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Local college students welcome summer with Bright Shade music festival

Updated: May 6, 2022

Kicking off the summer’s outdoor music scene, the Bright Shade Music & Arts Festival connected Nashville's college communities with an all-inclusive mix of music genres in a Saturday-long spectacle.

The show was coordinated by Belmont class of 2021 alumnus Ben Palmer and Vanderbilt University junior Christiana Gatbunton, who offered creative and professional opportunities for emerging students and graduates to come together and put on a show.

“People just want an audience to play for and I just wanted to try and provide that for my friends,” said Palmer, who graduated with a music business degree.

Bright Shade Fest evolved from a previous showcase concept called Live at Lindell, a backyard concert series Palmer founded in August 2020.

He wanted to see just how far he could take an attempt to start hosting and creating shows and that’s how Bright Shade Fest was born, he said.

Described as a “fusion of sounds,” the festival staged artists for all listeners, ranging from country and singer-songwriter acts to alternative rock and pop beats.

The event acted as a “uniting” platform for the Belmont, Vanderbilt and Lipscomb universities, said Gatbunton.

Gatbunton, currently in her third year as a political science major at Vanderbilt, is the founder of The Music Room, a collective of musicians and creatives looking to get involved in the music industry both on and off the stage.

Together, the Music Room and Live at Lindell teams created a platform for their friends and their friends’ friends; they hope to make Bright Shade an annual event.

“It's kind of like an experimental thing for us to see how it works and just to dip our toes in and see what it's like to put on a music festival,” said Gatbunton. “Hopefully, if this one goes well, we'll have Bright Shade in years to come.”

Luckily for Gatbunton and Palmer, the festival was a success.

Roughly 500 people rolled in for the day-long festival on Saturday, dancing and singing along to both their friends’ performances and music they’d never heard before.

The festival embodied Nashville’s music scene and the ever-evolving industry on a smaller scale as avid music listeners, emerging bands and young event coordinators supported one another throughout the day.

Paige Parrucci, a graduating senior songwriting major at Belmont, performed as one of two female artists of the 15 performers.

Her music reflects singer-songwriter elements and inspirations from Carole King and Lake Street Dive, but she emerged into an artist of her own in her years at Belmont.

A friend of Palmer’s since her freshman year, Parrucci has been an active participant in his Live at Lindell series, but before Saturday, she had never performed for a crowd that size, she said.

Parrucci was most excited about being involved in something her friend and manager created as a way of supporting friends and local artists.

“He believes so much in the music industry, and he just wants to support good art,” she said. “So when he asked me to play, I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’”

Senior audio engineering technology major Jake Smith, more popularly known as Legit Smitty, played one of his biggest shows on Saturday for his first experience with Live at Lindell and The Music Room.

Legit Smitty, who cites influences by pop-rock, grunge, folk and early 2000’s films, melds music genres for a do-it-yourself spirited recording project.

He also recognized Palmer’s compassion for artists and the industry as he is a “man of his word,” he said. Palmer holds himself to what he asks of the artists since the festival has been a group effort, Smith said.

Moody Joody also has ties with Belmont’s community — their producer, Andrew Pecheco, transferred to Belmont and graduated with a music business degree in 2020.

Bands with students in surrounding communities also secured a spot on the stage, such as Edgehill from Vanderbilt and Palmertrees from Lipscomb. Another Belmont band, Cole Ritter & the Night Owls, made an appearance as well.

Through the efforts of Palmer and Gatbunton, Bright Shade Festival furthered the musical bond in Nashville’s college communities, providing local artists and industry hopefuls with opportunities to experiment in the spaces they’re passionate about.

“Everyone just wants an audience to play for, and that’s one of the reasons I started doing this stuff, just giving and providing a stage for my friends who are artists to play their music,” Palmer said.

PHOTO: Bright Shade Music & Arts Festival. Eli Spotts

This article was written by Emma Halloran.

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