[image-1] Year three of the Shovels & Rope-curated High Water Festival is off to an epic start — every artist came with their A game; the weather cooperated most beautifully; and once again the most civilized festival crowd ever convened for a magical day that centered around the music. A party was had; a long list of memories already made.
Looking back at Day One, it’s difficult to narrow down the most notable moments since each act arrived to shine as brightly as the April sun, but here’s an impossibly short list nevertheless of some of our favorite moments from yesterday, in no particular order.
1. The War & Treaty: The headliner slot at a High Water in our near future is theirs for the taking
[image-3] This is the second time I’ve caught this husband-and-wife act over the past few months, and they’ve already outdone themselves — I get the feeling that they do this every single day. Their voices reach the sky and their hearts are on full display, receiving the love of the crowd as a blessing. This is their calling: to touch the human spirit, and they do, encouraging the audience to hug one another, summoning more than a few tears. It’s not enough that their combined voices and gorgeous music create special, unforgettable moments — for Michael and Tanya Trotter, there is more work to be done. They want to connect the human race. Between their overwhelmingly kind hearts and soaring, healing songs, the headlining spot at a major festival like this is doubtlessly theirs for the taking.
2. Jenny Lewis: No one was feeling herself more last night
[image-2] Anyone else still fawning over Jenny Lewis this morning? Wearing a sequined pink mermaid-esque dress with faux fur cuffs, Jenny Lewis appears on a pastel platform like a dream. Her stage set is taken from her recent, very Wes Anderson “telethon”-variety show promoting her just-out album, On the Line. While Lewis performs some of the album’s biggest bangers, like “Heads Gonna Roll” and “Red Bull and Hennessy,” she bestows older favorites, too, like “Just One of the Guys” and “See Fernando,” all with the swagger of a woman who knows she’s something to fucking celebrate.
3. Lilly Hiatt: Never before has there been a more apt way to kickstart a festival day
Lilly Hiatt’s performance on Record Store Day is pretty perfect considering she and her father John dropped their own duet album as a special 2019 RSD issue. Her 2017 album Trinity Lane was recorded with producer Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope at the helm, making her presence at ShoRo’s festival a pretty great, personal touch. On the Stono stage as the first act, Hiatt hits at 12:30 p.m. like a firecracker. Her brand of honky-tonk rock ‘n’ roll is just what we need to snap us out of our anticipation of the fest and immediately into the moment itself. It is a momentous thing indeed. Oh, and another hot tip: her drummer today, Kate Haldrup also happens to keep time for former Charleston artist, now Nashvillian Rachel Kate.
4. Phosphorescent: When you’re positive an artist feels as blessed as you do
While Phosphorescent performs, the sun that has left many of us with a temporary festival souvenir slowly begins its descent and it feels like a brand new day. An already packed afternoon of highlights seemingly begins fresh again, and just as we’re counting our blessings thus far, frontman Matthew Houck reveals he’s counting his, too. “This is really nice,” he says repeatedly, in awe of the beauty of our surroundings, and in what Shovels & Rope has created. He’s in Charleston for the first time ever and he and his band make it count with tunes like “My Beautiful Boy,” “Song for Zula,” and the never-more-joyous “New Birth in New England.”
5. Mitski: We need more performance art like this on festival stages, please
Mitski is a certified badass. She establishes that she won’t be speaking during the set, and then reenters the realm she’s created, saying, “OK, I’m going back in.” With a white chair and table on stage, Mitski uses the minimalist setup to bring her music to life, crawling on top of and dancing around the table, for instance, as she stays centered in her own imaginative world for the duration of the set. Performing songs off her incredible, existential album from 2018, Be the Cowboy, Mitski transports us all to a pretty beautiful place. More mesmerizing, musical performance art like this on festival stages, please.
OK Day Two, let’s do this.