Festival. Photos by Steve Cross.
Sunday night shows are not typical for the Basement, but an exception was made this weekend for Nashville alumna Cake Bake Betty and her sister act, Festival. The bill was a real sisterhood of the traveling troubadesses: Featuring four acts, this was a long, albeit cohesive, show for a Sunday.
Kelli Shay Hix
Leading off was Kelli Shay Hix, who stared into the audience as if she was bravely facing a firing squad, her delicate voice matched by the vulnerability of her minor-tinged ballads. The set seemed to gain the most momentum when she switched over to autoharp.
One thing that was evident from the beginning was that this was going to be a quiet show, with a quiet audience, and we mean library quiet. It was a reserved crowd. There was even a baby in attendance. During the show you could hear a pin drop, except in the instance when a performer would crack a joke.
Sharon Van Etten
That was the case a few times with Sharon Van Etten, who was quick to establish a rapport with the attentive audience, capitalizing on it to display her impressive vocal prowess through a strong set of moody post-traumatic folk tunes. Looking almost like a female Conor Oberst, Van Etten used her tom-boyish charm in harmony with her angelic voice, endearing her to the crowd, by whom she was very well-received.
Next up, Festival got all Cafe Wha? on our asses with their own brand of whimsical wintry folk. While the execution of the songs was a bit stripped down compared to their recordings, they were nonetheless sprawling and enrapturing in sound. The set featured guest appearances by members of JEFF and Lampchop. The latter's William Tyler provided some excellent effect-laden guitar wizardly, taking the set to the next level of cinematic beauty that the palate set forth by the Powell sisters was begging for.
Tyler was not only an ace up the sleeve for Festival, but also for Cortney Tidwell. This was a night in which there was much solidarity between performers and many aesthetic similarities. The same adjectives could describe each set: haunting, melancholy, atmospheric, ethereal. But it was Tidwell who exploited these qualities with the greatest authority. Her set was, simply put, a thing of beauty. At first seeming like the final act in the night's sonic continuum, but culminating in a psychedelic freak-out that went above and beyond the ambition of the earlier performers, providing the perfect catharsis for the restraint that had been the tone of the evening to that point.