Photos by Alvina Shea and Isabella Appell
As the vibrant neon lights of The Echo begin to illuminate the night, anticipation buzzes through the air like an electric current. The stage is set, quite literally, with an impressive array of musical artillery: a drum set, six distinct electric guitars- a vivid spectrum of red, blue, and brown- and the promise of sonic euphoria lingering in the atmosphere. But this is just the beginning.
The crowd, a diverse mix of music lovers, spanning generations from rock n roll enthusiasts in vintage tees to young girls sporting knee-high boots, indulge in a unique selection of beverages that echo the eclectic spirit of the evening- Lover Boy Lemonade, Skyduster Superdry, and Echoppez Pilsner. These libations set the stage for an exploration of sound and unforgettable melodies.
Beyond the music and drinks, The Echo is a testament to accessibility. With ample space, wide walkways, and conveniently located bathrooms, every concert-goer has the ability to engage in a comfortable and accommodating experience. Most importantly, wheelchair accessibility underscores the venue’s inclusive ethos, welcoming every guest to the night’s festivities.
Opening the night is Nashville-based rock band, Hardcastle. Igniting the evening with a thunderous roar that resonates through the venue, lead singer Graham Laderman’s scratchy voice pierces the air with raw intensity, setting the tone for a night of high-octane music.
Throughout the performance, moments of pure rock ecstasy unfold as Laderman and lead guitarist, Van Hoyt, share an undeniable chemistry, captivating the audience and igniting a collective energy that keeps the crowd on their feet. Laderman’s gritty yet smooth vocals infuse depth and emotion into every lyric. In a climactic moment, he exclaims, “And that’s the truth!”- a testament to the authenticity emanating from the stage.
Hoyt unleashes a massive guitar riff, reminiscent of David Bowie’s legendary sound, and his killer red and white electric guitar becomes an extension of his soul. The anticipation is palpable when the band announces that they are unveiling unreleased music, a sneak peak into what is to come in the upcoming year. As it is Hardcastle’s very first time performing together in front of a crowd of this size, it is a privilege to witness these tracks in their raw, unbridled form.
Adding to the concert’s mystique, the audience is treated to a unique experience as they are asked to put away their phones. Instead, green and purple unplugged lightsaber-like devices light up the crowd, creating an enchanting sea of colors that dances to the music. It is a refreshing change of pace, allowing everyone to fully immerse themselves in the moment without the distraction of screens.
Hardcastle’s performance is a testament to the enduring power of rock music. As their electric set continues to reverberate through the venue, it is now time to shift my focus to the highly anticipated act of the night: The Criticals.
Before taking to the stage, the band takes the time to connect with their fans, snapping photos and sharing laughs, creating a sense of intimacy that will resonate throughout the night. As the anticipation reaches its peak, an eerie yet enchanting entrance song fills the venue, reminiscent of Haunted Mansion music. When the moment finally arrives, the lead singer, Parker Forbes, bursts onto the stage with boundless energy, igniting the crowd’s excitement for what would be an electrifying performance.
In a daring feat, the singer exhilaratingly traverses the sea of fans, riding the waves of their infectious enthusiasm. The accompanying harmonies, effortlessly intertwine with Forbes’ vocals, imbuing each song with a lavish, soul-stirring dimension. As the pinnacle moment, Forbes seizes the mic, cheekily addressing the audience with a provocative, “What the fuck is up everyone?”- an audacious spark that ignites a wild and unforgettable night of music.
The Critical’s performance is nothing short of exceptional. In a spontaneous and endearing move, Forbes reaches out and playfully snatches a pair of glasses from an enthusiastic fan, donning them with a grin.
What truly sets this concert apart is the seamless flow of music. With no pauses or transitions between songs, the audience is enveloped in a continuous wave of sound that allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the music. The band effortlessly shifts from class rock anthems to the silky sounds of smooth rock, showcasing a remarkable versatility that keeps us all on the edge of our seats.
The sheer energy radiating from The Criticals is nothing short of monumental. It is as if the stage itself can’t contain their exuberance, with band members practically colliding as they channel their boundless enthusiasm into their performance. The drummer, Tyelen Gibbs, takes center stage, his thunderous beats pulsating through The Echo, feet tapping in perfect synchrony as the band launches into “Dancing on my Tongue”. The unmistakable opening notes of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” fills the air, creating a delightful fusion of musical genres that has the audience in a frenzy. The mix of sounds is so infectious that it can’t help but break down any barriers, inspiring the audience to join in and sing along. The Criticals, caught up in the electrifying atmosphere, can’t contain their excitement, shouting “Let’s fucking go!”
The band next shares a heartfelt connection between their dedicated fans, reminiscing about their humble beginnings, playing intimate house shows in the heart of Nashville. As a token of their deep appreciation, Forbes grabs a giant flower bouquet and places it on stage with them, a colorful symbol of their gratitude. Amidst this atmosphere of gratitude and love, they launch into a performance of their latest song “Reiba”.
The electrifying journey continues as I begin to ride a psychedelic adventure. The energy in the venue is so intense that I feel as though I am on an auditory acid trip, with each note and rhythm sending waves of exhilaration throughout my body. The Criticals’ ability to seamlessly transition from a soft, soulful ballad into a colossal beat drop is a testament to their musical prowess. Forbes’ voice is a revelation- crisp and raspy, adding a distinctive and raw dimension to the performance. The band’s sound bearing a striking resemblance to the iconic “12:51” by The Strokes, they begin to sing “United States of Chemicals”, capturing the essence of this era’s vibrant energy.
Forbes’ playful gesture of sticking his tongue out makes my heart melt in a moment of rock n roll exuberance. By the time we reach the final tracks, half the band has their shirts unbuttoned, a visual testament to the unconstrained energy they pour into every note. As the last chords resonate through the venue, it feels like I have just descended from a euphoric high, the music’s lingering magic through my veins. Cole Shugart, the lead guitarist, standing before the ecstatic crowd, shares a personal anecdote about their journey to the show, battling car troubles that nearly led to a cancellation. With a triumphant smile, he declares, “We fucking made it baby!”
The concert’s climax is nothing short of sensational, culminating in a mesmerizing performance of “Under Your Nose”. The lead singer begins whispering the lyrics, reaching a pinnacle of emotion as the venue erupts into a cacophony of sound and motion as the band launches into a frenzy of musical brilliance.
For The Criticals’ encore, they grace us with the electrifying “Burn”. In an act of pure rock n roll essence, Forbes leaps into the crowd, igniting a sea of fans who eagerly carry him while singing along. Shugart, equally fearless, unleashes an epic riff that echoes through the venue. With adrenaline coursing through his veins, Forbes hops back onto the stage from the floor, his voice ringing out as he screams the ending lyrics. A perfect testament to this night of rock and roll magic, they give us a glimpse into the future of the genre and a reminder that the spirit of rock is very much alive and kicking.