Walking Man, Miles Nielsen, Whitehorse
The Basement; Nashville, TN
March 12, 2015
Review by Beth McAllister
As I pulled up to park at the Basement, I commended myself for arriving forty-five minutes early. Already trying to find parking was a miserable task – apparently in a world where arriving “fashionably late” is celebrated, this was the one event you did not want to be late for. Instead of being bothered, though, I was excited – no parking meant a great crowd.
In the many, many times I have been to the Basement, I have never seen it so packed, especially on a week night. It was wall-to-wall people, an eager buzz of anticipation filling the room. I apparently didn’t need the cup of coffee I had chugged before arriving since I could have fueled myself on the energy of the crowd. Locating the one available seat, I snatched it for myself and settled in, eager for the show to start.
The crowd was chatty even as husband-and-wife duo Whitehorse took the stage and introduced themselves. After the first note on the bass drum sounded, though, silence reigned. From then on, our ears, hearts, minds, and souls belonged to these Canadian folk artists. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland created an atmosphere of intimacy unseen in other married performing artists. They shared one microphone for most of the set and often exchanged glances that conveyed messages only they would understand.
Their setup was unique – a drum set tucked into a corner, an old trunk that was the equivalent of Mary Poppins’ bag as guitar after guitar seemed to pop out of it. But the best part by far was the old telephone receivers strapped to the microphone stands. When Luke and Melissa sang into them, their voices came across as tinny and far away – a magical element added to the show. The musicians happily added moments of humor to their set, though.
“We’d like to dedicated that last song to our crack-smoking former mayor of Toronto,” Melissa announced at one point, and laughter filled the room.
By the end of the set, we had all become diehard fans of Whitehorse. The duo had swept us away and set the bar extremely high for the rest of the evening. Miles Nielsen met the challenge with grace and ease, though.
Upbeat and exciting, Nielsen and his group The Rusted Hearts took over the stage looking like a band of ragtag misfits – the attire ranged from t-shirts to button downs to suits and ties. It added to the overall vibe from the band, which is to be who you are no matter what, no apologies necessary.
From the beginning Miles Nielsen captured us as intensely as Whitehorse did, only in a different way. Everything about this Illinois native screamed wisdom and experience. He’s been doing this for a long time and has no qualms about displaying his skills for us, which the crowd enjoyed immensely. His level of excellence is most noticeable in the men he’s chosen to join his band. All of them are multi-talented. Every single member can sing, as they demonstrated at the end of their set with an a cappella, perfect harmony minute-long song that dug down to our bones.
Should you ever see Nielsen in concert (which we strongly suggest), just know that you are certainly in for a treat. Never will there be a dull moment, as Nielsen loves to tell funny stories in between songs that had the audience roaring with laughter. He strives to put on a show and exceeds expectations with ease.
Last, but absolutely not least, were Walking Man. Their set was simple by comparison to the first two groups, but the audience appreciated it – a simple set means complete and utter focus on the music, and as the three-man band took the stage we knew we were in for a treat.
With a simple introduction of “Hi, we’re Walking Man,” each member threw themselves into the music with energy and focus. The bassist could not keep still, and his vibes of excited jumping penetrated the crowd and infected us. The lead singer often kept his eyes closed, as if truly immersing himself into the music.
Walking Man’s music took on a different tone than the first two bands, their vocals sounding ethereal and their music sounding like a twist on alternative rock. It conveyed the passion each band member had for their work as an artist, and each audience member could feel it.
By the end of the show, I know that every single person almost felt like we had robbed the bands. Only $5 to see three amazingly talented bands, all of whom I would see again in a heartbeat.