Artist Spotlight: Leon Bridges

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– Lucy Shanker, Roots N Blues Intern
I first heard Leon Bridges when I randomly stumbled upon his NPR Tiny Desk Concert: From that moment, I was hooked. The Texas native, born Todd Michael Bridges, sang four songs behind the desk of Bob Boilen with an undeniable charm and an impressive set of dance moves. At the time, it had a couple thousand views. Now, it has over two million.
This jump is symbolic of the exponential growth Bridges has seen: he went from washing dishes at a restaurant in Texas to a Grammy nomination in less than two years.
He immediately stood out to me because of his innovative yet familiar sound. Bridges infuses a ‘50s and ‘60’s soul vibe with a contemporary style of his own, creating songs that rival Sam Cooke. This music is matched by his uncanny style. The singer can often be seen sporting suspenders and old style button downs, sometimes the occasional mustard-colored, three piece suit. But always with his pants pulled just a little higher than usual.
Bridges repertoire ranges in both topic and style: from upbeat, classic hits like “Twistin’ & Groovin’” to slower, melodic tunes like “River.” While the first is a sweet love song about his grandparents meeting, the second reflects on the Baltimore uprising. Bridges wrote on twitter that the song and video were intended to be a “message of light.”
My love for him grew after seeing him perform at Lollapalooza this summer where he played for a surprisingly large crowd for a midday show. Despite being in the midst of the sea of people, it was an unforgettable experience. From the moment he and his band walked on stage, everyone in the crowd had a goofy grin plastered across their faces. His groove is contagious; I’m sure bystanders of the show were entertained by the sporadic attempts at soul dancing from the audience. And yet, everyone was too mesmerized by his remarkable talent to care.
Since first watching it in the fall of 2015, I am probably responsible for at least a thousand of the views on his Tiny Desk. His set at this year’s festival is bound to be incredible and definitely not one to miss.
If you watched the Tiny Desk and can’t get enough, here is a video of him casually singing River outside at a cafe behind the Notre-Dame in Paris.
And here is him singing in an obscure, old-style living room.
And live at Austin City Limits.
 

A Listener’s Guide to the 2017 Lineup

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“Someday somebody’s gonna ask you a question that you should say ‘yes’ to,” say Old 97’s, one of this year’s RNB’s artists. Here’s the question: do you want a Spotify playlist with amazing music from the 2017 festival artists? You know the answer.

 
You have the artists. You have the playlist. Get listening!

 

Check out the full list of 2017 artists here.

Roots N Blues is Going Cashless!

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– Lucy Shanker, Roots N Blues Intern

Picture this: you’re at Roots N Blues N BBQ. You put a $10 bill in the pocket of your jeans before coming to the festival. You go to buy a beer at the Logboat Brewery station. You reach for that ten dollars, but it’s gone.

If you’ve ever experienced this frustrating loss, we have good news. Roots N Blues N BBQ is going cashless! This year’s festival is going to be extremely convenient, with overall faster transactions.

Faster transactions = shorter lines = less time waiting = more time for music.

With a simple tap of your wrist, your wristband becomes your ticket and your digital wallet. You no longer have to worry about fumbling for change in your pockets or taking your wallet out for every purchase – allowing you to enjoy every moment of the festival.

All it will take is a simple tap on your wrist. You won’t need cash, credit cards, etc. Your wristband will be both your ticket and your wallet. You can leave everything else behind, and just enjoy the festival.

Now for some logistics. You’ll start by “topping-up” and loading money onto your cashless account (which is linked to to your wristband) before heading into the festival; think of it like a prepaid account. When you tap your wristband at the vendor stations, that money will be automatically taken from your balance. But don’t worry, you can always recharge and keep going.

You can top-up in two easy ways.

  • Cashless website (link coming soon)
  • “Top-up Stations” located throughout the festival grounds

This is going to make for a smoother, super convenient, and worry-free experience. Less time to stress about losing your wallet, more time to enjoy the festival.

