AMERICANAFEST 2023 delivered another jam-packed week of showcases, panels and good ole fashioned fun as the best and brightest names in the genre descended on Nashville, Tennessee.
From its kick-off on Tuesday (Sept. 19) to its closing sets on Saturday (Sept. 23), the half conference, half festival featured well over 200 showcases throughout more than 50 of the city's famed venues. Not to mention the 22nd Annual Americana Honors & Awards took over the historic Ryman Auditorium, which saw several of Holler's favorite artists take home wins and take to the stage.
Until we can do it all again next year, let's take a look back at some of our favorite moments from AMERICANAFEST 2023.
Ahead of the star-studded Americana Honors & Awards on Wednesday (Sept. 20), the genre's biggest stars rubbed shoulders on the illustrious red carpet.
From Noah Kahan, Brandi Carlile and The War and Treaty, to Bonnie Raitt, Allison Russell and 49 Winchester, the carpet was dripping in talent and camaraderie as everyone gathered to honor the best in the format.
Almost feeling like a family reunion, the eclectic plethora of artists came together to celebrate one another and to pay tribute to how Americana continues to thrive in the modern space.
During the 2023 Americana Honors & Awards, Holler favorite Tyler Childers' acclaimed 2022 album, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?, was awarded the Album of the Year trophy. Though he was not in attendance, collaborator Silas House accepted it on his behalf.
The alt-country favorite's 2022 album was entirely self-produced and featured eight gospel songs recorded across three different versions – Hallelujah, Jubilee and Joyful Noise – all bringing their own unique charm.
Childers beat out other strong albums from the last year, including Angel Olsen's Big Time, Hermanos Gutiérrez's El Bueno Y El Malo, Charley Crockett's The Man From Waco and Margo Prices' Strays.
While we're on the topic of the Awards, it's safe to say that the biggest surprise of the night came when Grammy award-winning entertainer, Kacey Musgraves, came out to present Nickel Creek with the Americana Music Association's Trailblazer Award.
A trailblazer in her own right, Musgraves made mention of the bluegrass band's influence on her and her career over the years. She also mentioned the many milestones the band has achieved in their over four-decade-long career.
The award was given in recognition of Nickel Creek playing a crucial role in broadening the horizons of the genre over the past couple of decades, by infusing folk-inspired textures and jazz-leaning riffs into their sound.
Composed of husband and wife, Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter, the genre-breaking singers nothced the Emerging Act of the Year Award from the Americana Music Association in 2021. Their full-length debut, Lover's Game, arrived in early 2023 and found them straddling the thin line between Americana and country as they explore love, its intentions and their many lessons learned throughout their relationship.
The nominees in the Duo/Group of the Year category were stacked this year. In addition to the newly-crowned winners, the acts vying to take home the title included 49 Winchester, Caamp, Nickel Creek and Plains.
By: Matt Wickstrom
Part-time Holler red carpet host, Abby Hamilton, delivered a rousing performance during the second annual Whizzbang Revue, an unofficial AMERICANAFEST showcase at Nashville’s Vinyl Lab on Tuesday night (Sep 19).
The Lexington, Kentucky based artist performed several songs from her forthcoming debut album, #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo). A set-closing rendition of 'The Flood' induced an epic jam with her bandmates, guitarist (and brother) Zachary Hamilton, bassist Carson Childers and drummer Zach Martin, capping off the high-flying show.
By: Matt Wickstrom
West Texas supergroup The Panhandlers united for only its seventh show ever during an official AMERICANAFEST showcase at Nashville’s Basement East on Sept. 21.
The group of esteemed songwriters — Josh Abbott, John Baumann, William Clark Green and Flatland Cavalry’s Cleto Cordero — showed no signs of rust as they sped through several songs from their new album Tough Country, released in March.
By: Matt Wickstrom
Even in just its second year, the East Nashville Community Fish Fry at the American Legion Post 82 has quickly become one of AMERICANAFEST's more unique and engaging gatherings. With a tattoo stand, a photobooth, pizza from renowned chef Sean Brock and fish from Nashville eatery Spicy Boys, it's a free for all we can all get behind.
Presented by record label Easy Eye Sound and Texas-based festival Luck Reunion, the event also featured talent from all corners of the world with Ecuadorian-Swiss brothers Hermanos Gutiérrez; Uganda-born, Texas-based Jon Muq; Toronto’s Jeremie Albino and Louisiana's Robert Finley.
Among the highlights were a sit-in from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach with Hermanos Gutiérrez for the tripped out Tex-Mex and country western soundscapes of 'Thunderbird, the exuberant aerobics of 69-year-old Finley on songs like 'Sharecropper’s Son' and 'Medicine Woman', the emotional furor of Albino on 'Across The Hall' and a performance from Muq of 'Runaway'.
By: Matt Wickstrom
A rising force to be reckoned with, Colby Acuff, was doing some major crowd surface as he made his AMERICANAFEST debut at Nashville's Exit/In.
Pointing out, waving at and even taking selfies with phones handed to him from the crowd were all regular occurrences during the jovial set that saw the artist span his entire catalog, including his recently released major label debut, Western White Pines.
With a gusto akin to a west coast Charles Wesley Godwin, the former fly-fishing-guide-turned-emerging-country artist also leaned heavily into cuts off his breakthrough 2021 record, If I Were The Devil.
AMERICANAFEST 2023 saw several first-time performers hit the Nashville stages.
Among them were the soft-spoken Eastern Kentucky-based songwriter, Cole Chaney, as well as the Virginia prodigy, Jake Kohn, who took stages by storm on Thursday night at the Exit/In and The Basement, respectively.
A slew of debuts also came on Friday from the Exit/In, where several of the night's bill were taking their first steps on a Nashville or AMERICANAFEST stage, including the likes of Texas talent Tanner Usrey, West Virginia up-and-comer Logan Halstead and Zach Bryan's touring musician J.R. Carroll.
By: Matt Wickstrom
Artists from all corners of Kentucky were featured at AMERICANAFEST’s third annual Commonwealth of Kentucky Party on Sept. 23 at The Basement, proving that the state is much more than just country and bluegrass music. This included Lexington cowpunk collective Nine Pound Hammer, Louisville’s psychedelic power trio Boa Boys and Bowling Green-based southern rock outfit, The Josephines.
The state’s most common musical exports were also abundant. Brit Taylor, who closed the party with her third show in as many days, surprised those in attendance with the live debut of her bluegrass band.
Together the septet tackled 'Rich Little Girls', 'No Cowboys', 'Kentucky Blue' and other hits from her latest Sturgill Simpson co-produced project. Also mixed in were a couple of Kentucky-centric covers in Bill Monroe’s 'Sitting Alone In The Moonlight' and Darrell Scott’s 'Never Leave Harlan Alive'.
Other country-adjacent performers included Sandy Hook’s Leah Blevins — who took the stage and knocked out songs like 'Little Birds' and 'First Time Feeling' as a trio flanked by fiddler Rachel Baiman and guitarist Laura May — along with Elsmere’s Jeremy Pinnell and Louisa’s Laid Back Country Picker.
It was the latter — the husband and wife duo of David and Theresa Prince affectionately known as Laid Back and Honey — who kicked the day off on a high (and humorous) note with guitar shredding anthems like 'Cooper' and 'Amen John Glenn', setting the tone for what would be a high note to end AMERICANAFEST on.
For more coverage of AMERICANAFEST 2023, see below: