Nashville’s independent radio station Lightning 100 presented the final three nights of its seventh annual Live on the Green Music Festival this past weekend. Contributing writers Jackie Zeisloft and Paula Ramirez headed to Public Square Park to review the final shows of the festival. Band by band, crop-top by bro-tank, here is an account of their LOTG experience.
Jackie: It’s hard to tell exactly what is going on stage, but it seems to be a mixture between tent revival and family room jam session. The silhouette of the bassist’s man bun bounces in the green strobe light as Delta Rae, a six-piece southern rock band from Durham, N.C., plays its heart out on LOTG’s 615 Stage.
Most of the songs performed are from its new album, “After It All.” The songs are chock full of post-bridge breakdowns and four-part harmonies layered over lots of keys and twangy-guitars.
The most passionate fans in the audience are part of what I have coined the Church of Delta Rae, a group of a dozen or so fanboys visibly krumping in the middle of the crowd to the band’s cover of Sia’s Chandelier.
Paula: Three of the band members are siblings and they make weirdly prolonged eye contact and stand too close to one another to prove it. The band plays a lively game of How Many Percussion Instruments Can We Fit On the Stage? (Answer: eight)
In the next song, a didgeridoo with spikes on it appears on the stage. Someone’s doing jazz hands; a baby starts crying.
J: Shortly after the cowbell/tambourine/percussion instrumental break, the band launches into its song “I Will Never Die.” Halfway through the song, out of nowhere, the famous riff from the Stevie Nicks masterpiece “Rhiannon,” breaks through the oversaturated noise. They cover Fleetwood Mac for the sake of covering Fleetwood Mac.
P: Though their overall performance could be described as eccentric at best, the North Carolina natives have a redemptive moment when they play “All The Good People,” an original protest song they dedicate to the victims of the Charleston shooting. The crowd joins them in singing the pointed refrain, “We can’t hold our breath forever when our brothers cannot breathe.”
I’ve decided to call this vibrato fest and leave it at that. As their second to last song, the four WASP-y singers of Delta Rae perform a gospel style song with chains as their only instrument. Maybe we should have a chat with them about subtext some time soon. The vocals from the blonde sister sound similar to Karen O’s worst shrieks and the presence of two drumsets overpowers us. We leave before the last song. A narrow escape.
J: The guys with walking sticks at music festivals always confuse me, and so does Delta Rae.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
J: At 9:30, the world music band Rodrigo y Gabriela hit the festival’s main stage. The Mexico City duo’s performance setup is a sharp contrast from Delta Rae’s overcrowded one. Rod and Gabby, as we affectionately call them, are the only two performers onstage, and the only instrumentation are the acoustic guitars in their hands.
They strum and solo faster than a person can think. There’s a difference between playing for an audience and entertaining them. Rod and Gabby have mastered the latter.
P: Rodrigo solos over Gabriela’s percussive rhythm guitar. They perform their songs in medleys, each song moving into the next.
One can actually hear the sound of the commercial guitar majors gently weeping, as Rod’s guitar does the same.
Taste is relative. Skill is not. Most artists pick a genre and stick to it. Rod and Gabby somehow manage to transcend at least four genres in their set, all the while keeping a beat and engaging the crowd better than all the acts before them combined.
J: “I see we have some metal heads in the audience,” Rodrigo says.
He and Gabriela launch into a metal medley, performing Spanish guitar covers of songs by Megadeath, Metallica and Slayer.
P: Seeing a petite girl in a floral skirt playing death metal on classical guitar changes you as a person.
J: On the next song Rodrigo uses an empty beer bottle as a slide. Things can’t get much more exciting.
But they do. The duo invites members of the crowd to come on stage and dance with them. For the next 20 minutes of their set, 30 young Nashvillians get the privilege of shaking it on the LOTG stage with Rod and Gabby, providing the soundtrack to this special experience.
P: The audience members on stage have to be getting tired of dancing by now, but they shimmy on bravely.
J: Throughout Rodrigo y Gabriela’s setlist not many words are sung or spoken, considering the band records solely instrumental music.
