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Event: Rising Appalachia

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, sister-duo Rising Appalachia performed at Radford University. I purposefully didn’t listen to their music before the show, so I would be surprised by whatever I heard when the concert started. Oddly enough, the music was the least surprising part of the whole experience. Chloe and Leah Smith performed songs with beautiful harmonies and instruments from all over the world (they were much less bluegrass and much more indie-folk) and they interacted a lot with the audience, which was nice. They were proponents of many things, including train travel, environmental consciousness, and fixing the American prison system, and they spoke and sang on all these subjects. My favorite of their songs, “You Don’t Miss Your Water Till Your Well Runs Dry,” which featured only a single acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies, has been played at environmental rallies and protests. Chloe played fiddle but held the bow near the middle and Leah brought out a banjo for a few songs but strummed it like a guitar. They were definitely unorthodox, but very pleasant to listen to.

Now back to the other surprises. First of all, the auditorium in Preston Hall had 1,500 seats. There were no more than 150 people at this concert. That raised a lot of questions about Rising Appalachia and Radford but I did my best not to reason. It made for an intimate show, but I felt for Leah and Chloe, who I’m sure didn’t like looking into a sea of empty chairs. The people that did buy tickets, though, turned out to be big fans. Most people ended up congregating in the front, just below the stage, and danced like the rhythms were flowing through them. They didn’t just dance, but they danced around. Everybody acted like they knew everyone, dancing from one side of the auditorium to the other to say hi to someone. They danced over to watch the live painting that was happening on the floor (someone was painting a picture on an easel before and during the show. It is unclear whether or not they were affiliated with the band). They danced with the expressionless photographer who dressed in all black and carried about four cameras. The show seemed to be a release for a lot of people, who must’ve had a lot of bad energy built up inside and needed to dance it out. A lot of the peculiarities I noticed at this show were probably in large part due to the fact that the night before was T-Pain’s concert. And the differences were monumental. Overall, Rising Appalachia was much less Appalachian than their name indicated. But their music was beautiful and meaningful and called for change. I wish more people had shown up to hear and support them. They certainly gained at least one fan (me).

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