November 9th, 2013. Winter was upon us as potential students scurried around campus knocking leafs around the greek row sidewalks with their weathered, leather boots as they toured a campus and a city that might one day become a home to them. Pretending the brisk Nashville temperatures were still fall conditions, I dressed in a thin long sleeve shirt and prepared for the night ahead of me. We had been looking forward to this day for months. American Authors at one of Nashville’s most unique, bursting of character and quite frankly small venues, The End. Thrilled to leave the lonesome cave I’d created of post break-up tears and cheesy rom coms, other wise known as my room, my friends and I arrived at the venue minutes before the show facing a crowd of no more than 30 people. Lost in chatter and introductions a voice suddenly broke through the noise and stopped me in my tracks. Who was this girl with the powerhouse vocals strong enough to shatter the thoughts of everyone in the room and draw every eye in this small dive club to her luscious hair, small frame and impeccable style? The voice belonged to Mandy Lee, one third of the trio Misterwives hailing from New York City.
Her daddy had enough so she put her back into it. She’s is a powerhouse. She’s an unending geyser of consistency. Merrill Garbus knows how to put on a fantastic show. On Thursday the 9th at Marathon Music Works, music fans got their money’s worth.
Recently, the Travel and Leisure Magazine came out with rankings of America’s favorite cities and lo and behold, Nashville was listed number 1 for concerts, the music scene, and also as the friendliest city around. Even only after a year of living here, I wholeheartedly agree that this is the place for music and entertainment. For those of you who are a bit skeptical, I’ve compiled a list of reasons that this ranking is well-deserved.
Note: The tragically mysterious Weezer story will be reiterated throughout for the uninitiated, but mainly this article is about Pinkerton.
It’s the early 90’s, and Weezer is the hottest rock band in America. Their self-titled ’94 debut is stuffed with timeless classics like “Buddy Holly”, “Undone – The Sweater Song”, and “Say It Ain’t So”. In a rock world taken with grunge, Weezer is a convincing reminder of rock music’s lasting pop appeal.
In ’96 Weezer follows that album with Pinkerton. This album trades studio glitz for rough self-production, and comparatively comes across as abrasive and uninviting. Gone are the quirky music videos, harmonica soloes, and songs about surfing. The lyrics are shockingly personal: 26-year-old songwriter and frontman Rivers Cuomo spills raw confessionals like he grabbed his teenage diary instead of the song lyrics. It doesn’t take the band long to depart from the goofy, clean-cut band that recorded Weezer.
For this week’s article I’m trying something new. Thinking about music and how it fits into my life, I thought about how I relate to a lot of my friends and family through music. My dad and I like listening to Neil Young on long drives, my best friend and I love going to see Manchester Orchestra whenever they come to town, and I’ve made a lot of close friends based on our mutual affinity towards certain artists.
Everyone has some sort of preference for music, it’s a very human process, and it can help them to relate to others. Going off of that idea, I thought, “I wonder what sort of music Vanderbilt faculty and staff members listen to.”
As I have been browsing through my music collection, I have come to realize that I have an affinity for bands that have a name referencing animals. Is this a coincidence? Perhaps. I’ve been trying to figure out what else they all have in common, but alas, they are all excellent in their own right. I would like to share some recent artists I have come across with this theme and hopefully you can decide for yourself if they truly resonate unique styles of animalistic music.
An album two years in the making finally presented itself this past August. Dry the River’s Alarms of the Heart exudes a confidence that wasn’t as obvious in listening to the band’s first album. Actually, in a lot of ways, the two albums are super different.
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.
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.
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.