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Around the time they played The Basement in late April, you’d have been hard pressed to find a radio station playing anything by The Lumineers,and for good reason, as their debut album had just been released at the beginning of the month. By the middle of June, however, they were nearly ubiquitous, the buzz-band on the mind of tastemakers and musical novices alike. It was no surprise then when they sold out their upcoming August show at the Mercy Lounge within a matter of hours prompting an upgrade to the Cannery Ballroom, which subsequently sold out a few hours later as well.

On the surface, it’d be easy to pinpoint a catchy, fast-rising single with perpetual radio and TV commercial play as the reason for The Lumineers meteoric rise, reminding many of the seemingly overnight emergence of bands like Local Natives and The Head and the Heart. No doubt, “Ho Hey” is a great song that has turned many of us into Lumineers apologists in Nashville and all across the country, and specifically here in Nashville. They are a great band full of unrestrained talent and grace, but it’s the depth of their self-titled debut album that indicates they might have some staying power beyond their burgeoning fanbase. The album, certainly among the best released in 2012 so far, is the first since Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More” that I have personally put on repeat for months on end. Apparently, the same appears to be the case for the rest of Nashville as their show at The Cannery Ballroom Tuesday night turned into the 2nd largest sing-along I’ve attended, behind only Mumford & Sons’ concert, nee revival, at War Memorial Auditorium in November 2010.

The Lumineers navigated their way through their entire 11-track album, to which it seemed the entire crowd knew all of the words to. Playing those tracks alone would have made for a very good show, even a great one. However, the additions of unreleased tracks such as “I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem” and “Eloise”, a well-placed cover of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and The Band’s seminal “The Weight” featuring several members of Old Crow Medicine Show are what helped the performance nearly reach its zenith moment. But just when it seemed the show might be over and as the Old Crow boys left the stage following the first song of the encore, The Lumineers made their way deep into the crowd and set up shop in the middle of the room, right next to us, standing on stools and chairs, for an acoustic version of “Darlene,” a foot-stomping tribute to all things love featuring percussionist Jeremiah Fraites with easily the best glockenspiel performance that we’ve ever seen.

It can’t be understated how difficult it can be for a band to draw the collective embrace of a crowd by simply playing the songs they know so well let alone the attention of a packed house for new songs that the majority of people may have never been heard. But The Lumineers have the energy and exuberance that envelops their fans and unwraps a shimmy and a frolic out of even the most flat-footed concert-goer. While the music industry can often have trouble supporting the rapid growth of a band like The Lumineers, their resplendent personalities, polished songwriting and seasoned stage presence indicate they certainly will be around for many, many shows capable of dwarfing their already impressive performances.

– Brad Hughes
After forgetting our Grimey’s purchased tickets at home, Cause a Scene made it to the Cannery Ballroom, pumped for our first Tallest Man on Earth experience, in time to catch the last two songs of openers Strand of Oaks. Strand of Oaks presented themselves as a rocking duo with heavy drum rhythms, consistent guitar riffs, and the potential for an energetic set of creative and original songs. We were disappointed to have seen such a small sampling of their music, so we’ll keep an eye out for their next Nashville appearance, but we couldn’t wait for Kristian Matsson to take the stage.As you probably already know, Kristian is not the world’s record holder for vertical growth – he’s not even close to the tallest in the room (no, the tallest in the room managed to find his spot directly in front of us) – but without a full band and no light show or smoke to enhance the stage, it’s not the visual performance that brings one to a Tallest Man on Earth show, it’s the opportunity to see a man and his guitar as a single entity, a simple pairing that rarely fills the Mercy Lounge, let alone the packed Cannery Ballroom on a Monday night.

From the time he opened with To Just Grow Away until he closed his encore with The Dreamer, Kristian kept the crowd focused on every single note. With his quiet demeanor, his light banter with the crowd between songs led the bustling crowd to a near roaring wave of conversation, but no soul in the room dared to speak over the Dylan-esque voice of our Swedish friend. The attention of the crowd wasn’t lost on Matsson, as he graciously stepped aside as the crowd repeated the final lines, “in your eyes, babe” from the chorus of The Gardener.