Keep your eye out for more announcements and info on the cashless payments page, but set your calendars: registration for your wristbands will start two weeks prior to Roots N Blues N BBQ.  

 

The Local Natives at the Blue Note: A Reflection

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– Lucy Shanker, Roots N Blues Intern

When I was in seventh grade, and primarily listening to the likes of The Black Keys and The Fray (we all have to start somewhere,) my “cool friend” made me a CD. The first two songs were “Airplanes” and “Cubism Dream,” both from the Local Native’s debut album, Gorilla Manor. Some may compare this discovery to The Enlightenment; it basically kickstarted my fascination with music in general.

As my taste in music developed over the next seven years, so did the Local Natives. These early songs that had hooked me were a slower blend of unadulterated emotion and intricate lyrics: a tale of a late grandfather unfolds in “Airplanes,” while in the other, a skype call is compared to a “Cubism Dream.” Over the years, their music has grown to include a wider range of instruments and a more contemporary sound, which has catapulted them to well-established spot in the indie music scene.

The Local Natives were on the top of my “Must See” concert list, so I was ecstatic in the days leading up to the show. However, there was this underlying sense of nervousness because of the high expectations I had. I think when you like a band for so long, there is almost a pressure for them to live up to the image that has so thoroughly been created in your personal listening experience. I had these memories from seventh grade that needed to be reaffirmed.

The band exploded onto stage in a wave of energy with “Past Lives,” a song off their most recent album, Sunlight Youth. Secondary to their incredible opening sound, I was impressed by the intricate french braid in the lead singer’s hair. Taylor Rice brought his A game. This sophisticated ‘do also proved to be the perfect setup for a dramatic unleashing of his shoulder length curls during the encore.

Beyond appearances, the Local Natives delivered an unbelievable performance. They incorporated songs from all three of their albums, transitioning from the political outcries of “Fountain of Youth,” to a spiritual cover of Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam.” The crowd was with them every step of the way: silent but attentive at times, jubilantly dancing and clapping at others. Of course, they were more than willing to support the surprisingly heavy body of Rice as he jumped into the stage during “Sun Hands.”

As we walked outside after the concluding song, we were greeted with a torrential downpour. This resulted in a hub of people standing outside The Blue Note – strangers reflecting on the genius that was that concert. I think the Local Natives would be extremely happy with this outcome, as their newest album calls for unification above all.

If you ever get the chance to see the Local Natives live, I highly suggest it.

 

A Conversation with Charles Bradley

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– Evan O’Brien, Roots N Blues Intern

“Cherish the moments with your mother, because they don’t last forever.” These were the closing remarks in one of the most real conversations I’ve ever had with none other than Charles Bradley, an acclaimed Roots N Blues alumnus. I saw Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires for the first time last September at Loufest in St. Louis. I considered myself a relatively new fan, considering I had been introduced to his music earlier that year. After witnessing his set at Loufest, I immediately immersed myself in his music: buying vinyls, getting merch, etc.

While his performances of hit songs like “The World (Is Going Up in Flames),” “Victim of Love,” and “Ain’t It a Sin” were fantastic, his choice of closing song was the tipping point of my transition from casual to devoted fan. “Changes,” the title song off his latest album, is a cover of a 1972 Black Sabbath song. Bradley then proclaimed his intention behind the song to the St. Louis crowd: it was a tribute to his deceased mother. Bradley continued on to discuss how he and his mother were estranged, and how much regret he had about their relationship.

As I stood in the crowd flanked by my mother, we both had tears in our eyes listening to the lyrics: “It took so long to realize I could still hear her last goodbyes. Now all my days are filled with tears. Wish I could go back and change these years.” I remember thinking how lucky I am to have such a great relationship with my mom.

