Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mean Tambourines

Tonight I figured it had been too long since I had seen a show so I made the pilgrimage to the Exit In to see the Mean Tambourines. I had heard about this band and was interested to see for myself. What I found was a sea of tight jeans and stand-still hipsters.

I showed up about halfway through the Astronomers' set. This foursome was the most entertaining of the night with their choreographed stage moves and dance style beats. Their drummer seemed to drag a little, but he had to be tired from playing fast 16ths for the majority of the show. The chick bass player was easily the coolest part of the band playing her solid unique bass lines effortlessly while bouncing around the stage. Their lead guitar player seemed a little more interested in "performing" and adjusting his fanny pack than being any good but the overall set was fun. I was confused when they announced that they had two songs left and then totally switched to a whiny Coldplay style for their finale. I would have thought that if they had to do those downers, they would at least put them in the middle of the set and then finish strong, but I guess they figured they would leave the kids with something to dwell on.

After a long set up, the Mean Tambourines finally took the stage and went right into their set of quick hitting brit rock. The singer/rhythm guitarist Ryan Truso started off with some good energy but after a couple of songs, he seemed to mellow out to the crowd's level and pretty much mailed in the rest of the show. No "thank yous" or "this song is called", just bang bang song after song filled with heeeeeeeyyyyy ooooohhhhhhh refrains and poppy vocals. Gabe Pigg on the other hand was on fire for the whole set on the drums making very similar songs all sound like individuals and bobbing up and down back there with a fury. The other lead guitarist Austin Brown and the bass player Chris Boyle just sort of stood there looking cool but not really inspiring much awe. By the end of the set, the audience was still just standing there in their Chuck Taylors and spotty bleach jobs still seemingly unaffected. I can see these guys having a much different vibe with a crowd that gave off a little more energy. Tuesday night in Nashville is hard to get a rise out of anyone, especially if most of the fans are drinking Cokes and water.

With an introduction from their drunk buddy, and a pre-recorded over done opera sample, Halo Stereo took the stage and blasted off. They had some good songs and they definitely rocked out the In. I did get a little tired of the drum machine intro to every song. Why not give it a break every once and a while with a good old drum stick click and a one, two, three, four? This theme of "too much gear" seemed to continue through their show, as they often had to pause to fix their wireless monitor ear pieces or make robot voice noises. The thing was that their rock could actually stand on its own, so why bother with all the bells and whistles? The lead guitarist Nathan Macdonald reminded me a lot of Pearl Jam's Mike McCready the way he shredded his solos and added his flare to otherwise run of the mill rock songs and the drummer Brian Meeks was rowdy and tight. This band was polished, their songs were fun, but these guys really didn't inspire much awe, again due to an under zealous crowd. Hopefully they will draw a better reaction on their upcoming tour.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stillhouse Hollow

After a crazy night on Thanksgiving, I headed down to Franklin for something a little more laid back. Kimbro's Pickin' Parlor is a quaint little venue in an old house in downtown Franklin, where the band plays on the floor and the staff becomes your old friend as soon as you walk in the door. Stillhouse Hollow is the perfect act for this venue, laid back enough to not over power the room but entertaining to young and old alike. The last time I saw these guys was at Centennial Park, opening the weekly Shakespeare event. This time they had the night all to themselves, allowing for a broader showcase of their catalog.

Guitarist and main songwriter Nathan Griffin writes songs that make him seem like a seasoned old mountain man, although I can't see him being much more than 30 years old. His songs like "Whiskey", about bootleggin', and "Dakota", about a traveling band, have an old timey charm that really defines their sound. Singer/Harmonica player Joel Meeks on the other hand writes songs such as "Miss Meg" and one of my favorites "Rocky Road Toadstools" with a Shell Silverstien sort of style, using clever phrases and telling funny stories. This vocal duo works really well for Stillhouse. With Meeks' powerful pipes and Griffin's smooth voice, their harmonies are flawless. Scott Calpin on mandolin adds his own unique style which may sound a bit off sometimes while soloing, but his solid rhythm holds down the beat and he always seems to come back around at the right time. Tonight we were treated to a special guest appearance by local guitar guru Kenny Meeks in the second and third set adding a cool slide electric sound to songs such as "Pimp Hand" and Bob Dylan's "Watching the River Flow", among others.

Another great asset of this band is their wide range of cover selections. From old standards like "Salty Dog" to bluegrass favorites like "Midnight Moonlight", to their own versions of songs like Cake's "Stick Shifts and Safety Belts" and The Band's "Ophelia", they never cease to amaze me with what they might pull out. Whether it's Joel or Nate singing, they always seem to nail every lyric no matter how rapid fire or complicated they may be. These guys have a really polished sound while still being able to have lots of fun. They are starting to branch out over the Southeast and their formula appears to be working. Just show up with a guitar, mandolin and a lunchbox full of harps and play great music that everyone can get into.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mile 8

In the past decade, Thanksgiving has promised two things. One being the obvious turkey dinner we all love, and the other being a Mile 8 show at Third and Lindsley. This annual tradition always proves to be a good way to work off that huge meal and have a good time, and with the now defunct band just getting together for this night, it was a little more special.

They started off with a couple of their recent quick hitters, "Flier" and "Fabulous Evening", and then launched into a crowd favorite epic "Fog Juice", which peaked early and often squashing the abundance of tryptophan. These three songs featured lead guitarist Randy Boen on a Les Paul, something he'd never done before, and seemed only to be doing it out of some sort of phantom obligation to a longtime fan. It did sound really good, but with a snide remark that only guitar enthusiasts would understand, he switched back to his trademark blue Strat. The rest of the first set included some old Mile 8 jam classics, with "Lesson To Be Learned", the title track from their latest record "Crazy Things" with a classic "Curbert Knolding" drum solo, and "Button" with a guest appearance from a harmonica player who reeked of Nashville self love and an awkward mid-jam tease of "Midnight Rider". Closing the first set with Jacko's "Starting Something" left the already amped crowd ready for a raging second set, and also showcased their ability to nail even the most off the wall cover tunes.

