes and far more knowledge tell me I should like them, but I just didn’t feel it. I left to see great music, Knoxville style in Guy Marshall at Barley’s where a packed house had a blast. I really didn’t miss the big stage.

Guy Marshall, Barley's, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Guy Marshall, Barley’s, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Koa, Pilot Light, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Koa, Pilot Light, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Koa, Pilot Light, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Koa, Pilot Light, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

After most of the Guy Marshall set, I slipped down to Pilot Light to hear Koa. Pilot Light was as packed as Barley’s and I have to say every smaller act I saw during the weekend had a great crowd and that was good to see. Again, like Mutemath, Koa just didn’t grab me as much as I thought they might. It was probably just my head. Maybe it was the two great shows I’d heard earlier and still had ringing in my ears as a reference.

After taking a break at Old City Wine Bar, I drug myself (now officially tired) to Jackson Terminal to end the night with the Midnight Merry-Go-Round that ran until 2:00 AM. About half the songs were David Bowie songs as a tip of the hat to the man who died earlier this year. I should mention that I also heard a couple of Merle Haggard songs along the way, which was nice.

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Midnight Merry-Go-Round: David Bowie Edition, Jackson Terminal, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, April 2016

Members of King Super and the Excellents formed the base for the evolving band. Briston Maroney, lately of Subtle Clutch performed an original song and an excellent version of Bowie’s, “Fame.” Guy Marshall and Hudson K did sets and the “house band” joined Hudson K for a Bowie Blowout to end the night and send us all home, a tired, sodden, somewhat drunken group stumbling into the night. Another great day of Rhythm n Blooms.

Subtle Clutch is the Buzz Downtown

Subtle Clutch, Market Square, Knoxville, July 2013

Subtle Clutch, Market Square, Knoxville, July 2013

A few weeks ago, as I walked through Market Square on a mission, I stopped in my tracks beside Tupelo Honey. A group of very young men played acoustic instruments and sang like crazy. They sang like they meant what they said, like they had more life experience than possible. Like the music really mattered to them. And they were very good.

I didn’t have my camera. It’s a rare moment when I don’t have it and it seems that every time I forget something happens that I need to photograph. I ran home, got my camera and jogged back to the square only to find them packing up. I asked if they would please unpack and play one more song so I could take a photograph. They kindly humored me.

Subtle Clutch, Market Square, Knoxville, July 2013

Subtle Clutch, Market Square, Knoxville, July 2013

It was then that I met Cindy, the mother to Eli Fox who plays banjo, dobro and harmonica in the band. I learned their name is Subtle Clutch and in addition to Eli, band-mates include Briston Maroney (vocals & guitar), Devin Badgett (vocals, guitar, ukulele),  and Jonathan Bailey ( mandolin & guitar). The guys are all in high school, but have played together since middle school. How they came together is an interesting story.

It started with an assignment. At the Episcopal School of Knoxville eighth grad students must complete a portfolio project involving a research paper, artifact and a service project. Like  a typical teenager, Eli chose the history of the banjo.  That’s right, the history of hte banjo. What teenager does that?

For his service project he planned a concert to benefit WDVX (every teenager’s favorite station, right?).  He invited friends, his brother, his banjo teacher and others including Devin and Briston to perform.  The concert raised $470 for WDVX, but perhaps more importantly, a band was born. Later they asked Eli’s good friend Johnathan to join.

I thanked Cindy for the information and the boys for playing and told her they would eventually wind up on the blog, probably in one of my random photograph blogs in which I post images that aren’t a complete story in and of themselves.

Subtle Clutch, Market Square, Knoxville, July 2013

Subtle Clutch, Market Square, Knoxville, July 2013

A few days later, on my way to a meeting at Visit Knoxville, I passed them once again, spoke to Cindy and was blown away all over again. I assured her the blog post was coming. When I got to my meeting at the Visitor’s Center, Kim Bumpas said she had just made a video on her phone and we just had to watch it. It was a video of – you guessed it – Subtle Clutch. I mentioned the coincidence to Cindy as I passed back through the square.

Later that night while Urban Woman and I sat having coffee with friends outside Coffee and Chocolate, our friends Millie and Jerry stopped at our table to talk for a few minutes and one of the first topics in the conversation was . . . that’s right. It seemed everyone was as blown away by them as I had been that first day.

They are a blend of styles. While there is a bluegrass element, they aren’t really bluegrass. Strains of folk music run through their work, but they aren’t really folk. I hear Old Crow Medicine Show, Sister Hazel and maybe a slight Mumford sensibility. They are solid instrumentalists, but it is Briston and Devin’s vocal interplay that I find absolutely delightful.

I’m posting a video below so you can hear these guys (though only three were present for this recording and you don’t get to hear the vocal interplay which I love so much). They also have an original song on itunes. I simply find it incredibly heartening to find young people playing real instruments, real, heartfelt music and knowing the difference between that and what is shoved down our throats by the contemporary music industry. Search these boys out, settle in for a listen and re-kindle your hope for the future.