Left Foot Down, Waynestock, Night Two, Relix Theatre, Knoxville, February 2023
Waynestock 2023 is in the books after three great nights of local music. It’s a rare chance – usually once a year, but we’ve missed the last two – to hear an incredible array of local artists all in one spot. The music runs the gamut and is lovingly curated by people who know of what they curate.
As great as the music is, it’s hard to simply call it a musical event. It’s a gathering of fans and friends of music and the musicians. It’s a chance for the musicians to see each other perform. It’s a gathering for a good cause. Funds raised this year went to help local musician J.C. Haun who was injured this year in an ATV accident and is inundated with medical bills.
It is a time for remembering those lost, starting first and foremost with Drew and Rylan Bledsoe, sons of Wayne Bledsoe, but also commemorating beloved national and international musicians who have passed. This year’s finale tribute featured the songs of John Prine who, sadly, died of COVID-19 early in the pandemic. The loss of John and the loss of togetherness due to the pandemic made this gathering particularly poignant. Many attendees had not seen each other since the last Waynestock and an event that always features a lot of love was taken to another level. The crowds were the largest I remember.
And the music? The music was phenomenal out the gate. Wayne selected the artists for Thursday night, all of whom had connections to his son Rylan. Starsregardless started the festival with a performance of some of his great songs. Keith, who taught Rylan drums, performed a jazz set with friends and Chris Newman and Benjamin Savage played a stunning acoustic set filled with amazing guitar work. Kenneth Brown and friends drove the jazz home and the CrumbSnatchers, Rylan’s former group, ended the night.
Friday night probably included my favorite music of the festival, starting with the music of Leslie Walker and Dark Mountain Orchid, who has returned to the scene after twenty years with new music. I was reminded both of Mazy Starr and the Cowboy Junkies. Sam Quinn’s latest project, Sam Quin and the Cartwright Brothers brought a shimmering sound that hit my sweet spot. Adeem the Artist, who is exploding nationally with acclaim from the likes of Billboard and Rolling Stone, played their witty, affirming songs. It was great to hear them with a band in one of their only scheduled Knoxville shows for the foreseeable future (they will be at Big Ears). The Rectangle Shades, Mercy Lights, and Left Foot Down rocked the night to its end.
Sadly, I made a bit of a misstep and missed Lucy Abernathy the opening artist on Saturday. I’m sure she was phenomenal. I entered with a smash to the face by the hard-driving sounds of Horcerer. That was followed by a happy return Tim and Susan Lee, who helped give birth to the original Waynestock, but returned to their original home in Mississippi last year. Their set as BARK., brought back a lot of great memories. Connor Kelly and the Time Warp served up a good reminder that great music is in good hands with the younger folks coming into the fold. The teenagers filled the house for that set. Rus Harper‘s NeoWizard delivered what only a national treasure like Rus can deliver; menace with a healthy dose of fun and great music. The finale of John Prine music was led by Kelsi Walker and ended a great run of music in style.
Of course, there are tons of photos and I’m including them all below. Meanwhile, I’ll start looking forward to next year. Make your plans now. If you’d like to help J.C., you can do so here.