By: Derek Jung
Seeing The Lone Bellow has been something of a religious experience for me. The first time that I saw them live was with my wife at MusicNOW Festival in Memorial Hall, a beautiful turn of the century theater in downtown Cincinnati. The combined voices of the three main members, Zach, Kanene, and Brian, echoed throughout the chamber and repeatedly gave me chills. It was a powerful, emotional experience and one that immediately made me a big fan of the group. Fast forward 8 months and the band returned to the more modest 20th Century Theater across town. I was worried that the grandiose environment of Memorial Hall wouldn't translate to a smaller, more quaint room with poorer sound.
My fears were initially realized with the opener, Anderson East. The band has been on the rise as of late, and they've been helped a lot by airtime on public radio stations like WNKU here in town. I was very disappointed to hear that when the band put any force behind their sound, it easily overpowered the sound system, causing his voice, usually very soulful, to sound distorted and muffled. For a band like Anderson East, where the vocals are supposed to be the highlight of the act, it was bad news. Only when they brought things down a notch, usually for the slower songs, did his voice really shine like it should. And boy, is this guy a special kind of talent. Along with a good selection of songs from his debut album Delilah, the band performed two great covers, one of the Otis Redding classic "Knock On Wood" and Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey". Definitely check out Anderson East if you get the chance. I love the trend of neo-soul bands right now (St. Paul & The Broken Bones is another that comes to mind here). I have a feeling we're going to be hearing a lot from them in the future.
With the vocal issues of Anderson East, I was really worried that the problem would carry over in The Lone Bellow's set, and it did for a while. You couldn't hear Zach much at all for the first 2-3 songs and the vocal harmonies blended almost completely with the other instruments. Eventually it started getting better, and soon the sound leveled off to being able to hear the vocals fine, but still not being able to quite understand what they were singing. Now, I know many of the lyrics, so that wasn't a huge issue for me, but I can imagine it being disappointing for a newcomer.
Despite the sound, the energy in the theater was electric. Zach's preacher-like antics on stage, arms raised and howling voice, brought all eyes on him. It amazes me how great the three sound together, but boy oh boy do they each individually have great voices. While Zach leads a majority of the songs, Kanene and Brian sing their fair share as well. They did a few "unplugged" songs huddled around a single microphone, which is a gamble if the crowd doesn't cooperate, but thankfully the crowd was engaged enough to quiet down and the result was pretty great. The highlight of these songs was definitely Brian singing "Watch Over Us", which turned into a singalong towards the end.
The most recent Lone Bellow album, Then Came The Morning, was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, who are originally from Cincinnati. I had the pleasure of meeting the Dessner twins' dad at MusicNOW Festival, and I noticed that I was standing directly behind them and a group of their friends at 20th Century Theater. During the show, Kanene dedicated a new song to one of the women from that group, who I later discovered is battling brain cancer. It was a touching moment and a beautiful stripped back acoustic song that left some of us close by with tears in our eyes. People came up and hugged her husband during the next few songs. The band later thanked the Dessners for all that they've done for them. I was hoping for an appearance by Aaron, considering The National are on a break, but had no such luck.
The finale of the night was a great rendition of "Purple Rain" featuring Anderson East and the first opener, Hugh Masterson. The next time The Lone Bellow are in town, I hope they play a theater that compliments their sound a little better, but for what we got, I went home satisfied.
Check out a full concert video from 2013 of The Lone Bellow in Boston.
By: Joseph Kathmann
Boy do I have some words about this show. So first off, I love Florence + The Machine. Even though I did feel that her new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful did an unfortunately good job of highlighting her biggest flaw (her inability to deliver decent songs beyond her singles) I still greatly enjoyed the singles off her album, and thought it was.....fine. However, I loved Ceremonials and Between the Lungs. Additionally, the Ascend Amphitheater is a brand new amphitheater in the heart of Nashville. And when Music City announces a giant new Amphitheater is coming, you know that's a big deal. Unfortunately, I left this show extremely disappointed and upset, and I will tell you why.
