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.
In November 2007, Nickel Creek, a progressive bluegrass band composed of Chris Thile on mandolin and siblings Sara and Sean Watkins on fiddle and guitar, respectively (and all providing vocals in order to capture those necessary bluegrass harmonies), played their final show before an indefinite hiatus in order to expand their musical horizons. On February 3rd, 2014, the band announced that they were back together, with a new album due at some point in the spring of this year and an accompanying tour starting with two nights in April at The Ryman, the same venue where they played their final show before their hiatus. With this announcement, Nickel Creek also released the single “Destination,” their first since 2005’s “When In Rome.” [Read more...]
In 2011, I predicted that Kid Cudi would headline Rites of Spring, based on the similar success he and Drake were having at the time and Drake’s performance the previous year. In 2012, I predicted Wiz Khalifa would headline, again based on his break-through hip-hop success that was similar to Drake and Cudi. I further predicted that MUTEMATH would be coming that year, albeit not as the Friday-night headliner they ended up being, based on their fall, winter, and spring tours all circumventing Nashville while traveling through the southeast (they had to come here sometime). On the other hand, I failed marvelously at predicting what the 2013 Rites lineup might look like, following my previous trend of looking at breakthrough rap success to peg Kendrick Lamar, who ended up coming for Quake this past fall. In short, over my four years at Vandy, making Rites artist predictions has become a hobby of mine, much in the same way that people make predictions for Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and so many others of the festivals that have become so popular throughout the country.
Of course, all of these predictions and guesses were made in the relative comfort of my friendgroup, where no one would give me too much grief if I was wildly offbase and drinks would be had in my honor if I happened to be correct. They’re much more forgiving than the scores that swim the internet waters, but this year I decided to up the stakes by sharing my predictions in a public forum. Please note that I hold no affiliation with the Music Group or any other arm of the Vanderbilt Programming Board, and that I have no sources for my predictions other than the reasoning presented in my own words to you. These are a couple of my personal hopes, dreams, and deductions presented to a wide audience, for glory or for shame. [Read more...]
2013 has been a year of marvelous releases. A few personal favorites have been Kanye’s Yeezus, James Blake’s Overgrown, Streetlight Manifesto’s The Hands That Thieve, and Daft Punk’s triumphant return with Random Access Memories, but these don’t even begin to comprise a complete highlight list. Coming up with my list of Top Albums for the year is going to be an intensive process and I’m looking forward to it; in between debating the merits of different albums, I get to listen to all of them again. It’s going to be something truly magical. A much easier list to make, though, is my favorite albums of the semester. While a lot of the heavy hitters for the year were released outside of that time period, there’s a great amount of quality for just these ~3 months. In my opinion, these were the cream of the crop (presented in alphabetical order by artist). [Read more...]
It’s here. After a beautifully executed marketing campaign highlighted by street art veve drawings and fictional bands, Arcade Fire’s fourth studio album, Reflektor, has arrived to bring music to our waiting ears. At a personal level, this record has struck a vibrant chord with me. The simplistic epic that was “Wake Up” from Arcade Fire’s debut, Funeral, was one of the first songs that opened up my musical horizons past classic rock, where I had always thought that the guitar solo was king. I’m finding my tastes diverging now into more like that of a dance-maven, and so a danceable album from the band that was a real catalyst in getting me to originally expand my musical horizons might just be my favorite release of the year when it’s all said and done.