After an almost unbearable trivia contest and an apology from Sax player Adam Livingston for accidentally assaulting a female fan, the second set took off featuring original bass player Neil Vance as well as some really old selections from his era including "Breaking You" and "Something Said". Another highlight of this section was "Pogo Stick", spotlighting the vocal stylings of returning original rhythm guitarist Caleb Hickman, who joined the band all night and could be described as a mix between Dickie Betts and Slash. It was good to see this line-up back together, even if the bass work wasn't quite as impressive. Moving on in the set with most current line-up including Timmy Cooper on keys and Russell Wright on bass, they rolled through more old favorites like "Afraid to Fall", and newer ones such as "Gas Station Dinner" and "Ayo Ayo", involving the crowd in the party-style chorus. And what Mile 8 Thanksgiving bash would be complete without their own original Christmas carol "Naked Christmas"? It was great to finally see this song performed without some drunk jack-ass rushing the stage and taking his clothes off. A great version of The Beatles' "Dig a Pony" started of a run of songs that would finish off the night with a huge bang including the Goonies homage "Chester Copperpot", a version of "Alien" with alternate lyrics about E.T. and an "Elliot" chorus, and their biggest show stopper "Laugh On". The encore selection of Tool's "Sober" was another one from left field, but the crowd seemed to love it and it was another reminder of good times of Mile 8 past.

For a band who officially broke up three years ago, these guys are still an undeniable force. With Lightning 100 featuring them on "Local Lightning" all week and a pretty big crowd on a holiday weeknight, the question I heard most of the night was "why aren't they still together?" Their chemistry is unquestionable, whether it's the dueling guitar lines between Caleb and Randy, the spot on vocal harmonies, or the drum work between drummer Curt Redding and percussionist Bobby Knowles, who's parts actually contribute immensely to the band's overall sound. There's a reason why most of these names may sound familiar, as most of these guys are in another, if not several other bands around town, proving that they are some of the best musicians around. I guess Mile 8 just isn't meant to be, but as long as they keep either saying "farewell" or "reuniting" every year or two, people will "come to get down".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Boom Ticket

Tonight I headed down to The Rutledge for a Tuesday night of Boom Ticket. I figured there might not be much of a crowd, and boy was I right. Tuesday night in Nashville is a black hole, unless you're playing the arena or the Ryman.

When Boom Ticket finally started, most of the people that were there for the first two bands had left, leaving me and about ten other people. This didn't seem to phase the Boom trio, as they blasted through their set. This was the nicest venue I've seen them play so far, with a great sound system and sound guy. This made for a truly booming show from these guys, as you could really hear the thunderous drum work from Bobby Knowles. His unique drum lines really make this band interesting, along with new bass player, Jeff Taco, putting his flavor on the old bass lines. Adam Livingston's solid vocals and extremely loud guitar round out this group, as they nail their original compositions. The one hiccup came on their version of the Dead Weather's "So Far From Your Weapon". With everyone looking a little lost, they still managed to make it through, not completely butchering it but beating it within an inch of it's life. They finished strong with a classic Bobby drum line and some good feed back driven soloing from Adam.

Most of the times I see this band play, it's usually to a meager crowd. If they could get a hundred or so people to come out, the energy would surely make for a great show. They are a relatively new band, still working on finding their niche and building a following, but with the right promotion and their ability to write strong rock songs, they should be able to make a name for themselves in Nashville before they sprawl out over the southeast.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jack Nasti

Saturday night was the CD release show for The Running's new live record at Exit In. Although I didn't really pay close enough attention to them to write anything, I did watch J-Po's new band, Jack Nasti, open the night.

Instead of the boisterous showman we got from the V.A.B, we were given an intense, beat driving keyboard/mouse player. John Paul has rounded up a new rhythm section and reunited with some of the old V.A.B, including Randy Boen on guitar, Jody Douglas on Sax and the old percussion player and created a trance-techno style group. The formula is pretty much like this: Start with looping two synth chords and a generic bass line, add a techno drum beat, repeat for a few minutes while Boen and the horns noodle around until the energy level rises and rises with Randy hitting the highest note his Stratocaster will play. Then mellow out for another couple of minutes until the end of the song. This formula seemed to work really well for about 20 of the 200 people at this show. The dancers really were feeling it, but the rest of the crowd really had to yell to tell each other about their cheesy pick up lines, office jobs and hair care product recommendations. Another thing missing was any kind of light show. If these guys could get a headlining gig somewhere with a fog machine and some good moving lights, this recipe might work out really well. It's not really the kind of thing for opening the night in still yellow light before anyone's got a buzz on, but if they could get that many people to come out to see them play their own show, it could be a good party. I have to commend John Paul for laying off the obnoxious shtick and focus more on making digestible music, even if it was frequenty on a computer. I had a hard time having to watch the poor drummer sit and wait while the computer thumped out beats from time to time. I was glad to see him occupy his time with tom-tom fills, even if they were pretty much futile.

On a side note, I'm not sure if the percussionist thought he was funny, or if he was pissed off, or trying to be sarcastic, but some of his comments made for some really awkward moments. After one song he said "that's the end of that song", as if to say "they all sound the same don't they." Other times he would suggest, in mid-song, that we "all take Ecstasy" or "throw some glow sticks", as if to mock the crowd and the music. I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth but it came off like he wasn't too into this style of music. I don't blame him, it's not really the place for congas, but leave the snide comments to the critics and either play like you like it or start a V.A.B. tribute band.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dash Rip Rock

Tonight was an outing to East Nashville's Matty's Ally, a sports bar by day and a hole in the wall live music venue by night. The scene was like a club in the country with a door guy in an official t-shirt and wristbands to prove we paid the 5 dollar cover. The stage was adorned with a huge square wooden pillar right in the middle and cheesy American DJ lights. The cheap beer and the fact that I could smoke inside made me feel right at home. This place, however bush league for Nashville, was the perfect place to see the rowdy country punks Dash Rip Rock.

We arrived just as DRR was about to start. Half of the crowd seemed to lack enthusiasm, being more interested in hitting on the few decent looking ladies, while the other half was fueled up and ready to rock. With plenty of leather jackets and rolled up sleeves, I wasn't surprised to see as much air guitar as I did, but I was surprised to see the amount of gray hairs dancing.

Dash Rip Rock were a veteran outfit from N'awlins with a real talent for writing clever catchy punk country songs. They tip toed the edge of rockabilly without the typical stand-up bass and pompadours, instead employing Telecasters and mutton chops. A few songs into the set, their stirring rendition of "Man of Constant Sorrow" kicked off a run of songs, each with a story or dedication to its namesake. Songs such as "Fall Down Go Boom", "If You See Kay", (about a former abusive girlfriend), and "I Wanna Get Drunk in a Liquor Store With You" had the feel that only a lawless battle-scarred touring punk band could conjure up. I particularly liked the drummer's version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and got a kick out of "Let's Go Smoke Some Pot" sang to the tune of "Let's Go to the Hop".

