This past Friday night, I arrived at The Brooklyn Bowl, one of Nashville’s newer and more unique venues that comes equip with a bowling alley adjoining the main stage, where thundering strikes and powerhouse performances come together for epic nights of enjoyment.
As the second night of Briston Maroney’s two-day-long event Paradise began, I watched as all walks of the Nashville population lined up for the curation of artists that Maroney recruited for the passion project that was this “festival.”
The unique happening included a diverse array of musicians from all over the country, and of all different genres to provide an all-encompassing experience of the best the modern musical community has to offer.
Friday night featured a stacked lineup of four different performers; singer/songwriter Cece Coakley, vocal powerhouse group MICHELLE, emotive indie-rock artist Indigo De Souza, and the curator of the evening, Briston Maroney who closed out the show and event.
As a beloved local and blossoming songstress, Cece Coakley’s opening acoustic set was an enchanting beginning to an immersive musical evening. Influenced by some of the songwriting greats like Brandi Carlile and Taylor Swift, Coakley has found her sound with her crafty lyrics about romance and the clichés associated with it, layered over old-style sliding electric guitars and indie/Americana production stylings.
Known for her smooth-like-honey vocals and catchy melodic lyricism, Coakley’s audience sang and swayed with her every guitar strum as a large part of the audience was familiar with her whimsical tunes. Her singles, “Listerine” and “Cliché,” were obvious crowd favorites as she grinned through her tunes as her fans sang her own words right back to her. Her raw performance and earnest nature charmed the audience and welcomed them to the musical extravaganza that lay before them.
The moment the sonic collision of talent that is MICHELLE hit the stage, the audience immediately snapped to attention and remained engaged. The group is made up of vocalists Sofia D’Angelo, Layla Ku, Emma Lee, and Jamee Lockard, with Julian Kaufman on some of the most energetic percussion performances I’ve seen, and Charlie Kilgore bumping on the bass. Their music is defined by their impeccable harmonies, fiery hooks, and undeniable NYC groove.
While every one of their songs had the audience hollering at their sultry choreography and their uncanny vocal ability, tunes like their latest single, “Pulse,” electrified the room, as each member showcased their individuality with pitch-perfect solos and coordinated dance moves. Other tracks like “Sunrise,” “Pose,” and “Mess You Made,” highlighted their innate groove and witty lyricism that make their sound such a unique force in the musical community. Not only was the musicality and raw talent undeniable, but it was a true joy to see the group’s shared love for performing and genuine happiness to be part of this event.
Indigo De Souza
Indigo De Souza left the crowd both stunned and screaming by the end of her set after a rollercoaster of emotions and musical display. The indie soul artist has distinguished herself as an emotive rockstar with a voice to be reckoned with over the course of her two albums and extensive touring. As this performance was the conclusion to her most recent tour for her album Any Shape You Take – which dropped last year – emotions ran high, but she was prepared to go out with an eruption of vocal power.
She opened her set with a slow jam that showcased her raw vocals and emotive lyricism, as each note felt like a personal conversation with her audience. One of the first songs, “What Are We Gonna Do Now,” played with tempo changes and sentimental songwriting about exhausting love that had the crowd entranced by her earnest and exciting performance style. “This is How I Get Myself Killed,” was one of the most crowd-engaging numbers, and had the center of the pit moshing at the chorus and singing in solidarity with the touching words.
Tracks like “Bad Dream” and “Kill Me” were moving displays of her vocal grit and dynamic musicality that had her audience head banging and throwing their hands up, surrendering to her enchanting musical power and undeniable talent. Her closing performance of “Real Pain,” ended climactically as the songstress stunned with vocal runs that scaled impressive ranges and spiritual movements that felt as if her soul was pouring out onto the audience before her.
To conclude his unique two-day event, Briston Maroney closed the night with an extensive set full of crowd favorites, intimate ballads, and ignited some mosh pits to boot.
As the leading man of the evening, Maroney brought the Nashville crowd for his distinguished indie rock sound and intimate lyricism that has made him a household name around Music City and beyond. After touring his debut album Sunflower around the world over the course of the past year, the Tennessee native created this festival as a celebration of the musical community he has become such a key part of and the fans that support it.
Maroney opened his set with the title track of the festival, “Paradise,” with the audience erupting with excitement and already bouncing off the walls and eager for more. He followed with fan favorites like “Bottle Rocket,” and “Small Talk,” a tune that any true Maroney fan knew every line to, as it seemed like the entire venue sang every word with him. Maroney utilized his audience every chance he got, encouraging middle fingers to the sky during his edgy tune “Freeway,” and respectful moshing when him and lead guitarist Devin Badgett shredded up and down stage in musical conversation.
One of my favorite moments of Maroney’s set was his intimate solo performance of an older tune he wrote back during his time in Knoxville, “June.” As one of the songs that first made me a fan of the artist, it was entirely moving to see the rest of the crowd share the same love for the song as their own sing-along vocals almost overpowered Maroney’s as he sang about loving on a deadline.
Another special moment of the set occurred when Maroney called to his father in the balcony to open a mosh pit to the same song he had initiated a mosh to at Nashville’s own EXIT/IN about three years ago to the tune of “I’ve Been Waiting.” (the first performance I ever saw of Briston) Having your father support your musical career is one thing, but to be willing to mosh in a general admissions pit with strangers is a different level of father-son connection.
All said and done, I could not have been more awe-stricken by the amount of diverse talent I was able to witness in a seemingly too-short four hours. Maroney’s genuine appreciation of the musical community and it’s supporters is most admirable, and the efforts put into constructing this festival did not go unnoticed.
My only wish is that this becomes a Nashville tradition, because based on what was witnessed this past weekend, it was plain to see this was something special that had a positive impact on all who attended. I know I would like nothing more than to spend another weekend reveling in the gift that was this collection of artists and their music.