With festivals popping up literally around every corner, it leaves little room for any mistakes. Wrong decisions aren’t an option, and a lineup can make or break an entire festival. With so many to choose from around the country, promoters have to scramble to make themselves look “better” than the others. The drivers in an audience’s decision to attend are always who’s headlining? Where’s it at? And, how much? Creating a lineup is the gamble that festivals have to take year after year. And most of the time it pays off. Ultimately the “trophy” to any fest is being the “one” everyone wishes they went to.
PARKLIFE is still considered the new kid in town as far as festivals go here in Atlanta. Can, or should we call this a festival? Sure it has everything that a typical festival would have, the local food trucks, a beer sponsor, and a perceivably good line up. But, what makes PARKLIFE different from all the rest? First, it’s the lineup. It’s obviously orchestrated to blend well and be cohesive, providing an Americana-fueled bill. It’s not like other festivals where you get more variety of genre, but PARKLIFE isn’t meant to be that way either, instead providing a more simplified folk/Americana fest. The founders of PARKLIFE Andrew
Hingley(talent buyer at Eddies Attic), and Bowe O’Brien(talent buyer for Bowe Inc.), create an approach by presenting something that provides a quality of music people will be excited about seeing from start to finish. With only four artists on the bill, it gives the audience a better quality and longer set. A lineup like this, with Jason Isbell, as this year’s festival headliner, and Chris Stapleton, Strand of Oaks, and Natalie Prass as the supporting acts provides something a little more affluent, and a lot more to appreciate. Second, the location. Switching it up this year and moving from Atlantic
Station to an actual green space at the Promenade in Piedmont Park. With this part of the park, it has an attendance capacity of 4,500, leaving a little more room for an intimate feel. You don’t find yourself walking a long ways to reach anything you might need (food, beverage, or a bathroom), or having to make your way to multiple stages to catch a glimpse of other artist’s, or a missed set because of conflicting schedules. Yes, PARKLIFE is by definition a festival. The smaller vibe is what we dig most about this one full day of music. It still gives you that festival feels without any of the pressures that come with going to a multi-day outdoor event. Andrew and Bowe have struck a cord on how to throw a fest without the stress of being at one.
By all standards, this was a perfect day for an outdoor music festival. The weather was perfect, The sun was shining, and the temperature was just right. How else would someone want to spend a Sunday, other than in a park listening to live music?
Natalie Prass, a singer-songwriter from Richmond
Virginia, was the only female on the Americana/folk bill. Prass graced the stage with her rather cool James Dean appearance. Adorning oversized cat-eye framed sunglasses, and all black attire. Natalie’s sound has a 50’s style soulful vibe about it. It was a
great beginning to the day. Her voice is soft and sweet that has you attend to her rather somber lovestruck lyrics. With her soft-hearted voice, you would expect it to get lost amongst the backing band, but it doesn’t. Each instrument wraps itself around the soft cords of her voice without shattering it. Her songs are like lullaby’s of pain and suffering, and her voice is the soothing melody to calm your fears. Natalie is currently promoting her long overdue, self-titled album (Spacebomb Records,2015) that took three years to release. Prass took that stage without any fear of people not wanting to love what she was singing. It’s easy to want to love her music with songs like, “Violently”. Natalie’s songs invoke a familiar sound to
them. That’s the beautiful part about it; it will always remind you of something that you’ve heard before, but setting itself apart at the same time. She blends genres together, like songs “Your Fool” layering 50’s soul with a touch of jazz, and a hint of rock and roll to back it all up with her singer-songwriter lyrics that accompany a sound that’s all her own. She ultimately highlights everything that is right about the rich history of American music.
