( Lights. Photo by : Jackie Osborne Photography! )
Jeff Sweeney is the best. That’s all we really need to say. Here are his thoughts (and believe me, the man only thinks the most brilliant of thoughts!) on his trek to Starry Nights Music and Arts Festival. Young Mary’s Record is thankful to have him - another talented Scorpio! - on our team.
My good buddy Mike Natcher probably said it best, as we were breaking camp on Sunday morning, while surveying the leftover carnage that surrounded us.
“Aw, man… Starry’s over. It’s like the day after Christmas.”
Indeed it was, as BG’s own rock festival had come off mostly without a hitch, even exceeding the lofty expectations of festival curator’s and Cage The Elephant’s sibling nucleus, Matt & Brad Schulz.
“Thank you, Starry Nights. Thank you for being an instrument of humility for us and for being so much more than we could have ever dreamed.”, the brothers stated in a post-festival email.
(Brothers Matt and Brad Schulz. Photo by: Jackie Osborne Photography.)
And that’s what I love about the Schulz brothers and Cage The Elephant, the fact that they’ve stayed humble and remembered where they came from, along with the fact that they rock like banshee’s and aren’t afraid to push the envelope with their songwriting. Which brings us to their participation in Bowling Green’s own ever-growing Starry Nights music festival.
The festival drew somewhere around 5000 excited fans, despite a two year hiatus. The air was electric on Friday as tents went up and the fields around Balance Motocross gradually became a multi-colored hipster community that would consume music, art, food,and whatever for the next 48 hours.
Amongst the music and communal mayhem, Starry had an art wall that Matt had brainstormed, inviting aspiring artists as well anyone not afraid to pick up a paint brush to create freely. Sections of the wall were to be auctioned off for charity; an autism program and the special olympics. My partner from Louisville and I were watching Matt mingle with patrons at the art wall, talking to kids, having their picture made with him, making sure everyone had a brush or paint, clearly having the time of his life.
Starry offered other activities, including hot air balloon rides, disc golf, a rock climbing wall, and “capture the flag”, with the band participating; When asked about their vision for Starry, Matt said, “We want to provide a place where people can have a real communal experience. We hope to actually touch people.”
We stared in awe as darkness fell and a seemingly endless procession of headlights continued to stream through the main gate, winding back out onto the highway towards Bowling Green, as we wondered just HOW MANY people might actually show up.
(Crowd for Buffalo Rodeo. Photo by Jackie Osborne Photography!)
Popular local favorites Buffalo Rodeo kicked off the party around 9:30 and played a solid half hour set. Technology Vs Horse did their typically mind-blowing twisted pop, prompting my friend Denny to exclaim, “I’ve got a new favorite band!”.
We missed Canago for some reason that escapes me, but at midnight, Five Knives from Nashville (featuring ex-Worsties singer Anna Worstel) blew it up at midnight, with a high-energy hybrid of EDM, punk, and rap and possibly the night’s strongest performance. I was asleep when SOMAA played, which is kind of funny, if you think about it…
This blog would be approximately the size of War And Peace, if I went band by band through Saturday’s line-up, since it was comprised of 18 acts. That was 23 bands for $45, if you’re keeping score, a bargain by today’s lofty standards. Space Capone, always a local favorite, brought the crowd to life with their EWF-influenced white-boy funk. Wild Belle was great, as were Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s and the always-dependable Whigs.
(Justin Townes Earle. Photo by Jackie Osborne Photography.)
Justin Townes Earle’s folky set just seemed kind of out of place. The critically-lauded Jeff The Brotherhood’s crunchy minimalist, garage/metal hit the sweet spot, despite technical problems. Manchester Orchestra’s bombastic hard rock was as awe inspiring as it was on the WKU lawn last fall when they opened for Cage. Equally impressive was Portugal The Man, a crowd-pleaser that is stylistically in the same arena as Manchester, ie. both bands are at times reminiscent of Pink Floyd.
(Justin Wilson, Sleeper Agent. Photo By: Jackie Osborne Photography.)
After two hours of Floyd-influenced trippiness, Sleeper Agent jump-started the somewhat complacent crowd with their spirited brand of punk pop, despite some technical issues toward’s the end of their set. Not to be upstaged by anybody at their own party, Cage The Elephant took the stage with flash and flare, Matt Schulz prowling the stage in a pink, ankle-length coat, strutting his stuff and looking more like Mick Jagger than Mick Jagger has in a long time. The coat came off after one song, as there was work to done, and you know what happened next…
The main stage (Big Dipper-get it?) was nothing short of spectacular itself, featuring an awe-inspiring light show that sometimes recalled something from Close Encounters. The sound and overall production was first-class throughout. Kudo’s to C3, Bryan Graves and the rest of the festival organizers for putting on a top-notch event.
The weekend pretty much came off without a hitch, once the weather decided to co-operate, marred only by some mindless idiots who took it upon themselves to vandalize the art wall sometimes late Saturday night, a thoughtless act given the whole exercise was for charity and hopefully damning their Karma through the end of time. Seems like every party has some cretins that don’t know how to function in polite society. Don’t come back, assholes….
There were also some complaints about lax security and some people sneaking in (more bad karma!), but that’s almost to be expected at any event of that magnitude, at least in it’s early incarnation. Everything else went off like clockwork; if anything, a little more time between bands might make for a slightly less hectic flow and allow folks to mingle and take care of biz’ness between sets.
(Starry-eyed folks. Photo by Jackie Osborne Photography.)
The general vibe all weekend was fantastic; the most negative thing that I witnessed all weekend was Matt Schulz’s disappointment as he surveyed the damage to his selfless creation, the art wall. He had a look of sadness and resignation, as if he couldn’t believe any members of this temporary utopia could be capable of such heinous and short-sighted behavior.
At least that somber discovery was offset by the unintentional comedy of site owner John Ballance, as he made parting announcements Sunday morning, dryly reporting lost and found items and resembling nothing so much as the anonymous announcer from M*A*S*H. Apparently, plenty of I.D’s, I-Phones, and I.Q.. points were left behind, scattered amongst the carnage and debris.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying that the Schulz brothers and Cage (along with their successful peers, Sleeper Agent and Morning Teleportation, not to mention the rest of our wonderful local music scene) have put Bowling Green back on the musical map, with Starry Nights being acknowledged as a bona-fide happening in Rolling Stone magazine, along with scores of mentions in various other publications over the last couple of years, insuring another chapter in Bowling Green’s rich musical history.
“…now that Starry has come to life, it’s kinda scary to think about what beauty awaits her in the years to come.”, Matt and Brad said at the end of their letter. “Stay tuned…” Hopefully, it just get’s bigger and better and we don’t have to wait two years for the next installment.
And if it’s any consolation, Mike, Christmas is just a couple of months away…