Rhythm N' Blooms 2019 Recap
After having such a wonderful year at last year’s festival in 2018, I was thrilled to get the chance to cover the festival once more. This year I decided to bring my parents up as well, as they’re fans of Cayamo, a cruise based festival with similar music stylings. Keeping them in mind I decided to try to introduce them to every stage possible as well as show them some of the delightful food options and businesses in Old City where Rhythm N’ Blooms Music Festival takes place.
We set up to Knoxville in the afternoon to check into our AirBNB and see how many acts we could catch Friday afternoon and evening. My parents and I have both loved seeing hometown favorites The Black Lillies over the years, so we knew they’d be a great start to the festival. After just a song or two we knew we were not wrong as The Black Lillies really amped up the energy of the festival. My parents noted that since they saw them first on Cayamo their line-up and sound had evolved, so it was cool seeing essentially a new version of the band.
We then walked to the new outdoor stage, the Kid Curry stage, to catch Andy Wood. I had listened to Andy a little when researching the line-up, but aside from that I did not know what to expect. What we were treated to was quite an excellent display of guitar skills by a clear aficionado! Andy showed he could excel with guitar licks reminiscent 80’s / prog acts of yore, and he could also mix-it-up with more Americana inspired rock. Since then I’ve checked out his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, recorded in Knoxville’s The Bijou just blocks away from where he performed, and I’d highly recommend you give it a listen! I may not have known Andy at the start, but I’ve become a fan for sure.
Following a brief break at Awaken Coffee in Old City, we went back into the festival to catch Tyler Childers on the main stage. What awaited I was quite unprepared for as the audience had grown to perhaps the largest #’s I would see all weekend! Later on in the weekend I would see flyers for other festivals line-ups with Childer headlining above major acts of yore, but at that moment I was ignorant of his pull. Tyler and his band certainly knew their place was deserved on the main stage though, as they kept the crowd’s energy at 110% through their act. Childer’s music, a perfect mix of all that makes Rhythm N’ Blooms the festival it is, may sound equally wonderful in an intimate headphone experience as it did on that stage surrounded by hundreds alongside me, but there’s nothing like the rush of that crowd.
After starting Day 2 with a wonderful brunch at OliBea, my family and I started our festival by catching one of my “9 acts to catch” Benji. Benji.’s songs have earned a well worn place on my daily mix, as his genre blending tracks have a way to soothe, groove, and move sometimes all at the same time. Hearing Benji. live was even more of a treat than on my iPhone at the gym, as the energy and just overall fun exuded by the band was really felt in the audience.
After stepping away from Benji.’s show, we hit up the East Tennessee Bluegrass Jam. Clearly bluegrass lives in Knoxville, as the room was packed! Though I enjoyed the music, I found standing the back to be a bit much, and I made me way to Awaken Coffee for few minutes till the crowd switched out for Adeem the Artist.
Of the artists playing at the festival, Adeem the Artist’s probably the one I’ve followed the longest. Despite that I’ve never seen him live, so I was especially excited to catch him at the festival. Likewise Adeem’s records often just feature him singing alone with a guitar, so additionally it was cool seeing him with a fully fleshed out band. As expected the show was a delight. Sometimes singer-songwriters can live or die in a small crowded room, as the audience can drown them out with idle chat, but I heard none of that as Adeem kept our rapt attention. In addition to the delightful music, Adeem was just genuinely entertaining too in between songs, adding quick quips and contextual stories to the songs. Truly I got everything I came for and more from this fantastic set.
Next we caught The Foxies on the Kid Curry stage an indie pop act from Nashville, TN. Comparisons to Paramore would be perhaps too simple, yet I imagine for many unescapable especially with lead singer Julia Bullock’s rockin’ singing and uber-colorful hair. The Foxies music though doesn’t quite fit into that Paramore mold though, as their sound can vary from that of a Florence Welch power anthem to an 80s inspired dance track that harkens to the heyday of New Order. Bullock’s energy was clearly all her own too, as she danced almost as if to an interpretation to her own music. I couldn’t stay long as I was making my way to the main stage, but since returning I’m definitely giving The Foxies more of a listen.
My parents and I next went back to the main stage to see Langhorne Slim. Langhorne’s another artist who performed at Cayamo when my parents attended, and though my parents did not see his set he played with a number of other artists so they wanted a chance to catch him performing solo at this festival. His music feels like it throws back to a mix of Jim Croce 70s and the peak of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which is pretty much right up my wheel house. His stage banter was quite engaging too, which for a performer of one to hold an audience equally in the interlude as he does with the songs says something about the caliber of the performer.
