The Paper Kites are back ‘By Our Sides’ at The Basement East

With new releases and old hits, Australian indie folk band The Paper Kites made an appearance in Nashville for the first time in years.


Jaylan Sims

Christina Lacy singing to the crowd during The Paper Kites’ on-stage performance, as photographed on Sept. 23, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Jaylan Sims)

Isabella Bautista

“Good evening, Nashville!” Sam Bentley, lead vocalist and guitarist of The Paper Kites, exclaimed. 

Though he is never sparing with his lyrics, Bentley seemed like a man of few words at first. But throughout The Paper Kites’ performance at The Basement East on Sept. 23, the straight-faced front Bentley shared with the rest of the band slowly melted to reveal his engaging, people-loving and funny interior. For the first few songs, the only expression on the musicians’ faces was passion, betrayed only by an occasional smile that hinted at genuine enjoyment of performing in Music City. In some ways, their heart-wrenching performance was more like a basement jam session than a staged production.

Despite going to school in Nashville, this concert was my first ever. The Basement East provided the perfect amount of intimacy for the soft indie folk music of The Paper Kites (Kites). I’ve played in many musical ensembles before, but the energy that seared through the room when bass guitarist Sam Rasmussen struck his first chord was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. 

From the third row in the audience, you can feel everything: the harmony of voices causing all four walls to vibrate, the excitement of people around you as they erupt into thunderous applause before and after every song and the heartbeat of the bass drum that seems as if it is one with yours. Everyone in the audience, young and old, swayed back and forth to the easy, steady rock beat that persisted in a mix of powerful and woodsy.

Nashville native Bre Kennedy opened the show for the Kites with her best friend, Hadley Kennary, who accompanied her on vocals and keyboard. Kennedy also later joined the Kites on stage for a song at Bentley’s invitation. She told the crowd, “I feel lucky to be home playing here in Nashville… hello home, nice to see you.” Evidently, Bentley felt the same way. Between songs, he said he has “been dreaming many years about coming back here… it’s a big deal.” He added that he loves how everyone in Nashville seems to be a musician, evoking a light chuckle from the audience that proves it’s true. 

Bre Kennedy humming on stage as she prepares to sing with Sam Bentley, as photographed on Sept. 23, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Jaylan Sims)
Bre Kennedy humming on stage as she prepares to sing with Sam Bentley, as photographed on Sept. 23, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Jaylan Sims)
(Jaylan Sims)

I can attest to that fact: Just before the Kites took the stage, I had a few conversations with strangers around me about the instruments we play. The man in front of me had been playing the saxophone for 18 years, and the person next to me told me she loved the kalimba, an African thumb piano—one of the instruments I play.

The highlight of the concert was the connection between the musicians and the audience. “By My Side,” from the band’s most recently released album “Roses” emphasized this connection. Before the background instrumentals kicked off the song, Bentley gave the audience a brief music lesson: With the accompaniment of Christina Lacy on the keys, he had everyone practice the tune of the lyrics “By my side” which repeats intermittently throughout the song. Needless to say, the Nashville crowd loved it–you could even hear some people adding harmonies–and by the looks on their faces, the band loved it too.

Before playing “Green Valleys,” Bentley told the audience that other artists like to take their crowds on an emotional roller coaster throughout the concert. “We don’t like to do that,” he said, “we just like to take our audience deeper and deeper to a place of sadness and self-reflection,” which they certainly did. 

The crowd seemed more focused on soaking up the music—faces uplifted toward the stage—for the first half of the set list, but when Bentley and backup vocalist Lacy launched into the duet “For All You Give,” many couldn’t help joining in. “You’re beautiful!” shouted an audience member when Bentley and Lacy finished. “Paint” and “Bloom,” 2013 hits, elicited cheers throughout the room. Bentley admitted he has had to lower the key of “Bloom” over the years because he could no longer sing as high as he once could. 

Not everyone gets the opportunity to attend their first concert (or any concert, for that matter) in Music City. The Paper Kites’ ability to personally engage with all of their fans made me feel like I was home again in the Pennsylvania suburbs, not in one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Thank you, Sam Bentley, for letting us Nashville musicians be a part of this concert.