Overall, these guys were a great time, complete with high kicks in unison and actual musical talent to go along with the not-so-serious lyrical content. I could totally see this show at a small time festival after about 12 beers in the sun. They clearly still have a great time playing and know exactly how to get a crowd hopping. Aside from being great performers, they were pretty cool guys too as I chatted with them for a bit after the show. If anyone is looking for a good romp, check to see if Dash Rip Rock is coming anytime soon, find a designated driver, and check them out.

Heavy Trash

The other night, while most of the denim and leather contingent was watching the Boss try to remember what town he was in, I was pumped to catch another long time bad-ass Jon Spencer with his latest project Heavy Trash at The End. This little venue is across the street from it's big brother, the Exit In and usually plays host to local high school bands, making it an odd choice of stages for Spencer.

I showed up in time to catch most of the set from the second openers, Kindergarten Circus. This band, along with the venue, made something not seem right about this show. These youngsters banged through their 45 minute set with loud bar chords and unintelligible vocals thanking the crowd before they clapped and starting each song with "This song's called..." refrains. These guys definitely belong at The End, just not opening for such a rock God as Jon Spencer, even if it is a lesser known side project than the Blues Explosion.

As Heavy Trash sauntered onto the stage, the small crowd, including everyone from Urban Outfitter hipsters to a couple of bikers to Kindergarten Circus' parents, gathered around the front of the stage. After a brief technical glitch, Spencer welcomed the fans and launched into his set. This band has more of an old timey rockabilly sound than the Blues Explosion, with Jon on acoustic guitar, along with an electric Gretsch, a stand-up dog house bass, and a slick drummer, former Fluid Ounce, Sam Baker, who thanked those representing his "good old Murfreesboro". It was a little more laid back than I had hoped, but there were still times when Spencer got rowdy, shaking us up with his trademark growls and delay effects on his vocals. He writhed around that tiny stage and gave us all what we've come to expect from this New York punk blues man. Each of the other band members also treated us to a vocal selection, including "My Dirty Sneakers" from the drummer with his ukulele. The set ended with an epic, sermon-like rap from Jon, which climaxed with him doubled over on his knees and screaming like his eyes were going to pop out. This huge finale must have been lost on the crowd because they had to be guilted into clapping for an encore by an outspoken fan. When they finally woke up and got the Trash back on stage, we got a couple more songs from the new record and that was it.

This outing was fun, but odd. It was like a high school band bash with a national iconic headliner. The sound was inadequate and the crowd was a little tame but Heavy Trash put on a good show none-the-less. Jon Spencer has been around for 20 plus years and I sure can't wait to see what his next venture will be. Whether it's another new band or a reunion of one of his many old bands, like a Blues Explosion tour, or even more Heavy Trash, I'll be there, no matter what crappy little bar he chooses.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Tonight after much internal debate, I decided to at least go down to the Vanderbilt Memorial Gym and see if I could get a ticket to Jay-Z. This crowd was a little tougher than most shows I go to but I finally found the right person who didn't care what the face value was and sold it to me cheap. I made my way down to the floor right as the auditorium went dark and the stage screens started the countdown. When Jay came out, I thought the roof was going to lift off of the place. This crowd was fired up to say the least. I can only imagine what it would have been like if the show wasn't on campus and they sold beer.

I knew that there would be a live band, but I didn't expect one of this magnitude. The 10-piece ensemble really rocked. It included a dj, two keyboardists, a 3-piece horn section, bass, guitar, drums, and what I would call an auxiliary drummer. He had some congas and other percussion instruments but spent most of his time playing the electronic drum pads adding sounds that the live drums just couldn't make. There were more than a few moments when the live players, mostly guitar and bass, stood around not doing anything while the tracks played, but when they did play they rocked. Now, in the past month, I've seen such bands as KISS, Lenny Kravitz, Mars Volta, and Them Crooked Vultures, but this was by far the loudest show of them all. It's no wonder they repeatedly shouted "Huh?" and "What?". On one hand, it was awesome to feel the bass hitting me like a Mack truck, but the hurricane of sound made it a little difficult to understand what Jay was saying. I guess this didn't really affect the rest of the hardcore fans as it seemed like everyone in the arena sang every word of every song all night.

I've never really been a big hip-hop fan but I do know that Jay-Z is about as good as it gets. He truly was a great showman, whipping the near capacity crowd into an arm waving, bouncing frenzy. With every opening note, the fans went nuts like each song was a number one hit. He cruised the stage and radiated cool all night proving why, as he said, his record "outsold Elvis". I don't know many of his songs but I did recognize "99 Problems", "Death to Auto-Tune", and the one with the "Hard Knock Life" sample. Even without being familiar, the show was great. It was a lot like a rock show in sheer volume and energy with a star who really knows how to perform. He kept mentioning the fact that this was their last stop until February and they played like they were leaving it all in Nashville, even proclaiming that "this was the best show of the tour." He swore he wasn't blowing smoke, and I could see how this show would be hard to top without adding a Bonnaroo sized crowd or an all-star line up.

As I was sitting outside after the show, I heard a lot of fans talking about this being the best show they've ever been to and how awesome it was to see their hero. It's safe to say that Jay-Z converted a new fan tonight. I like how he wasn't into hyping himself all night. His huge charisma and wide range of songs spoke for themselves and will make it easy for me to get into him, and maybe even learn a little more about hip-hop.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

C.B. Fisk Organ, Opus 134 Dedication Recital

Today instead of my usual face melting ear splitting rock show outing, I decided to gain a little culture and check out my first ever pipe organ recital. I was invited by a friend who is the most knowledgeable person I know on this sort of music so I was excited to experience something new and maybe even learn something. The show was held at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Green Hills to christen the new beautiful pipe organ. The featured performer was world renowned organist Janette Fishell, whose profile page in the program was full of accolades, accomplishments, and glorious places she has played.

The Covenant Presbyterian Church is a new building, only having been open since last Easter. The sanctuary was pretty impressive. All the beautiful woodwork stood out against the stone walls and the stained glass, which was more abstract than your typical portraits of saints and biblical characters. I found myself imagining being in an old church in Rome or London centuries ago when those places were brand new. It also made me think of how great this place will look in about 500 years. The acoustics of course were enormous with the high ceilings and stones, making even the slightest cough or throat clear boom out in echos.

