Festival Recap: Rhythm ‘n’ Blooms 2017

[Joseph Wasilewski can be found at www.josephwasilewski.com]


Although I am a Knoxville native, I have never had a chance to experience Rhythm N’ Blooms festival, even though it has grown very important for the music scene and city’s reputation. Rhythm N’ Blooms is the only festival in Knoxville that consistently books national acts and brings multigenerational audience members together in a classic festival format. In other words, Rhythm N’ Blooms seems to be the only festival in town that has connected well with younger audiences–bringing energy to a relatively lay-back town.

Below are the acts to pay attention to.


Hannah Cruise of Night Colors sings at their festival homecoming.

As a relatively new band, Night Colors only has a couple of songs currently being released. However, the dreamy vocals and electronics pervaded by Hannah Cruise (Sister/Vocal), Elijah Cruise (Brother/Keyboard), and Cale Bramer (Sampling) accompanies the band’s name perfectly. Unfortunately, I was only able to witness one of the three performances that they provided during the festival, but the one I did see left me prideful of Knoxville’s music scene. I had grown up see random folk festivals and cover bands within the town, so to see a band establishing a modern voice within the growing city was very satisfying. As for the music itself, the band is still experimenting with their voice and that was clear. However, the future holds great things for this band as they put on an amazing performance even through technical difficulties and showed that they have a head start in the industry. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for them with more stuff on the way.


Lee Fields, THE King of Soul, looking like a badass on stage.

Easily one of the most incredible shows I have ever had the pleasure to witness. If you haven’t heard of Lee fields then you are missing some soul in your life. The performance was like a flashback to a Jams Brown concert: Funky, fresh, and with more style than pure gold. Although in his mid-sixties, Fields brought an insane amount of energy to the performance and even got some millennials to get fresh and funky to the pulsating rhythm and base brought by the Expressions. Not only did Fields and the Expressions provide a party, they engulfed the set with a simple but powerful message. LOVE. Fields reminded us that, although we as a nation and global society are facing some questionable moral trials, love is simple and should be embraced instead of ignored throughout the chaos. It is the one stable thing that brings music and hearts together, and it should be listened too.


Gogol Bordello scream their little lungs out for the crowd.

What does a Gypsy Punk band look like? That’s what I thought standing in front of the massive crowd of concert-goers waiting (and sweating) with anticipation over Gogol Bordello’s set. I had never heard of the band before, but it looked like a lot more people knew something I didn’t. I guess I wasn’t giving my home town enough credit for their music choices. I always grew up with boring folk festivals and cover bands and I assumed that Knoxville just didn’t know how to party. However, I was proven wrong as soon as Eugene (Lead Vocals), Thomas (Bass), Sergey (Electric Violin), Boris (Lead Guitar), Pasha (accordion), Pedro (Vocals, Drums), and Fredo (drums) walked out onto the stage. Unlike many modern performers, the artists used the space to their full advantage: dancing, grinding, bumping, banging, and expressing energy unlike any (and I can truly say this) concert I have seen. The whole experience was so surreal that for a minute I believed I was dancing in a European pub being embraced by the crowd of music lovers. When I thought it couldn’t get any better out stepped Vanessa and Pamela (dancers) who absorbed the show with their electric movement and dazzling costumes that captured everyone’s eyes and hearts. At one point, both dancers even carried huge bass drums – flowing with the band and setting the crowd ablaze with furious movement. Each second of the performance was fast and thunderous. There is no such thing as “holding-back” with Gogol Bordello. They gave their all and so did the crowd who followed. Something that I learned with this performance is that art takes all forms – large or small, elaborate or simple, but important for society nonetheless.

Dancers captivate an enraptured audience.


Aaron croons away at Rhythm N Blooms.

Unlike many of the acts at Rhythm, Aaron Lee Tasjan brought some hard country to the primarily pop audience waiting for Young the Giant. Although a majority of the audience didn’t seem to be there for him, he managed to shock the audience with Hendrix-style playing and classic rock riffs that got the audience to “jig.” Tasjan came off as a classic southern boy simply wanting to play rock n’ roll and escape the ease of the farmland to chase the music. However, as his bio points out, this isn’t exactly truthful. Instead of sticking to one genre, Tasjan made a name for himself as a versatile backing musician for the New York Dolls, Semi Precious Weapons, Alberta Cross, Everest, and Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. The practice clearly showed in his performance and his songwriting, taking everyone in the crowd on journey about a Nashville musician struggling to find his voice.


Young the Giant rock through a headlining set.

I, like many my age, remember when Young the Giant debuted their first album and blew up around the globe. Back then Young the Giant was the “cool indie band” that everyone knew about, but wanted to pretend that they discovered. However, since then YTG has matured they have grown into a multigenerational sensation by embracing alternative pop and establishing a connection among radio audiences around the country.  What surprised me the most was how “dark” the performance felt. I wasn’t expecting a tropical journey into insanity, but I’m glad I experienced it. The whole show felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole and reflecting on what it meant to be mortal. YTG reminded the young (and I mean very young) audience that time is running out and to experience as much life as you are allowed on this earth.

That night Titus Was Born.


Further Reading

Links to Rhythm N’ Blooms : http://www.rhythmnbloomsfest.com/

YTG: http://www.youngthegiant.com/

Gogol Bordello: http://www.gogolbordello.com/

Lee Fields & The Expressions: http://leefieldsandtheexpressions.com/

Aaron Lee Tasjan: http://www.aaronleetasjan.com/

Night Colors: https://www.nightcolorsmusic.com/

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