Philly-based Strand of Oaks took the stage and brought one of our favorite sets of the day. Opening with the title track from his recently
released album HEAL (Dead Oceans, 2015) Tim Showalter, immediately brought exactly what the day called for; some good old rock and roll. Strand of Oaks brings us songs that are powerful that most of us can relate to in some way or another. He’s a storyteller through song, and we were happily listening to him sing his lyrics. HEAL’s an apparent departure from the sound of his previous three albums and delivers a more powerful classic rock vibe, and parts away from the folk/singer-songwriter. Tim’s gritty voice gladly accompanies a heavier intensified drum, with a backing of synth, and boosting guitar delivering a more powerfully rich, and emotionally fueled song. HEAL‘s an obvious rebirth for Tim, singing about healing from
past tremolos situations and moving on from them. Strand of Oaks has found a sound that truly works for him; this couldn’t be any more apparent than watching him perform. Tim was grinning from ear to ear as the crowd listens to him spill his guts while on the stage with songs “Shut In” and “Wait For Love” delivering a powerful and intense performance for each. It’s his honesty and putting everything he’s got out there for everyone to see that makes Tim’s music truly exceptional. Strand of Oaks is a genuine pleasure to see live, and Tim Showalter is a damn good musician!
Chris Stapleton is not new to this business and has been around for many years in the shadows, writing instead of being in the spotlight. 2015 is Chris’ breakout from the dark and into that spotlight. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you are about to. Having picked up an accolade of awards and recently The CMA’s New Artist of the Year, Best Male Vocalist, and Album of the Year for his recently released Traveller (Mercury Nashville, 2015). Chris in some way has worked with almost everyone that has come to Nashville, Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Adele, Deirks Bentley, And Luke Bryan to name a few. Having written over 150 songs with six number one hits, he’s already established himself as a damn fine songwriter, and
now is his time to become the shining star as a musician. Chris took to the stage as the sun was setting, accompanied by his wife and the rest of his band. Stapleton’s music clings to the country roots of music when he belts out the verses to his songs. As Chris sings you can’t help but hear a little Eric Clapton from his Slowhand album, or a little Stevie Ray Vaughn. Stapleton, just like Clapton, and Stevie has that ability to mix and layer genres of music without overshadowing any of them. Chris’ music melds rock, soul, R&B and country so well in his music; it’s hard for anyone not to want to love it. Chris asked the crowd if they were fans
of George Jones and treated us to his version of “Tennessee Whiskey.” Stapleton slows down the tempo with his Soulful, bluesy, R&B rendition. You soak up every note from each lyric that Chris is belting out. Stapleton left the crowd rather awestruck with just how good the music is. The quality of his writing matches how great his live set is. He truly is a showman, and his music deserves the notable recognition it’s producing.
As the cool of the night was starting to set in, and noticing the crowd had grown ferociously since stepping onto the lawn earlier that afternoon.
People were ready to see what they came to PARKLIFE for; This would be Jason Isbell’s first headlining show in Atlanta since 2013 while promoting his last critically acclaimed album Southeastern (Southeastern Records, 2013). As Jason made his way to the stage, the crowd exploded. He dove right into his set with “Palmetto Rose” off his most recent album Something More Than Free (Southeastern Records, 2015). Isbell’s music is always honest. He scratches away at the layers of his songs to reveal himself. Jason’s music brings subtle qualities of alt-country and Americana with influences of southern rock.
Southeastern was the album to face his demons while Something more than free is the healing, and being able to move on from it. Isbell works the crowd with songs from new, and old albums that the audience doesn’t hesitate to sing right along with him with like “Alabama Pines” from Here We Rest (2011, Lightning Rod Records). It’s no doubt that Jason can work a crowd, and deliver a set list with his fans in mind, and knowing just what they want to hear like “Cover Me Up,” “24 Frames”, and “Dress Blues” to name a few. Isbell, simplifies himself in his songs, and on stage. There’s nothing fussy up there to get in the way. No crazy lighting
or props to distract you. It’s simply him, and his band playing their hearts out for you to listen to. It’s about the music and the stories that go with it. Just listen to the songs and you might just get swept right up into them. As Isbell ends his set its no doubt that people are happy with the outcome. Jason’s fans are loyal to the core and know the lyric of every song, and he appreciated every second of the help he was getting on stage from the crowd.
PARKLIFE closed its evening out successfully. Andrew and Bowe brought a pleasant experience
to the attendee. The more intimate feel and not approaching it as true fest makes it more of a series, or sessions show. Festivals aren’t for everyone and can be rather stressful. PARKLIFE provides something that anyone can attend, and that’s where they have won over other festivals. We can’t wait to see what PARKLIFE has in store for the follow-up!