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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.

Noah Kahan brought his ‘Northern Attitude’ to Nashville

Noah Kahan brought special guests Gregory Alan Isakov and Hozier to the second stop of his “Stick Season Tour” in Nashville on Oct. 3 and 4.
Sara West
Noah Kahan sings and plays the mandolin, as captured on Oct. 4, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

My concert reviews are often saturated with nostalgic memories of mini-me listening to artists with wide-eyed wonder. Noah Kahan is one of the artists that I discovered as an “adult,” or my attempt at being one, and has had a monopoly on my Spotify playlists ever since. I recently read how Noah Kahan’s production of modern folk music is like a revival of the Mumford & Sons era — “stomp and holler music” combining contemporary folk with a touch of rock with lyrics singing coming-of-age stories to listeners in flannel shirts and boots. Ironically, my first ever concert was Mumford & Sons in 2018, so I was ecstatic to see Kahan in my college town (third times a charm).  

Samia, a Nashville native, opened the night at Ascend Amphitheater. She started right away with “Pool,” a slower song that actually begins in Arabic. She followed with “Charm You” and “Big Wheel,” which reminded me of a song Gracie Abrams would sing; light and airy, but upbeat and fun. She accompanied the songs with a few dance moves and jazz hands, making sure to showcase her band along the way. She continued with “Triptych,” “Kill Her Freak Out” and “Is There Something in the Movies?” before ending with my personal favorite “Honey,” the namesake of her 2023 album. 

She announced that “Honey” could be a singalong if the crowd wanted, and instructed us to sing “It’s all honey, honey / It’s all honey.” These vibes reminded me of something that could be sung around a campfire. It’s easy to learn and remember. Samia was the perfect folksy opener for Noah Kahan, and she noted how honored she was to do so.

Released just under a year ago, “Stick Season” is Kahan’s third studio album. It strays from his previous sounds of indie-pop and focuses on a folk-centric sound and features unprecedented details in this love letter to New England, where he grew up. Although I am from northern Ohio and have never been to New England, there are a myriad of messages of loneliness, burnout and even the COVID-19 pandemic in his songs that many listeners can relate to. Kahan continued the folk heartaches with an expanded edition of “Stick Season” on June 9 with new songs and an extended version of “The View Between Villages.” If all this wasn’t enough, his fame grew as he continued to collaborate with artists like Post Malone, Lizzy McAlpine, Zach Bryan and, most recently, Kacey Musgraves, with a new collaboration to be released on Oct. 6. I was crossing my fingers that Musgraves would surprise us live to kick off this release. Alas, I was wrong, but Kahan’s emotional ballads did not disappoint. 

Kahan opened the night with “All My Love,” a message to a former partner and reflection on their good memories. “All My Love” is a notable opening song as it immediately increases the energy in the venue and gets the crowd bouncing along to the beat. 

Looking around in the crowd, I noticed a theme: overalls, flannels and boots, all despite the 85-degree weather. This concert had major summer camp vibes, perfect for the indie-folk artist. He continued with ”She Calls Me Back,” “New Perspective” and “Everywhere, Everything.” This series of songs was an emotional rollercoaster, detailing failed and successful relationships and reflections on coming and going in your hometown. 

Throughout the night, Kahan made sure to joke along with the crowd, detailing everything from his parents’ divorce, to playing Club Penguin as a kid. He then explained the next song was a slow one, which was also a joke as he continued with “Your Needs, My Needs,” a notably intense song. 

Kahan is a former Nashville resident, and he mentioned that he moved here after graduating high school and signing his record deal. He shared that he played the East Room about six years ago for a crowd of less than 50. After discussing his ascension as an artist since then, he played “Maine” from his 2020 EP “Cape Elizabeth.” This song reflects on moments that once held meaning to him, like summers spent in Maine swimming and boating; although he longs for simpler times, he expresses pride in the growth he has experienced. 

The reflective songs continued with “Growing Sideways,” which Kahan played solo with his guitar. He explained how this song is a rumination of his experience in therapy. He started therapy as a kid but lied during sessions so no one would know the sadness he was experiencing. 

“It was easier to lie than tell the truth,” Kahan said. “I had a lot of clarity on the years I spent lying, and it took me 10 years to tell the truth.” 

