Moon River Music Festival
Levitt Shell, Memphis, TN
June 7, 2014
Review by Kurtis Dickerson
This last Saturday we had the amazing pleasure of venturing out to Memphis, TN for the inaugural Moon River Music Festival hosted by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. It was an all-day event filled to the brim with Wiseacre beer, hot Memphis barbecue, an encroaching thunderstorm, and a lineup of artists that showcased the great sounds of the south. Performing along with many others were the foot-stomping Judah & The Lion, captivating siren songs of Holly Williams, southern rock punch of the Dirty Guv’nahs, the deep soul and country rock of Will Hoge, and finally the paramount and soulful performance of Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. If this year was any indication, the Moon River Music Festival was the beginning of many more to come.
After a slightly delayed trip out to Memphis, TN due to troublesome roadwork we finally made it to the historic Levitt Shell for the inaugural Moon River Music Festival, hosted and curated by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. With one stage and a fluid lineup throughout the entire day there was a constant flow of music, which is good, we like that. Along with the great aromatic taste of Wiseacre beer (whom was a proud sponsor of the festival) and a few smoked pulled pork sandwiches, the bands on stage were prominently holding all attention with ease. Judah & The Lion provided an especially captivating performance. With an energetic Americana-folk fire, they wielded the audience’s attention like a sword. Cutting to the heart in the deep lyrical narrative of “Our Love” and punching and stomping their way into “Southern Ground” with pride, Judah & The Lion set a precedent early on at this festival. Check out their latest EP Sweet Tennessee when you have a chance.
Next on stage, we were blessed by the graces of the singer/songwriter Holly Williams. Able to switch flawlessly between full band and solo performance, it was impossible not to be captivated by her show. She exhibited a unique storytelling aspect to her songwriting, and an easy smooth acoustic guitar to back her powerfully soft voice in “Waiting on June”, a beautiful song about her father Hank Williams Jr. off of her 2013 release The Highway. At this point, storm clouds were beginning to loom and bringing the threat of rain as the sky began to darken. But, we pushed on, rain or shine this festival was not going to bend.
The Dirty Guv’nahs took the stage next with a fire and passion oh so representative in southern rock. From Knoxville, TN these guys left dirt, blood, and sweat on that stage in Memphis with nothing else to give. Through inventive and superb musicianship and a few unique covers, Dirty Guv’nahs provided a hell of a show. As the sky began to darken with a setting sun and the colorful splash of stage lights started to appear, out came Will Hoge with full band in tow. Through an impressive display of rock, country, soul, blues, and folk, Hoge had curated a performance of feverish passion and rugged rock. This Grammy award winning Nashville singer/songwriter told us his story through lyrical tenacity and epics of life’s cruel heart.
Without delay, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors arrived. As they finished their first song creating a frenzy of contagious energy suddenly the storm had broke the festival’s resolve. After a brief twenty minute delay of fleeting rain and rushing wind, out walks Drew Holcomb, and, with shear force of will, demands that the music start again. The audience is stolen, through incredibly captivating storytelling, in between songs of beautiful, soulful interplay and harmonies that send chills up your spine, this band topped the night with masterful precision. The amazing vocal qualities and incredible passion behind Ellie Holcomb’s voice alone was enough to melt anyone to a puddle. They played some favorites from their rootsy folk-rock 2013 release Good Light like the ballad of sweet home, “Tennessee” and the deep, perfect duet between Drew and Ellie in “The Wine We Drink”. The performance of Drew and Ellie is something to behold, and if you ever have the chance check them out live you will become a believer. Between small sweet subtleties and roaring soulful rock, they will not disappoint.