Live on the Green 2015 Finale Weekend
Public Square Park; Nashville, TN
September 10-12, 2015
A sure sign that summer is over is the end of Live On The Green. However, it does go out with a bang with it’s weekend finale, which updated it’s format this year to provide even more bands over the three days with two rotating stages. Head below to see what we thought about the final three days of this beloved Nashville tradition, this year featuring headlining slots from Rodrigo y Gabriela, Passion Pit, and Ben Folds. Each day is broken up with separate galleries featuring photos from Amber J Davis, Nolan Knight, and Jake Giles Netter. Read on and relive an incredible weekend.
It came and went. Just like that the 2015 LOTG season was entering its final weekend. This year saw some changes to the festival; the most prominent one being an additional stage located on the corner of Third Avenue and James Robertson Parkway. This second stage was especially effective in the final stretch of the event where it felt like the daily lineup doubled. To start the last three days of the festival, the folks at Lightning 100 gave us an eclectic group of cultured and entertaining acts with Civil Twilight, Humming House, Kopecky, Delta Rae, JD McPherson, and Rodrigo Y Gabriela.
Civil Twilight started off the night on the 615 Stage. The band is a group of South African natives who relocated to Music City when momentum started to pick up for them. Their set was an example of their finesse at combining guitars and synthesizers. They mixed Jimmy Page-like tactics of using violin bows on their Fenders with washed out transitions to create a sound which evoked the likes of Muse and TV On The Radio. The most notable moment of their set was when they played the single “Holy Dove.” The song had a steady march beat that kept the whole crowd moving. The band definitely looked like they were having the time of their lives. They have found success and have seen their songs gain more and more attention, especially in recent movies and television shows. There is no doubt that they are reveling in this. They made a comment about how the crowd went from “six to sixty” just in the span of their time-slot. We here at No Country hope to see them on the Live On The Green main stage in no time.
Humming House. Photo by Amber J Davis.
While Civil Twilight were finishing up their set, another Nashville band was getting ready to break in the Main Stage for the weekend. Humming House are a five-piece roots band that present a welcoming attitude to the new age. They are the brainchild of singer/songwriter Justin Wade Tam, who back in 2011, assembled a group to help him work out some songs he had written. After years of sessions, the band released an album entitled Revelries this year. Their set conveyed their excitement and energy over having come so far. Songs like “What Do We Got To Lose” showcased their ability to write intriguing folk songs with tempo changes and strong harmonies. The band’s drum presence was small but they made up for it with effective rhythmic guitar playing from Tam and creative auxiliary percussion from band member Leslie Rodriguez. The most impressive part of their slot was their bold choice of a cover with the Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back.”After Humming House were done, the crowd was ready for a lively and entertaining Thursday night.
Kopecky. Photo by Amber J Davis.
Next up was another assembly of Nashville heroes who have been heating up the festival scene lately. Kopecky are a group of Belmont graduates who are making a great name for themselves two albums into their career. Their set on the 615 stage proved their versatility and talent as musicians. They switched between guitars, trombones, and keyboards to lead the crowd through a set that had a sensible pop taste but still maintained the Nashville edge many of us crave. Their new album entitled Drug For The Modern Age has helped to ensure their success and significance in Music City history. Singer Kelsey Kopecky told the crowd that the album comes from an observation that we as humans, “love what’s so bad for us.” The most notable track off it, and the best part of their set, was the energetic and playful single “Quarterback.” Looking around and seeing the entire crowd sing along, one could easily tell that this band is destined for great things ahead.
JD McPherson. Photo by Amber J Davis.
The penultimate act for the Main stage, and the winner of the prize for “Best Use of Upright Bass” for the night was Oklahoma native JD McPherson. McPherson’s set was extremely fun and incredibly enthralling. He led his band through a collection of nostalgic and hip-shaking material that sounded like it belonged in the 1950’s. McPherson’s songs showcase a combination of his modern psyche-billy sound with a vast range of classic influences that includes everything from Jerry Lee Lewis to surf-rock pioneer Link Wray. Songs like “Head Over Heels” and “Let The Good Times Roll” kept the crowd moving. He sprinkled catchy vocal parts over clean-cut blues guitar riffs that left the audience nostalgic for a time period which many never even got the chance to experience. The energy he expended ensured that he will always be welcomed back at Live On The Green.
Delta Rae. Photo by Amber J Davis.
