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Moon River Festival 2016 Day 1


Moon River Festival 2016 Day 1

Nathan Armstrong

It’s here! The Moon River Music festival kicked off last night, which means there was food trucks, wiseacre and a whole lot of folk. 

Drew Holcomb has done well in the short three years that Moon River has existed, and every year it gets bigger! The festival is split into two days this go around and I was lucky enough to witness day 1. 

Starting off, let me just say how lucky we are to have this concert site. The Levitt Shell truly is a Memphis landmark, and with the improvements that have been made in recent years there are few competitors to the outdoor venue. But what makes it so great? The pure, natural, rawness of the music being played. 

The day kicked off with Nashville bands The New Respects and Humming House, both young bands making a name for themselves in the music world. The New Respects brought the festival to life with their upbeat rock n’ roll sounds and Humming House set the tone with a more folk-pop tone. Humming House has just finished recording their new album and are preparing for its release soon, while The New Respects are debuting their newest single, “Trouble,” which you can find the link to on their twitter.

To fill the gap, special guest and close friend of Drew’s, Judah Akers took the stage with his wife RyLo to perform an intimate acoustic set. The two performed a few originals but also played covers of Foo Fighters “Best of You,” and Lorde’s “Team.” The two transitioned the time perfectly into Penny & Sparrow’s set. Penny & Sparrow brought the mood down, like way down. And these are their words not mine, they used melancholy to describe their music. The two also turned their set into a comedy act and had the crowd chuckling the entire time due to their awkward humor. 
Penny & Sparrow left the stage and the emotional rollercoaster went from spiraling downward to a sharp incline when local Memphis group Gedeon Luke & the People brought the funk. It may have been a contrast in genre/style from the other acts, but I am so glad Drew called these guys up. They were front-manned by ex-American Idol contestant and native Memphian, Gedeon Luke McKinney and trust me, they put some Memphis in this festival and revived the crowd. The sun started to go down, and funky music was jamming in Overton Park.

As the sun went down cooler weather came, and those who were prepared (not me) started grabbing jackets and blankets. Well, I was not one of those people, and I tried to stick it out but the temperature kept dropping, forcing me to run home and grab a sweatshirt. I came back just in time to hear Colony House end their set with their song, “2:20,” and I became even more upset that I forgot to bring a jacket because what I heard sounded phenomenal. 

Finally, capping off day 1 was the Oh Hellos and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. The lights illuminated the park as the Oh Hellos performed soft and slow emotional songs that rivaled the melancholy-ness of Penny & Sparrow. They ended their set by playing, “Trees,” a song from their first released EP, and climbing on the light scaffolding, throwing banjos in the air, and crowd-surfing. Not quite what you expect from an acoustic-folk band, which made it that much more entertaining. 

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors closed things out and the audience crowded the edge of the stage. It’s no secret that most, if not all, came for Drew and Ellie, but it was even more obvious as the crowd sang along to all hour and a half of their set. There are certain people we think of as Memphians when we talk about who is giving back, but no one does it as well as Drew Holcomb. The man who reps Memphis everywhere he goes and never takes the easy way out deserves to be loved, and he was last night. Drew played through their set and ended with, “Fire & Dynamite,” as fireworks erupted into the sky, and then he brought out all the bands to perform The Band’s, “Up On Cripple Creek,” showing just how close he is with all of the performers. Drew’s love for Memphis shined through his performance, and truly made for a memorable first night of Moon River. See you tomorrow!

- @StonePannell