AmericanaFest grew to nearly South by Southwest proportions this year, with concerts seemingly going on all day long at venues, backyards, and parking lots across Nashville. Heavy hitters were everywhere, like Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker, and the Mavericks, who somehow shoehorned their big band onto two of Nashville’s tiniest stages: the Station Inn and Robert’s Western World. And rising artists, from Che Apalache to Marcus King Band, put in their time, playing gigs in the unrelenting heat of Tennessee’s late summer. Then there was Yola, the U.K. songwriter who all but became a new Americana queen with rapturous performances aboard riverboats and inside breweries. Here’s the 25 best things we saw as AmericanaFest celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Yeti, the en vogue cooler company, put together one chill lineup for their party atop the Bobby Hotel’s roof in downtown Nashville. Kelsey Waldon, the Wood Brothers, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Chris Shiflett all played against a Cumberland River backdrop. Shiflett, the Foo Fighters guitarist turned Americana troubadour, was particularly on fire, leading his band through songs off his latest album Hard Lessons. The political “This Ol’ World” and “I Thought You’d Never Leave” were highlights, with Shiflett parrying with steel player Adam Kurtz during an inspired shred-off. One of many gigs he and the band played during AmericanaFest, it reinforced Shifty’s rep as a performer who can sing, solo, and literally chew gum all at the same time. J.H.