Featuring Houndmouth, J. Roddy Walston and The Business, and Cold War Kids
Wow. So first off, what a show. Nashville knows how to do a good live show. The crowd was fantastic, the sound was great, and the overall production value was amazing. The only thing that really fell flat on its face was the headliner, Cold War Kids. But more on that later. I want to talk sound quality first. So I've always had a problem with sound quality at shows. There's a lot that goes into that: for example, you could go to a show on Fountain Square and run into a sound guy who doesn't know what the phrase "sound balancing" means. Or you could go to a show at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena and be way up in the nosebleeds and lose out on the balancing that way. But, for me, I've always had a beef with the speakers themselves. I've come to accept that when I go to a live show the EQ of the speakers themselves are going to be all over the place, and certain instruments will suffer because of it. For example, if you go to Bogart's Music Club in Cincinnati you can expect to hear all drums and virtually no vocals. Certainly don't expect to understand what the vocalist is saying on that sound system. However, not expecting much in terms of a balanced sound system makes finding it that much sweeter when you hear it. And Live on the Green's sound system is the second-best sound system I've ever heard. The first? Every single stage at Bonnaroo. Just in case you were wondering.
So, you can imagine how excited I was when I realized how wonderful and balanced this sound system was about two songs into Houndmouth's set. This was my first experience with Houndmouth's live sound, and boy was I impressed. I haven't listened to the band too much, short of a few listens of their two main LPs, but every time I listened I wasn't too particularly impressed by their sound. There was a certain intensity I found lacking in their album sound. However, the band more than made up for that lack of intensity with their live sound, delivering a wonderfully surprising and effective set. The balancing of their sound (there it is again) really helped make their set more effective, as each member of the band was mic'd up and delivered some beautiful 4-part vocal harmonies that most sound systems would be unable to handle properly. I fully intend on seeing Houndmouth again, but unless I see them at Bonnaroo I highly doubt their live set will be as great as it was this time around because of that great sound system.
Next up was J. Roddy Walston and the Business. Now, I have a certain love affair for J. Roddy. Unlike Houndmouth, who I had never seen before, this marked my 4th time seeing J. Roddy Walston and the Business over the last year. Frankly, I believe they are one of the best live acts on the road right now, and I will go out of my way to see them as much as possible. I went into this show with giddy anticipation: J. Roddy Walston feeds off the intensity of the crowd, and this crowd was ready to have their faces melted off by rock 'n' roll. And J. Roddy delivered the goods. I needed my J. Roddy fix, because last time I saw him in Harrisonburg, VA, it was one of the worst shows I had ever been to. It was cold and raining, and no one knew who J. Roddy was. As a result there was absolutely no intensity in the crowd, and J. Roddy and the band just went through the motions because of it. But not this time. This time J. Roddy took the crowd on an epic 10-song set through his best live songs (minus "Sweat Shack"-I really have no idea why the band didn't play what has become one of their most recognizable songs) and blew the entire audience away. I knew there was no way headliner Cold War Kids could follow J. Roddy's set. But what we got was significantly more disappointing.
Ok. Let me preface this by saying I like Cold War Kids. To me, they sound a lot like Foxy Shazam minus the intensity. But for those who know just how much I love Foxy Shazam, (shoutout to their frontman Eric Nally being featured in the latest Macklemore song) you know this is a very high compliment I can bestow on a band. But it wasn't their sound I had a problem with. It was their lighting. It's like what Derek said the other day about that Fountain Square show: if the first thing you remember about a show is anything other than the band and the music, that's not a good thing. And the only thing I can remember about Cold War Kids' set is the lighting. For some strange reason, the band decided to be cool by having their entire set be lit by lighting that was behind them. As a result, all you could see of the band were shadows. At first, I thought this was a gimmick. That they were gonna hold off for a few songs and then have a great moment in like the third song where all the sudden all the lighting comes up and everyone goes crazy. No. Didn't happen. For the entire set, the members of Cold War Kids were just shadows. Or you couldn't see them at all. This meant that seeing the stage didn't mean anything, and as a result people who waited for hours to get the very best seat had no better a view of the band than someone who showed up 5 minutes before the set started in the very back. This made me very frustrated, as someone who was in the front for the entire show, and after initially putting up with the 2 inches of personal space I was given to start Cold War Kids set because everyone pushes to the front for the headliner, I said screw it and moved to the very back and actually sat down and just listened. Any intensity the band may have been able to give the audience was completely lost because of the lighting, and as a result I valued having personal space higher than trying to be as close to the stage as possible. As a band, that is certainly not what you want your audience to think and feel, and I hope Cold War Kids changes that "artistic decision" very soon.
As for the set itself....it was fine. It was pretty much dominated by that lighting issue, and it was very hard for me to get into the set because of it. But their sound was still pretty good and they were fun to listen to. They are a solid band with a good sound, but they just couldn't follow the sets that Houndmouth and J. Roddy delivered. Overall, the show was fantastic, and when you also add in the small fact that it was also free, you have the icing on the cake. The atmosphere was fantastic, and everyone was their to hear some great music. And that's exactly what they got.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business Set
Don't Break the Needle
Take It as It Comes
Brave Man's Death
I Don't Wanna Hear It
Used To Did
Cold War Kids Set
All This Could Be Yours
One Song at a Time
We Used to Vacation
Louder Than Ever
Hang Me Up to Dry
Something is Not Right with Me
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: