Coming to you a little late today with the final Rhythm n Blooms installment for 2015. The final day found more than a few of us dragging around the Old City. My concert buddies took breaks for naps and such, but the line-up was so good, that simply wasn’t an option for me. It was really one of those days a person might plant in a single venue and hear nothing but goodness all the way through. I really would have been able to enjoy any of several of the stages and rested a bit, but I did move around just a little.
I had to start the day on the Cripple Creek Stage – which meant, painfully, missing Count This Penny in the Standard – to see Amythyst Kiah electric with her full band. In one respect it wasn’t that different from her other performance. The songs were mostly repeated from the acoustic performance. Most of what she does is rooted in the folk blues and going electric just made it seem a little less folky and more bluesy. I enjoyed both. The central feature of any performance will always be that amazing voice, so it’s all good.
Back at The Standard after that performance, I joined Humming House just after their first song. High energy fun, great harmonies, twin lead vocals and a melding of various roots traditions makes their shows great fun. Even the tired concert goers couldn’t help but respond. They have a new CD, “Revelries,” which spotlights the band at their exuberant best with lots of counter-vocal call-and-response, and Celtic and country influences.
Kristina Train followed with her sultry sounds. Sometimes country, sometimes more soft rhythm and blues, she’s quite the songwriter. A great place to start with her is the song “I’m Wandering,” which in a surprising burst of good taste on their part, was used in a Lexus commercial a couple of years ago. Fine song, fine vocals.
With a little gap for the stage change at The Standard, I walked down to Lox Salon to see 3 Mile Smile. Mercifully, the fine volunteer said I could buy some coffee at Old City Java to drink during the show. I was dragging. 3 Mile Smile, a local group from Maryville, delivered a great set of songs with the excellent vocals of lead singer Becki Grace. I’ve been wanting to hear them for a long time and I’m glad I found the chance. I slipped out a few minutes early – which was my loss because the guitarist, Jeff Livingston proposed to Becki Grace at the end of their set – which I’m sure was a sweet moment for everyone (she accepted). Another Rhythm n Blooms memory for everyone. They have a new self-titled CD out that you might want to hunt down (Disc Exchange has it).
After that I walked back to the Standard for most of Margo and the Pricetags and absolutely loved it. As I said on twitter: It’s real country music, she’s really cute and she covered Bob Dylan. Not much to complain about there. The band and the vocals are all exceptional and her stage presence just adds to the appeal. It was good old fashioned honky tonk music that Hank would approve. Great set.
After a break for barbecue at Sweet P’s with the family, I stepped back inside for a final show at the Standard with Gangsta Grass. I won’t belabor what I said about them yesterday, but they were just as fun there as they were at Barley’s. I’ve seen them three times, now, and I’d see them again in a heartbeat. Either they have fun on stage every time out or they are amazing actors – in addition to talented musicians.
I’d made the decision at the beginning of the festival that, if I made it this far and still found myself up-right, I would end my event with The Decemberists. There was a final show at Barley’s and an afterparty midnight jam set to go to 1:00 AM, but I just didn’t have that in me. I think my decision was a good one.
I’m not sure how many thousands of people crowded under the overpass for that final show, but it was packed. Vocalist Colin Meloy strode out on the stage in his stylish suit with a guitar and the crowd erupted. Within moments he was joined onstage by similarly dressed bandmates and the show was on.
The setlist mixed the classics from the band with a healthy dose of newer material from their latest album, “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.” As much as I like hearing the classics, I’m in love with the new disc and could have been happy to hear the entire CD performed live. The sound approached perfection. Every instrument and every vocal, every single carefully enunciated word was clear. The lights and the set were similarly well-done, though I understand they didn’t use the full stage set.
While Colin didn’t talk much (and no one else said a word), he did take time to compliment the Whiskey Shivers and to talk to the crowd after they’d just sung gleefully along with the hit song, “The Rake’s Song,” which is about killing one’s children, calling the crowd complicit. I don’t think anyone was surprised by the information. The set ended with a giant whale eating everyone on stage, followed by a resurrection of sorts and a two-song encore. Very, very good show.
And a great, very well-run festival. Thanks go out to Chyna Brakeen and Attack Monkey Productions as well as the City of Knoxville for allowing the logistical supports required for the event. The musicians were great and the volunteers made it all possible. I’ve never encountered a more helpful set of people at a festival, many of whom will be volunteering this coming weekend at the Market Square Art Fair. Shows started on time, sound was almost always good and everyone kept a good vibe going. Rhythm n Blooms is a part of the Dogwood Arts Festival family of events and a great thanks goes out to those folks, as well.