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

The Evolution of Matisyahu

Matisyahu, mid-2000s (top) and 2014 (bottom).

Today, Vanderbilt will host its most esteemed musical visitor, excluding Rites and Quake, since Billy Joel (and Michael Pollack) captivated a sold-out Langford Auditorium almost two years ago.  Matisyahu burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s, delivering a powerful reggae sound laced with traces of rock, hip-hop, and his trademark Judaism-inspired lyrics.  It was a wonder to behold him commanding the stage in traditional Hasidic dress, complete with yarmulke and full beard, while performing in a style that broke the mold of Jewish orthodoxy and tradition.  We listened in awe as “King Without a Crown” leapt to #28 on the Billboard Top 100, easily the highest a song with explicitly Jewish lyrics has ever charted.  We sang along to the powerful “One Day,” which was remixed with new verses by Akon.  And then those of us outside the reggae community allowed Matisyahu to slip from our consciousness.

The Matisyahu who will be walking around West End today looks far different from the Matisyahu of ten years ago.  Gone is the beard, as is the yarmulke–he wears a clean-shaven look topped by a mop of graying hair.  The music, while it still contains Judaism at its heart, has become more secular and more diverse in style, reflecting the man’s continuing spiritual journey.  But Matisyahu is as active as ever, having released his fifth studio album Akeda in June and touring extensively in support of the LP.  In light of this metamorphosis, let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of Matisyahu’s decade-long career.

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The Death of Death Grips and The Powers That B

mcridebuck
MC Ride

In early June, the elusive experimental hip hop group Death Grips released the first half of a double LP called The Powers That B, effectively dropping a bomb on the indie music community from up their sleeves.  Soon after, the band announced the completion of Death Grips as a project and the cancellation of all future tour dates.  Now we find ourselves in a post-Death Grips world, except one of these days we can expect Death Grips to release the second half of The Powers That B in a similarly sudden fashion.

Black Quarterback:

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2014 SuMm3r Recap

Photo courtesy of crienglish.com
Photo courtesy of crienglish.com

Hey, we’re back. That’s right, the writers here on wrvu.org are ready for another semester to report/analyze/fangirl/discuss musical topics that we find interesting. However, over the summer there was a full three months of activity that we left untouched. For this reason, I have outlined some of the interesting headlines and releases of the summer.

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Welcome to Nashville!

With all students — both old and new — arriving back on campus this weekend, our e-staff curated the last playlist of our summer series based on our favorite songs from and about the bustling happy bright shining wonderful happy city of Nashville.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for the return of our live shows September 1st!

Left Field Favorites

Lots of music out there is just a little bit different, and that’s the common thread running through the songs on this playlist. The experimental, unconventional, and slightly off: all are highlighted in “Left Field Favorites”. From the careening krautrock of Can to the intricately programmed techno of Autechre, tune in for music that makes you think.

Adventures at Bonnaroo 2014

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Ah, Bonnaroo 2014. As I wrote this post, I had a difficult time formulating the proper words to describe my experience. Well first of all, I’ll say when I set out for Bonnaroo on Wednesday night, I knew it’d be a great time, but I had no idea that after I got back home on Sunday, I’d be thinking I had the best weekend of my life.

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Ridiculous

The summer Spotify series continues. Here’s what DJ Gracie Gonzalez has to say about her playlist, “Ridiculous”.

I crafted this playlist at the beginning of summer, imagining my friends and I piling into cars with beach chairs and boogie boards. It’s mainly a mix of 50s-style doo-wop and Spanish music. The fast-paced happiness spawning from the combination of those genres spoke “summer” to me this year. A couple of 80s and 90s gems are thrown in there to break up the monotony but every song featured is certifiably merry.

‘Nuff said. If you like what you hear, be sure to tune into Gracie’s show Heena Koona in the fall.