Closing out the 615 Stage was Delta Rae, a progressive southern folk band from Durham, North Carolina. While JD McPherson may have won the award for best use of an upright bass, Delta Rae had the best visual stage setup. They adorned the space with trees strung with white Christmas lights. This provided a perfect backdrop to their collection of high-energy material. With four out of six members switching between instruments they had a very strong vocal, percussive, and melodic presence. They were dynamic and vital with their movement and it was obvious that there was no other place they would rather be. It was Southern Folk music with a pop flare that could easily establish them as the modern day Fleetwood Mac. Seeing as how the band has already collaborated with Lindsey Buckingham, it seems as if they are well on their way.
Rodrigo y Gabriela. Photo by Amber J Davis.
After Delta Rae it was time for the most anticipated act of the night. Everyone was anxious and excited to see how acoustic duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela would handle a headlining set. The duo were the most stripped down act of the evening, yet their audience proved to be hands down the most responsive. Their all-instrumental music kept a steady and strong pulse. They didn’t just strum their guitars with their fluent and charismatic playing–they used them as the percussive backbone of the night by beating on all parts of the instrument to create different rhythmic sounds. It was bold, funky, and incredibly intricate. The duo also kept the audience’s attention by tearing through a cover of “Battery” by metal legends Metallica; also by bringing a selected group of audience members onstage to dance. The two sustained amazing energy throughout their entire performance. Gabriela was jumping up and down all over the stage and Rodrigo was feeding off that energy to provide a contribution of tasteful leads to the groove. The duo’s encore of a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was a perfect way to end this Thursday night of the final weekend of this year’s Live On The Green. Everyone left Public Square Park excited and ready to see what the rest of the weekend had to offer.
Late afternoon rain appeared to threaten night two of the weekend finale of Live On The Green, but the show producers, who were closely watching the weather, assured Nashville that the skies would clear prior to the start of the festivities. While they were correct, the weather (and a bunch of work) did cause us to be late for the Friday night celebration, and meant that we missed Smooth Hound Smith and most of Turbo Fruits (though our photographer did catch the tail end of the latter’s set). It appears we weren’t the only ones to miss the early acts, as we arrived to a partially filled Public Square Park about midway through Zella Day’s hypnotic set.
Zella Day. Photo by Jake Giles Netter.
Blending pop and rock along with powerful vocals, Zella Day was just the elixir that we needed to kick off our evening. She playfully toyed with the crowd with a smile on her face the whole time, and the still sparse crowd was definitely responding to her well produced sounds. The set was mixed with singles from her well received Kicker album, along with a healthy mix of covers, and, just as quickly as we got settled in, her set was over, leaving us wondering when we’ll to catch this rising star in a proper club setting.
The Vespers. Photo by Jake Giles Netter.
The brother-brother / sister-sister pair of siblings that are The Vespers provided my first glimpse at the new two stage set up that LOTG employed this year. Located down Third Street close to James Robertson Parkway, the stage seemed strangely tucked into a corner, but provided a much more intimate experience which turned out to be awesome as the crowd responded gratiously with the band’s blend of upbeat folk rock. These rising Nashville talents are someone that you definitely need to keep your eye on, because it’s not likely that you’ll be watching them on small stages for much longer.
Big Data. Photo by Nolan Knight.
Of all the acts on the evening’s bill, I had no idea what to expect from Big Data. I’d researched to hear that the NY-based producer has created some infectious jams, but the question still lingered as to how that would translate live. Within the first few beats, it was apparent that it was going to translate into absolutely owning the Passion Pit seeking fans. It was a non stop dance party that actually prompted me to track down mastermind Alan Wilkis backstage for a congratulations and a high five. He was wheeling around a suitcase back there though, so hopefully he stuck around town long enough to enjoy it, and will be coming back through to give our EDM starved city another reason to get on the dance floor.
Colony House. Photo by Nolan Knight.
It was back to the secondary stage for an act that, based on the size of the crowd, could have easily managed on the increasingly packed main performance area. I’ve listened to a bunch of Colony House, and we’ve written a lot about the local rockers, but it was my first time seeing them live. Let’s just say it was a treat. I fought towards the front to get caught up in the swaying crowd before retreating to the back to relax with a beer and enjoy some well executed alt-rock. It became apparent the reason that I haven’t seen these guys live yet, is that they have already outgrown the normal show circuit in Nashville, as was further solidified by their recent run in support of arena packing rockers NEEDTOBREATHE.
Passion Pit. Photo by Nolan Knight.
By the time I made my way back over to the main stage for Passion Pit, it was like school had just let out for summer, and the bus brought everyone to Live On The Green. Maybe I have missed it in past years, but this season’s LOTG seemed to attract a younger crowd, and this free all ages, family friendly event is a great thing for the future consumers of music. From the first wails of “Lifted Up (1985)” through a smattering of tracks from this year’s release, Kindred, until the encore featuring smash hit “Sleepyhead”, there was not a single body in Public Square Park that was not bouncing to those infectious grooves.
