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:
One of my goals, if you will, of 2011 was to travel to a city I had never been to before. Naturally, my inclinations were to go to a place that had a killer music scene so Austin, Boston and Seattle all made the list of possible destinations. Turns out that I didn’t end up in any of those wonderful cities, but accomplished my goal in a way that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of the year, by going to Newport, Rhode Island, to experience the legendary Newport Folk Festival.
Newport Folk Fest 2011 was my first festival experience despite living within two hours of Bonnaroo and there were several times over the course of that July weekend where I thought to myself “I’m coming back here every year if I can.” From the gorgeous port city of Newport to the water taxi ride each morning to get to the festival at Fort Adams State Park, from the super laid back, perfectly friendly crowd to the dozens of boats pulled up to the harbor to catch the music for themselves, it was hard not to fall completely in love with George Wein and Pete Seeger’s brainchild.
So now it’s 2012 and just yesterday the lineup was released for the festival, taking place July 28 and 29, and the folks in Newport have made it waaaay too easy to honor my words from last summer and make this an annual pilgrimage. Headlining the festival are My Morning Jacket and Jackson Browne, who are both playing NFF for the first time ever. Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin and Guthrie Family Reunion (Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, etc.) also received top billing for the festival, but that’s just scratching the surface.
Highlights for me are The Head and the Heart playing for the second year in a row (the only band returning this year, I think), and a plethora of bands on my “Bucket List” that I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. 2012 buzz bands, Of Monsters and Men and Alabama Shakes will be performing, along with Blind Pilot, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Gary Clark Jr, Deep Dark Woods, New Multitudes (Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames), and The Tallest Man on Earth, who I’ve been dying(!) to see perform for years. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure getting to cross them all of my list. And I’d be remiss to share how ecstatic I am to see Nashville’s own The Apache Relay take to the Newport stage. There’s honestly not enough space in this post to do justice to all the wonderful acts playing at the festival this year.
So, dear readers, what’s your festival experience been like? Anyone else been to Newport before? Who wants to join in on this brand new tradition of mine?