First off, let's talk about the venue. Aesthetically, it's gorgeous. With one exception. See that blue lining in the picture at the roof of the theater? Really cool right? Well, maybe I'm just being OCD, but I did notice that the entire rest of the city went with red lighting. And Ascend's logo is a red logo. So the blue lighting does stick out a bit overall, and with Ascend's logo being red....why did they ok blue lighting around the venue? A question for the ages. As for the venue itself....it is shockingly huge while feeling small. Even though I was several rows into the GA lawn, (which was still a good 40 seated rows away from the stage) I really felt like I had a great view of the artist. The lawn was a hill, (obviously) but here in lies another complaint. This "hill" was clearly manmade, but it was an extremely minuscule angle. Thus, tall people like me will still block people of even average height behind me. This is far and away my biggest complaint of the venue. I understand that a steeper hill would've been a little uncomfortable, but I think all the average height/short people would've thanked you for it. Finally, why aren't the TVs elevated off the stage? Cause guess what? If you're short and you're behind me you still can't see those TVs. While they were of exceptional quality, they really needed to be elevated. Hopefully the crew will fix this going into their winter break. I do have one other major complaint, but I'll get to that in talking about Florence's set. Fortunately, everything else was awesome. The venue was extremely accessible, and the crew did an excellent job getting thousands of people into the venue in about 30 minutes from a single entrance. A logistical nightmare if there ever was one, but they handled it like a champ. Just.....have someone inform the audience if the band is going to go on an hour later than previously announced. Don't just Tweet it. Because everyone who doesn't follow your Twitter page will get extremely antsy when 8:30 rolls around and they thought the band was supposed to go on at 8 and they actually go on at 9. Those last 20 minutes were pretty tense within the audience to say the least. (Yes, people actually thought Florence was standing them up or super late and was gonna have to do a shortened set to be done by curfew or something. I was worried that the latter was happening.)
But, once 9 rolled around, Florence hit the stage. This was an odd show overall. First off, there was no opener. Which most of the people didn't seem to mind, but it also made for a bit of a warmup for both Florence and her audience as everyone who had been sitting in the cold for hours had to register that music was actually being played. It wasn't until "Shake It Out" that everyone really started having fun. Florence was also clearing warming up in her first two songs, but I'll give her a pass cause this was her first show in a few weeks and the opening show for her US tour in support of the new album. But she clearly had a blast during "Shake It Out" as well. From there, we got a 100 minute set full of wild ups and downs. The ups? When Florence was playing her singles. The downs? When she was playing anything else. That said, there's something special about Florence Welch. She only talked a few times throughout her set, but when she did.....I discovered that her natural talking voice sounds NOTHING like her singing voice. But there's a presence to her. A presence that reminds me very similar of (yes, I'm about to say it) Taylor Swift. Florence is incredibly awkward, and yet when she talked, you listened. You want to be around Florence. Even as she danced around the stage. She is the ultimate hippie.
But then something happened about an hour into her set. I noticed that Florence's energy was starting to dwindle, and I couldn't figure out why at first. Then it hit me: there was no space for a pit up front. Not only that, but there was no room at the front at all for the fans to do anything more than jump up and down. Kinda. Look, Ascend. I get that you want to charge $800 for front row seats. And I know the reason you don't have a pit is so that when the upper class pays $800 for a front row seat, they know they are going to actually be in the front row. But, the artists rely on energy from the crowd. And when the crowd right in front of them can't do anything, their energy is going to suffer. For a musician, this is a HUGE strike against the venue, and I highly doubt Florence will want to come back to it again. It's not just about the money, guys.
So Florence's energy was wavering, but she was still whizzing through her hits and some "deep cuts." After "Dog Days Are Over" wrapped up, Florence left the stage, and the inevitable cheer for the encore ensued. Boy did I wish it hadn't. Florence's encore was.......terrible. Quite possibly the worst encore I have ever heard. Her encore is why I left angry. She came back on awkwardly for a rendition of "What Kind of Man," but after that we get....."Drumming Song?" And that's it? That's IT? A two song encore? More importantly, Florence skipped over two of her biggest hits in "You've Got the Love" and "No Light, No Light." These songs were staples in a Florence set but were nowhere to be found here. I payed a lot of money to see Florence + The Machine. I had a not-so-spectacular seat, got no opener, then watched Florence get on the stage an hour late and still leave 15 minutes before curfew. Maybe I've been spoiled over the years in Cincinnati. (Cough cough) But I realized I was angry because I felt like I didn't get my money's worth. Why was there no opener? Why did we only get a 100 minute set? I mean that would be enough for a normal show but when you have no opener I would expect a 120 minute set at least. An "Evening with" set would be my expectation. (two 75-90 minute sets) But we didn't get any of this. We payed $40 to see Florence play for 100 minutes. And we didn't even get to hear all her biggest hits.
