LaureLive 2019 Complete Coverage

June 23rd, 2019

The fourth incarnation of the Laurel School for Girls and Beachwood's The Elevation Group's LaureLive came to a conclusion late Sunday evening as headliner Sheryl Crow took to the main stage, capping off a two-day fest chock full of great music, beautiful weather, and the best cuisine that Cleveland's food trucks have to offer.  A total of thirty bands, comprised of some local talent, up and coming musicians, and bona fide stars, all took to the festival's three stages.Saturday evening headliner Hozier played to a crowd comprised of primarily younger people; LaureLive was created as a means of supporting the many acts that appeal to the teen and early twenties audience.  Sunday's headliner, Sheryl Crow, brought in an older and, subsequently, smaller crowd than Saturday's.

Saturday started with a few local acts; JD Eicher kicked everything off at 1:00 on the main stage, followed shortly by Julia Thompson.  Both singer/songwriters, they played rapid fire thirty-minute sets.  

Up and comer The Blue Stones, a Windsor, Ontario-based duo came up next. Their bluesy rock sound is something to keep your eyes on; they have a fresh sound that should take them places.

Most of the tween and teen set squarely planted themselves next in front of the main stage where Alec Benjamin, a twenty-something singer, saddled up.  I'd never heard of him before and, truthfully, he didn't look a day over fifteen, but the largely young female audience loved his set.

Next up, the Mexican flamenco duo Rodrigo y Gabriela played an eclectic mashup of classical and rock sounds.  Their dueling guitars made up for a fresh, mid-afternoon acoustic set, sans any vocals.  They're perhaps best known to American audiences for their work on the 2011 Disney megahit Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Dennis Lloyd, an Israeli musician, brought an international flair to the proceedings. His forty-five minute set was well-received by the growing crowd.

MisterWives played the secondary stage right around suppertime; their pop grooves were punctuated by front woman Many Lee's choreography.  Resembling a young Gwen Stefani, she bee-bopped back and forth across the stage. This is a band to keep an eye upon; they last played Cleveland when they opened for Panic at the Disco! a few years back at the Wolstein Center.

Way up front on the smaller stage were Youngstown-based The Vindys.  Primarily a cover band, this outfit has been getting a lot of traction over the last few years.  Their front woman, Jackie Popovec, has a set of pipes that need to be heard to be believed.  This is a red hot little band and they're going to blow up big...soon.  Watch for it.

Interestingly-monikered Moon Taxi next played the main stage.  Their mashup of standard rock, bluesy pop, and country made this outfit perhaps the biggest standout of the first day.  You have to wonder if a name like that will hold them back; they have a lot of talent, but their name signifies a lighter weight effort.

Alternative/ska and Huntington Beach-based Dirty Heads were up next on the secondary stage.   Their ditties have an infectious sound; performing a seventy-five minute set, they killed with the twenty-something set that had crowded tight against the barricade.

Finally, Irish singer Hozier took the main stage right at dusk.  The lilt in his voice, backed by a crackerjack band, was what the audience had gathered for throughout the day.  The lawn was packed as the singer performed a ninety-minute set.

Other bands performing on the first day included The Dead Licks, Rebounder, Northern National, and The Suitcase Junket.  

The offerings on the second day were just as eclectic as the first.  Starting a little earlier than day one, The Shootouts performed on the secondary stage. Doc Robinson took to the main stage a half hour later, followed by Caroline Jones, a new and noteworthy  Country singer.

Castlecomer, another outfit to keep an eye on, played the main stage.  This is their second year at LaureLive, graduating from the front stage to the much larger main stage.  Hailing from Sydney, Australia, their power guitar anthems, punctuated by frontman Bede Kennedy's swagger, made this band the most fun band of the entire two day gathering.  Kennedy has the moxy of Jim Morrison, the likability of Heath Ledger, and the showmanship of Freddie Mercury, and I don't use those comparisons lightly.  This is an outfit that played almost ten shows in three days at SXSW; people love them, and there's a reason for that.

Nashville-based ingenue Emily Hackett took to the front stage for brisk forty-five minute set.  Her smile, a million-watter, matched her vocal ability.  This is one artist, amongst a saturated blend of Country singer/songwriters, to watch for over the next few years.

Local heroes Red Sun Rising took to the secondary stage after Castlecomer's set.  Frontman Mike Protich really knows how to hold court in his hometown.  Although the band has underdone several personnel changes over the last few years, they sound better than ever.

Coin, an indie pop trio, was founded in Nashville in 2012.  Their following is rabid; I met two young fans who drove from southern Indiana to see them. It was their fourteenth time seeing the outfit led by Chase Lawrence.

Usually, my ear plugs are used to stifle the unquantifiable decibels emanating from the amps less than two feet from my skull.  In the case of pop band AJR, consisting of three brothers (Adam, Jack and Ryan) the eardrum shattering noise was coming from behind me as the throng (and I do mean throng) of teenage girls screaming, clapping, and snapping selfies, was overwhelming.  I don't know how long the band's shelf life may be, but judging upon their reception, they may be around for some time.

Lake Street Dive, a band formed in the same milieu as The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, et al.  This quartet's bluesy, Americana mix went over well with the growing crowd, gathering in anticipation of the Sheryl Crow performance that was coming up in a few hours.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, a returning act hot off of last year's LaureLive performance lit up the crowd yet again.  Their brand of bluesy funk was imported from post-Katrina New Orleans; the large band electrified the stage with their seventy-five minute set.


Lastly, legacy act Sheryl Crow took to the main stage.  Crowding around the barricade were a motley assemblage of concertgoers: A large group of teens, attached to their parents; unaccompanied minors looking to hear a legacy act; hundreds of beer-swilling millennials; among them a handful of oldsters like myself.

Crow sounded tired; her performance wasn't very inspiring.  It felt as if she was collecting a paycheck and didn't have the energy of a headliner; especially after following such a high-energy outfit like Trombone Shorty. 

Also performing on the second day were Ashley Fulton, The Furies, Front Porch Lights, and Clubhouse. 

And with that the fourth edition of LaureLive came to a close.  The festival keeps growing each year; in fact, it's become so large that it's outgrowing the Laurel School's sports campus where the event has been held since its inception.  Promoters The Elevation Group are looking for a larger venue for the next several years.  While the name and venue may change, the future looks very bright for this festival, the area's only true popular music festival.

 Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley

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