This past Saturday, we sent a few writers and a photographer to cover Seven Sense Festival, a free, four-stage event on Preston. Here are their takeaways.
[All photos by Nik Vechery]
Zach: It’s becoming clear that Louisville has an abundance of riches when it comes to weekly events. As I prepared to head over to Preston Street, home of the second annual Seven Sense Festival, I looked at my Facebook and realized there were over six street festivals going on the same day. It’s a great problem to have — too much stuff going on — but we need some filtering of which ones are worth spending your entire day at. After the second successful Seven Sense Festival in a row, it’s time we start thinking of this free, family-friendly, local band-supporting, one-day celebration as a Louisville must each year.
If you’ve never been to Seven Sense, its main focus is music spread out over four stages, two inside Louisville benchmark music venues (Zanzabar and New Vintage), two outside at opposite ends of Preston Street. With every stage rotating bands/musicians every hour, if any conflict occurs, the longest walk is less than two minutes to reach any stage, which made this festival one of the most laid back and approachable for any type of music fan.
At the top of my personal list of standout performances would have to be The Tall Squares, who brought creative rock without any frills or pretension. It’s rare to be blown away by a band that’s just being themselves and letting their perfectly-structured songs do all the speaking for them. I highly recommend catching Tall Squares the next time they play, which should be often as they’re local. The biggest compliment I can pay Seven Sense is that the curators of the music seemed to put talent as the first priority when booking acts. Billy Goat Strut Revue, Big Big, Zach Longoria Project, Jonathan Glen Wood with special guests, and the sheer left-field genius of Scott Carney was show after show of top talent. These weren’t just cool kids playing instruments, but some of the best musicians in town showing off why they’re at the top of their craft in a comfortable festival setting that is sure to be a Louisville mainstay.
John: Country music is coming back, in a big way. But, those who have kept an eye on it know that it never really left. Hiding underneath the mass amount of bad radio country have been some torch carriers to keep the flame alive. Musicians like Scott H. Biram, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams and others have maintained the country spirit while evolving it at the same time, the way relevant genres do, while the rest of us turned our backs. But if the second annual Seven Sense Fest is any kind of musical barometer, country is about to be a major factor in local music over the next few years. But, the last two decades of over-produced radio nonsense have given country a bad name, so don’t call it country — so many of us have bad connotations associated with the term. Lately, much of this new evolution in country has been filed under the term Americana, which so broad it could mean almost anything, so maybe we should come up with a new term.
Books Ritter opened up the outdoor Zanzabar stage (after a brief yoga expo) followed by The Dammit; both with a blend of heavy outlaw country mixed with classic rock n roll.
Conversely, The Bottom Sop, who played on New Vintage stage at the same time as Brooks Ritter, plays good old fashion honky tonk country, although they describe themselves as “Louisville Outlaw Country.” With songs like “Waking up Country” and “Country Love at First Sight,” The Bottom Sop may be too much classic country for wider audiences, but, for those who appreciate danceable country, this band is a sure bet. Their set at Seven Sense, lead by singer and guitarist Derrick Wade Manley, captivated the early fest goers even with the noticeable absence of female vocal accompaniment by Lindsay Anderson that is so instrumental on the Bottom Sop LPs.
For those still not ready for the country music resurgence, there was still plenty to choose from at the extremely successful and entertaining Seven Sense Festival. 1200 started at 2:30 in The New Vintage, fronted by the imminently successful Jecorey Arthur, who orchestrated a unique set just for the fest with full string section — no DJ or prerecorded tracks — with the talented Nick Burke jumping back and forth from keys to guitar for an amazing alternate version of 1200. A little early on the schedule for a large-drawing group perhaps, but Jecorey Arthur is a hardworking man, having to rush off after the set for meetings as well as practice with Cheyenne Mize for an upcoming event.
Brother Wolves hit the indoor stage at Zanzabar at 6 p.m. fronted by cousins Wilfred Sieg III (vocals) and Nathan Vessel (guitar), playing an energetic blend of psychedelic soul that paved the way nicely for the psychedelic explosion that is the Black Birds of Paradise culminating with their signature track “Terror Bird” and ending with a brand new electrifying track “Hold On” to crowd delight.
Scott: Due to prior obligations, I wasn’t able to spend much time at Seven Sense, but I was definitely glad I was able to get there for a bit. Coming from a string of towns where things like a free music street festivals with a bright mixture of local, regional and national talent rarely happen, I have nothing but respect for the people who pull events like this together. It was easygoing, with plenty of places to grab good booze and food, and a schedule that scattered the day with talent. Although I was only there from 1-3:30pm, I was able to see bands that could have easy been slipped into headlining slots.
If you like any sort of country music, check out Margo & The Pricetags. It might be something that everyone with a taste for roots can enjoy without dissolving into some drawn out genre argument about mainstream vs. underground. With a smoky throwback sound that glistened through and a rock n roll heart that electrified several choruses, Margo & The Pricetags sounded like they were raised on equal parts George Jones and ’80s hair metal — although they certainly try to actively sound like the former, with the latter just kind of seeping through. Plus Margo Price has an absolute firehorse of a voice.
1200 never fails to impress. At Gonzofest they played a bigger stage, where Jecorey Arthur and company roared through a high octane set that aligned itself to the large outdoor environment. This time, on a small indoor stage, they adapted with a smooth orchestral sound that drew on a melancholy type of energy that fully maintained its power. The versatility that comes from being able to brilliantly rearrange your own tunes can not be overstated, and they are really good at it. Arthur has plenty of onstage charisma, and his ability to creatively compose is matched with savvy, hard-hitting and unique lyrical content that seems repellent to cliches. 1200 is a must-see act, and they’re most likely already on your radar, but, if not, you’ll have a another chance this Saturday at Cards Fest. And, if you’re already familiar, you know you should be there anyway.