Fall Line Fest debuted in Richmond this past weekend with concerts across four venues, food specials at several restaurants, and art showings across the city.
Fall Line Fest debuted in Richmond this past weekend with concerts across four venues, food specials at several restaurants, and art showings across the city. Richmond’s tried for a while now to get a music festival of sorts going, but none of them turn out successful. RVA Music Fest started (and ended in 2011) and while it had some detractors and complaints, I think the general consensus was that it was a step in the right direction.
Sadly, the event’s second year was cancelled and Sound City RVA followed back in August, but drew a very disappointing crowd and left some people with a bad taste in their mouth.. So when Fall Line Fest was announced, skepticism seemed to run high initially. As the festival weekend got closer and closer though, it seemed that this might just be something different, something worthwhile, and something that might finally stick.
Friday night, I arrived at The Camel and to be completely honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone did either. From the crowd size to punctuality to the band’s performances, anything could have happened and honestly anything could have gone wrong. Venture Richmond’s Stephen Lecky was thanklessly running the show at The Camel and his nerves spelled out the uncertainty going in.
“Right before we started, I was at a 10 on the stress level. Just maxed out” Half-way through the night, he did say he was “right around a 7” as things were running smoothly. “My phone’s not blowing up so you have to take that as a positive, you know?” Stressed or not, Lecky had a great attitude about the event which probably goes back to the group’s mindset about the event.
“[We] expect to lose money our first year. It’s just going to happen. It’s a big leap of faith and one that’s really worth it.” Leap of faith seems right, but it doesn’t stop the mind from wanting bigger & better things. “This year, we’ve got four venues, but there’s so many more out there. I really just want us to be up and down the city with shows at all venues. Who knows? Maybe we can get big enough to shut down a street, put up a big stage, and have it be the center of the event.”
As more and more hopeful attendees entered the doors with wrist bands already on and printed schedules scribbled with notes, it seemed the stress & uncertainty of the night was ebbing and an exciting buzz was starting to form in the crowd. Fall Line Fest was in full swing and Lecky’s vision of a city wide event for next year didn’t seem so farfetched.
Opening up the night was James Wallace & The Naked Light. Wallace, originally from Richmond but now residing in Nashville, definitely still has a connection to the city. From having Matthew White produce his stuff to being signed to Richmond’s own Dialog Records, he may fill out Nashville on a return address, but Richmond’s still home.
The band started things off Fall Line Fest at The Camel with a set that was, simply put, spectacular. Maybe thirty seconds into their set (full of songs from their debut album More Strange News From Another Star released earlier this year), you realize just how much this five piece unit loves music. Everyone was mouthing along the words even when it’s just Wallace singing, everyone was moving to the music even as it slowed down, and some were about to jump out of their skin as the groove intensifies.
Wallace controlled the pace of the set so beautifully that when the band dropped out and it was just him remaining with his guitar and voice, the crowd was hanging on every last note that escaped from his amber beard. Wallace’s stage presence has to be mentioned as it is positively captivating, but in a reluctant & innocent way that creates the most unlikely contrast with the music. As Wallace crooned (sometimes in to a telephone mic for an lo-fi effect), the band members behind him with cracked smiles.
These are people who’ve probably heard these songs hundreds of times by now and are still as captivated by the songs and Wallace as much as we are. It’s easy to see why Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes calls Wallace one of her favorite live acts. This was how to start off Fall Line Fest in the best manner possible and I implore you all to go out and grab More Strange News From Another Star, if only for “Worse Things Have Happened.”
As more people arrived at The Camel, San Fermin came on next to deliver another set that just roped the entire audience in. I was pretty hesitant about this band at the least. The band is the work of Ellis Ludwig-Leone and whenever one man’s behind it all, I always wonder about the live show featuring a touring band. It could honestly go either way.
Their debut single “Sonsick” is an amazing composition that is getting some due, but not nearly enough and featured powerful vocals from Holly Laessig (of another amazing band Lucius) so I didn’t quite know how Rae Cassidy would match up. To say she did the song justice would be an understatement and judging by the cheers from the crowd as she hit the crucial notes of the arrangement, the song was no longer Holly’s (sorry Lucius).
