5 Memorable Moments from Nashville’s Love Rising Benefit Concert

The Nashville community came together on Monday night (March 20) at Bridgestone Arena for Love Rising, a benefit concert to raise money, awareness, and fight LGBTQ+ oppression. Dubbed “a celebration of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the nearly four-hour event served as an empowering evening where everyone was welcomed to be their true selves. 

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The benefit comes a month after Tennessee lawmakers passed Bill 3 and House Bill 9. Brandi Carlile’s Looking Out Foundation describes the legislature as “two anti-LGBTQIA+ bills that ban all performances deemed male or female impersonation otherwise known as ‘drag’ from taking place on any public property in the state, as well as in any location where people under 18 could be present.”

Drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race kicked off the night with a video message to concertgoers asserting that “drag is not a crime.” Performers throughout Love Rising included concert organizer Allison Russell, Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, Jason Isbell, Hayley Williams, Hozier, Brittany Howard, Amanda Shires, Julien Baker, Joy Oladokun, Yola, Jake Wesley Rogers, Mya Byrne, Autumn Nicholas and the Rainbow Coalition Band.

Below are the five most memorable moments from Love Rising. To learn more and to donate visit lookingoutfoundation.org/loverising.

1. Maren Morris joined by drag queen Alexia Noelle Paris for “The Middle” 

Maren Morris has long been an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community and Monday night was no different. Her set featured the powerful “Better Than We Found It,” a song she wrote for her son following the murder of George Floyd. 

“I just want to leave this world for him a little bit better than the one we’re in right now and I feel like nights like tonight help do that,” Morris said. 

She then segued into her crossover hit “The Middle” with an assist from Alexia Noelle Paris. While Morris belted the song, Paris impressed with dancing and acrobatics, including a handstand mid-performance. As Morris sang, Paris cartwheeled several times around the stage, ending each cartwheel with a split while the audience looked on and screamed in approval.

2. Autumn Nicholas’ Powerful “On a Sunday”

Black Opry member Autumn Nicholas had the audience on its feet with her emotional performance of “On a Sunday.” The real-life story song was inspired by Nicholas as an 11-year-old. As a child, she was often told Girls wear dresses … If you wanna be pretty then follow along. The memorable ballad of standing your ground was just as anthemic as it was vulnerable as she sang the house she thought was home / it felt so lonely. With powerhouse vocals and emotive lyrics while backed by the Rainbow Coalition Band, Nicholas’ rising star was evident at Bridgestone Arena.

3. Sheryl Crow’s “Hard to Make a Stand” Was Inspired by Crossdresser 

After playing “Everyday Is a Winding Road,” Sheryl Crow shared the story behind “Hard to Make a Stand” from her self-titled sophomore album. Written 30 years ago, Crow discussed making her first record in Pasadena, California. She then recalled “a great coffee shop” that she used to hang out at. 

“There was a 75-year-old man who was dressed as a woman,” Crow remembered. “She was very friendly. She was very lovely. She would hand out flowers, and everyone was afraid of her. This was an unusual thing to see 30 years ago and the patrons complained.

“So I came in one morning and I said, ‘Where’s that lovely woman?’ She actually reminded me of my grandmother. And the owner said, ‘Well, the patrons complained and so we asked her to maybe not frequent quite so often.’ The next morning, she slipped a note under the door that said, ‘If I’m not here, you’re not here’ and signed it Miss Creation. And so I wrote a song about her. … And these are the very things that we’re still talking about. We’ve come a hell of a long way and I’m happy about that. We’re addressing people living their truths and how one person’s freedom is not compromised if we are all living our truth.” 

4. “A Beautiful Noise” Collaboration

Allison Russell, Ruby Amanfu and Shea Diamond teamed up for an inspiring performance of the Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile duet “A Beautiful Noise.” Amanfu penned the song, which was released in 2020 to encourage voting, with Keys, Carlile, Brandy Clark, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Hailey Whitters and Linda Perry. 

Amanfu’s introduction to the performance served as a rallying cry to get others to vote. “I went and I looked into the 2022 elections,” Amanfu said. “In Tennessee. 38.57% of registered voters came to the polls. What does that mean? … Sometimes your vote is your voice.”

The women then traded verses throughout the powerful anthem on making one’s voice heard.

I have a voice
Started out as a whisper, turned into a scream
Made a beautiful noise
Shoulder to shoulder, marching in the street
When you’re all alone, it’s a quiet breeze
But when you band together, it’s a choir

5. Joy Oladokun’s Shares New Song “Somehow” with Jimmy Eat World Cover

“As a queer sort of fem, but not totally in the binary human being, I never thought there was a world where I would be able to be out loud about who I love and how I love and why I dress like your dad on a Sunday,” Oladokun said. 

“It’s fucking hard to live here and anywhere, but specifically in a country that sometimes feels like it’s always attacking who you are. I know a lot of you feel the weight of that every single day and I do too and it’s hard not to just hide in the fucking house. But I wrote this song about the cyclical nature of life and how things turn around hopefully for the better.”

Alone on acoustic guitar, Oladokun’s message of hope reverberated throughout the arena. What goes up comes down / And if you stick around / Life can change with the weather / Oh, somehow things just get better Oladokun sang before the singer segued into a cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.”

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything’ll be just fine
Everything, everything’ll be alright, alright

Oladokun later returned to the stage as part of The Highwomen with Morris and Amanda Shires. The trio performed “Crowded Table” as drag queens joined them onstage. With lyrics like I want a house with a crowded table / And a place by the fire for everyone, “Crowded Table” was an important message of unity that fit the Love Rising benefit concert.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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