Sometimes the phrase “benefit concert” can be a little disenchanting; conjuring up visions of lukewarm musical acts and heavy-handed pleas from the stage. However, for the packed house at 3rd & Lindsley for Saturday night’s Vanderbilt Trauma Survivors Network benefit, any of those preconceived notions were quickly laid to rest. Gracious co-hosts Susan Sutton and Dr. Bill Riordan put on an awesome night of music that helped raised awareness of the great work they are a part of at VTSN. The evening opened with a short set from the folk-pop duo Handsome and Gretyl. Using acoustic guitars, ukulele, xylophone, shaker and a drum set of only snare, kick drum and tambourine, this married couple created a unique sound that was fuller than can be expected from only two people. They even snapped and whistled during a song or two. They played songs from their Hold On Tight Love EP and also did a nice acoustic cover of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” Gretyl made their performance even more meaningful by sharing her personal story of being a trauma survivor. You can find out more about Handsome and Gretyl at www.handsomeandgretyl.com and you can download some free music from them via Noisetrade at www.noisetrade.com/handsomeandgretyl.
Headlining the evening was Nashville singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken. Showing she’s just as comfortable leading a full band as she is performing solo, Sandra was backed by her husband and musical partner in crime Derek Webb on bass and occasional acoustic, Jordan Hamlin on electric guitar and accordion and Will Sayles on drums. Sandra took full advantage of having a talented band behind her and reached as far back as 2001’s Gypsy Flat Road for the night’s expansive set list. With each song they played, whether rocking through “No More Tears” or providing the gentle pulse of “Lock and Key,” the band did a great job of creating a tasty sonic space for Sandra’s vocals and lyrics to shine in. Sandra and Derek even did a couple of songs just the two of them, including “From You To Me” from their recent release, Tennessee EP, and Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You” from their Ampersand EP. Throughout the night, she even invited a few friends up on stage to sing with her, including co-writer Chris Pelcer on “Best Laid Plans,” Lori Chaffer from Waterdeep on “Can’t Help Myself” and “Storehouse” and Thad Cockrell on “New Wonders.” Sandra and company passionately nailed every song and there was not a dud in the bunch. Some of the highlights for me were the powerful drive of “Justice Will Roll Down” and Sandra and Derek’s dual finger-picked acoustics on “The Tie That Binds.” To cap the evening, Sandra brought Lori and Thad back up to sing with her on a vibrant, full-band version of “In Feast or Fallow.” I think the chorus lyric of “Whatever comes, we shall endure” resonated beautifully with the outlook and mission of the Vanderbilt Trauma Survivors Network and it was an incredibly appropriate closing meditation to the evening. Special thanks to Sandra, Derek, Jordan, Will, Handsome and Gretyl, 3rd & Lindsley, Susan, Dr. Riordan and everyone else at Vanderbilt Trauma Survivors Network for an unforgettable night of music and for the incredibly important work that you all do.
(Photos courtesy of Amanda Hodge)