Ten years ago, independent label Third Man Records was born in Nashville. On Saturday (April 6), the label celebrated its anniversary with its first-ever, one-day festival complete with book readings from Third Man Books’ authors in front of the famed Rolling Record Store, Blue Room performances and a main stage on which The Raconteurs headlined and marked its first live set in eight years.
Co-founded by Jack White, Ben Swank and Ben Blackwell, Third Man has become known for living out its tagline: “You’re turntable’s not dead” — the mile-long line of festival-goers waiting to get into the Third Man store to browse its vinyl proved that claim to be true. Elsewhere, local vendors were selling everything from lingerie to guitar straps and food trucks offering ice cream and hot chicken were lined up along Nashville Rescue Mission’s parking lot where the main stage was planted.
The lineup boasted DJ sets from Margo Price and Alison Mosshart, rising bluegrass artist Lillie Mae, garage rockers Detroit Cobras and both Swank and Blackwell’s respective bands Soledad Brothers and The Dirtbombs, among other acts. But no matter who took to the stage, the sentiment was always the same: “Thank you, Jack.” As Detroit Cobras’ frontwoman Rachel Nagy said, “Jack, we are so f—ing proud of you, what you’ve accomplished. We all came up together in the garage bullshit, but when you started rising, you always pulled the rest of us up.”
White himself dropped by nearly every set to watch from the sidelines with his family nearby, even walking directly through the crowd to get to and from the main stage — stopping when asked to shake the hands of gracious fans. One couldn’t help but notice the humbled smile plastered on his face (he was in such good spirits he even lightly rapped along to “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” while making his way back toward The Blue Room after The Dirtbombs’ set).
The praise continued into the early evening, when Swank welcomed Glenn Cranfield, president/CEO of the Rescue Mission (which sits across the street from Third Man) to the stage. Clanfield applauded Third Man for being such a great neighbor, and asked White to join him on stage so that he could present a commemorative plaque for 10 years of business.
White kept the accolades coming, calling up a handful of Third Man employees (all dressed, as always, in black with a pop of mustard-yellow) to present them with pins in honor of three, five, seven and 10 years of working with the label. After bestowing Swank and Blackwell with pins he claimed to have made in his basement, and noting that this was the first time he was giving out a 10 year pin (naturally), White made a big announcement: Swank and Blackwell are now minority co-owners, with White, of the label. The three shared a quick hug, and then, it was back to the music.
As the sun set, the lot hit its 3,000 person capacity of friends, family and fans anxiously awaiting the main event: The Raconteurs live comeback. Following a warm introduction from White’s mother, during which she said the band was her favorite (no shade to The White Stripes or Dead Weather, of course), the time had finally come. After roaring through four songs, including opener “Consoler of the Lonely,” vocalist-guitarist Brendan Benson asked, “How’s the sound? We haven’t played this shit in 10 years.” Some of it, they hadn’t played in front of a crowd at all. Though Jack cautioned halfway through the set, “We can’t do everything new for you [because] we still haven’t figured it all out yet,” they showed no signs of such and live debuted upwards of three tracks off its forthcoming album, Help Us Stranger, out June 21 on Third Man.
Throughout the tight hour, The Raconteurs were bursting with boyish energy (White and Benson often stood inches away from one another as they ripped through riffs), clearly eager and excited to be sharing the stage again. The knockout set ended with a searing guitar solo from White on closer “Blue Veins,” complete with a rapidly-flashing light show that managed to keep up.
Minutes later, the band returned for a three song encore capped by “Carolina Drama,” which warranted the second-sing along of the night during the “La la la la, la la la la, yeah” portion of the song (the first was during “Steady As She Goes” per White’s request). After the final note rang out and the rapturous applause simmered down, White brought the attention back to the reason everyone had gathered in the first place: “Thanks to everyone at Third Man,” he said, “and to all of you.”