AmericanaFest 2023: Day 5
On the last day/night of AmericanaFest, there’s a very real feeling that the grown-ups have gone home, and it’s truly time to enjoy the music. But there was also a tangible weight that hung over many of the performances this particular year. More on that in a bit, but the music was what brought us all to Nashville this week, so let’s start there:
First stop of the day – where Friday night ended, the 5 Spot, this time for the Aussie BBQ in time to catch Toria Richings (an Aussie by way of the UK) who provided some country heartbreak on “Ride Your Horses,” followed up by the genuine country twang of “Truck Stops.” Because the world most absolutely needs more trucking songs!
A quick walk down Gallatin Ave. brought me to the outdoor stage of The Groove record store for Queer Cowpoke Country Roundup, fronted by Secret Emchy Society and featured songs from Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Julie Nolen, Melody Walker, Shawna Virago, Wiley Gaby and two of my favorites, Austin Lucas and Mercy Bell. Lucas brought all of their forceful energy to a steamy Nashville afternoon, including a defiant cover of Against Me’s “Baby, I’m an Anarchist!” And Mercy Bell plain sang the paint of the backyard fence – she just has one of the best voices in Nashville, and songs like “Golden Child,” a cataloging of the effects of growing up queer, only enhance her presence.
When it came time for the nightside showcases, the wealth of options was borderline daunting, but it turned out there was only one place to start – Jessye DeSilva’s showcase. That weight I mentioned sprang from reports of mistreatment of LGBTQ folks during the festival, and it’s something we’re working to report on more fully. Saturday night, though, was all about support and some damn fine rock ‘n’ roll at AB Hillsboro Village. Autumn Nicholas joined DeSilva for their deeply moving “Proud and Lonely,” and Adeem the Artist, Van Plating and Will Payne Harrison were among those in the house in solidarity, but the night was really about a clearly emotional DeSilva telling their story while still giving listeners a “George Michael-meets-Rolling-Stones big gay dance party.” Heavy, yes, but also a hell of a lot of fun.
Fun (with a side of country sad) was on the menu for the rest of the evening. Ashley Ray’s set at The Vinyl Lounge (where you can, in fact, watch records being made through the window at The Vinyl Lab) brought both, with the sexy twang of songs like “Dirty Angel’ and the blueprint of a decaying relationship found in “Married” – “I want a divorce because I want to be married.” New (and presumably improved) husband Joe Ginsberg was on-board playing guitar, giving the showcase a fun give-and-take.
The last stop – for three amazing artists – was The Basement East. One of the best songs I’ve heard all year is Sarah Jarosz’s all-out rocker, “Jealous Moon,” and she was just kicking it off as I walked in (credit a well-timed Uber ride). Jarosz largely populated the set with new tunes from her upcoming Polaroid Lovers LP (sample lyric from the title track – “How’d you go from a face in the crowd/To all I’m thinkin’ about?”). This new record’s going to be fantastic and, regarding playing a mess of new songs at a showcase – more of this, please.
More than a few folks, myself included, were at “The Beast” for the Sarah Jarosz/Maggie Rose bookends, but we didn’t know much about the “middle” band, The Wilder Blue. Turns out, we all learned a valuable lesson, as this Texas five-piece was an absolute knock-out – ace songwriting from Zane Williams (“Pablo and Maria” was spellbinding), five-piece harmonies, Lone Star State energy to spare and, best of all, a trucker story song! Williams teased a November album, and you’ll certainly be reading about that here.
The Basement East’s AmericanaFest-capping set came from the Americana’s High-Energy Queen, Maggie Rose. More new songs, danceable, soul-tinged rock ‘n’ roll and a big ol’ power ballad “No One Gets Out Alive” wrapped up this year’s festival just short of midnight. While there’s a LOT more to talk about, soul-searching to be done, and improvements to be made before next year’s event, these last few hours were about the music. In that regard, at least, Nashville never fails.
Enjoy our previous coverage here: AmericanaFest 2023: Day 3
Check the website for more details here: http://www.americanamusic.org