The man introducing the show referred to the organ as "the instrument". Calling this an instrument is like calling the Titanic "a boat". The radiant steel pipes scaled the wall and the huge sound filled the sanctuary and rang out even after she stopped playing. The range of power was incredible, playing some parts that make you want to raise your arms and hands in that "summoning God" type way, while other softer parts were like a fantasy sequence in a Disney movie. One section would end with thunderous peaking chords only to lead into a whimsical light-hearted portion. With compositions from Johann Bach, Georg Bohm, and Charles Widor, among others, the song selection seemed to cover a range of different ways to showcase this "instrument". My favorite song of the night was her bluesy rendition of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", the song she learned specifically to play in Nashville. It sounded like a song Ray Charles might play if he were to sit down at this magnificent organ.

Janette Fishnell truly was an exceptional organist. The entire performance sounded flawless. To my untrained ear, there were some chords that sounded like she was just mashing her palms on the keyboard, but she always made them fit in and flow gracefully. Her feel for dynamics was also impressive with her ability to crush us by stomping on the bass pedals and then twinkle around on the keyboard. In addition to being musically entertaining, Fishnell was fun to watch as she navigated all the different tasks involved in her recital. From pulling stops to turning pages to playing with all four appendages, I half expected her to whip out a canvass and a brush and start painting a masterpiece while she was at it. The way her limbs flowed on that keyboard sometimes made her look like a marionette whose strings were being manipulated from above.

I did end up learning a lot at this show, as well a enjoying myself. This timeless genre of music, while not something I would likely play on a road trip or party mix, is yet another art form that I should definitely learn more about. Just the fact that it's been around for centuries proves that it's a special thing. There aren't many other genres in which the current star performers come out and play songs that were written 200 years ago, mixed in with their own compositions. If you're a musician, rock, jazz, or otherwise, and you can't draw some sort of inspiration from this performance, you have a problem with yourself. This music is as relevant now as it was centuries ago and will be for years to come.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Tonight was a good night with friends at the Exit In. Ballhog was playing their second show in a week in Nashville, the other being at the 5 Spot on Halloween. That night was a lot of fun but the show sort of took a back seat to the festivities and the all out battle just to get a drink and move one step due to the huge crowd. Exit In was much more laid back and chilled out and that's really the way to enjoy Ballhog.

Being the opener, they started off with an undersized crowd, which thankfully grew as the show went on. Randy Russell's unique songs were right on tonight. The sound these guys have created straddles the line between bluegrass and country twang. The instrumentation suggests bluegrass with a banjo and mandolin and such but the songs go way beyond the usual three chord blueprint we all know, and with a horn section and a drummer, there's really nothing to compare them to. They even played some older more rare songs as they waited for their sax man, Patty D, to show up. Adam Livingston held down the horn parts pretty well without Patty, not bad for a guy who just joined the band a couple of weeks ago. They ran through the Ballhog standards, including a few of my favorites like "I Can't Hide Where I'm From", "What's This", and some others that I love but don't know the names of. Their ability to switch instruments between members is always fun to watch, you never know who's going to pick up what. This band definitely belongs at an outdoor festival in the woods more so than a super crowded bar in East Nashville, but Exit In was a happy medium.

The headliners were another oversized funk band called Sky High. These groups seem to be popping up more and more in Nashville. The formula seems to be a a large band with a horn section and keyboards and a singer with lots of soul and a huge voice. While this band's singer was really good at singing, his stage presence and overall performance were slightly lacking the energy I'd like to see from a funk party band. It just seemed like they were going through the motions. Granted, the crowd could have been bigger and more energetic, but if you're going to be that big of a band and play that kind of music, it needs to be all out and sadly these guys weren't.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


This outing was a trip to the local enormo-dome, The Sommet Center, for my first KISS concert. The show really started out on the plaza where thousands of painted faces walked by and I had to yell like a carnival barker for a ticket to be heard over the local rock radio station's display. Even after scoring a club level ticket, I still wanted to hang out outside and watch the Kiss fans shuffle in. Everyone from kids to hipsters to dedicated old fans made for some awesome people watching.

I eventually made my way in to catch a little of the opening band, Buckcherry. This was your basic hard rock outfit. With a shirtless and tattooed guitar player and lead singer, these guys just sort of lacked any qualities that would make them stand out. Their bland songs, including "Rescue Me", about the kid from the disturbing book "Boy Called It", just seemed like generic biker mosh rock. The crowd applauded graciously but it was obvious that most of them just wanted to move on to the real show. The only standout song for me was their rendition of Deep Purple's "Highway Star", which I guess is the NASCAR theme song for the season. Fitting that their best moment was someone else's song.

With the end of Buckcherry, a huge black curtain covered the stage as the crews made the transitions between bands. When the house music cut off the Beastie Boys to start Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll", I knew it was about time. Right at the conclusion of the drum solo, the lights went down and the Kiss army came alive. The WWF style intro brought the curtain down and the senior aged monsters got to it. It was funny to see one side of the stage hosting Gene Simmons, the huge spike ridden mutant stomping around like Godzilla and wagging his tongue about while the opposite side was home to Paul Stanley, the skinny star-faced guitarist who pranced around like Prince slapping his own behind. The Ace Frehley stand-in lead guitarist Tommy Thayer had some great stage moves, including playing between his legs and behind his head. Seeing this display, it was not hard to see where Spinal Tap got a lot of their ideas.

After a few crowd favorites and driving the "left versus right crowd response" battle into the ground, as well as a Gene flame spit, Paul let us know that they were "here to play classics, but classic doesn't necessarily mean old." We we treated to a couple of new ones from Sonic Boom, the band's most recent record. "Modern Day Delilah" was perfectly Kiss-ish and "Say Yeah" reminded us of Stanley's lyrical prowess with exhausting repeats of "Yeah Yeah Yeah!" leading right into "Dr. Love" which had almost an identical chord progression.

Obviously needing a break, the band went into solo mode, starting with Thayer. His Nigel Tufnel-esque solo went on and on complete with ten-finger tapping and head banging fervor. Next was the drum solo which was adequate, but nothing you don't hear from any other drummer you see these days. It was cool to see the elevating and rotating drum riser. Finally it was Gene's turn. He came out looking like a kid with a mouthful of medicine he didn't want to swallow and gave a solo of mostly feedback and effects on one note. He played most of it without even using his left hand. Then we got the blood mouth tongue trick that has made Simmons famous far more than his musical talent. His big finale was "flying" up to the lighting rafters and yelling basically about how great he is. I guess if you're going to be a rock star without any notable musical talent, you have to be an egomaniac with no shame. The show's big ending was the huge surprise closing hit "Rock and Roll All Nite" complete with explosions and tons of confetti.

