Home Live Review Preview: River Whyless @ The Kennedy Center, 8/3/23

Preview: River Whyless @ The Kennedy Center, 8/3/23

Preview: River Whyless @ The Kennedy Center, 8/3/23
River Whyless: Alex McWalters, Daniel Shearin, Halli Anderson, Ryan O'Keefe (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

“It’s not a virtue, to stay in one place.”

River Whyless is slated to play the Kennedy Center’ Millenium Stage on Thursday, August 3, in the band’s return to the DC area.

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River Whyless, Hill Country Barbecue Market, Washington, DC, August 8, 2013 (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

The individual members of the Asheville, North Carolina-based band have never stayed in one place for too long since they formed 10 years ago, and neither has the band as a collective, challenging itself with each succeeding album. Beyond the music though, their understanding that “this band is their lifeblood, their family, and their love.”

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Ryan O’Keefe, Halli Anderson (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

We recall our lives’ familiar milestones; birthdays, marriage, divorce, children, graduations…but there are life events when we don’t realize their profound impact until years later. But I remember when it happened to me — August 2013.

Sitting with dozens of other parents at Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone, North Carolina, at a campus orientation visit for prospective students, I perked up at the soundtrack music. This was unlike any other college recruitment music I’d ever heard: unique, compelling, imaginative. The music was credited to a band called Do It To Julia, a precursor to River Whyless as I soon learned.

Indeed, 10 years since I first met and photographed the band, Halli Anderson, Alex McWalters, Ryan O’Keefe, and Daniel Shearin have all evolved from college graduates excitedly starting a band to seasoned songwriters and artists.

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Daniel Shearin (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
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Alex McWalters (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

The band’s first album, A Stone, a Leaf, an Unfound Door (2012), had just been released and in August 2013, I found myself photographing River Whyless at a Hill Country Live outdoor performance in downtown Washington, DC. Afterwards I thought to myself, “well, that was fun.” Chatting with Halli, we joked about having to compete with the Justin Bieber show down the street at the Verizon Center (as it was called back then) and how everyone kept glancing skyward, hoping the impending rain would hold off (luckily, it did).

Stream A Stone, a Leaf, an Unfound Door by River Whyless on Spotify.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, that show set me on a path from which there was no return and I’ve found River Whyless in my lens every year since. What began as a chance encounter in a college auditorium became an enduring obsession with live music and photography as those Asheville musicians invited me into their lives and, in so doing, changed mine.

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Halli Anderson (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

River Whyless’s individual members have gone on to forge their own life paths: advanced degrees, marriages, children, and a solid musical catalogue of 4 full-length albums, an EP, and numerous singles (not to mention a collaboration with Graham Nash).

To describe River Whyless’ music as amazing, awesome, or beautiful is a woefully inadequate use of adjectives. Perhaps descriptors like “creative,” “adventurous,” “complex,” “unique” are more accurate.

Since A Stone, a Leaf, an Unfound Door, each succeeding album has crossed new boundaries. Described by some as folk-rock, nature-pop, or baroque folk, River Whyless’s music celebrates nature, diversity and intimacy with imaginative, accessible melodies and insightful lyrics.

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Ryan O’Keefe (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Stream the latest River Whyless album, Monoflora on Spotify.

The lyrics quoted above come from River Whyless’s second album, We All the Light (2016), imploring us to keep moving forward, to seek new challenges, to find light. Ten years on, thanks to a band whose friendship and music mean the world to me, I’ve found how true and relevant those words apply to us all.

River Whyless plays the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage on August 3rd, returning to North Carolina for shows in Durham on 8/4 and AVLfest in Asheville on August 5.

Please visit River Whyless for more music and tour information.

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River Whyless (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

For all Millennium Stage performances, a limited number of advance reservations are available on a first come, first served basis. Advance reservations do not guarantee a seat, and patrons are encouraged to arrive early.

For Millenium Stage performances, free tickets will be available at the Hall of States Box Office on the day of the performance, beginning at 4:30pm.

Seating is first come, first served. Standing room is available behind the seated area as space allows.


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