Green grass, camping chairs, blankets, three vendors, scores of people, two musicians, and one big stage.
This was the setting for the concert I was able to catch over the weekend. If you’ve spent much time in Jackson, TN, you’ll know that the Casey Jones Amphitheater, located on the grounds of the famous Casey Jones Village, is a great place for music and community gatherings. On Friday, April 10th, a benefit concert was held for Area Relief Ministries (ARM); the concert was sponsored by the Students of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) from Union University. Vendors for the concert included local favorites Reggi’s BBQ, Jet’s Pizza, and Maggie Moo’s. Being a Union alum and having a best friend who is a SMACS alum, I was glad to support a non-profit, catch up with friends, and enjoy a nice night outside.
But, being that this is a music blog and I go to concerts religiously, this post is about the musical performance and the band that traveled all the way from Indiana to play: Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery.
Going into the concert, all I knew about Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery was that they were described as “Indie folk rock music” by the event’s Facebook page. Knowing that “Indie folk rock music” could mean sounding like anything from Iron & Wine to Bearfoot to The Lumineers, I pitched my camping chair as close as I could and prepared to expect the unexpected.
I certainly did not expect to see just two men with a drum set, a guitar, and a mic in the middle of a stage that could probably fit a hundred people. I did not expect them to start off with a song named after one of my favorite authors, Jack Kerouac.* And I did not expect the two men to be brothers, as they revealed toward the end of the show: Joshua and Jacob.
The set was divided into two parts, with a brief intermission in the middle. Joshua Powell shared stories and musings between each song, even explaining the dangers of drone usage and quipping that his mom wouldn’t like him to talk about politics. Powell also gave the song title before each song, a gesture that I appreciated not only for future reference but also because several titles were homages to literary figures. Sign that you love Russian lit number one: you name a song “Leo Tolstoy.” Check. Sign that you love Russian lit number two: you name your new album “Alyosha” after one of Dostoevsky’s three Karamazov brothers. Check.
Perhaps it’s a bit ironic that, for a songwriter who obviously loves classic books, Joshua Powell named one of his pieces “I Ran Out of Words.” But the song expresses the faith that running out of words can result in a spiritual connection, a better understanding of God, and “I Ran Out of Words” proves that sometimes language falls short of personal experience. Looking back, “I Ran Out of Words” stuck out to me as one of the most beautiful and relevant songs I have heard live.
I took a brief video of an interlude in the “I Ran Out of Words” live performance that can be viewed on my Instagram.
In spite of the big stage/small set-up dichotomy, Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery performed with energy and enthusiasm. After the show, Joshua and Jacob greeted fans at their merch table and gave away stickers. The two were humble and friendly, and I was glad to meet them.
You can learn more about Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery on their website here.
And, finally, here is a much better quality photo of the band courtesy of their website (my phone does not have this kind of ability):
*I wrote a paper on Jack Kerouac’s poem “Desolation Blues” for my poetry class in college even though my professor told me that Jack Kerouac was not a “real” poet. I know. My acts of rebellion are terrifying.