Boy, does it feel great to be in a music hall again! Especially a venue as special as Nashville’s The Station Inn.
And especially with such a talented assortment of musicians on stage led by Italian-born bluegrass and folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cristina Vane.
Last night, on the evening of March 31st, Vane stepped out in a gently shimmering baby blue blazer and matching pants set—dubbed “The Moon Suit” by designer Cybelle Elena, who tailored it—and within moments, was wowing her sold-out crowd.
“All right, everybody, it’s happening!” she declared before they launched into “River Roll,” sweeping the audience away into the suspenseful and energetic song. The concert came just two days before her debut album, Nowhere Sounds Lovely, is set to hit stores and streaming services, though CDs were available for purchase at the show.
“This is good!” exclaimed one viewer over the music, which was the understatement of the night.
Vane is a talented vocalist, keeping an impressively steady consistency and control throughout the night, all while switching from banjo to guitar and back again between songs. She is also a natural performer, engaging the audience with witty humor and naming the host city in one of her lyrics. By the end of the night, she had even built an inside joke about tuning instruments with the attendees.
Vane thanked the Station Inn, saying that she was lucky to “have a safe place to play music.” Indeed, the kind and attentive staff were also making sure it was as organized as they could, sticking to a strict seating layout of about three half-circles of chairs and tables around the stage. Guests were happy to comply, most being diligent about wearing their masks when not consuming the refreshments provided by the Inn.
The venue, which is decorated with strings of lightbulbs across the ceiling and posters from past and future shows along the walls, had an addition this evening: a memorial for beloved owner Earl JT Gray, who passed away less than two weeks ago. Gray, who took over the Inn in 1981 and developed it into the iconic venue it’s known as today, was being recognized with bundles of white flowers, red roses, and candles around a hand-sketched portrait of him holding a guitar. Merely a week before his passing, he had been featured in the 2021 GRAMMYs representing the Station Inn and presenting Miranda Lambert with the award for Best Country Album on the same stage Vane graced last night.
Vane and her bandmates would go on to pay that stage its due respect.
Many of the songs were happy and upbeat, such as her own tune “Good Things Outweigh the Bad,” which she introduced as being “really positive; a good way to look at life.” It lived up to the expectation, having a youthful, innocent type of happiness about it, almost as if the song itself was lazily skipping along in bliss. The a capella duet she delivered with her old friend Audrey, who went to high school with her in Paris, was a beautifully haunting way to open the second half of the set.
She had a few other special guests come and go from the stage, one being fiddler Hillary Klug, who not only plays the fiddle, but dances while doing so. She kicked and tapped away in her cowboy boots drawing cheers from the crowd. Along with Bronwyn Keith-Hynes of Mile Twelve, this brought the total to three fiddlists on stage at once. Not to worry though: according to a “rule” someone told Vane once, don’t join a band that already has a banjo player, but you can never have too many fiddles.
Brenna MacMillan of the Theo & Brenna Band also contributed her voice and banjo skills, and will be back on Saturday night to play the Inn with her brother.
In addition to her own discography, Vane paid homage to a variety of artists with lively covers ranging from Hank Williams to Bill Monroe’s “The Old Crossroads” and Uncle Dave Macon to Larry Sparks’ “Great High Mountain.” A crowd favorite was her rendition of “Life’s Too Short To Borrow Sorrow,” which she “invited everyone here to sing to their exes—it feels really good,” and garnered one of the loudest rounds of applause of the night.
Spending so much time on the banjo was apparently not normal for Vane, who is usually playing her guitar, nicknamed “White Chocolate,” instead, but credited the imbalance to her inclusion of so many old-time songs, which she named her “bread and butter.” Despite this, she along with everyone else on stage looked right at home, and delivered an impressively in-sync performance. During the instrumental “Five Miles From Town,” almost every right foot (each clad in a cowboy boot) was subconsciously tapping to the rhythm in what was less of a choreographed routine than an expression of their unity and cohesiveness.
Cristina and her cadre of musical friends were able to far outshine the awkwardness of masks and social distancing with their pure talent and tangible, radiant joy from sharing music that they love. Though it may not have looked like the concerts we were once familiar with at first glance, the magic was still there, made possible by a collective effort of The Station Inn staff, the respectful audience, and of course, the proficient performers themselves.