Following Langhorne Slim, we went to the new Blüehen Botanicals hemp store to catch one of Rhythm N’ Blooms beloved Secret Shows. In years past Secret Shows have highlighted some of the biggest names at the festival in much more selective venues, as happened Friday night this year when Tank and the Bangas played at Barley’s Knoxville. We were treated by a special performance by California trio the Rainbow Girls. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of Rhythm N’ Blooms is their effort to really bring wonderfully diverse acts to the festival, and though I hate that in 2019 just making sure there are doors open for women artists to perform is still something that has to be fought for, Rhythm N’ Blooms does it and brings in such high caliber acts too! The Rainbow Girls are certainly among those high caliber acts, as their incredible harmonies and honest lyrics about love, life on the road, and the American dream (or lack thereof), really speak so genuinely and beautifully. I had the pleasure to sit front and center, literally, to this show, and the intimacy of the performance made it all the better. Once again highlighting why I’ll always try to attend at least one secret show at the festival.
After an absolutely incredible meal at the Landing House, we returned to catch the act I was most hyped for this year ——— Tank and the Bangas! I had the pleasure to catch Tank and the Bangas at the Levitt Amp Music Series in Chattanooga at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and History Museum, a year ago which was an absolute blast. Since then though they’d released even more great tracks, and considering the energy of their live shows, I’d never pass on the opportunity to see them again. Certainly I’m glad I made that decision, cause right out of the gates Tank and the Bangas just launched the festival into next level territory! Coming out like Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Tank had a giant inflatable green suit, and a even larger balloon to match. My parents, no luddites when it comes to music, were still taken aback by the genre bending fusion of the band, and in particular the raucousness of the opening numbers. I assured them though their diverse catalog included several more accessible tracks, and indeed just waiting a few more songs brought truth to my words. Overall I’m still not sure if they’re as sold as I am on the group, but this set was just another instance for me to remember why I absolutely love this group.
Sunshine Still earned a Sunday slot as finalist of the WUTK Battle of the Bands contest, thus allowing them to kick off the 3rd day of the festival at the Kid Curry stage. For a day that often can be considered slower at most festivals, Sunshine Still was definitely not going to let Day 3 go quietly. Indeed their 70s/80s alt-rock inspired music was some of the loudest of the festival. I could clearly see why they placed in the Battle of the Bands.
Following Sunshine Still, we moved to the Cripple Creek main stage to check out Stonefish who appeared to have a cadre of fans already waiting for them to go on stage. I know this is showing my age, but immediately I was struck by their youth. Perhaps the fact that their set consisted of the most pop oriented set of perhaps the festival also added to that feeling, but the band members, and there were many, proved they know what they were doing. I regretfully could not stay long, but in addition to their original tracks which I enjoyed, I along with the rest of the audience had fun singing along to their cover of The Killers “Mr. Brightside”. I liked enough of what I heard for certain that I’ll be checking out their new release Upstream in the weeks to come.
We then returned back to the Kid Curry stage to catch Scott Mulvahill, who I had heard was a virtuoso on the upright bass. I have a soft spot for anyone playing bass instruments, as that’s my personal wheelhouse too, so I was in luck as Scott lives up to that designation and then some! Scott mentioned he toured with Ricky Skaggs, which prompted my Dad to say “then oh yeah he must be good”. Scott’s music ran the full gambit of Rhythm ‘ Blooms “Americana” focused styles, bringing together folk, bluegrass, gospel and more into his songs. Definitely could tell Sunday was not a day to miss at this festival.
Alas I could only stay for a little longer myself, so I made sure to go to Boyd’s Jig and Reel to catch one of my “9 Acts to See” Sean McConnell. Sean was introduced by the delightful Appalachian Hippie Poet, who chose to seque the acts with a poem about the life of a busker. Once the poem was complete Sean took the stage, and he then proceeded to serenade us with some of his beautiful songs. To me nothing’s harder than really capturing a crowd’s attention with just one person and a guitar, but Sean’s gorgeous voice and wonderfully evocative lyrics help keep and truly earn one’s attention. Just listen to any song off his new album Secondhand Smoke and see what I mean, or better yet see him in person. What a way to end the festival is all I thought as I departed for home.