Saturday morning started for downtown residents with the soft opening or preview of the Market Square Farmers’ Market. It shared space with the Chalk Walk as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. There was also a little deluge just to keep everyone hopping. That passed and it was a good morning. I’ll blog more about other parts of it as I’m able.
For now, let’s turn to the music of the day. The second day of Rhythm and Blooms started in late afternoon and I was able to hear a little music by Kris Delmhorst in the Square Room which was enjoyable. I talked a little to Larry (think beer hat) while I was there. We saw each other all weekend at various venues. Larry is an excellent photographer and I realized a couple of his photographs are hanging in the Square Room.
Next I listened to about half of Katie Powderly’s set downstairs at Latitude 35. I’ve heard a lot of great music in that room going back to when it was the World Grotto and I’m always glad when music is scheduled there. Katie was accompanied by an electric guitarist and she had the room pretty much filled. A number of friends came to support her and that is always fun. The music was pretty straight-forward singer-songwriter fare.
I had to take a break at that point for a family obligation, so I missed some of the other artists that afternoon. I wish I had caught Langhorne Slim after seeing him at Scruffy City Roots. I avoided him because I figured I would use my time hearing artists I hadn’t heard before and I regret it because he was one of the very best acts I caught. I’ll try to hear him somewhere down the line.
So the next round of music for me was at the beautiful Tennessee Theater. The crowd was good – maybe half-capacity – but there was plenty of room to sit close and that’s what I did, of course. I also used my zoom lens to great effect, I think. I’m starting to really like that thing, but more on that another day.
The opening artist was Mike Farris who I originally heard at the Bijou at a Tennessee Shines show. He had the full band there and I wasn’t sure if his energy and showmanship would translate to a solo acoustic set. I needn’t have worried. His charisma could not possibly be contained under any circumstances and he blew the crowd away. People around me had never heard of him and fell in love with him during his set. Exactly as I did the first time I heard him.
His incredible voice and infectious enthusiasm filled the hall. He bounced all over the stool threatening to levitate at any time. He played predominantly gospel music, as he has done in recent years, but he also mixed it up a bit. I’m not as familiar with his work with the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, so I can’s say whether he drew from that source, but it really doesn’t matter. He’s the kind of singer who could sing the back of the cereal box and have the audience hoping he would never stop. He was completely awesome.
Citizen Cope followed Mike Farris and was decidedly understated and cool to Mike’s over-the-top exuberance. His set was almost meditative and I wondered how it compared to his full-band shows. I have his music on my Ipod, but my knowledge of his music doesn’t really go much deeper than the hits. I realize I’m going to have to go deeper. His soulful sound and demanding lyrics require repeated listening.
It was clear that a massive number of audience members were there for his show. They knew the lyrics to each of the songs and cheered wildly at certain points only they understood. His set was excellent by any standard, but for the devoted fans I think it was probably other-worldly to be so close to the object of their admiration and have him play in such a stripped-down fashion. Many of them (sadly) left after his set. Their mistake.
The Black Lillies just get better and better. I’m going to have to swear off of them for a while for blogging purposes or this could turn into the Stuck Inside of Cruz’s Head blog. It’s hard to resist hearing them when they play nearby and it’s hard to do anything other than gush. They are just that good.
Cruz, if anything, has become a more assured vocalist and – am I the only one who thinks this? – he’s vastly improved on the piano. From there you move to Trisha Gene Brady whose vocals always catch me off-guard with their amazing quality when she really lets it rip. Tom Pryor is absolutely one of the best musicians in the city, just playing the devil out of his electric or pedal steel guitar. I blogged about Jamie Cook yesterday and he and Robert Richards keep things steady and moving. It’s just an excellent band.
Next month they will play the Grand Ole Opry for, I believe, their eighth time. They are currently riding high on the Americana charts and they’ve gotten quite a bit of recent attention on CMT. We really need to enjoy the chance to so easily see them in various venues around the city. It may not last for much longer as their star rises nationally.
They were also joined on stage by Sam Quinn for Jamie Cook’s turn at the front of the stage. Tony Furtado sat in on several songs either on banjo or slide guitar on which he is very, very good. A fiddle player whose name I failed to get also joined them for the evening, giving their sound a bit more of a country twist.
It all ended around midnight and that concluded Rhythm and Blooms for me. I understand Cruz joined Amos Lee for part of his set the next day and that would have been fun to hear. I’ll say this is one of my favorite musical events of the year and I hope to see it continued during future Dogwood Arts Festivals. For now, I’m looking forward to a little slower pace, but that certainly won’t start this weekend. I’ll write more about that tomorrow. Let’s just say you need to buckle up for the ride. It’s going to be wild again this weekend.
Here are some samples of the artists mentioned above: