The evening was cold and bleak: it was raining in Nashville and the temperatures were coming close to icing over the roads. It was the type of dreary day where you just wanted to stay inside wrapped in blankets by a warm fire. It took everything I had to drag my ass out of the house and into the heart of downtown Nashville to catch one of my favorite bands, Stop Light Observations. It wasn’t as if the desire to attend the show wasn’t there; it just felt similar to leaving a hot shower when the bathroom is freezing… not to mention that Nashville drivers aren’t known for their caution on the roads during inclement weather conditions. Nevertheless, I put on my warmest jacket, grabbed an umbrella and headed down to the High Watt for what would ultimately be the best concert decision I have made this year.
I entered the venue just as the first musician, Palmertrees, was finishing.
I felt genuinely bad for missing his set, but parking around the High Watt is terrible and when the weather is bad, I drive like my 90-year-old grandfather. In an attempt to make up for this mistake, I have been playing his music religiously ever since. His most recent EP, ok,COOL!, is really good and I highly recommend it if you enjoy chill indie rock sounds. Gatlin was up next and although I didn’t really know much about her music, I quickly recognized that I was one of the five million people to stream her smash hit, “Talking to Myself”. It’s definitely an earworm type of song that I find myself humming more often than not. Her set was filled with feel-good indie pop/rock that almost everyone in the venue seemed to know the lyrics to. It felt like a 30-minute sing-a-long and things really hit a peak when she did an awesome cover of the Avril Lavigne hit “Complicated”. My girlfriend says she reminded her of a mix between Sheryl Crow and Maggie Rogers… My lack of familiarity with the catalogs of these artists prevents me from making such a comparison, but what I do know is Gatlin is an absolutely wonderful performer.
Stop Light Observations, in my humble opinion, has always been criminally underrated.
My first experience with them was almost a decade ago, when I stumbled upon a YouTube video for “Smilers of the Night” from their 2013 release, Radiation. They are the type of band where I have a difficult time finding a song they release that I don’t like. And, with three albums over the course of almost nine years, that is no easy task. It always seems like no matter who I show their music to, it’s always rendered instant fans.
The last time I had the chance to see Stop Light Observations perform live was many years ago in San Antonio, Texas and, while I remember it being a great show, Wednesday night in Nashville was something I will never forget. They just about blew the roof off of the building when they opened with their latest single “57Chevy” and didn’t let up. They rocked harder than I could have ever predicted and people went absolutely nuts! For someone who has been to as many shows as I have, I knew they were just hitting another level sonically. It was a performance where everything goes perfectly from start to finish. It’s that extra bit of ‘something’ that certain bands do when you just know they are in a zone of musical greatness… what Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap would refer to as “Going to Eleven”. It was flawless, it was magical, it was the type of experience I haven’t been able to stop talking about with all of my music nerd friends.
The band members were feeling their music just as much as the crowd was, and, at one point guitarist JohnKeith Culbreth even hopped up on the bar to play a few licks from the 1963 Surfari’s hit “Wipeout”. It was amazing! The evening concluded with a two-song encore, the first being an explosive cover of the Black Keys‘ hit “I Got Mine” and finally their own hit “2young”. While it’s still early to tell, of the 20 shows I have attended this year, this was — by far — the best so far. I can’t possibly recommend Stop Light Observations enough! They have a few more dates on this tour left and hopefully a lot more are coming up later this year!
Photography by Derek Jones