I realize that the sensible journalistic move here would be to do one article re-capping the Rhythm n Blooms Festival: Sum it up, mention a highlight or two, throw in half a dozen photographs and move on. I, however, being neither a proper journalist and some would say not so sensible, just won’t/can’t do it. Simply too much great talent inhabited our city for those three days for me to treat it any less thoroughly.
The festival started Thursday night with a small kick-off at Pilot Light featuring on of my favorite bands, Count This Penny along with excellent band Bear Medicine. The fact that the first act I heard featured Knoxville artists should have tipped me to the fact that I would choose to hear local artists as often as not through the weekend – and they provided some of the best music to the festival. The Pilot Light show was a nice start to the entire event.
I got off to a late start on Friday because of the panel discussion I moderated at the Entrepreneur Center, but arrived in time to catch most of the Black Cadillac’s set on the Cripple Creek stage under the James White Parkway. The sound, I was pleased to hear, was perfect. Last year a couple of the bands were so loud the sound became a blur. Not so this year, with both sound and lighting being near perfect on all stages all weekend. The Black Cadillacs cranked out a raucous set of driving rock and roll that had the crowd jamming from the outset.
I tried without much success to hear a few minutes of Ed Snodderly, but Boyd’s Jig and Reel was so packed it wasn’t very possible. What I heard sounded good, but I quickly made my way back to the main stage for the Old 97s a band that I’ve always heard about, but never really tuned into. They played a good, fun set and unleashed quite the discussion among the ladies I was with about the finer qualities of Rhett Miller’s flowing hair.
Barley’s provided a little haven from the chilly temperatures and a hot set from the Ragbirds who I’d missed earlier. Erin Zindle is simply a ball of charisma, as well as being an extremely talented vocalist and instrumentalist. They are a fun band and I’d recommend you check them out if you haven’t. They packed out Barley’s and had the place hopping.
From there I slipped down for my first show in the Jackson Terminal. A temporary stage set inside the All Occasions space on the western end of the building transformed the space into a great concert venue. The sound and lighting – including back lights behind the beautiful set last seen at the Standard and a disco ball suspended from the beautiful rafters – were perfect. Mic Harrison and the High Score delivered their driving, intelligent brand of rock and roll to a large crowd. I started to appreciate what great exposure this is for our local bands as so many out-of-town (and state and country) come for the festival.
From there I made the walk back up Jackson (I think by the end of the weekend I’d made my own personal rut in the road) to Barley’s for the set that had me most excited on the first day. The Banditos are originally from Birmingham, though they are now based in Texas. Featuring a sound clearly influenced by country and southern rock traditions, the comparison that jumps out is to Big Brother and the Holding Company both because the band looks like the classic rockers from the sixties and vocalist Mary Beth Richardson likely sounds (and looks at times) more like Janis Joplin than anyone this side of the grave.
I loved the performance as much as or more-than I’d imagined. The band could drive the rock and roll or ease into a banjo break on a dime. Performances of “No Good” and Screaming Jay Hawkin’s “I Put a Spell on You,” were stand-outs. Vocals were strong throughout whether with Ms. Richardson taking the lead or co-lead vocalist Corey Parson singing solo or in-tandem with her. The entire show was just about perfect and they’ve, not surprisingly, become my first musical acquisition of the week as I’ve listened to their self-titled 2015 release all day.
I ended the night – until about 2:00 AM – with Electric Darling who would turn out to be a big part of the weekend, with dual shows and a high-profile guest slot later in the weekend. To say they slammed it doesn’t do the show justice. It was one of those nights in which the right band, the right venue and the right crowd combines to propel the whole business to its outer limits. By the time Cozmo wailed the guitar and Yasameen nailed the vocals to “Whole Lotta Love” to end the night, everyone had to have left satisfied. And tired.
The photographs you see here have been winnowed from the 450+ I took the first day. I’ve narrowed them to the best 137 and I’ll post those in the next day or two to the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page. I’ll have more here from the other two days as soon as I’m able.