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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Melodore alumnus Theo Kandel returns to Nashville for night of feel-good indie pop

Theo Kandel and Kate Yeager jammed out with an intimate crowd of friends and called for gun control in Tennessee.
Sara West
Theo Kandel and Kate Yeager in crossdress clothing at The End, as photographed on April 12, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

Even though Valentine’s Day was many wilted flowers ago, love was in the air at The End as Theo Kandel (‘19) and Kate Yeager were set to take the stage. Kandel pursued his musical interests at Vanderbilt as part of the Melodores.

Kandel and Yeager are still up-and-coming artists, and it was heartwarming to witness so much love from music enthusiasts and other small artists, like Emma Klein, who wanted to show their support for the magnetic duo.

“Kate and I met each other on social media, and now we write together,” Klein said. “She’s so polished, and I appreciate that you can tell every aspect of her performance is so authentic and well-thought out.”

Sophomore Nick Aguilar is one of several Melodores who were in attendance to support their alumnus. Kandel blended in with the crowd prior to the show, hugging and striking up conversations with friends and strangers alike who all came out to support him and Yeager.

“I knew Theo was always a bit of a jokester, but he definitely has a heart of gold,” Aguilar said. “My favorite song from him right now is ‘Half as Cool,’ which kinda went big on TikTok, the one about piña coladas on a boat.”

Yeager began with her song called “A Little More” alone on stage with a guitar in hand and her heart on her sleeve. She belted out self-affirmations on love and compassion after a long history of body dysmorphia that she references in a later, unreleased song entitled “Fat.” During these powerful and emotional ballads, the audience swayed slowly and cheered as her painful lyrics grew from pretty and airy to cathartic cries.

She then switched it up to keep the crowd’s energy up, performing her more popular, lovey-dovey songs including “Are You Sure We Just Met?” and “high school boy of your dreams,” representing the queer love that she stumbled upon during the pandemic.

Finishing off her set with some head-bangers like her angsty cover of “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson, she made her way off the stage for an intermission before Kandel took it away. With no warning, he walked on stage and started with “Half as Cool” and “Moving Slowly” alongside his guitarist Andre Vasconcelos and drummer Joe Ulmer. He went in with a bang with some punk rock vibes complete with an electric guitar solo from Vasconcelos. Kandel said it would be the only intense, rock moment of the night.

For the most part, Kandel stayed true to his promise — he took his time with “How Could Anybody,” a poetic recollection of tumultuously falling in love. He further explores heartbreak in different capacities — ranging from saying goodbye to his childhood dog or using substances to deal with loss — in “Me & All My Friends Have Got the Blues.”

Another cover was in the cards for the night as Kandel performed a magical, vibey version of “Accidentally In Love” from the “Shrek 2” soundtrack. Couples at the show slowly danced while the rest of the audience sang along to the iconic, feel-good tune.

Kandel then took a moment to introduce his new single “Grail Quest” which came out on April 14. The single is part of a three-track project entitled “Somewhere Along The Trail: Volume 1,” including his single “Flight to JFK” which was released earlier this year.

“We recorded these live, just one take in the studio — there are three songs that are going to be a part of this thing,” Kandel said.

The tone shifted a bit as the band left the stage and Yeager came out once again, carrying a bronze, silk, slip-on dress. She handed it to Kandel, and he put it on in protest of the recent legislation that targets queer people in Tennessee.

“There’s been a lot of sh*t going on in Tennessee…that’s why I’m wearing a ‘T3’ on my hand for the Tennessee Three,” Yeager said. “We put this little cover together because I think that Tennessee needs a hero right now, and we’re really lucky to have Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson.”

Kandel and Yeager proceed to perform a moody, sardonic rendition of Bonnie Clyde’s “Holding Out for a Hero.”

“I live in California, so my blue vote means a little less there, but I felt like it was important coming back to Nashville to let people know how I felt,” Kandel said in an interview with The Hustler after the show. “It’s easy for a lot of liberal people that live in liberal states to be like ‘Tennessee sucks’ or ‘Texas sucks,’ but the reality is, people are here working and fighting for what they care about.”

The pair referenced the Covenant School shooting and the subsequent gun control protests downtown organized by Vanderbilt students and March For Our Lives.

Ending on a high note, Kandel finished off the set with “What if it all works out in the end?” and “Elegy,” both inspirational songs accompanied by a dreamy reverb on an acoustic guitar. He reflected on the potential that is yet to come for him, crying out his last few lines of the show in a raspy belt: “Look at the people / they’re all here for you / Singing along.”

The night ended with the two artists meeting their fans at the merch table. I had a heart-to-heart with Yeager and asked her about her biggest inspiration.

“I love love in all of its capacities — my relationships with my family or my friends, my relationship with my partner and myself,” Yeager said.

The good times rolled until closing time when Kandel was embraced by his Melodore brothers as they caught up with each other after his one-year hiatus from Nashville.

“I miss being around a million people that are my age and are down to go out every night,” Kandel said. “Now I’m around five people who never want to go out!”

Always the jokester, even his humor couldn’t mask the palpable charisma that Kandel and Yeager imparted to the audience, as well as their passion for music and issues that are dear to their hearts.

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About the Contributors
Eigen Escario
Eigen Escario, Former Staff Photographer
Eigen Escario ('26) is from Birmingham, Alabama. He is majoring in human and organizational development with a double major in computer science and minoring in business in Peabody College. In his spare time, Eigen enjoys taking ballroom lessons with his friends and handling the livestream for Vandy Ice Hockey.
Sara West
Sara West, Senior Staff Photographer
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
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