While Kristian’s show was certainly minimalistic – he only briefly altered the visual experience by sitting at his baby grand for two of the fifteen songs – the soothing, rhythmic sounds of man and guitar and his enchanting lyrics could transport the blind from the running of the bulls in Pamplona to dealing with the loss of a loved one amongst the roses and jasmine.

Matsson would again graciously accept the admiration of the crowd with deep bows at the edge of the stage more likely found after a show at TPAC than at Cannery as he left for the night, but it was Cause a Scene and a thousand of our friends that couldn’t have been more appreciative.

No video from the concert, so here’s one of our favorites, King of Spain, on Later with Jools Holland from last year:

(I (Larry) am proud to introduce our latest contributor to Cause A Scene, Brad Hughes. As one of the very few people I know who attends as many or more concerts than I do, it’s no wonder that Brad will be handling show reviews for the blog. You can pretty much guarantee that if there isn’t an Atlanta Braves or Vanderbilt Commodores game on TV, Brad will be out seeing live music. Welcome to the team, Brad. We’re glad to have you on board!)

About halfway through Joe Purdy’s set at the Mercy Lounge on June 25th he declared that he’d “like to play a song I haven’t been able to play, like, ever. I found the right band for it.” He’d follow that statement up with an impressive rendition of “Death of a Maiden,” from his ‘Last Clock on the Wall’ release backed by an impressive 7-piece outfit, The Giving Tree Band, that can more than handle their own on stage. The group, spilling off to either side of the large posts of Mercy Lounge’s small stage, backed Joe’s gritty vocals on the elegy with energy, depth, and to the delight of the sparse – yet loyal to Purdy – crowd, a ton of talent.

Purdy’s lyrics and voice paired perfectly with The Giving Tree Band’s country bluefolk roots rock, a genre I can only hope catches on so that someone can give it a better name. The Giving Tree Band opened the show themselves shortly after 8pm playing songs from their library for about an hour. With banjos, fiddles, slide guitars, organs, and drum rhythms that sounded right off of the fields of the Battle of Nashville, the band developed quite a relationship with the crowd, pulling more and more of the attendees to the stagefront as the show progressed. Each member had standout moments throughout their set, including approximately 57% of the band taking lead vocal responsibilities on various songs, but it was lead guitarist and fiddler Phil Roach’s passionate solos that swelled within the venue and prepared us what the headlining act would deliver.

The crowd reacted with delight as The Giving Tree Band returned to the stage for Purdy’s set, lasting nearly 2 hours, covering hits and deep tracks, and once again allowing each of the band’s 7 members to strut their stuff on their respective instruments. None of this is to say that Purdy himself took a back seat to his band on this night. Instead, his vocals seemed even more energized. You could feel the passion in the lyrics that he wrote, especially apparent as the group shouted “I got you now!! Down, down down!!” during a raucous version of ‘Walking Down’ to close the set.

Purdy found ways to satisfy both his longtime fans and win over the newcomers on this night as he slowed down and played a sing-along of ‘Outlaws’ by himself on the keys during the encore after shocking some in attendance with the darkness of songs like ‘Angelina’ during his primary set. As the band would join him for a final two pieces of the encore, Joe and The Giving Tree Band had everyone rocking back and forth on ‘San Jose’ and sent the crowd out into the cool night delighted.

I can only recommend to anyone in St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus, and New York who might be reading find a way to catch Purdy and The Giving Tree Band as they ride through town in the coming weeks. Leading into ‘Brooklyn, I Called,’ Joe proclaimed to the crowd “I hope you don’t hate it,” but there was nothing to fear for Purdy on this night. Cause a Scene and the several other hundred in attendance at The Mercy Lounge loved it.