AmericanaFest 2017 Nashville Retro
Listening Through The Lens
Listening Through The Rear-View Mirror
# 10 The Americana Music Festival and Conference 2017
Yes folks, the world is in a place in 2020 that no-one would have believed.
Other than the pages of a fictional book where a-pandemic-attacks-the-world-forcing-us-to-be-in-lockdown-shutting-our-borders-and-generally-feeling-jittery, how did this predicament happen so quickly and decisively??
It is hard to think of an industry which is more adversely affected and can least afford it than the live music biz.
WE MISS LIVE MUSIC AND SHARING IT WITH FANS!!
So we are going to delve into the Listening Through The Lens deep archives and re-live some better moments.
By Rob Dickens
This week the Americana Music Festival and Conference (aka AmericanaFest) was scheduled. It was to have been my eighth consecutive visit to this Nashville iconic six-day musical event.
It is the favourite music experience on my calendar and I’m struggling with the fact that I currently am stuck in COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, Australia (the ‘Corona Capital of the Antipodes’). I’m not sure what is the least preferred option – blocking the festival out of my mind completely or immersing myself in the social media mass nostalgia. Well I guess, the answer is the latter because here I am recounting my experiences in 2017. And I think it’s going to help me cope…probably.
A very special thanks to Janette and Len for being such great travelling companions that year* and to all the friends I meet annually in Nashville, I hope to see you all soon.
“Watch Your Body Parts!”
On the United flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles, there was a slightly over-zealous hostess whose commands were delivered with a ‘I-haven’t-got-all-day-to-serve-you’ customer ethos. Somehow the expression is fitting for part of the survival guide for what we have been subject to over the last few days at the 16th annual Americana Music Festival and Conference (AmericanaFest) 2017.
First up, this is my fifth AmericanaFest back-to-back. I have seen it grow steadily, but not alarmingly so, each year. This year had its growth features – an extra day on the official schedule (although it did not seem any more stretched out than last year), a little more goings-on on the final day Sunday and more venues (The Anchor, The Country, LA Jackson Rooftop Bar, Music City Roots at the YeeHaw tent, Razor &Tie, the War Memorial Auditorium). The Conference moved again this year, to the newly-constructed and better-situated Westin Hotel. All in all, live venue stages stretched to almost 60. And there were more artists too, over 300 this year.
Unsurpassed. You get a full return for your full registration costs plus the Honors and Award Show ticket. Wristbands are incredible value but you don’t have access to the Awards Show, Conference Sessions, RSVP’s to some hot off-campus events and your place in line can get bumped by badge holders.
The Honors and Awards Show
Again, a magnificent cornerstone for the festival, held on the Wednesday night. After five in a row, you can get a little picky (I rate the 2014 Show with Ry Cooder in the All-Star band as my favourite).
Sturgill Simpson took home Album of the Year, for his 2016 release A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, while pretty-well-established Amanda Shires was (a little surprisingly) crowned Emerging Artist of the Year. Longtime Bob Dylan guitarist Charlie Sexton received his first Americana award, for Instrumentalist of the Year.
Lifetime Achievement honors went to Van Morrison (Songwriter), Robert Cray (Performance), the Hi Rhythm Section (Instrumentalist), Iris Dement (Trailblazer), Graham Nash (Spirit of Americana/Free Speech In Music) and HighTone Records founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg.
Performers on this star-studded night were:
Old Crow Medicine Show, Jim Lauderdale, Brent Cobb, Lori McKenna,
Iris Dement, John Prine, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives,
Sam Outlaw, Amanda Shires, Billy Bragg/Joe Henry, Graham Nash with the Milk Carton Kids,
Drive-By Truckers, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Lumineers, Robert Cray,
Hurray For The Riff Raff, Margo Price, Jason Isbell and Van Morrison.
The Americana All-Star Band was led by 2008 Lifetime Achievement honoree and 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, Larry Campbell, Robbie Crowell, Jim Hoke, Jerry Pentecost, Chris Wood and the McCrary Sisters backing many of the night’s performers.
The full list of Winners and Honorees is below.
The Show had a few surprises – Buddy Miller, leader of the All-Star Band was sick, Award recipient Rodney Crowell – ill also, no intermission, not much of Jim Lauderdale as host, Van’s reaction to his award was minimalist and the finale was a fizzer. In another break from tradition, no photography was allowed.
The Best Shows
Well, I figure I saw outside of the Awards Show about sixty sets over the five days. I didn’t see anything that wasn’t good, which is the trademark of AmericanaFest. It is all worthwhile no matter where you go, it’s just about what you like more than most. In some sort of temporal order, these were my favourites:
Hurray For The Riff Raff – BMI building
SUSTO – BMI building
Big Star and Friends – Cannery Ballroom (first time I’ve seen seats there)
Rhiannon Giddens – Songwriting Session at The Westin
The Texas Gentlemen (with JP Harris) – The Family Wash
Lori McKenna – 3rd & Lindsley
Drive-By Truckers – Cannery Ballroom
The Dead South – InDo
Off The Record radio show with multiple guests (including Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings), hosted by Brian Wise – Sound Stage Studios
Josh Ritter – Union Station
Jason Eady – Cannery Ballroom
Grace Askew – The Filming Station
Shane Smith and the Saints – The High Watt
Doug Seegers – The Mercy Lounge
The Howlin’ Brothers – Station Inn
Hugh Masterson – Fond Objects
Brian Wright (pictured) – Fond Objects
Every AmericanaFest is different. Where you go, who you see. I had two friends with me this year and we just ambled around and hit gold most of the time. Aside from seeing some artists too many times where the bond starts to wear thin, I can go anywhere and sample anything that’s on offer. The joy of this event, apart from the unabated quality of the artistry, is that each year you can catch dozens on NEW performers. The showcase format remains a fave of mine. Generally, they are 30-40 minute sets, with no encore. Bands and soloists therefore give it their best shot, playing as though their lives depended on it.
A six day hubbub of the best music, irrestible.
Watch Your Body Parts indeed!
Winners of the 16th AmericanaFest Honors and Awards:
Album of the Year: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson, Produced by Sturgill Simpson
Artist of the Year: John Prine
Group/Duo of the Year: Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives
Song of the Year: “It Ain’t Over Yet”, Rodney Crowell (feat. Rosanne Cash & John Paul White), Written by Rodney Crowell
Emerging Artist of the Year: Amanda Shires
Instrumentalist of the Year: Charlie Sexton
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Graham Nash
Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Iris Dement
Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: Van Morrison
Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Robert Cray
Lifetime Achievement Award, Instrumentalist: Hi Rhythm Section
Lifetime Achievement Award, Executive: Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg
There, I feel better…I think
AmericanaFest 2017 Nashville Retro
AmericanaFest 2017 Nashville Retro