It’s almost like Death Cab For Cutie was born to play the Ryman Auditorium. Ben Gibbard’s lapsed Catholicism resonated just as powerfully as his band’s driving, atmospheric music within the…
At 3pm yesterday, I turned in the final assignment of my college career. Partially to celebrate and partially to distract myself from the terror of facing the adult world, I headed over to Exit/In with my friend Sparling to see Smallpools rock the joint. My sister loves the band and had turned me on to their music, so making her jealous was another great reason to go to the show.
We arrived at 7:30 to find the half-full floor dominated by people without the over-21 hand stamps. Any illusion I had of being able to escape feeling old vanished immediately. Pitying the venue for what promised to be a slow night of alcohol sales, I grabbed a Shiner Bock and snagged a spot in the crowd just behind a couple of girls taking selfies. Naturally, Sparling and I photobombed as many as we could.
When my mom found out Stevie Wonder was coming to Nashville, she wanted me to go so badly that she helped me pay for the tickets. Not that I wouldn’t have tried to go anyways. Stevie is 64 years old, so who knows how long he’ll be touring? And word was that he would be playing his seminal 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life in full.
From the moment I found my seat at Bridgestone Arena I knew the show was going to be an extravagant production. On the stage sat two drum kits, two percussion arrays, seats for a ten-piece string ensemble and six-piece brass section, risers for a horde of backing vocalists, several keyboards and guitars waiting to be played, and of course Stevie’s setup front and center: his signature Hohner Clavinet and a Yamaha electric grand piano.
Like my colleague Brandon Bout, I made sure to catch a live show over Spring Break. For me, the destination was London and the band was electro-pop trio Years & Years.
I had heard of the group from a fellow Lightning 100 intern in December. She had spent time working in Britain and assured me that they were on the verge of blowing up across the pond. Her promise was confirmed when I learned that Years & Years had won the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2015 poll–an award won in previous years by such acts as Sam Smith, Adele, and Ellie Goulding. So when I saw that the band would be playing in the British capital during my stay there, I convinced my traveling companions that we needed to go to the concert.
Today belongs to the love songs. And with his debut single “Some People,” Nate Banks has made his play to make his way onto your playlist.
The junior from Fairfax, VA has been involved in the Vanderbilt music scene since a brief stint with the Melodores as a freshman, but this is his first foray into the world of solo artistry. And “Some People” makes a strong statement about his potential. The song is driven by a playful, carefree ukulele riff that causes your mind and muscles to relax upon first hearing it. Banks’ smooth, youthful voice beckons to you over the jaunty beat, entreating you to forget worldly troubles and stay by his side, where you’ll inevitably find the most comfort. It’s the perfect message for a song being released on Valentine’s Day, particularly if you have a significant other in whose love you can lose your worries until you fall asleep. And if you are celebrating Singles’ Awareness Day instead, perhaps “Some People” will remind you not to fret, and that as long as you have friends to keep you company, you too can find a way to release the worldly troubles that might be bothering you. Check out the song on Nate’s website, or just listen via Spotify right here!
I had a chance to talk to Nate about the release of his single and his place within the Vanderbilt music scene. Read on for the full interview:
Nashville calls itself Music City; it’s the moniker that supposedly separates our home from Charlotte, Minneapolis, and every other up-and-coming metropolis, and it’s a huge part of the reason I chose to come to Vanderbilt. So the news that the locally beloved venue 12th and Porter will be closing its doors at the end of February disturbs me greatly—and if you care about preserving the cultural integrity of Nashville, it should disturb you too.
According to The Tennessean, the property will be redeveloped to “enhance the North Gulch.” If the South Gulch is any indication, that means we’ll see 12th and Porter replaced by luxury condos, a couple boutique clothing stores, and another Bar Louie or an Irish pub. Instead of seeing a great local band or marginally more to check out an established act like Kings of Leon or Neil Young (both have played 12th and Porter), you’ll get to overpay for dinner and drinks at a generic nightspot devoid of personality. This is gentrification at its finest: the conversion of a “run-down” area into an upscale neighborhood through the replacement of its businesses and residents and raising of rent.
Here at WRVU, we’re all about the underground music scene, whether we’re introducing you to fresh new songs or interviewing artists who may not even be college graduates yet (in…
It may be surprising to see a retrospective of a nine-year-old nu metal album on this blog, particularly from a writer who has vented at length about the overall lack of quality of mid-2000s popular music. Then again, everything about System of a Down’s music, from the band’s ability to mash together disparate and seemingly irreconcilable influences to their shocking success on the mainstream airwaves, is a bit surprising. System’s landmark 2005 album Mezmerize happened to be on my mind as I put together a discussion for my psychology class, and revisiting it as I worked resulted in three dominant trains of thought, none of which dealt with my homework: 1) nostalgia for the days when my biggest concern was whose backyard trampoline the neighborhood kids would be hitting up after school, 2) amazement at how irresistibly fun the eleven songs are, and 3) wonder at System’s ability to somehow maintain this fun amidst livid, highly caustic lyrics and guitar riffs. In conjunction, these concurrent streams of consciousness brought me to the crucial question: how the hell did a band like System of a Down hijack the popular music consciousness?
I think the answer boils down to two factors: perfect timing and the group’s ability to infuse its thrashing songs with elements that made them palatable to mainstream listeners.
I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the news: Taylor Swift has removed all of her music from Spotify. As in, everything. Not just 1989. The only track you can find that even features Swift is “Safe and Sound,” her collaboration with The Civil Wars. Go now and listen while you still can, before we have all been forsaken by the great blond goddess of our musical age.
On this day nineteen years ago, four of Blind Melon’s five members woke up expecting to play a show that night at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. The fifth, lead vocalist and chief songwriter Shannon Hoon, never awoke. He had died of a cocaine overdose at age 28. Today, to honor Hoon’s memory, I’d like to take a look at Blind Melon, a terribly under-appreciated member of the grunge pantheon.
Exit/In is one of Nashville’s most famous and beloved venues. One look above the bar at the wall of artists who have performed on its stage is enough to send the tingles of history down your spine. Monday night, though, Exit/In’s legendary stage was devoted to three local acts: Joel Levi, James and the Wild Spirit, and Vanderbilt’s own Kid Freud. The trio of bands, though quite different in genre and style, combined to put on one hell of a show.
For those of you there on that fateful afternoon in Rand almost two years ago, you remember it as one of the oddest sensory juxtapositions in your Vanderbilt career.
It was, at first, an ordinary lunch hour for the students in our campus dining hall. Some were studying, their laptops and notebooks strewn about, taking up four-person tables all by themselves. Others were casually munching on their Randwiches and “gourmet” Chef James meals and chatting with friends. Many were multitasking.
Then, the music started. At first, it was just a rush of distortion in the background, barely registering in ears so unaccustomed to hearing it. But it soon became clear that this was no mere technical accident. The speakers in Rand were playing metal–replete with screams and growls of vocals and guitars and lacking any consistent melody or rhythm.
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.
It’s rare that you find a prodigious band coming out of Vanderbilt. Vampire Weekend met at Columbia and Tom Schulz met his Boston bandmates at MIT, but here the music scene centers around singer-songwriters—Belmont produces the bands, they say.
With Kid Freud, though, Vanderbilt may have these rock titans’ future equals on its hands.
Despite forming only four months ago, the three-piece outfit is taking its place at the head of the burgeoning music community on West End, regularly packing venues like The End and fresh off earning the opportunity to open Rites of Spring after winning the festival’s Battle of the Bands.
It’s that time of year again at Vanderbilt. The Student Alumni Board is passing out free shirts at Rand; there are dozens of garbage bins lounging pell-mell on Alumni Lawn; the fraternities are gearing up for their crawfish boils and pig roasts; fierce debate regarding 2 Chainz’ arraignment echoes across campus. What else could it be but Rites Week?
Love it or hate it (and, as always, there’s been a lot of both emotions in reaction to this year’s lineup), the week of Rites of Spring is the best time for music at Vanderbilt every year. Though the main event will be an epic spectacle that should trump last year’s in terms of debauchery and Dionysian life force–after all, NEEDTOBREATHE probably played before the most sober Rites crowd ever–my favorite part of the week is the Battle of the Bands, which will take place this Thursday at 7:30 PM in Rand Lounge/Dank New Rand. The Battle of the Bands is easy to overlook, especially with the winners’ prize being the chance to play on Friday afternoon before most students will want to arrive, but it’s a great showcase of some local talent (including a number of Vanderbilt-based acts) and winning would be a tremendous affirmation for any of the competitors. And this year, you as an audience member have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in determining the battle’s victor, as the crowd’s vote will account for two-fifths of the final decision (alongside the three judges). The idea seems to be that the winner should be able to draw a crowd to Rites as early as possible, with the ability to do this on a Thursday night supposedly predictive of the ability to follow suit the next afternoon. So if you are friends with one or more of the contestants, the most important thing you can do for them is to show up at the battle on Thursday night and bring a pack of friends along for the ride.
It’s safe to say that regardless of whether or not you think Kendrick Lamar got robbed at the Grammys, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis accounted for a significant shift in the scope of issues dealt with in mainstream rap music. Into a culture dominated by the elegant hedonism of Kanye West and Jay-Z was infused a dose of reality–“fifty dollars for a t-shirt” (or, as famously offered by Yeezy, $120) is beyond the fiscal considerations of most Americans and shouldn’t be a standard to which ordinary folks are held. The challenges that The Heist issued to the industry’s status quo opened up lines of dialogue that had been confined to the independent outskirts for much of the past decade, particularly regarding the materialistic, misogynistic, and heteronormative culture that has dominated mainstream rap.