Saturday felt like the first real day of fall, which couldn’t have been more perfect for the closing day of LOTG. Tons of Nashvillians filed into downtown to check out the free festival, catching up with friends while listening to free music and enjoying amazing food from the slew of food trucks parked on 3rd avenue (shoutout to Edley’s and Leinenkugels Pumpkin Shandy for being my source of nutrition all day).
Daphne & The Mystery Machines. Photo by Amber J Davis.
If there’s one thing that could be said about this year’s lineup, it’s that it was incredibly diverse. Daphne & the Mystery Machines were one of the standout acts of the day with their folk-inspired tunes. Lead singer Daphne Culver has a cool, raspy voice that blended beautifully with Jenn Palmer’s harmonies, but then turned almost into a growl when she was really getting into the song. It was intriguing, to say the least. Their music has an element of storytelling that keeps you hooked, waiting to hear what comes next. At one point, Daphne warned the audience that if there were any children present, to cover their ears before the next song. Then she began to belt out the line, “She gettin’ high, she gettin’ high, she gettin’ high anyway!” and the crowd loved it.
Lennon & Maisy. Photo by Amber J Davis.
Canadian sister duo and Nashville stars Lennon & Maisy may have seemed like an odd addition to the lineup at first, but they certainly drew a crowd; it seemed like half of the lawn was left empty after their set was over. They sang a couple of original songs, but are mostly known for their covers, so they had to include their version of The Lumineers “Ho Hey” (which was featured on the show), and also a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” One of my friends was a little disturbed that an 11-year-old was unknowingly singing a song about heroin, but it sounded good nonetheless. While the addition of the 615 Stage is definitely an improvement overall because it means more bands can play, it does make traveling back and forth between the two stages a tiny bit of an inconvenience. Not because walking is hard or anything, but once you get that perfect spot on the grass in front of the main stage, it hurts to let it go. But I surrendered it anyway to go check out Steelism for a bit and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, since I’m not usually being a huge fan of purely instrumental music, but these guys had my toes tappin’ and my head bobbin’ with their jazz and funk-infused sound and I would definitely go see them again.
Elle King. Photo by Amber J Davis.
The beautiful weather took a bit of a turn towards the end of the day as the sun went into hiding and the wind picked up, and I immediately regretted my decision to wear a sleeveless dress. But even though I was freezing my ass off, Elle King’s set kept me going. She was fun to watch, not just because her music is awesome, but because she’s quite a character in between songs. She introduced most of the songs as being inspired by a guy she dated, a la Taylor Swift, but she did so in a way that was much more humorous and relatable. Everyone was excited to hear her hit “Ex’s and Oh’s”, and she threw in a Wanda Jackson cover as “practice” before she played that song with her the following day. Her set was a little quieter than I had imagined, since most of the focus was on her and her acoustic guitar, but she’s one hell of a singer and songwriter and can hold her own, so I hope to see her back in Nashville soon. I stuck around for a little bit to hear Family of the Year sing “Hero”, then popped over to the 615 Stage to catch some of All Them Witches, a local band I’ve been following for awhile but hadn’t gotten the chance to see live yet. I walked up just as they were playing “Charles William”, the song that first got me hooked, and they didn’t disappoint. This is definitely a band that is going to continue to spread their reach way beyond Nashville.
Ben Folds. Photo by Amber J Davis.
When you think about how long Ben Folds has been a Nashville resident and how active he is in the community, it’s kind of surprising that this was his first year appearing at LOTG, but his debut was perfectly timed with the release of his album So There, a collection of chamber rock songs and concertos with NYC ensemble yMusic. It also happened to be his birthday, so the whole crowd sang him “Happy Birthday”. I was lucky enough to catch his secret show sans yMusic at his studio (the historic Studio A) the day before, so I’ve actually sang “Happy Birthday” to him twice now. Try not to be too jealous. The show started with a long intro from yMusic before he took a seat at his grand piano and jumped into some songs from the new album, like “Not A Fan”, which he said is about loving someone despite them having different interests than you, only to later realize that it makes you miserable. He took breaks in between to introduce the band, which he turned into songs that he made up on the fly. If you’ve seen him before then you know he’s a super funny guy, so his ability to improv like that is not surprising. He played a few hits from his solo career, including “You Don’t Know Me”, which he said is the song that skyrocketed him to fame when it was used in an insurance commercial. I wish the crowd had been a little more enthusiastic during the concertos, since it’s such a different yet amazing experience to witness that kind of classical-inspired musicianship in a festival setting, but I think it was still a well-received performance overall.