My son, J.P., in the midst of my musical moment of the year.
The advent of a new year brings upon us the desire to look forward. Before we turn our expectations to all that we believe the next twelve months might offer, however, I wanted to revisit all of the musical magnificence of the year that we just finished. So many great records, so many great shows. 2014 certainly didn’t disappoint on the musical front.
I reached out to a number of friends to discover which musical moment of the year would be etched most prominently in their memories.
My favorite and most lasting memory of 2014 was seeing Sturgill Simpson open for Jason Isbell at the Ryman Auditorium in late October. It was the Sunday show of a three night run in the town both Isbell and Simpson call home, and the crowd was like a loving family welcoming their hardworking sons back to a familiar stage. Besides the incredible music, the vibe and mood of the show stuck with the most. Both artists experienced meteoric rises in 2014, mainly by bucking the traditional Nashville country sound and paving their own course. Interestingly enough, they even shared a producer, Dave Cobb, on their most recent records. The Ryman crowd showed its appreciation all night with raucous applause and standing ovations. It was definitely a night I won’t forget.
– Drew Logsdon, Music Fan, Frankfort, KY
My favorite musical moment was actually a renewal of music I’d long forgotten. Being a fan of Foo Fighters, I very much enjoyed Sonic Highways, the band’s show on HBO. In each episode, the band travels to a different city across the country – Chicago, Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, and more – and records in a historic studio while chatting up rock and roll luminaries like Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, George Porter, Jr., Cyril Neville, and Willie Nelson. The whole series was amazing, and what I learned from it stuck with me. Now, I’m not a big country music fan, and I tend to write off most country artists just for being country. But, low and behold, I am now a huge Zac Brown fan because of the show. I can’t stop listening to him. Because of the show, I also discovered a band called The Germs, from L.A., that don’t exist anymore, and a Washington, D.C. band called Trouble Funk that I had never heard of. I’ve gotten back into Fugazi, Willie Nelson, and even found a new appreciation for Gary Clark, Jr. There just something about the way these stories were told and the history and influence that sometimes is forgotten. So, it was really nice to have this show jump start my ears and heart again with all this new and old music.
– Micah Davidson, Blue Mountain Artists, Charlotte, NC
I have no cool moments, save one: Carbon Leaf at the Jefferson Theater in October. Twenty years after hearing them for the first time, they still bring it and flood a room with sound. It was great to see people from their teens to their sixties all feeling the same way about a band that has weathered all that has happened in the last twenty years. I went with some fellow Longwood University grad who are about fifteen years younger, but they got it, too. Carbon Leaf seem on the verge of making it big on more than one occasion, but that isn’t really the point. They still create great songs and are a unique band. After the show, we went to buy a cd and a copy of the night’s show. Barry, the lead singer, was manning the merch table and remembered playing our college party in 1994. He even remembered names. Good music. Good times.
– Rich Lindsay, Music Fan, Charlottesville, VA
It’s hard to pick just one favorite musical memory of the past year, but I’d have to say that my two favorites were the Ohio River Throwdown at the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati and the ROMP Festival at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro, Kentucky. The line up for the Ohio River Throwdown included a wide variety of amazing artsts; Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes were fantastic. Trombone Shorty had everybody boogieing. Justin Towne Earle’s new material was solid and Jason Isbell was simply moving. ROMP was a who’s who of bluegrass and ranks up there with the best in the nation. It was super family friend and they get fantastic talent. I really enjoyed Del McCoury, Railroad Earth, The Wood Brothers, and Sam Bush, but it was Old Crow Medicine Show that brought the house down.
– Michael Orzali, Music Fan, Cincinnati, OH
My favorite musical moment of 2014 was, hands down, The Bluegrass Situation’s super jam at Bonnaroo. From Dierks Bentley to The Avett Brothers, it was awesome to see thousands upon thousands of people ecstatic about the jam.
– Emilee Warner, Warnerblaster, Nashville, TN
Last spring, with a stroke of luck, I won tickets to Lockn’ through a teacher appreciation raffle at work. I was in a fever pitch by September, because I was finally going to get to see Numero Uno on my bucket list, Willie Nelson. Along the way to his set, I got see some amazing music. An unexpected highlight was Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi playing an intimate acoustic late night set. It was dark and quiet, even though there were hundreds of people listening. A sign language interpreter was dancing to the beat of the music while signing the lyrics to the songs, and people were lounging in mellow hammocks in a forest grove beneath the stars. It was incredible. And, on Sunday, when I finally got to see Willie with his fingers on Trigger, my weekend was complete.
– Jason Collier, Music Fan, Charlottesville, VA
I have too many favorite musical moments of 2014 to pick just one, but at the top of the list would certainly be having the honor of performing on the main stage at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Walking on stage that had “Tweedy” written on tape everywhere was a surreal moment for both me and the rest of the band. It was awe-inspiring and fuel for the fire inside me that is determined to have my name and my band’s name written on that tape, and on that stage, someday.
– Bryan Elijah Smith, Musician, Dayton, VA
I experienced a lot of great live music in 2014, but the highlight for me was Hot Rize at the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hot Rize has always exemplified what I think is the best that bluegrass has to offer. From the early days with the late Charles Sawtelle on guitar, their music has always shown clear connections to the past while maintaining a completely original voice, and their songs tell stories with more detail, risk, and nuance that most bluegrass bands would attempt. That character and dedication to the shared voice that has been on display since their earliest records continues to develop, and it was on full display in Raleigh. The boys played most of their new record and a few old favorites, and all of them felt totally personal and fresh. If you didn’t know, you’d never guess that the band had been on a long hiatus. They have the polish and patina – and I mean that in the best way! – that only comes from years of shared experience. Of course, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers made an appearance, joined by occasional guest sideman Elmo Otto (Sam Bush in a fez!). Seeing Hot Rize in its alter ego country band is like hearing a friend tell a familiar joke, and my favorite moment of 2014 wouldn’t have been complete without it.
– Jeremy Darrow, Musician, Nashville, TN
2014 brought about many musical adventures, including great shows and the recording of Sturgeon City’s first full length album. What truly stands out, however, was the Friday line up at Red Wing Roots Music Festival. Furnace Mountain, one of my favorite Virginia bands, played early in the day, warming things up with mountain melodies and beautiful harmonies. I also saw Pokey LaFarge for the first time that day. He and his band blew me away with their orchestration and well-crafted tunes, and they played a super tight and energetic show. There were other really great bands that day, but Sarah Jarosz’s set floored me. Her band – a trio, nonetheless – was formidable and the setlist was killer. For her fiddle tune, “Old Smitty,” to Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” and favorites like “Squirrel Hunters” and “The Tourist,” the dissonance and accompanying resolve they created was truly impressive. The rest of the evening included an excellent performance from The Devil Makes Three, where I got to hear “For Good Again,” one of my favorite tunes of theirs. There were good friends, great music, and a beautiful setting at Mt. Solon’s Natural Chimney Park. It’s safe to say I will return in 2015.
– J.M. Nobile, Musician, Richmond, VA
As for my own moment, it was watching my John Patrick, my oldest son and pictured above, play to a packed house with his band, Mis’ry Creek, at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. I was nervous about this particular set, as they were playing in a small theater and, frankly, I didn’t know if anyone would come in. My worries were unfounded. Apparently, the ushers were turning people away at the door. J.P. and his mates in the band had a wonderful set and finished to a standing ovation. I got to sit in the crowd and think, “That’s my boy.”
2014 was also a great year for Trail Mix. Hundreds of songs. Great artists. Tremendous interviews and giveaways. Thanks for paying attention and I hope you’ll hang on for the great things to come in 2015.