July 18, 2024

Volapalooza boasts a unique blend of style, sound

The headliners Fitz and the Tantrums bring the house down. Kristen Bright/TNJN

Not only did Friday, April 25, mark the last official day of university classes, it was also host to the annual end-of-year celebratory concert, Volapalooza.

The event featured four acts, each with markedly different styles including country, bayou rock, American roots and neo soul.  Unlike the past several Vola  lineups, though, organizers decided not to invite an electronic artist.

Kristen Bright, sophomore psychology major and Volapalooza event staff member, explained the motivation behind the genre shift.  [quote]“[It was] largely a result of student suggestion and feedback,” said Bright.  “We wanted to go in a different direction to provide more variety to accommodate students’ musical interests.”[/quote]

The show kicked off with a performance by local country duo, Crab Apple Lane, but only after a longer-than-intended improvisational rap set by Volapalooza host, affectionately titled “BT.”  It was unclear whether the lengthy introduction was a result of miscommunication or technical difficulty, but Bright insisted post-show that “the event was very well organized.”

Upon entering the stage, Crab Apple lead vocalist Deena Robbins made a quick dart at BT’s impromptu debut, but transitioned quickly into their latest iTunes single, “Hit the Ground Running.” The pair has been performing together for less than one year, yet managed to deliver a polished set which incited the admittedly small audience to enthusiastic head bobbing and occasional cheers.

The Delta Saints took the stage next, their relaxed stage presence and bare feet already alluding to a shift in tone from Crab Apple’s clean country style.  Sure enough, the group’s performance was a bit like organized chaos.  None of the artists lingered in the same place for more than a few moments, but managed to maintain control of their sound—a grimy blues beat with subtle nods to both Orleans jazz and southern rock.

Knoxville’s own Dirty Guvnah’s followed the Saints, and were received onstage and throughout their performance more fondly even than some of Volapalooza’s past headliners.  The experience gained playing prominent festivals like Bonnaroo and Wakarusa was evident; their intermittent banter kept the audience entertained and responsive.

The evening’s headliner, Fitz and the Tantrums, has risen to prominence with the help of numerous television airings, tours and festival slots—events which host many more attendees than the hardly half-full floor of Thompson Boling Arena.  Regardless, students remained enthusiastic and Fitz appeared unphased by the turnout.

James Lowery, former UT student, returned to campus for the show and was pleasantly surprised by Fitz and the Tantrums, whose new soul/pop music he hadn’t heard prior to Friday.  “I loved the dual vocalists,” said Lowery.  “It was a very energetic performance . . . they have great stage presence.”

Edited by Jessica Carr