In this rapidly changing paradigm, any social issue can be captured and crystallized into a song with the potential to move millions of affected listeners and inspire the unaffected to take corrective action. With his new single “Bully Me,” Nashville hip-hop artist Shadower attempts to take the serious issue of childhood and adolescent bullying and preach empathy as the cure.
I spent the majority of my spring break plastering the walls of a cinderblock building in the Puerto Rican rain forest. The only way to possibly get through a task as mind-numbing as plastering walls is to have an upbeat, driving playlist of music blasting from a decent set of speakers. Luckily, for the most part, that was the situation; our work crew leader had impeccable and eclectic taste, and about 100,000 songs in his iTunes library. One day, though, we made the call to switch it up. My buddy Matt had concocted a playlist entitled “Ridiculous Rap,” mainly comprised of one-hit crunk wonders from the mid-2000s. The first couple songs were hilarious and everybody sang along. By song five, the high had disappeared and it dawned on us that we had been ingesting pure crap for the past fifteen or so minutes.
It’s Olympics time, and that means patriotism is at a relative high here in America. So is the potential to wile away the hours in front of non-stop sports coverage. It’s taking all my willpower to keep my eyes on my laptop as the American hockey team plays the Czechs on the television in front of me.
But there’s one thing about seeing the United States in international competition that bothers the hell out of me: our national anthem, when compared to those of other countries, just doesn’t cut it.
If you grew up a rock music fan in the first decade of the 2000s, as I did, the Red Hot Chili Peppers likely provide much of the soundtrack of your formative years. Songs like “Can’t Stop” and “Dani California” populated your early-generation iPods, and you familiarized yourself with the oldies that stood the test of time: “Give it Away,” “Under the Bridge,” etc. Listening to these songs probably invokes a good deal of nostalgia. They stand the test of time, too; listen through Californication again today, and relish in the tight, emotionally thick beauty of its fifteen tracks.
Given these assumptions, you were probably just as pumped as I was to hear that the Chili Peppers would be joining Bruno Mars for the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime performance. By the time the teams headed to the locker rooms and Seattle had ensured that the game would be akin to watching a monster truck run over the same poor car for three hours, you were probably relieved that some good music would interrupt the tedium. Bruno Mars, sure, cool, but the CHILI PEPPERS!!! I was so excited, I had even set up a betting pool with my family, trying to pick the three songs they would play.
Music is an inescapable fact of life. It streams from our computers like a waterfall; it fills the empty space in our bars and restaurants; it augments the visual impact of television shows, movies, and advertisements. On top of this universal presence of music, the democratization of the recording and distribution process has ensured that the variety of music available to the general public is vaster than ever before. Yet it is precisely because of this deep and pervasive connection between music and human culture that it is necessary for you to make sense of this cacophony. The person without a distinct musical taste risks being lost in the sonic forest, unable to converse about music with other people and unable to discern their own character. In short, having a defined sense of what music you like is vital to becoming a contemporary man. So, how do you develop a musical taste that keeps you both interested and interesting? Read on to find out!
It’s been one of those weekends that wasn’t any sort of break from the action of the week, but definitely in a good way. Things got started with a bang when I scored free tickets to see Fitz and the Tantrums, Capital Cities, and Beat Club at Marathon Music Works on Thursday night. All three bands started in Los Angeles, but each has a distinct sound within the broader category of indie pop-rock. Beat Club has a very retro feel and their sound is very influenced by The Strokes, which makes sense because they are connected with Julian Casablancas. Capital Cities is straightforward synth-pop and put on a very energetic show, closing with a fifteen minute rendition of “Safe and Sound” that turned into an electro-dance party. Other than the last song, however, I didn’t find their music terribly engaging; all the songs sounded very similar but lacked the catchy hook of “Safe and Sound.” This is only natural, though, since they have released just one LP. The fact that they already have a Top 10 single at this point in their existence is very promising. Unfortunately for Capital Cities, their performance was totally upstaged by that of Fitz and the Tantrums, whose neo-soul had a perfect dancing groove but didn’t feel superficial. “Moneygrabber” was a highlight, leading off the encore and featuring a confetti explosion in the middle of the song. Overall, the night of music was supremely satisfying, and there should be a lot of buzz about these three bands. Here’s some of the better songs that were played.
The real highlight of the weekend, however, was going home for a weekend of summer camp-related festivites: a bar mitzvah, an official camp reunion, and lots of running around to see as many friends as possible before heading back to school this morning.