Live on the Green: Being Off the Green

I’ve been to Live on the Green three times in all. My first time was last year as a freshman and my was it wonderful. Naturally, I returned this year and went to the first show I could – Head and the Heart. However, I was most excited for Cage the Elephant. While I imagined myself watching from a spot close to the barriers, carrying crowd surfers, and fighting for room to breath, I took on a very different perspective as a photographer backstage instead.

Live on the Green through a different lens
Live on the Green through a different lens

The opportunity arose through the Vanderbilt Hustler. I spent most of my summer exploring the world of photography and was interested in joining the photo staff for the school newspaper. Upon seeing the availability of shooting (taking photos) Live on the Green the Thursday Cage the Elephant was playing, I immediately volunteered. And just like that, I had backstage passes to what was bound to be an incredible show.

One fun fact I learned about concert photography is that in most cases, once a set goes on photographers are only allowed to stay in the “pit” (the space between the barriers and the stage) for the first three songs until they are escorted out. I got there just in time for Johnnyswim. One thing that I noticed as a photographer was the movement of the musicians. We are usually so focused on the sound they make, but their stage presence is so incredibly important. I suppose that some musicians make it look natural, but I could tell that they are particular in how they stand, hold their instruments, and where they move.

Delta Spirit, the next band up, was a rock band and adhered to their own form of rhythm. They were a bit more show-y than the acoustic Johnnyswim and the lighting and motion reflected this. As the night went on, photographing the singers became more difficult as night fell and lighting became more difficult. However, I noticed that the most striking pictures I took were of the people in motion – frozen in time with guitar in hand or holding that high note on the mic. It became all the more magical.

Finally, Cage the Elephant went on. As fantastic as they are live, they were a nightmare to shoot. One could say that the better the stage presence of a band (engaging with the audience, moving around the stage, immersing themselves in the music) the more difficult they are to photograph. The lead singer was all over the place and ended up crowd surfing, jumping on the guitarist, and going through various stages of stripping. But wow what a show. The energy was like nothing I had ever seen. Having to capture these moments of insanity and excitement made me realize just how much work goes into performance. Playing music is one thing, but stealing the spotlight is a gift that so few people possess.

The craziness that ensued.
The craziness that ensued.

Moral of the story is next time you’re at a concert, don’t just pay attention to the sounds. You could do that on your own computer or iPod. Instead, make sure to also focus on their expressions, their movement along to their own music, and how they react to a swarm of people chanting their name. What you see may surprise you.

My favorite shot of the night
My favorite shot of the night

John and Jacob Brought the Dancing Shoes: Concert Review

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“You better dance with us, even if it’s bad” John and Jacob said to a friend and I before the show. Apparently the whole crowd overheard this as swing dancers were in full motion by the first note of their vibey, fun music and they didn’t show any signs of slowing down. As the night went on, John and Jacob decided to share a little secret with us. Having an album all recorded and ready, they were only missing a release date. They decided what better way to release an album than exclusively to this Nashville crowd that night. The album is not available to anyone other cities or states right now except Nashville showing John and Jacob’s love and thankfulness for the supportive Nashville crowd.

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Nashville’s New Country


Many of you have probably seen this popular video posted by Grady Smith reminding us how mainstream and non unique country music was in 2013. What most of you probably don’t know is why this video exists. This video was actually made in response to the negative comments on his top 10 country album list that readers penned “not mainstream enough.” I don’t think his goal was to bash mainstream country music, but to open listeners eyes to songs they won’t hear every 5 minutes when stuck in Nashville traffic at rush hour. I have always loved some of the lesser known, genuine, country crossover artists, but didn’t realize how big of a genre they were becoming until my dad pointed out a Reddit post to me last week. Someone started dissing country music and one clever Reddit user retaliated with a Spotify playlist full of the best country songs he could find that aren’t about girls, trucks and beer. This playlist, featured below, includes some of my favorite new artists in Nashville that really have the potential to change country and triple A radio.

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The Faces Behind The Songs

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My favorite week of the year is quickly approaching, Although every week in Nashville has it’s fair share of loaded writer’s nights and stellar concerts, one week has a special place in my heart. Songwriters Festival, Tin Pan South, takes place at local venues in Nashville, for a week, every March. The lineup never ceases to disappoint as they utilize 10 of the most intimate venues in Nashville and host two shows a night.  Every night attendees get to watch the songs they all know come to life in a somewhat backwards way. There is something magical about hearing a song stripped down, as it was originally written, and learning the stories behind them. The only way to understand is to experience this yourself! This is my advice and the shows you don’t want to miss (all in my opinion of course).

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T-Bone Burnett and the Americana Film Soundtrack

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.

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Should Alternative Radio Take Kacey Musgraves Under Their Wings?

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This boot stompin’, Texas native has carved her way into the music industry in the last whirlwind of a year. With two Grammy awards and a CMA award under her belt, she embarks on summer tours with country singer, author, poet and activist, Willy Nelson and mega pop star, Katy Perry. With countless articles written by Perez Hilton and Billboard and many top 100 albums of 2013 lists, Kacey seems to have become the darling of the music industry. The real question is where is all this momentum heading? Lacking a single to make top 10 on country radio and with most country stations refusing to play her latest single, “Follow Your Arrow,” many are questioning what lies ahead in this bright, 25 year olds future. 

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Artist Spotlight: Emily Hearn

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Looking for someone to swoon over this Valentine’s Day? What about a song? Fall in love with the sweet melodies of Emily Hearn’s voice. You’ll forget all about your love life as you dive into the music. Emily’s latest single “Found A Heart” from her EP called “Promises” showers love and hope on those of us that are not as fortunately in love as she is. It characterizes the path of her and a guy falling more and more in love up until their wedding day (which is featured in the music video).

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