Throughout the set, Rae, along with vocalist Allen Tate, delivered powerful vocal performances that could have relaxed the most troubled soul or awoken the most peaceful. As the band performed songs off their debut record (that’s out next week and already getting strong reviews), the best part was watching the faces of the people coming through the door’s late as it quickly went from excited to disappointed for having missed the notes that Cassidy or Tate were lording over the melodies.
It happened a lot more as the night went on and did for Wallace too, but I don’t think I’ve seen the “fear of missing out” so perfectly displayed as those four girls who walked in near the end of “Sonsick.” Those girls stayed on the floor the rest of the night. They weren’t missing one second more of The Camel’s version of Fall Line Fest.
Third up that night was Richmond’s own The Southern Belles who got a great reaction from the crowd. Richmond has tons of bands, but unit by unit, I don’t think there’s a better musically gifted group out there. Any one of these band members seems like they could just slide into Eric Clapton’s backing band and fit in probably better than those people who’ve been there for years.
Musically gifted aside, the quartet is just so damn fun to watch. The rhythm section of Zachary Hudgins on bass and Raphael Katchinoff on drums are so damn fine-tuned that it’s almost like watching robots with musical souls go to work. Barefooted Tommy Booker can’t escape my enjoyment either as he cracks grins that just can’t be hid as the jam really sets in. Of course, front and center, Adrian Ciucci’s fingers twirl around like a magician as his curls bounce around like they’re instructing the crowd how to dance.
Trust me, the crowd danced too. Oh, how they danced. Many a party foul graced the floor within the first three songs of the band’s thrilling set. The Belles came out to show everything great about the Richmond music scene in about an hour set sandwiched between visiting bands that were stealing glances here and there of with some incredulous expressions. So many wild things have been said to describe The Southern Belles’ music and live shows and it’s all true.
It’s like watching a honky-tonk band fight a blues band while George Clinton as the referee. That’s the best I can say too. If someone out there can describe the Belles’ music in less than words than “Oh my god, they melted my face,” I invite you too. Floor is yours.
Maybe five-to-ten minutes after the Belles left the stage, the crowd started to grow and grow. Very quickly, the Camel was near capacity with a group that had staked out their spots on the floor and weren’t going to move into the headliner came on.
As Kopecky Family Band took the stage to start their set (earlier than advertised too), I think even they realized how big the crowd had gotten and how we looked like kids on Christmas day while we waited for them to start their set.
The six piece “family” left everything on that stage from start to finish and I don’t know one person who didn’t leave there knowing they something truly unforgettable. With any music festival, there’s going to be some sacrifices as to who you see and who you don’t, but if you didn’t catch Kopecky, you missed what was surely the best set of the whole weekend.
“Heartbeat” left the set fairly early for the song Kopecky is most known for, but the crowd’s interest only grew more and more with each song. Whether it was Gabe Simon attacking the mic with vocals (and then trombone) during “My Way” or the tribal-esque groove the band found themselves in during a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk,” practically everything anyone has ever written about the band was completely justified and probably a little understated. Kelsey Kopecky engaged the crowd with quips here and there to keep the crowd hooked on their charm like a drug. “We should do this again sometime,” she proclaimed as the band finished “Are You Listening,” a song she invited us to “wet [our] whistles” on.
They screamed, they crooned, and then even climbed up the walls with instruments. Half-way through the set, it looked like a musical fight was going to break out to see who was the most intense on stage. I couldn’t even tell you who would have won because every last member of the Kopecky Family Band added something different, unique, and powerful to each and every song that had Richmond on cloud nine. You couldn’t ask for a better closure to the first night of Fall Line Fest at The Camel. You couldn’t ask for a better set period.
I don’t know how you could call Fall Line Fest anything but amazing if you attended The Camel Friday night. For a Richmond show to start relatively on time and end five minutes early alone is a miracle, but I don’t remember the last time there were four bands with this much talent and these great of sets in a row in Richmond. Fall Line Fest was a success from this concert-goer’s eyes in every way from the bands, crowd, and the venue. I don’t ask for much, but God, I hope this festival comes back next year bigger and better.