But wait. Rodrigo takes the mic, he starts to sing, and the crowd finds out he has the voice of an angel as he sings Radiohead’s “Creep.” Everyone in the crowd quits music. Thom Yorke is smiling somewhere.
P: Rod makes everyone feel like the hero of their own 90’s coming of age movie with some Radiohead, feedback and soul.
J: At this show, it’s hard to tell who the fans are. The songs have no words for people to obnoxiously sing along to in order to prove their undying commitment. Instead, everyone is a fan tonight.
Gabriela announces that it’s one of their last shows of tour and that they will be returning to the studio to record new material soon. The fact that a crowd this size can get down to Latin guitar music gives me hope for the future of music.
The duo plays two encores and says goodbye to an awestruck crowd.
J: The crowd at Colony Houses’ LOTG show is made up of what seems to be half Barista Parlor regulars and half Frothy Monkey regulars. On every other guy’s face is either a beard or wide frame glasses.
P: The band was born and raised in Nashville, and we all love a good name drop. Local heroes Colony House count as four. Everyone is a bit confused when four Imogene + Willie models walk onstage, but their surprise soon turns to awe.
J: Colony House is a band with amazing energy. I say this not in an I-have-nothing-intelligent-to-say-about-them-so-I-will-comment-on-their-energy way. From the first notes to the last, each member gives their hometown audience everything they have.
It is hard to put their sound and image in a box. They have attitude, but are extremely gracious. Their 2014 debut album “When I Was Younger” is reflective and sentimental but also the type of record you scream in a car full of friends on the way to get doughnuts.
P: They’re so charming, it’s no wonder why everyone here loves them. The lead singer hits those high notes and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“I met a girl when I was nine years old,” he says. “Ten years later, I married her…welcome to Tennessee!”
What’s not to like?
J: The last song they play is “2:20,” a song with a gritty lead guitar and bluesy Black Keys inspired sound. The album recording of this song actually features an eagle caw at one point. However, they did not have any eagles on stage. Safety precaution or missed opportunity? You tell me.
The hour-long set was not enough for the audience. The moment Colony House leaves the crowd wants them to come back. They will have to wait for their next homecoming.
P: The mass exodus from the 615 Stage to the main stage is the stuff of legends. Elbows fly, beer is spilt and friendships are ruined, but somehow everyone makes it to the lawn for Passion Pit’s show more or less intact.
J: My favorite quotes that I overhear from members of the crowd tonight are, “I hate arena shows anyways,” and “This is why I don’t go to Coachella.”
J: Dressed like a middle school choir director, Michael Angelakos takes the stage with the rest of Passion Pit for the most anticipated show of LOTG. Passion Pit is the perfect band for synth junkies, pop fans, and indie snobs to rally around. The crowd is the biggest we have seen at LOTG so far.
P: As they begin their show it’s unclear if the set is starting or if a spaceship is landing in the vicinity. But in a cool way?
J: Seeing Passion Pit live is a very different experience from listening to their albums. Angelakos’s voice is not quite so in your face when you hear him in person, and at times the background overpowers him.
The band plays their 2009 hit “Little Secrets.” Half the crowd leaves after this, and the other half is planning to leave after Sleepyhead.
P: There’s this surreal moment during the chorus where you can see Angelakos’s lips moving and the vein in his temple bulging so you know he must be singing, but you can’t hear any sound. Maybe it’s a metaphor?
Update: After elbowing our way closer to the stage and losing half the people we came with to a ruthless crowd, the show starts to pick up.
J: We find ourselves 20 feet from the stage next to a group of frat boys and a guy covered from head to toe in multi-color feathers. We ask no questions, put our hands up and dance to “Take A Walk.”
P: The energy of the crowd at a Passion Pit show determines how good your concert experience will be. This is most likely why the group sticks to playing smaller venues despite their ability to draw a massive crowd. Undoubtedly, the people who stood in the back will not have much to say, but the people who fought to the gate will call it the best act of the festival.
J: The guy in the pineapple printed bro tank takes prize for best festival look. It turns out he is actually holding a pineapple, too! It is obvious that he is very committed.
P: In the middle of the crowd, a paper lantern is released into the heavens a la Tangled. The only thing keeping it afloat is synth and hope.