After promising "the longest encore you've ever heard", Kiss broke into their greatest hits section, wowing us with such masterpieces as "Lick It Up", "Shout It Out Loud", and ending with "Detroit Rock City". During one of the songs, Paul went on and on about knowing all about southern hospitality, and then like a true yank, insisted we invite him into the crowd. Then he rode a zip-line to the soundboard section and played on the rotating riser. By the end of the night, the band members looks gassed. The running and crazy moves were gone and the drummer looked like he was about to pass out, barely making it through each song. All except for Paul Stanley that is. He was still going strong, screaming song titles and doing most of the singing with no problem.

I guess this show was about exactly what I expected. Lot's of firepower and flash over some pretty bad music. However the great atmosphere provided by the die hard fans more than made up for the lack of good art. This night was a lot of fun and I left realizing how it could be possible that so many people could love this band for so long. They sure do put on a great show.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lenny Kravitz

Tonight was a blast from the past as I went to see Lenny Kravitz at the Ryman Auditorium. I guess it was about 10 to 12 years ago I saw him at this same venue and it was awesome then, as it was tonight. I was a little apprehensive about going to this show as I haven't really liked his recent stuff. After realizing that this tour has been recognizing the 20th anniversary of the release of "Let Love Rule", I thought maybe the song selection would be right for me.

The opening band, K'NAAN, were an urban hip/hop pop group that was pretty boring and uneventful. The long winded spoken word poetry and boring songs were a disappointing opener that could have been a real rock warm up for Lenny. The point of an opening act is to fire up the crowd, not lull them into nicotine cravings and foot tapping anticipation. Weak sauce.

When Lenny finally started, the crowd was ready to rock with him. He came out with his trademark rock riffs and overtly sexual dance moves. Starting with "Freedom Train", the set rolled through old favorites like "Blues for Sister Someone" and "Mr. Cab Driver". "American Woman" provided a good chance to use the bathroom and get a drink. It was a bad song then, with the Guess Who, and not much better now. My Favorite part of the set was "Always On the Run", with one of the funkiest rock riffs ever recorded. The ever powerful "Are You Gonna Go My Way" closed the show and we swayed back and forth for the "Let Love Rule" love-fest encore.

It was good to see his longtime band mates still with him. Greg Ross on the lead guitar, the same afro sporting madman, is the most crucial part of this line-up. Still killing the solos and riffs, he is the perfect guitar man for Lenny's sound. You can really tell that they've been together since the beginning. The other longtime band mate, bass player Jack Daley, was great holding down all the old grooves. I really missed the cool chick drummer, but the new guy was solid on the skins with what appeared to be a 12 foot wingspan and a good feel for Lenny's trademark funk/rock sound. Rounding out the group with a 3 piece horn section and a keyboard player made this band a full rock storm that supported Lenny like a pile of bricks and mortar.

The "Let Love Rule" concept was a good idea. Let's hope he doesn't decide to pay tribute to twenty years of "American Woman", as that might not go over as well. Lenny sure does know how to rock, and as long as he keeps this band line-up together, he can keep playing "Fly Away" and even that will be a satisfying show for Lenny enthusiasts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Mars Volta

This afternoon as the excitement for this show grew, my awesome dad called and said he was on his way to the War Memorial Auditorium to sell an amp to the bass player of The Mars Volta, and would I like to drive down there with him? Um, of course. After meeting Juan and Jesse the bass tech and hanging out on stage while he checked out the amp, I asked if there was any way they could hook me up with a ticket. He decided not to buy the amp but my sweet ticket was waiting for me at will call. How great is Nashville?

As the show started, there seemed to be some technical difficulty with the guitar rig, so the singer, Cedric treated us to some impromptu poetry about Megan Fox and Guitar Center. Then they launched into their set and burned that place down for the rest of the night. For those who are unfamiliar, this band is sort of a mix between Guns N' Roses and Tool, for lack of many other comparisons. The guitar driven songs have multiple complicated sections and Cedric's vocal range and stage moves give Axle a run for his money. His boundless energy and rock star attitude were the center of attention, but he was just one spark to the power of the band. Omar on guitar made it look easy as he navigated through his epic numbers. It was hard to believe he was the only guitar player, making me wonder how one guy could make all that noise. As the composer of the group, he was locked in on every change and unusual time signature along with Thomas, the drummer. Man, this guy was a monster back there. He really is an elite drummer, able to keep the unusual beats with such intensity all while bouncing around like Animal. The rest of the members were good, but none of them stood out as irreplaceable. The bass and keys were adequate and the percussion seemed out of place and hard to hear most of the time with everything else that was going on.

As a new fan, I really wish I could say more about individual songs. Each one was unique and they all rocked equal ass. This truly was a great rock show. The crowd was a little small, but the fans that were there were intense and appreciative. I don't know what the deal is, but for my second consecutive War Memorial show, the band finished their last song, waved silently, and split leaving the audience standing in the house lights unable to believe there wouldn't be an encore. This and the lack of an opening act made the show seem short but the performance was definitely worth the price everyone else paid for admission. The Mars Volta is one of those bands that probably won't win a million grammys or have a hit on the radio but the lucky ones who hear them will love it. I'll go see this band every chance I get.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I got to the Exit In way too early, joining the other 10 people who thought the show might actually start around 9. On the plus side, I got the perfect balcony seat for what was about to unfold. It seemed like I had the right idea as the upper level filled up, only to empty onto the floor as the first band took the stage.

Nashville's own Ramones style punk duo Jeff the Brotherhood started the night off. Their "less is more" approach worked well for their music while they took the opposite attitude towards their stage show. The addition of bright lights on the floor and fog machines, as well as prerecorded music in between songs made this twosome more than just a Franklin garage band. They rocked their songs out to their loyal followers as they climbed the teetering amp stack and bounced around the stage. The upbeat music was a nice surprise from these guys, who, at first looked like the rock and roll version of the Hanson brothers (the hockey players, not the mmm boppers). They set just the right tone for the rest of the night.

As soon as the second band struck their first chord, I could tell the night was still heading in the right direction. Turbo Fruits came on with a sound that was kind of a punk/rockabilly without being punkabilly. The singer's raspy growl and the constant overdrive made these chord progressions fit in with tonight's feel, instead of otherwise belonging at the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance. The non-stop bangin' drummer drove the set full steam ahead as the others mingled with the crowd. At one point, the guitarist/singer threw his guitar around a cute girl in the crowd and played a solo from behind her. Pretty good idea, as the guys continued to set a tone of crowd participation and chaos.

