by Tanner Rutherford, Alec Cunningham, John Flannagan and Rusty Odom
There’s something rewarding about seeing a band of gypsy punks performing on a stage under a bridge in downtown Knoxville.
Knoxville’s largest music festival had much to offer listeners on the second day, including an incredibly fun Midnight Merry-Go-Round from 90’s collective Teen Spirit, but the International amalgamation that is Gogol Bordello performed what most we talked to described as the finest show in Rhythm and Blooms history. Music all day, food trucks galore, and tasty brews from Yee-Haw all made for an entirely fulfilling Saturday. Here are a few of our favorites from the day.
Dustin Schaefer 3:00 p.m. The Pilot Light
Following the suit of Travis Bigwood on the first day, Dustin Schaefer of Knoxville Powerhouse, The Black Lillies, stepped out on his own to play a set at The Pilot Light. Fans filled the room to the brim as Schaefer played an enthusiastic blend of classic roots rock. Schaefer played with a full band and invited Cruz Contreras and Sam Quinn, friends from The Black Lillies, to sit in on select songs throughout the set. Late in the set, Schaefer and the band played “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty with Contreras on keys and Sam Quinn singing background vocals. The audience ecstatically belted the lyrics along with Schaefer and Quinn, as Schaefer swiveled the mic stand around prompting the audience to become part of the show. Schaefer and company ended the set with an astounding rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”
Jubal 5:45 p.m. Lonesome Dove Courtyard
Local Knoxville Folk/ Americana project Jubal played at the Lonesome Dove Courtyard in the early evening. Led by Taylor Kress and Bonnie Simmons, the duo won over the crowd with their smooth harmonies of old-time folk and their experimental lyrics. Simmons pointed out that they played at Rhythm and Blooms last year but that this was the first time they played at it with more than just the duo: Eric Griffin joined them on electric guitar and Matt Nelson played bass. The duo’s strong presence and flawless harmonies drew in the crowd and had them hanging on every word.
John Paul White 6:15 p.m. Jackson Terminal
John Paul White, former member of the Civil Wars, restarted his solo career in 2016 with the release of his album “Beulah.” White toured through Knoxville, playing at Open Chord in the Fall of 2016 and sold out the room. In his return, White commanded the stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar, his voice and a background instrumentalist and vocalist. The crowd piled to the front and filled in at the back to hear the former Civil War sing his haunting melodies in the echo filled terminal. Fans of thought-provoking singer-songwriter and folk music would have deeply enjoyed White’s musical stylings.
Gogol Bordello 8:00 Cripple Creek Mainstage
Festival Producer (Attack Monkey Productions) blocked off all other venues from 8:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. so that every festivalgoer with a pass could witness Gogol Bordello’s spectacle of a show. As front man Eugene Hütz ran onto the stage, the audience exploded with excitement. While the energy of many shows rises and falls, Gogol Bordello maintained high energy for the entire time slot and so did the audience. Boasting Gypsy Punk stylings, Gogol Bordello seemed just as much like a circus as it did a concert. Hütz sang into the mic with one hand and brandished a bottle of wine in the other. At one point in the encore, Hütz threw a bass drum into the audience and surfed on it while singing. No matter what shows come to pass in the future of the festival, Gogol Bordello will go down as one of the best shows in the history of Rhythm and Blooms.