There are some peopel that believe Live on the Green had become too big for its own good – too big for its own britches, gargantuan, too big to be saved, massive – ever since Brittany Howard and the Shakes rolled through the Courthouse Lawn four years ago. The near 20,000 people clamoring to bask in the warmth of Brittany’s warble back in 2012 made for a musically euphoric yet physically insufferable experience at Public Square Park.
While the show was a magnificent flourish (and early indication) of Nashville’s initial ascent into “It City” status, it was also a logistical nightmare – the exit from the courthouse lawn was claustrophobic, at times contentious, and ultimately an incubus that seemed to create a precedent (and sense of impending doom) for future Live on the Greens to come.
That being said, WRLT and Lightning 100 managed to pick things up on the fly – perhaps out of fear of failure, or the ominous string of other free concerts that came and went in a rather precarious fashion (remember Nashville Dancin’?) – as the following year’s Live on the Green moved its start date up to August as opposed to September, and the 2014 version of Live saw the inaugural Live on the Green Festival – three days of music ending with the day-long Saturday blowout that allows the most casual of music musers to meander about Public Square Park.
This year’s Live on the Green festival – or LOTG 2016 – felt like a far cry from the winsome yet tempestuous Alabama Shakes set that was Live on the Green’s proverbial debut into mid-to-major festival-dom. Its interesting to consider the fact that major festivals that have become little more than major label corporate shill-fests brought to you by this soft drink or that app, Lightning 100 and WRLT have managed to obfuscate their sponsors to a more inconspicuous level or at least keep the recognition to a minimum.
They’ve streamlined the festival with such precision and exactitude that it wouldn’t be all that absurd to think the festival could invite another 5,000 (much to the joy of Mayor Megan Barry and Nashville’s tourism board, not so much to commuters) onto the Court House Lawn to wonder who won the green cruiser bike (good luck getting it over the hills and off Broadway), and of course listen to some tunes (the thing that LOTG was kind of built upon).
This year’s Live on the Green festival saw a pleasant array of acts come through (even if there was at one point a slight chance for Father John Misty to have been an alternative headliner; that would have made for some excitement), segmented over three days that all felt distinctly “on-brand.”
Day One was definitely the pop day, featuring a little bit of delta blues and psych rock from The Revivalists and SIMO, respectively, but as mentioned earlier, the day went to the pop-acts – COIN and the crop topped popper Børns made teenagers swoon and sweat, and Young the Giant managed to set aside enough time from their daily pop ins at Dino’s to come play a headlining Thursday set full of bedazzled smoking jackets and new tunes off LP3 before rolling out Brendan Benson for a cover of “Steady as She Goes.”
Day Two was considerably less synth-y and a little more homegrown as The Sheepdogs were the only-non native act to take a stage during the entire day, but that certainly wasn’t a bad thing. Early standout moments were Josh Farrow packing out the tiny 615 Stage with 9 people, and Rayland Baxter notifying a crowd of mostly families and younger folks the exact moment his weed gummies were beginning to set in, but perhaps that was a good thing, because Rayland his boys in Practiiice blew the damn roof off the place (or at least they would have if there was one). The later sets saw The Wild Feathers rile up the Main Stage crowd and the magnificent master of ceremonies, Ms. Nikki Lane close out the 615 Stage for the evening before Band of Horses returned to the Live on the Green main stage after a six-year layover.
And then there’s Day Three – LOTG 2016’s final day – that served as the best indication that Nashville is still a hot bed on the forefront of music (not that it was ever really in question, at least in my opinion) as long-time Lockeland favorite Aubrie Sellers opened up the non-Kids Fest portion of LOTG 2016 on the Main Stage which lead to Alanna Royale cleansing the 615 Stage of any Kids Fest remnants with a warm wave of soulful grit and “grown-up music.”
Then there was Alicia from Bully (who have managed to put on a better set every single consecutive festival they’ve played this year) making fun (in the most appreciative of manners) of the small pocket of 30 committed fans moshing and crowd surfing to their set.
The Weeks played a slew of new tunes, which was a damn pleasure in itself (because it feels like its been forever since we last heard new music from them), and then there was the unabashed joy from Mountains Like Wax – the Music City Mayhem winners – on the 615 Stage. Gabe Dixon closed out the 615 Stage for the year in a considerably more lax fashion than the manic musical hysteria that was Judah & the Lion’s Main Stage set, and then Ben Harper cooed and crooned everyone into a warm fuzz to close what turned out to be a well above-par Live on the Green. The festival doubled as an assurance that the city can not only continue to replicate the magic of the Alabama Shakes’ ascendant set four years ago, but have ultimately primed the festival to surpass it in supreme fashion.