It’s a given that April showers bring May flowers, but for the last few years it’s been a pattern for the clouds to open at the annual Rites of Spring festival.
Brooklyn's The National performed a delayed set on Friday night but managed to stir the crowd through a mix of old and new tunes.
Taking place on the Alumni Lawn on the Vanderbilt campus in Nasvhille, Tenn., this year’s festival kicked off on Friday, April 15 as the rain poured on the midstate throughout the day delaying the event until 10:30 p.m.
With acts such as Futurebirds, Pimps of Joytime and Jerrod Neimann all being cancelled, there was still something to salvage, as Sara Bareilles, Public Enemy and The National would still perform.
With a quick setup, Bareilles was on and off the stage in no time as she whipped through her hits “Love Song” and “King of Anything” while throwing in a few popular covers from Cee Lo Green and Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man.”
If there was anything this night needed more, it was Public Enemy. Masters of the rap game, Chuck D and Flavor Flav had the crowd amped as they were popping high knees and stirring around the stage for a short but interactive set.
Stomping through tracks like “Bring the Noise,” “Welcome to the Terrordrome” and “911 is a Joke,” they made the most of their abbreviated set with a message of hope as Flav coaxed the crowd to throw two fingers in the air to show peace and spread love and support.
Closing out the night were Brooklyn rockers The National. On a cloudy and rainy day, this would typically act as a perfect setting for their melancholy but promising tunes. Gaining steam throughout the show, they hit on cuts from albums like High Violet and The Boxer and found a nice stride toward the end.
Some of the top performances from the night included “Abel,” “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” and “Mr. November.” Going well past 1:00 a.m., the officials were calling for a close to their set. As lead singer Matt Berninger told the crowd they had time for two more songs, the officials then said otherwise. But in rock n’ roll fashion, Berninger ignored the call and signaled for two more as they closed with “Terrible Love” or so they thought. In mid-song, they were cut off as guitars droned to silence with Berninger shouting lyrics that no one could hear with a dead mic. This wasn’t the best way to end the night, especially for those single day ticket holders who paid top dollar to see headlining acts but were cut short.
As the second day approached, the rain had been traded for a cold and breezy day that stayed around throughout the night.
Arriving at the close of David Mayfield’s set, a short glimpse of “Just a Little Talk With Jesus,” made it all right to lead up to Nashville’s Madi Diaz. Along with hometown heroes, The Features, Diaz helped signal that Nashville rock is alive and well and very nice to see on a large stage backed by a major sound system rather than the typical club setting.
After taking a short break after The Features, the lines outside the entrance were backing up for what seemed like miles as security was on lockdown mode for some reason. Missing most of Matt & Kim’s set, there was evidently a dance party going on inside the gates leading up to Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Since hundreds were on the outside of the gates, one could only guess how many witnessed it.
Alex Ebert and company have made several cameos in commercials with their jangly pop-folk tunes over the course of the past year so to begin with “40 Day Dream” was pleasing to the ears. They rolled through the staples from Up From Below among others with an agreeable set.
There was no doubt the crowd was in attendance to see Kid Cudi on Saturday night. Pushing forward to the barricade, organizers warned everyone to stand back before Cudi took the stage. Giving as much time for stage banter as songs, he did manage to roll through cuts like “Soundtrack To My Life” and others from the Man on the Moon albums. Cudi has no problem exercising his demons as he talked about what troubles him even recounting his last stop in Tennessee in which he was soon arrested for possession after last year’s Bonnaroo festival.
With Cudi shutting down the night, it signaled the close of another Rites as he sparked the crowd to throw up the middle finger while Public Enemy on the other hand had everyone throwing two fingers in the air as a sign of harmony the previous night, both compromising two ends of the hip hop spectrum and a different period.
It also set ablaze a truth that is evident in this writer – the times, they are changing.