As I eavesdropped on the people around me relaying their past experiences with the headliners, I realized what storm might be approaching. Clues like the sound man covering the monitors with garbage bags and the drummer setting up on the floor in front of the stage indicated that this would not be your typical Exit In event. After taking for-ever to set up a small amount of gear, Monotonix started to make some noise. As the guitarist played a feed-back driven solo, the undersized singer and lanky bassist crowd surfed down to the floor topless in their short shorts and wild curly hair. With the continuing noise, they proceeded to drench each other and everyone else around them in beer and scum, completely emptying the trash can of all bottles, cans, and fowl bottom of the barrel garbage liquid, and then rolling around on the floor. As they broke into their first song, the crowd went ape. More bottles, cans and drinks of all kinds were thrown on the band and everywhere else. I could only think to myself, "this is gonna get out of control fast." As these Israeli Tasmanian Devils mauled us with their brand of thrash trash metal, the crowd formed a rugby scrum-like mosh pit around them. They seemed to encourage some pretty intense audience contact, brushing off drunk slammers with forearm shivers and stiff arms. As songs would end, the drummer would recruit fans to help move his drums all around the club. At one point, the guitarist had the bass drum on top of the bar while the drummer played the rest of his kit in the middle of the crowd. At another point, the singer sat on a stool held by fans and played a drum also held by fans all while spitting and shooting snot rockets wherever they might blow. As the singer dangled, then dropped from the balcony, a super drunk and drenched mosher got a little too fresh and they ended up in a tangled mess on the floor. A hush fell over the crowd as he manhandled this mutant while screaming "Don't f@#$ with the Israeli!" After the victim got a death glare and his friends dragged him away, the band went back into fun mode and regrouped on the stage. The singer demanded everyone sit down and shut up and stay seated while he sang alone. When the full band cranked back up, the crowd exploded back into pollution action and helped end the show with a sludge soaked, hunched over series of gut screams.

The crowd participation definitely made this show unique. The fans that had seen Monotonix before knew exactly what they could get away with and the newbies seemed pleasantly surprised to find that they could actually pour their beers on the band and it was okay. Honestly, I have never seen such a gross misuse of beer and liquor in all my life, nor such a musical act of depravity and recklessness. The amount of booze on the floor at the end of the night could have sustained an Irish slip n' slide. The great part about this show is that as indecipherable as the lyrics were, I saw people singing along like they were Beatles standards. The degenerates who perpetrated this melee were loyal fans. It was almost like they were obligated to be part of the show, like the band needed them. As violent and rabid as the scene was, when it was over, everyone hugged each other and the band like they were U2 finishing a stadium tour. What a great show. I recommend seeing this band not only if you get a chance, but every chance you get. Just be ready for a show like you have never seen before.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Allman Brothers Band/ Widespread Panic

Tonight was the long awaited double billing of Widespread Panic and the Allman Brothers. With bad weather looming, the show was moved from outdoor Riverfront Park to the Municipal Auditorium. The old barn was the perfect place for this show, if it had to be inside. The lax security allowed standing in the isles and smoking, making it seem like a show from the 90's. The sound was a little muddy but not terrible.

The Allman Brothers started the night off right. Having to wait on my big friend to meet me for his ticket, I arrived pretty late, missing some of my favorite numbers. The first full song I got was "Soul Shine", the classic feel good ballad. Other highlights were former Brother Johnny Neel and Widespread's J.B. sitting in for Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and Jack Pearson appearing on "You Don't Love Me" to close the show. The best moments came when Derek Trucks was driving the jam. His slide and guitar tone fit in with the long running style of the Brothers and the connection between he and his uncle is unmistakable. You can really see how they propel each other dynamically. Butch carried most of the drum core, with the percussion seeming unnecessary and Jaimoe basically comatose. The epic version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" whipped through peaks and valleys and really showed that Warren Haynes is the Dickey to Derek's Duane. His bland solos didn't seem to inspire as much, but his ability to nail the classic Brothers guitar lines was crucial. This generation's version of the Allmans is still going strong, even if it's only a few originals members. The younger guys add an important energy and the veterans bring the deep feeling. As long as Greg and Warren can sing, they'll be a perennial must see.

The lights went down and the heads went crazy as Widespread Panic took the stage. With the energy really strong in the audience, the band's opening song selection was a little lackluster, but by the third or fourth song, the crowd recovered and was in full Panic swing. I was interested to see Jimmy Herring on guitar for the first time. His addition to this band is a huge move, making the long jams a little more interesting. He, J.B. and Jo Jo, as well as returning visitor Johnny Neel, carried the rest of the flat-line rhythm section who seemed to be robots, never really straying too far from the script. The spastic nonsensical percussionist loved to take his solos, which he takes every show giving the rest of the band a little break. At one point the drummer even put on a drum machine and smoked a cigarette while the old guy banged and tinkered aimlessly for what seemed like an hour. It was a good substitute for a set break, leaving an opportunity for a bathroom stop and a drink. The incredible light rig added an intensity to the show that kept my interest for most of the night. It was by far my favorite part. The set closing "Chili Water" went out with a bang and the encore was brilliant, I'm sure. I'd had enough and left to beat the rush.

As someone who doesn't much care for Panic, I wonder how this show ranks with the hard core fans. There were some strong moments but other than Jimmy Herring standing up and playing interesting solos, this seemed pretty similar to the other shows I've seen. The devout spread-heads gave some insight with huge reactions to certain songs, but as with most jam bands, the true fans will cheer for just about anything.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Celebration

It's always a pleasure to see a show at the Grand Old Opry. Tonight was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Rounder Records with performances from an eclectic mix of their artist catalog. The night's line up is as follows: Minnie Driver, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, Bela Fleck, Irma Thomas, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Alison Krauss and Union Station.

After being told that we were participating in the PBS filming, and doing some staged applause, Minnie Driver's band started things off. Her non-unique set of chick singer/songwriter material had me wondering if she would be on Rounder if she wasn't a moviestar, even after she said she'd been a musician longer than an actress. Her stage presence was a little awkward and her mumbled chatter between songs made her seem shy and intimidated. However, when she stepped over to her mark to be filmed as host of the evening, she read those lines and improvised like a pro. That was more her element. I love that Minnie Driver, but stick to the movies.

Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas were an energetic New Orleans band that got the mostly long in the tooth crowd up for at least a song. These guys, as well as the soul legend Irma Thomas were fun to watch, but probably would have been much better at a smokey bar in the gulf. The t.v. volume and mix put sort of a damper on what should have been a huge sound from both acts. I did enjoy Irma's rendition of "you can have my husband but leave my man alone", a song she performed as an audition for the label when she was a teenager. She really can belt it out, and her veteran band was smokin'.

Bela Fleck played a couple of his new "African" songs solo and then was joined by dobro sensation Jerry Douglas for their usual duet selection. There might not be a better banjo player than Bela on Earth. His music has never been my cup of beer but I can respect his undeniable talent. I guess that goes for Mary Chapin Carpenter as well. I know there's a market for her, I'm just not it. Neither was the old guy next to me who actually fell asleep with his head back and his mouth open. To be fair I think he could've been more drunk than bored. He slept for a while.

Alison Krauss was brilliant as usual. Her angelic voice sounds great even when she's just talking to the crowd. Union Station was solid featuring Jerry Douglas. Their short set went from "songs about bad things" to sentimental ballads that made the lady in front of me cry. Pretty good stuff. After sitting through some more Hollywood production, which included a cruel Robert Plant tease, the whole lot of performers came out to encore with a medley of standard gospel tunes including "will the circle be unbroken" and "down by the riverside".

The television aspect sort of hindered this show's rhythm. With each act only playing 3 or 4 songs, it seemed as though the sets were over just as they were getting good. The fact that there was just as much wait time as there was show time made it hard to sit still and pay attention. It should however make for some great public T.V.

Huge thanks for the ticket hook up.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Duncan May and the Resonators

Tonight was a trip down to Franklin for a show at The Pond. This little club has been open for a few years now and has grown into a nice little place to see a band. They have a pretty fancy sound system and if you're lucky, there might be a competent sound engineer. Might not, but the vibe is laid back and the staff is cool.

Adam Livingston (from Boom Ticket, as we were repeatedly reminded) did the opening honors with an acoustic solo set. It was interesting to hear his Boom Ticket songs stripped down to sketches. With a guitar amplified by microphone, the sound was about as bare as you can get, but Adam still managed to deliver his earful. The addition of Curt Redding on the djimbai drum for the last half of the set gave a vital rhythm that seemed to make the songs make more sense. With covers of The Beatles and the Chili Peppers mixed in, it was a good set and another different way to see Adam perform.

It's good to see Franklin rock legend Duncan May is still at it. His most recent ensemble might be his best yet. The Resonators, minus vacationing Percussionist Tony, excelled in delivering Duncan's tricky funk tunes. Drummer Curt and Guitarist Scott Hall have mastered May's style of songwriting. The band stays tight through all of the trademark stops and starts and melodic curve balls. With songs ranging from upbeat funk, to smooth love songs, to latin based feels, there was no shortage of room for Duncan to thump that bass and Scott to take his machine gun solos. And with Curt's drumming versatility, these transitions are seamless.

The second set included Adam Livingston (from Boom Ticket) on sax for a nice version of crowd favorite "Chimichanga" as well the ever silky "Sweet Thing". It was a good mix of older songs and newer ones from the new upcoming record. Adam had the almost impossible task of keeping up on these complex songs without rehearsal, but he did a pretty good job. There was a classic moment where a false ending totally fooled the audience and Duncan chuckled while the crowd applauded before he broke back into the song. It's great how these guys always seem to be having a good time, even if the attendance numbers aren't as high as they should be. I'm glad these guys play around town regularly. You can pretty much count on a good show whenever these guys show up at their next local dive.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures

Not to be outdone by his Led Zeppelin cohort, John Paul Jones aligned himself with two rock icons. Them Crooked Vultures is the resulting collaboration between Jonsey, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme. This being only the group's tenth show together, and their first on the U.S. tour, it is clear to see that these guys are worthy of the "supergroup" brand. There was a large amount of curiosity in the audience leading up to the show, as these guys haven't been together long, nor have they released any recorded material, making the mystery of this show even deeper. Most people I talked to had only seen shoddy video snippets on youtube.

After cheering for roadies for what seemed like forever, the crowd went ape as the lights went down and the trio finally took the stage joined by second guitarist Alain Johannes, also of Queens of the Stone Age fame. They greeted us with waves and promises to play some new music "as hard as we know how." And then that's exactly what they did. Dave Grohl kicked into a combustion of noise and frenzied light with an extended intro on the first song. This sensory combination continued through most of the show, with hard hitting songs one right after the other. Not much stage banter to speak of, other than thank you's and song titles. When Homme introduced the band, John Paul Jones received an enormous standing ovation, way larger than any other member. I mean why not? John Paul Jones playing his trademark walking bass lines on monstrous distorted basses in our town. He was also featured in a piano solo, on organ/foot pedal bass, and with a key-tar. Dave Grohl was an absolute beast on the drums, reminding us of his early exploits, as well as the rock power that Foo Fighters have lacked in recent years. Good to know he still has it. He has lots of it. Josh Homme was the perfect front man for this outfit, using his complete vocal range and battering us with his huge riffs on his many guitars.

The music itself was really heavy on the Queens influence. People expecting a Foo Fighters or Zeppelin show might have been a little addled, especially if they weren't familiar with the less popular Queens. The songs were forcible and dynamic, including a few with extended guitar jam type sections that really took off into pandemonium. The only breather moment came mid-show with the lounge style ditty featuring a guitar-less Homme crooning and Jonsey on the aforementioned key-tar. The last song was an epic number with multiple peak and vally sections that sent the crowd into a final frenzy. Then they waved, said thanks and walked off, and before the drunk sweaty crowd could demand an encore, the lights came up and the house music came on. I guess when you've only been a band for a number of months and you just played an hour and a half of brand new material, you just might not have an encore to play, no matter how bewildered the audience appears to be.

I hope this band sticks around for a little while. At least long enough to put out a couple of records and build on their obvious outbreak chemistry. It was cool how the music was so unfamiliar to everyone. With no singing along, and no huge cheers for radio hits, the crowd was almost forced to focus on the music, which I think the band enjoyed too. This is the kind of show that you never forget. Three legendary powerhouses in one band in an awesome venue in Nashville Tennessee.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pork Chop Express

Tonight I found myself at the good old Boro Bar and Grill for the infamous Pork Chop Express. Fathers hide you daughters and mothers hide yourselves, no one is safe from these X-rated rockers. It was good to be back at the Boro after over 10 years, still the same smokey, loud hole that it's always been. And after tonight, it's just a little dirtier.