All Them Witches
P: The self-described “psycha-delta” four piece from Nashville, plays to a crowd of very serious, plaid clad men and women with varying lengths of shaggy hair. Their sound is abrasively different from the clean cut Colony House who played the same stage the night before.
One can gauge what type of music they’re going to play before they even come on stage based on the grungy crowd it draws. The guy in the straw bowler hat looks very out of place and very uncomfortable. I knew I should’ve worn my leather jacket.
You can’t help but admire the crowd that stretches far into the parking lot. The rock group’s wailing guitars and intensely driven bass lines make it pretty hard to be a casual fan, but they’re clearly among their people. You also have to admire the drummer who took his shirt off after only one song. Rock ‘n’ roll.
The expression “wall of noise” starts to take meaning as they power through their set.
We leave halfway through the show to head to the main stage where music fans of the SOFT grunge variety gather. More denim than leather and more vape than cigarettes. It’s like East Nashville versus 12 South.
J: A violinist, violist, cellist, trumpeter, bassoonist, piccoloist, flutist and french hornist are all on stage. Ben Folds is not.
The crowd yammers on, unaware of what they are about to witness. We are about to hear from a pseudo classical, jazz musician pop sensation. Please, stop talking.
The group onstage is yMusic, an orchestra group from New York City and the backing band for tonight’s show. They play an eight minute instrumental piece before Nashville’s drunk uncle Ben Folds humbly takes the stage to the rabid applause of LOTG’s final festival crowd.
P: “It’s not normal fare to play waltzes with small chamber groups…at festivals,” Folds says after his first few songs. You’re right about that, Ben.
He is probably the only person who could get away with it, too. Folds calls out a drunk man in the crowd for shouting and talking during his waltz, and then he finishes off his second whiskey of the set.
Fans love Folds for his personality just as much as they love him for his music. His onstage banter is some of the best I’ve heard at a live show.
(On his waltz) “This is a very slow composition, but after this it’s all f**kin disco music.”
(On the Nashville court house behind the stage) “I got divorced in that courthouse twice, and then I kissed the ground right below this stage.”
(On his his songwriting techniques used in Rock This Bitch) “This is called a bridge. Songwriters, take note.”
J: Halfway through the show he plays “Phone In A Pool,” the single off his new album “So There.” The song recounts the episode when he threw his phone in a pool, and Ke$ha jumped in to retrieve it. This is just a normal day in the life of Mr. Ben Folds.
The 90 minute set is a beautiful and intricate show that should be happening in a symphony hall, not here in PUBLIC Square Park. But that’s Ben Folds. He brings his technical and high quality brand of pop music to huge audiences.
P: A shining moment in Folds’s set is his performance of “Not the Same,” off his 2001 album “Rockin the Suburbs.” I haven’t been to a festival where the headliner takes the time to teach the crowd a three part harmony, but he does just this during “Not The Same” and the crowd sounds beautiful as he conducts us.
J: Sad musings with piano and an optimistic backbeat is the name of Ben Folds’s game. His lyrics are extremely literal, giving the listener an insight into his true thoughts and concerns.
“Why didn’t you tell me that I got fat?” he sings on his new song “Yes Man.”
Although his music verges on overtly cynical, Folds laughs a lot onstage, and I like that. If we could all take life as seriously as he does, we would all laugh a lot more and therefore live a lot longer. Ben Folds might actually have the answer to living a 300 year life. We should trust him.
P: Folds will never retire. Instead he will probably go on to write and star in an original Broadway musical or something.
He finishes his set, takes a bow and saunters offstage. But the crowd screams, demanding his return. Folds obliges and for his encore he does a solo rendition of “The Luckiest,” a beautiful piano driven love song he dedicates to a couple holding a sign that says they got married earlier in the day. There’s a collective “aww,” from the audience, and everyone tries not to cry as the newlyweds slow dance and Ben serenades.
Tears are shed, the crowd believes in love again and Ben Folds has brought Christmas to Nashville early. He ends on a good note, literally.
J: During All them Witches’ set earlier, the lead singer asked the audience, “Are you having a rewarding LOTG experience?”
I think our answer is yes.
This article was written by Jackie Zeisloft and Paula Ramirez.