Having lived in Nashville for the past three years, it’s an absolute shock I haven’t attended the annual AmericanaFest every September. From the incredible venues to the endless list of exciting artists, this year’s festival was an astounding display of some of today’s top Americana artists all concentrated in the music hub of America.
As it was my first time getting a chance to be an active journalist on the scene let alone a patron, I witnessed some of the more intimate and moving performances I have seen in recent memory.
Tall Heights @ Riverside Revival
Riverside Revival is an old repurposed church that has been made into one of the more acoustically-sound venues I have had the opportunity to enter. The modernized room provided the perfect soundscape for the duo Tall Heights to display their raw talent to an awe-inspired audience.
The band consists of singer/guitarist Tim Harrington, and singer/Cellist Paul Wright, along with their percussionist Paul Dumas. Harrington and Wright were perfectly synced, as their harmonies, melodies, and rhythms fit together like puzzle pieces with every song. They had the room absolutely captivated with every note as they energized the room with their clear-cut tones and flawless control over their voices and instruments.
A favorite part of their set had to be when they asked the audience to be a part of their performance by having individuals call each other on their phones and put them on speaker so the signals became feedback loops that sounded similar to crickets. They then utilized this cycling sound in one of their songs which left the audience smitten with excitement and impressed by their creativity.
The duo also enchanted the crowd when they stepped away from the microphones and performed a completely acoustic piece, utilizing the space to amplify their perfectly pitched vocals and melancholy instrumentation. The rawness of this performance was breathtaking, as they proved that behind their synth-styled productions is pure, rare musical talent.
Angel Olsen @ Riverside Revival
Following Tall Heights that night, Angel Olsen had the room packed and eager for a Wednesday late-night performance. The room buzzed with excitement for her set, as I overheard shared stories about how far they’d traveled to see her.
Olsen took the stage alone, with just her voice, her guitar, and her wit that had the audience chuckling between every song as she paused to share funny anecdotes. She started the show sarcastically saying, “This is my first time playing. I think I’m pretty good at it. I was also born yesterday.”
While the crowd was enamored with her frank commentary and attitude, it was her voice that stunned the audience to silence. It was as if the old church setting was made for her, as her sultry tone echoed into every corner of the space. She exhaled confidence in every note, humbling the crowd with her musical charm and immaculate talent. Her vocals were drenched in emotion and honesty, and had the audience feel every syllable deeply.
She sang a collection of released music, some new tunes, as well as a cover towards the end of the performance, and each piece was met by hollers and booming applause for the vocal perfection and ease that flowed through every song. She was rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of her set and chants for an encore, but sadly the night had to end there, as is the case with these set AmericanaFest showcases. Despite this, the crowd left charmed and delighted.
Joe Purdy @ Musician’s Corner in Centennial Park
This September, many Nashvillians have spent their past couple of weekend evenings in Centennial Park enjoying the musicianship that the city has to offer through the free concert series known as Musician’s Corner. This past weekend, the showcase was dedicated to the talent that came down for AmericanaFest, and it made for a very special occasion.
Surrounded by happy families, couples, and people just looking to enjoy some food, brews, and tunes, I was able to catch Joe Purdy, as he closed out the Friday night set. Purdy is known for his whimsical musicianship paired with witty lyricism that touches upon his social commentary, as well as his lust for life. Purdy had the entire park laughing at his creative phrasing, and he sweetly engaged with his younger audience that danced below the stage, hand in hand enjoying their innocent summer night.
Apart from his earnest songwriting, Purdy’s musicianship mesmerized, as he took the stage solo with just him and his guitar. His voice rang clear full of soul, emotion, and introspective wisdom as he warbled about love, pain, and enduring the dangerous world we currently live in. Purdy acts as the ideal modern representation of the Americana genre as his old-soul music style is combined with progressive lyricism to create really contemplative pieces. It was a lovely way to enjoy a Friday evening listening to Purdy serenade an audience of all ages and experiences, all of who truly could appreciate what beautiful music he makes.
Now that AmericanaFest has concluded, I only wish for one more thing; that I could’ve seen more of the amazing talent that passed through Nashville, as the amount of showcases are seemingly by the hundreds. I can imagine Nashville will anxiously await next September when the AmericanaFest caravan passes back through Music City for a week full of that Americana magic.