This leads flawlessly into my conclusion. I love Florence + The Machine. But holy crap is she not worth going and seeing live at anywhere other than a music festival. That said, she is worth seeing. But at a (wait for it) music festival. Not by herself. She is quintessential festival material, (I probably sound like a broken record at this point) and if you add a pit her energy would be off the charts. Go see Florence + The Machine, (even you, Derek) but only when she's performing at a festival near you.
1) What the Water Gave Me
2) Ship to Wreck
3) Shake It Out
4) Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
5) Third Eye
7) How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
8) Cosmic Love
9) Long & Lost
11) Queen of Peace
13) Dog Days Are Over
1) What Kind of Man
2) Drumming Song
By: Derek Jung
I've always had a soft spot for mellow singer-songwriters. Something about going to a show and relaxing in a coffeehouse-like atmosphere is refreshing - even without the caffeine boost. I've had my ear to William Fitzsimmons for the last few years. I missed the chance to see him the last time he was in town at Thompson House a few years ago, so I was happy he was coming to a familiar venue on this tour.
Fitzsimmons' style is similar to how Iron & Wine sounded when he first started releasing albums. Most of the songs are slow, acoustic guitar picking with soft, almost whispered vocals lending to the melancholy lyrical subject matter. For how sad his songs can be, Fitzsimmons' on stage personality is friendly, gracious, and self-aware of the image that his music has given him. To combat this depressing persona, his set was filled with light-hearted jokes that left the small, but engaged audience smiling. At one point between songs he declared that "[he'd] like to slow things down right now...by falling asleep". He also brought out a custom, handmade double neck guitar which he admitted to realizing that he "looked like an asshole" whenever he played it, but he was proud of making it and it sounded good. We also got a rousing rendition of "I Want It That Way" by The Backstreet Boys, which was an unexpected treat.
Even with tables and chairs set up, the room felt pretty empty; I counted around 40 people total that weren't security or theater staff. But Fitzsimmons didn't seem to mind, and put on a wonderfully intimate show filled with old songs to new ones that, according to him, haven't even been recorded yet. One of those new songs, he explained, was about his newly discovered grandmother on his father's side. His father was adopted and only recently was William able to track down his father's birth mom, who turned out to be a drug addict and mother of five who passed away in a motel room. These new-found emotions were channeled into the track and I really enjoyed hearing the back story and how it connected with the lyrics.
About halfway through his set, the show in the main theater next door started, with jam band Aqueous's guitar solos and drums bleeding through the walls and creating a noticeable distraction for what was previously a completely quiet room. It got so bad during one song that Fitzsimmons stopped and said "This is the part of the song with the guitar solo" and just didn't play anything for a few seconds, listening to the sounds coming from next door, before chuckling to himself and continuing. It's understandable that an artist would quickly get annoyed with this, but I was impressed that he brushed it off, jokingly saying that next door was "the exact opposite" of what he was playing. It continued to be a distraction for the crowd for the rest of the show; I was standing towards the back of the room, and people were constantly glancing back, as if they were expecting the jam band to be right there.
For the encore, Fitzsimmons brought opener Jake Phillips out to play some songs with him. They came down on the floor in the middle of all the tables and asked everyone to gather around while they performed 3 or so completely unplugged songs. It was a very cool, albeit hard to hear (over the noise next door) end to an otherwise pleasant experience.
After thanking Jake one more time, Fitzsimmons played the last song by himself in the middle of the floor before thanking us all for coming and walking off. It was an enjoyable performance, marred only by the double booking of the theater. If Fitzsimmons comes to your town, do yourself a favor and have a nice, relaxing evening with a very talented storyteller. You'll be glad you did.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: