You may remember my blog post from back in January giving my predictions for some of the artists I thought would be coming out to this year’s Rites of Spring festival. If you do remember that post, you probably have figured out that I bombed all of my predictions except for the big one: I correctly guessed that 2 Chainz would be a Rites 2014 headliner. Today, I write again about our school’s beloved spring music festival, because it starts tomorrow. My fellow staff writer Zach Blumenfeld has given you a great preview of tonight’s unofficial Rites kick-off, the annual Battle of the Bands, by giving an overview of each artist you’ll be hearing. Instead of giving y’all an artist-by-artist breakdown, I’m going to take a step back and give more of an overview on how to get the most out of the Festival based on my own personal experiences the past three years.
Most people are familiar that Johnny Cash’s famous “Hurt” is actually a Nine Inch Nails song, that Led Zeppelin took much of their catalog from early blues recording, or that all of the various recordings of “Hallelujah” owe themselves to Leonard Cohen’s original. But what about those song’s that we associate with one artist entirely when they are actually the creative genesis of another artist entirely? These five songs fall in that category; that a listen to the original versions.
On the Friday before spring break, I had the pleasure of seeing the Vanderbilt Core Choir perform their home concert that began their week long tour to Florida. The front end of the program was a typical classical repertoire, featuring works from Bach, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. Via short sets focusing on international pieces and original compositions by choir members and friends, there was a gradual transition into what I found to be an absolutely stunning performance of Americana songs at the tail end of the program. There was a complete change in atmosphere of the concert, and it was in no way related to the quality of the music going up for some strange reason. The performance level was stunning throughout; in the roots set, it was just like the music stopped being a performance and began to be a warm and welcoming conversation. It focused strongly on spirituals, arrangements of songs by The Wailin’ Jennys to highlight some of the ensemble’s remarkable sopranos and altos, and a selection for the male vocalists to shine on that happens to be one of my current favorite songs. This was an adapted arrangement of Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac’s recording of “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” for the 2013 Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis (you can listen to a recording of the choir’s men performing the selection above). The film follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a fictional folk artist in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s struggling to make it by, providing a dreary reminder to the audience that for every Bob Dylan or Joan Baez success that came from this vibrant folk movement there were countless careers that failed to start. Again and again in this dismal setting, the film’s music shines through, punctuated by performances from Oscar Isaac in his titular role. The man that put that soundtrack together was T-Bone Burnett.
The Coachella lineup gave us a taste of festival season. For Vandy students, a quality Rites lineup with heavy-hitting headliners kept the hype train rolling. And last night’s Bonnaroo lineup announcement after a mid-February day that felt like mid-spring has me feeling like festivals should be starting tomorrow. Bonnaroo, a four-day music festival that is among the nation’s best, is only a one hour drive from Vandy’s campus in Manchester, TN. It is a must-go for anyone staying in the Nashville metro, and really the greater southeast United States, in the summertime (and a must-go for anyone with the necessary funds to travel from further away). True to its reputation, this year’s lineup didn’t disappoint, although it does come with one head-scratching omission.