After the show, we saw Charles head down to the front row to take pictures and talk with fans. Before I could even begin to head down there, I felt my mom tugging my shirt in that direction, so we headed down to speak with the Screaming Eagle of Soul. We waited at the back of the line until finally we had the chance to see hi. I reached my hand out, expecting to see his in return. Instead, I was greeted by both of his arms reaching out and embracing first me and then my mom. He asked if this was my mom, still holding on to her despite a sweaty, shirtless body. When I replied with yes, he spent the next 30 minutes telling story after story about his mother, infusing casual words of advice about what not to do with mine while still holding her: “Cherish the moments with your mother, because they don’t last forever,” he said right before he hugged me and walked backstage. This may have been just another show to Charles Bradley; but, to me it was an experience no concert or festival will ever be able to top.

 

What We’re Listening to Now:

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“Damned (If You Do)” by the Mavericks

– Lucy Shanker, Roots N Blues Intern

The opening of each Mavericks song is closely followed by a recurring conundrum: to salsa or to line dance. In their newest single “Damned (If You Do),” the Miami bred group does not eliminate this decision making process. With more than twenty successful years in the music industry and an incredible performance at last year’s Roots N Blues N BBQ under their belt, the Mavericks continue to deliver.

The Mavericks are hard to pin down. Their songs are an ever-changing juxtaposition between their renowned Tex-Mex sound, and a heart-thumping Latin charm; It’s almost impossible to keep your foot from tapping. Not only are they musically complex, but they are also riddled with inter-band drama. The Mavericks have seen it all: whether it be drug addiction, losing band members, or new record labels, their music has not lost quality.

What I respect most about the Mavericks is their ability to reach beyond a catchy love song. With their recent music, they have a newfound message: “Now more than ever, we’re going to need to be more compassionate, more understanding, more loving than ever before,” Raul Malo said in an interview to Rolling Stone. They aren’t afraid to take that step further, to reach out to their audiences on a more intimate level.

In this newest song, The Mavericks maintain the style that made them who they are. With a strong and consistent beat radiating throughout, they give us almost 4 minutes of unrelenting, saxophone-infused, jamming. If you haven’t listened already, check it out. It will be stuck in your head for the next week.
 

 

Feeding My Music Obsession

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I went to see Shovels & Rope! AGAIN.

– Hilton Peeples, Roots N Blues N BBQ Staff

Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival Alum, Shovels & Rope, played in Kansas City last week at Knuckleheads Saloon. I was among the people fortunate enough to attend: watching the magic that happens between those two truly does feel like a privilege. Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Shovels & Rope is constructed of husband & wife duo, Cary-Ann Hearst & Michael Trent. Two people, about 10 instruments, a whole bunch of love, and a really unique sound. Their ability to tell and retell stories is something to be envied. After getting married in 2009, the couple continued to work on their solo careers. It wasn’t until a drive from Nashville to Birmingham that Hearst and Trent decided Shovels & Rope was a more powerful force than either one of them could be on their own.

Hearst & Trent wrote and recorded their newest album, “Little Seeds,” shortly after they welcomed their first baby, Louisiana Jane, into the world in September of 2015. It was released in October of 2016, and we were lucky enough to host them at Roots N Blues N BBQ just a week before that release. “Little Seeds” is full of songs with heart, soul and passion. My favorite is “St. Anne’s Parade,” which embraces life’s messiness and the beauty of both joy and sadness.

Knuckleheads was a packed house last Thursday and these two blew the minds of every person standing in the Garage. I am continually amazed by their ability to sound like a 5 piece band when there are only two people standing up there. I mean come on guys share the talent a little. These two bring Folk & Rock n’ Roll together in the perfect mix, and I loved being there to witness it all again last week. I know we sure enjoyed having them here in Columbia last year! We promise you will find something about them that makes you fall in love.

If you want to continue your newfound Shovels & Rope obsession, you should watch “The Ballad of Shovels & Rope” here: http://www.theballadofshovelsandrope.com. I’ve watched it more times than I am proud to admit.

 

 

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