A dynamic night with Blake Rose in Nashville

Over the last few years, rising indie pop artist Blake Rose has been steadily making his mark across the world. A gifted vocalist hailing from Perth, Australia (now residing in Los Angeles, California), Rose constructs compositions around his emotionally empowering lyrics, using combinations of synthesized and acoustic orchestrations alongside a myriad of self-produced melodic soundscapes that keep drawing listeners back to his creations. Beginning with his hit “Hotel Room” back in 2018, he quickly gained a following on social media platforms. Then, with the release of his single “Gone” in 2020, his success subsequently launched him to unimaginable levels. 

Following a marathon month of The Suddenly Okay Tour (named for his newest album Suddenly Okay that dropped this year) throughout North America, Rose made a stop at a definitive Nashville, Tennessee venue, The End, to bring his genre-defining sound to the Music City. This is Rose’s first-ever headlining tour; with country artist Max McNown as the night’s opening act, attendees of all backgrounds and interests came together for seamless contrast and incredible joy.

McNown awed the crowd with his folk-resembling songs, including a heartfelt piece written for his brother after he overcame cancer a couple years prior.

There was barely a dry eye in the room. Shortly after, he launched into a cover of Noah Kahan’s “Stick Season”, which drove the crowd wild. The opening set concluded with McNown’s country ballad “A Lot More Free”, a fan-favorite that has gone viral with tens of thousands of audio reposts on multiple social media platforms. Rich sounds from dual acoustic guitars complemented McNown’s storyline lyrics and vocal distortion to create one of the most iconic, emotionally drawing sounds in the 21st Century country genre.

After McNown warmed up the crowd, Blake Rose took the stage and began with some lighthearted crowd work; something that seems to be growing sparse in live music from prominent artists these days. Rose showed genuine appreciation to every person in the room, often interacting with them throughout the show through anecdotes, questions, and responses. Even more impressive is that it felt as though space for this connection had been budgeted into the allotted time, as the banter and 16-song set concluded within a perfect hour. 

Once the onlookers felt welcomed, Rose began his time with “Rollerblades (A World Gone By)”. The room filled with the staccato notes of an electric guitar, while warm vocals and various percussion overlaid with iconic 80s reverb joined with pop synth melodies. The room shook with the movement of strangers dancing together as Rose continued with a few more pieces reminiscent of popular 2010s groups such as The 1975 — but with an immensely refreshing alt rock twist.

“Heavy Shit” brought on an unexpected turn near the halfway point of the night.

Strong pop rock undertones alongside the deep, full sound of brass and strings in pronounced thirds faded into a belted bridge backed by a sole beat; this effectively created a dance masterpiece that you couldn’t help but move to. A ballad marked the middle of the experience, “Sweet Caledonia” off 2021’s A World Gone By, showcasing Rose’s multi-instrumental talent through a beautiful piano melody, utilizing major chords with just enough dissonance to evoke that ‘main character’ feeling in everyone watching. The room itself was almost silent as soft drumlines joined in and grew, with a break at the bridge that seemed to drop back into said silence. The following explosion of sound was perfectly paired with dramatic lighting shifts at the front of the house. 

The night started to wrap with “Suddenly Okay”, the namesake of both Rose’s newest album and the tour itself. Snare and amplified acoustic guitars, paired with multiple vocalists singing in unison, rings in the stomp-and-clap tune, melodically different from Rose’s past releases — a refreshing shift in the night’s musical lineup. Played at the end of the hour, a new personal favorite “Hotel Room” was the one that put Blake Rose on the map years ago. An anthem on broken relationships, this piece showcases a simple guitar line over a sultry backbeat that takes you back to the era of smooth 90s R&B… just with a heavier rock twist. Transitioning into the bridge, the instrumentation gave way to pure percussion, emphasizing the drum cadence against the lyrics, while the lights shifted for dramatic scenery and a fully immersive moment. During this section, Caleb Hulin, Rose’s bass player, joined Rose onstage in playing their respective floor tom in a style similar to ODESZA’s live drum line.

Rose managed to break a drumstick in the process, passing it off to grateful fans when the song concluded. 

An artist that can successfully intertwine elements of multiple genres into their own work to create something unique with every song is a rare commodity; Blake Rose has managed to do just that. With stylistic similarities to rock, folk, melodic EDM, synth pop, R&B, and more, Rose has managed to produce music enjoyed by all. His Nashville performance combined original soundscapes, captivating lyrics, dynamic lighting, and intimate audience interaction for an immaculate display of what live music is really about. 

Photography by Abbey Matheny

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