It’s the absolute best that a festival of this size has remained free for the public and is able to be as transparent and compatible to each listener through its programming. The combination of genres and sheer talent is enough for thousands of people to come each year to become a part of the music community. It’s still an excellent and fresh way to expose awesome new artists for those who attend every year. Check out a gallery of photos from LotG after the jump!
Overall, the programming this year is arguably the best it has ever been. Lightning understands their younger audience is attracted to the “indie” sound, so this year they stacked the lineup with hard hitters like Local Natives, Spoon, Real Estate, Bahamas, Minus the Bear, LP, Paper Route, the Weeks, Future Islands, and Portugal. The Man. However, they didn’t neglect their older audience members and Nashville natives by booking bands such as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, The Lone Bellow, The Record Company, Guthrie Brown, The Delta Saints, Sheryl Crow and many more.
The overall atmosphere changed from act to act mostly due to the come-and-go freedom of the park and the difference in genres throughout the day. Some audiences where younger than others, but the overall energy remained the same. However, the best crowd wasn’t the biggest or the youngest. Instead, they were obvious fans of Future Islands.
Going into Future Islands’ set, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I have heard some of their songs before, but I wasn’t grabbed by the recording material. However, seeing them life put their songs in perspective for me. Here are some dudes from North Carolina combining deep soul and electronics to challenge musical perspectives and genre barriers. With Samuel T. Herring’s voice (and mutton chops), Gerrit Welmers slamming the keys, William Cashion slapping bass, and Michael Lowry on the drums the group knew how to read a crowd and bring out the best in Nashville.
It’s hard to determine who the best group was. In fact, I think many of the bands are so different and original in sound that it’s impossible to compare. However, the ones that stuck to me most were St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Future Islands, LP, Local Natives, Michael Franti, Spoon, and Real Estate. This is mostly due to the mastery of their musical ability and their relationship with the crowds; taking their performances to higher levels than many of the other acts.
First off, Michael Franti showed some unbelievable compassion to his fans by allowing a girl (Hannah) to come on stage sing a song with him, playing in the crowd a hefty chunk of the show (more than a Cage the Elephant performance), brought other kids on stage to sing together, and staying after his set to greet every single person in the front row which most artists would never have the patience to do. His performance with Spearhead was tight, energetic and filled night with music fitting the summer heat.
Local Natives showed insane growth within their live set (especially with material from their newest album “Sunlit Youth”). Real Estate brought the vibes, while Portugal brought the rock. LP showed off her insane vocal range, and Spoon brought one of their best performances that I’ve seen in comparison to their other sets that I’ve experienced (which would be my fifth).
If I had to choose one performance that truly encompassed the feeling of the festival; who’s performance left a permanent impact upon the crowd and the town it would be St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Almost feral at times, the ferocious Paul Janeway echoed from the stage all the way to East Nashville and beyond, bringing heat and energy to the stage. Their performance was truly unlike anything I have ever experienced in a festival environment. The band was raw and rich throughout the entire performance – flexing their musical muscles and effectively connecting to the Nashville audience.
Fests like this truly bring the music to the people and not necessarily the fans… What I mean is free festivals like these bring a lot of people to the yard and provides exposure that wouldn’t be granted otherwise. This is even better with massive funding from a media company HQ’d in the heart of Music City. This kind of backing is important to the artist you don’t see headlining; the artist that playing the small stage and possibly struggling to get attention in a market that no longer values physical representations of music. Most importantly, it’s important to Lightning 100 who has also been able to remain relevant in a market that doesn’t support a classic Radio format. Adaptation and multimedia platforms is key when managing a station in the 2010’s.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans – washing two days of the fest out and forcing Lightning to cancel one day entirely and moving another to Sunday. However, the festival remained strong and a sizable crowd came in support on the first Sunday slot for the fest showing that bigger crowds are probably in Live’s future.