In a town known for “The Nashville Chasm”—the empty void between audience and stage that remains open at many shows—Vacation Manor bucked the trend as the crowd lined the front row of Mercy Lounge, well before the night’s opener had played the first note. Perhaps feeling the excitement of the gathered anticipatory fans, the band picked one of their biggest hits, “If Only For Tonight,” to start the show. It was unsurprising that the crowd went into an instant singalong to a track that would be familiar to even the casual listener of Vacation Manor. However, as all music lovers know, there are two kinds of fans—the ones who know the words to the hits and the ones that belt out the lyrics to even the deepest cuts. As the group proceeded through a quick-paced, fifteen-song setlist, it became clear that the room was full of the latter.
Whether you were the girl in the front row that stood almost starstruck as frontman Nathan Towles crooned, “Can’t Run Forever,” or you were the guy dancing in circles and waiving his hat in the air as the band ripped through the chorus of, “Falling Back,” or the group that had been saving their dance energy all night to erupt together when the band hit the opening guitar chords to “Fading,” there was a tangible connection between the band and the crowd. I’m pretty sure even the cross-armed dads waiting in the back of the room for their teens caught themselves tapping their feet along to the infectious rhythms the band pumped out all evening.
This is not to say that the night didn’t have some serious moments. With the touring scene put on pause for all of 2020 and heavily impacted in 2021, there’s bound to be some reflection in any show. It was impossible not to be touched by Towles backstory about writing, “Apt. 4,” prior to the pandemic, when he was always on the road and missing his wife. Likewise, show closer, “Ending Credits,” evoked eerie memories from the early days of the pandemic as the places we gathered were suddenly closed. We all had that moment where surrealness shocked us into reality and “Ending Credits” captured that feeling of uncertainty.
However, the band wasn’t going to end the night on too somber of a note. Returning to the stage for a quick encore, the band fired the crowd back up with the building anthem, “All A Dream,” before going straight into their biggest hit, “A Toast and A Spirit.” Over the floating guitar chords, the Mercy Lounge crowd proved it still had the energy for the night’s loudest singalong yet.
In many ways the evening felt like more than a concert. It was a reunion between a band and its fans. There was plenty of fun music memories, but more than anything, there was connection and thankfulness…along with a healthy dose of hope that there will be more nights like this one in the future.
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