LaureLive 2018 Complete Coverage
June 21st, 2018
The Laurel School for Girls, in conjunction with Beachwood's The Elevation Group, recently wrapped up the third edition of their hugely popular LaureLive music festival. Occurring throughout the second full weekend of June, the two-day event deemed "Music With A Mission" has become Northeast Ohio's first true music festival that caters to the Indie/Alt crowd as well as the target demo of the girls' school: Teens and Millennials.
Most of the bands are up-n-comers that most of us old folks wouldn't recognize. However, such artists as Daya, Lights, and Noah Gunderson have lit up the Pop charts in many unconventional ways. Their popularity can be measured in digital downloads and Youtube and Spotify streaming services, a far cry from the old days when a record would climb up the charts.
While inclement weather threatened to come at any moment (the skies were gray and imposing most of the weekend) the rain held off except for a few minutes during Cold War Kids' set late Sunday afternoon.
A festival this large is bound to have a few hiccups, and this year's only real glaring problem was the lack of food available on the first day. There were eight food trucks contracted to be at the event, but four of them no-showed on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, this left people desperate for food waiting in lines that ended up resembling old Soviet toilet paper handout days. The wait for a slice of pizza was upwards of an hour. Thankfully, some phone calls must've been made Saturday evening as several more food trucks were on hand Sunday morning. The lines for food on Day Two were much shorter than the previous day. All in all, that was the only real snafu that plagued the event. The rain held and made for a cool, comfortable weekend filled with some great new bands that accompanied a few more well-known established acts.
Primarily a family-oriented affair, a few bands such as Flint Eastwood had no issue with tossing f-bombs from the Medworks stage. I get it; rock and roll has always been about sticking it to the man, but the liberal use of the word "fuck" as a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb has no place within earshot of six-year olds. Maybe I'm getting old, but these ancient eyes noticed several moms in front of that stage moving their offspring away from the tent and out-of-range of the amplifiers where Flint Eastwood was performing.
Spread across the Laurel School for Girls' Novelty, Ohio's sports campus, the three stages offered a rotating gang of artists:
Noah Gundersen, a Washington state native, started the weekend off on the Music Elevates stage on a light Indie/Alt note. His three-piece ensemble included his sister on violin while the 29-year old singer also took duties with his guitar. Although it was early in the day, the crowd gathered in front of the barricade knew him and the majority of the songs he offered up.
Up next was the flaming red-haired Canadian chanteuse Lights. Playing to her faithfuls gathered in front of the Laurel Stage, her forty-five minute set highlighted her young, yet established, career.
Castlecomer, an Australian outfit, set up on the smaller Medworks stage. At the start of their forty-minute set a small crowd was watching. By the end of their set, a formidable audience had gathered to hear them and see frontman Bede and his winsome dance moves. This is one band to keep an eye on; good things are on their horizon.
Joining us from Columbus, Ohio were faves Red Wanting Blue. Making their second appearance at LL, they played a forty-five minute set to a very enthusiastic crowd. Frontman Scott Terry, a doppelganger for actor Jeremy Piven, brought his jazz hands to the main stage and played a litany of the tunes they've become so well-known for since their inception at Ohio University in the late 1990s.
Lauv, a singer/songwriter from the Bay Area, has a large fanbase here in the 216: The majority of his father's family hail from the Cleveland area. It appears that they were all in the large crowd, cheering him on.
The Record Company, an L.A.-based power rock trio, played the Music Elevates stage. Their straight-up Rock and Roll set really amped up the crowd. Frontman Chris Vos grabbed an old-fashioned mic, held it close to his mouth and produced a unique sound that most of the LaureLive gathering hadn't heard before. This is another outfit to keep your eyes on; their sound is interesting and I think folks are getting tired of the Avett Brothers sound that has dominated popular music for the last several years.
Glitter-haired Daya, a Pittsburgh-area singer, sports a beautiful voice but needs to work a little bit on her presentation. Apologizing twice to the audience about her airplane-induced somnambulism, she seemed a little ill-at-ease on the stage. Perhaps it's the new way of dealing with a millennial crowd; her we're-all-in-this-together approach to performing came off less as an informal gathering of people to experience a concert together than it did an I'm-not-ready-for-primetime performance. Hone that stagecraft, Daya and maybe you'll be a headliner someday.
Another LaureLive veteran, X Ambassadors made their sophomore return to the festival. The Ithaca, New York-based rock band came to prominence in 2015 with the singles "Renegades" and "Unsteady," which climbed the charts off their album VHS. Playing a spirited set, frontman Sam Harris showed off some of the best energy of a lead singer at the festival.
Fitz and the Tantrums, a pop band from Los Angeles, brought some of their soulful stylings to the main stage. Frontman Michael Fitzpatrick showed off some of his dance moves while co-lead vocalist Noelle Scaggs kept up with him note for note in the rhythm department. Performing such crowd pleasers as "MoneyGrabber" and"Out Of My League," the outfit took the festival into the twilight hour.
Appearing after dark were headliners Foster The People. Nordonia High School grad Mark Foster left Ohio after high school and headed to California; his dream of musical stardom seemed destined to elude him. After years of struggling with both drug addiction and low-paying, dead end jobs, he formed his namesake band in 2009. Three years later, the outfit won a Billboard Music Award for "Pumped Up Kicks" as Rock Song of the Year. Making a triumphant return to the North Coast, Foster was all smiles as his band barely evaded the weather that had stayed away for the day.
Sunday, June 10th
With cooler temperatures and several more food trucks parked at the perimeter of the stages, Day Two of the third edition of LaureLive started off wonderfully.
Late edition Matisyahu, a White Plains, New York-reared Hasidic/Hebrew beatbox and reggae artist, engaged the smallish crowd at the Music Elevates stage. The day was young and a majority of the Day Two fest-goers still hadn't made it to the campus. His forty-minute set was an interesting mashup of reggae and socially-conscious themes.
Making a return after last year's phenomenal set, Magic Giant played another upbeat and energetic set. Founded in Los Angeles several years ago, this genre-fluid outfit uses percussion, high octane energy and million-watt smiles to entertain their audiences. Imagine a Red Bull energy drink come to life and you've got a fairly good approximation of who these guys are. Frontman Austin Bisnow be-bops across the stage, flitting with the energy of a bumblebee. Percussionist and backup vocalist Zang keeps the tempo with Bisnow, whether by banging on an oversized bass drum or playing any one of a number of stringed instruments. This group may very well be the next big thing; a perennial fave here at LL, their energy is intoxicating and were well-placed as the mid-afternoon band. Call it what it is: They were the fest's version of a five hour energy drink.
New Jersey-based band ARIZONA (I know, right?) took to the Music Elevates stage next. Amir and Justin, two concertgoers from Indianapolis, made the trip all the way from the Hoosier State just to witness this electropop outfit. Their debut drop GALLERY and peaked in the #24 spot on Billboard's Alternative charts. Frontman Zach Hannah has a great voice and the band's sound is fresh. Although less than two years old, ARIZONA should be moving more into the pop culture lexicon if they keep recording tunes such as "I Was Wrong."
Vermont-based jam band Twiddle took the stage next. What can you say? If you're a fan of the Grateful Dead and Phish, then you'll like the intoxicating riffs and extended drum and guitar jams of this '70s throwback.
Stephen "Raga" Marley, son of the late Bob Marley, brought his reggae stylings to the show. A welcome departure from much of the Indie sound that had permeated the festival for much of the weekend, the distinctive island rhythms made for a unique sixty-minute set. Noticeably absent from the set was a tune that his father had made famous and has always been a part of Raga's rotation, "Three Little Birds."
Rag'n'Bone Man might surprise you: His imposing frame and tattooed body and face would lead you to believe he's a cast off paroled from a Texas prison. However, when he opens his mouth and flashes that smile, you know he's a big teddy bear at heart. His voice screams Delta R&B and a hardscramble Mississippi life. But you'd be wrong; he's an Englishman, born in East Sussex. He also is a patron of several charities in England, so don't let the face tats and the "look" give you any pre-conceived notions of this talented singer.
The highlight of this year's fest, judging by the sheer size of the crowd and the reception they received, was Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave. A New Orleans-based outfit, this jazz/rock/fusion band opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their 2017 tour. Mirroring Magic Giant, the amount of energy these guys produced could light a small town for a year or so. Frontman Troy Andrews, known as Trombone Shorty, picked up a trombone, trumpet, guitar, and sang lead on their hour's set. Multi-talented, Andrews led his outfit in a jam session where several instruments shared the spotlight. Think Preservation Hall Jazz Band, only on steroids.
Perhaps the biggest misfire of the night were Cold War Kids. A mishmash of indie sounds and early aughts-guitar work, the band seemed to struggle to enjoy what they were doing. Perhaps it was their position in the lineup; I suppose any band would have a hard time following Trombone Shorty. But, it didn't seem like there was any joy in their performance. Frontman Nathan Willett slept through most of the vocals while bass player Matt Maust hopped around stage with about as much zeal as a bluegill on a line. Their sixty-minute set seemed to drag on without much aplomb.
The last act of the evening and a huge name on the Indie/singer/songwriter circuit is Brandi Carlile. Perhaps best-known for her 2007 single "The Story" and her haunting take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the chanteuse took the stage with her full band. Book-ending her were her twin guitar players, brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who have been her musical partners for seventeen years.
The large crowd, a mishmash of LGBTQ members, "straight"audience members, and families with children, gathered to hear Carlile's music. Her voice, powerful at times and soft at others, seems to speak across every divide. Two of her fans, Deborah and Kellyanne, were pressed up against the barricade, rainbow flag in hand. Their smiles were huge as they swayed to Carlile and company's melodies.
And, with that, LaureLive 2018 came to a close.
Review and Photos by Brian M. Lumley