“Growing Sideways” details feeling stuck where you are, both physically and mentally, as others move around you. Like a parallel line as others intersect, this song is painfully relatable, and hearing it live established unity with anyone in the crowd who has gone through similar experiences. 

The stomp-and-holler gang was getting the band back together when Kahan announced that there would be some special guests joining him on stage. Up first was the folk legend Gregory Alan Isakov, who Kahan said has been a major inspiration for him since he started writing music at 13. Known for songs like “Big Black Car” and “The Stable Song,” Isakov’s deep, pronounced voice was a perfect fit for a duet on “Paul Revere.” “Paul Revere” is an alternative-country-style song, which has been notably untouched by Kahan. I listen to this song as I drive in and out of the city limits of my hometown, imagining dreams that can be lived out beyond the “chain-link fence.” 

Hozier is making a stop in Music City on Oct. 5, so when I saw a very tall mic stand dragged out on stage, I knew the Irish folk singer also had to be coming on soon. “Northern Attitude” is a reflection of winter in the North, which is a desolate time of closed hearts and minds. “Northern Attitude” brings pure bliss to an otherwise depressing, dark season. The addition of Hozier brought a new attitude as well, as Kahan called Hozier an inspiration to him. The two singing together brought absolute delight onstage and among the crowd. 

One of the most gut-wrenching songs I have ever heard is “Call Your Mom.” I heard Kahan live for the first time this summer, and it was understood that he would hardly ever perform “Call Your Mom” — it’s simply too sad. Yet, I feel as though it needs to be performed. “Call Your Mom” is a plea from one friend to another to stay on the line and stay alive. It’s a promise that no matter what, you are worthy of existing and there are people who will support you no matter what. No matter what, you can always call your mom. He broke the trend and played the song in Nashville; my glasses might have been a little foggy after this performance. 

Grappling with imposter syndrome, homesickness and reflections on my journey through adulthood, “You’re Gonna Go Far” might be one of my favorite songs of all time. “You’re Gonna Go Far” is a personal letter to “long-distance” daughters everywhere, letting us know that we will be fine when leaving home, and someone will be waiting for us if we need to come back. As I stood alone in the crowd, Kahan was singing right to me and anyone else who needed to hear his message that night. 

“Nashville was where I learned to be alone,” Kahan said. “If you moved to Nashville to follow a dream, know that you were meant for this, and we support you.” 

Nashville may be my temporary home, but this concert made me feel just a little more connected and permanent. His pretend last song of the night was “Dial Drunk,” which is a story of begging for a second chance after making mistakes. This rock ballad has one of the best bridges of all time: “I’ll change my faith, I’ll kiss the badge / Let’s wait, I swear she’ll call me back / ‘Son, why do you do this to yourself?’” You can hear the panic and desperation in his voice as he begs for any ounce of mercy. 

After the pretend concert conclusion, Kahan and his band came out for their expected encore. I knew he wouldn’t end the night without the last two songs, yet my anticipation was growing. “Stick Season,” the titular track of his 2022 album, reminds me of running into your high school classmates’ parents in the hole-in-the-wall restaurants in your hometown. They saw you grow up, yet as Kahan sings, “I saw your mom, but she forgot that I existed.” He ended the summer camp-inspired night with “Homesick,” which is written for anyone who has a complicated relationship with their hometowns. The song details a push and pull between never leaving but still being homesick. It fit the “long distance daughter” theme perfectly, and the energy in the crowd never dipped. 

Nashville has had the opportunity to watch Kahan outgrow venues, just as his discography details outgrowing memories, places and people. Each song on this album is a perfect curation of growing up in the North while wishing you could leave but appreciating precious memories.

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About the Contributors
Jorie Fawcett
Jorie Fawcett, Senior Advisor
Jorie Fawcett ('25) is from Tiffin, Ohio, and studies secondary education and sociology in Peabody College. She previously served as Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and Life Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her teaching, reading or pretending to study at Local Java or Suzie's. You can reach her at [email protected].
Sara West
Sara West, Deputy Photography Editor
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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8 months ago

Great article, Jorie 🙂 You captured this concert perfectly.