The openers were Nashville based reggae/ska outfit Paradise Daze. They started off with typical reggae, playing the same 2 chords and repeating a chorus about how we need to "love one another". I was glad to see that as the show went on, they picked up the tempo and really showcased what they could do, as they were pretty good players. The 2 part vocal harmonies were spot on even with the rapid fire lyrics. I was impressed by the bass player's ability to take the bass line, play pretty much the same line through a whole song, but still keep it interesting. His P-bass/Ampeg rig sounded really good and shook the little Boro to the core. It was fun to see Daze try to out-filth Pork Chop with a couple of their own dirty songs. As raunchy as they were, a couple of dirty songs is no match for the degenerate headliners.

Pork Chop took the stage, joining their mini blow up dolls and sheep. After at least three minutes of looking at the bar waiting for them to turn off the house music, they introduced themselves and gave a nonchalant promise to "rock our balls". And rock them they did. The dual guitar attack and hard hitting Music Man bass riffs were tight and well delivered, anchored by the solid drumming of Curt Redding. Chris Mac did a great job laying down rhythm guitar for Randy Boen to shred solos over, all the while remembering all the polluted words. The great part about this band is that aside from all the filthy sexual lyrics and inter-song banter, the songs are quality rock songs. With intricate changes and multiple sections, these guys are no joke as far a songwriting is concerned, however contaminated they may be. That's not to say that the comments between songs and the vocal content aren't a very entertaining, as well as important part of the whole spectacle. The seasoned Pork Chop fans spent a fair amount of time gritting their teeth and pulling at their collars, while the poor patrons that were just looking for somewhere to swill fancy beer were often wide-eyed at some of the comments from these apparent sleaze fiends. Jeff Taco's deadpan delivery is enough to make anyone spit out their no-name micro-brew. By the end of the show, the "earmuff" crowd had thinned out, leaving the handful of dedicated fans to enjoy the last 2 songs, which were among the most vile, as well as clever selections of the night.

It will be interesting to see where this band goes. Will they stay with the consistent juvenile sex shtick, or will they take it to the next level, hell bent on offending and captivating the universe? With the talent these guys have, they could do both. Well. Hopefully, the universe will stick around to catch the whole show.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

This evening was the 5th installment of Live on the Green, and live it was. Tonight's crowd was easily the biggest I've seen so far at this event and they were ready to boogie.

As I arrived, The Dynamites were just getting ready to take off. They started with a few minutes of funky noodling and asking the crowd if we were ready, I said are you ready, to get down? The answer clearly was yes. They introduced their chairman, the incredible Charles "Wig" Walker and he came out and got it going. The band had great energy, and Walker owned the stage and the crowd like a preacher at a tent revival. This act was a good opener for the night, much like a little brother to the headliner.

The Dap Kings started their set much the same way, with a little more energy. By this point the large crowd was feeling it. When they finally introduced Sharon Jones, she came out on fire, and stayed lit all night. What a performer. Just about every song had a story or a sermon or even dance instruction, as she showed us moves like the "funky chicken"and the "mashed potato". Another highlight was the song about fishing for "fresh bass" in which she brought up someone from the crowd and acted out the whole process. A ten minute song and dance about fishing? From a five foot lady? What a show.

The band included a 3 piece horn section, which was right on, along with the rhythm section which was tight and effectively just behind the beat. They were a perfect balance to the force that was Sharon Jones, laid back but powerful all night. It's good to see free live music back in Nashville, even if only for one more week.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It Might Get Loud

Now, I know this is supposed to be a concert review blog, but it's my blog and I'll do what I want. I'm gonna write about a movie. In early 2008, Jack White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge all got together for no real apparent reason other to talk about playing guitar. "It Might Get Loud" is a documentary of this meeting.

It's a film about these three masters getting together, but it's also sort of like 3 mini documentaries about each player. The audience travels from Detroit to London and Dublin, touring old rehearsal spaces and part time jobs. Each star tells the story of how he got his first guitar and what song he rushed home to learn, all behind a slide show of black and white photos of greasy haired kids.

Then, amongst all of these mini-docs, we are brought back to the present with the three of them sitting on a set, each with a guitar and jamming. It's interesting that no matter how famous or legendary you are, that moment of meeting 2 other guitar players and trying to all play together still has that same strange feeling. Looking at the others' hands and trying to read the chords while your ears struggle to hear if you're playing the right thing. Trying to add something new without sounding like a ball hog. It seemed like Jack White was the most star struck of the 3. And why wouldn't he be? There were some great shots of him looking around, cracking the slightest of smiles, and realizing what was going on around him. The generational implications were an interesting part of the story, with Page saying things like "before rock and roll", The Edge walking us through all of his wacky effects, and White talking about his "Sears" guitar.

As a fan of these 3 guitar players, a rock history enthusiast, and a guitar player, this film was right up my ally. I'd like to see a series of these with more of my favorite rockers. Who wouldn't love to see Dave Grohl, Ringo Starr, and Mitch Mitchell swapping secrets and teaching each other their most famous beats? It's a cool idea for a music movie and it was well done.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Tonight was the long awaited H-Beam cd release party at the Rutledge. The bill included J-Po and the VAB and Uncle Milty as openers. I'm not gonna spend much time on J-Po, his show is pretty much the same (see below review). Although I will say he stayed a little more sober this time and actually put on a show from the stage, even if it was the same old stale show we've all seen numerous times.

After spending some time on the smoking deck, I came in to catch most of the set from Uncle Milty. They had drawn a nice crowd, ranging from moms to young hipsters. These guys were a laid back local band with a Widespread/Wilco type vibe. There were a couple of songs in a row that had the same chord progression, hence the Widespread comparison and catchy songs about love and Texas, hence Wilco. There were some times when some of the band members looked to be a little left out, like the poor guy on the acoustic guitar who just didn't make it into the mix, and the background vocal girl, who spent the majority of the time just standing there. There was something about this band that I can't decide if I like or not. They showed a lack of maturity with songs like "Santa Was Doin' My Momma" and "Truck Stop Gang Rape", and the show closer, "There's a Turd In The Swimming Pool". I guess I like the comedy idea, i.e. Pork Chop Express, but these guys didn't really seem to pull it off. They tried to look serious while asking the crowd to "fish out" said turd. Their songs were catchy and well written, even if their lyricist does seem to be a high school freshman.

Then H-Beam started. These guys are always a trip. They were introduced by a Tony Clifton type character wielding a chipping wedge and a purple pimp hat. This was just the beginning of the parade of characters to come through this show, as is typical with H-Beam. The music was really tight, as would be expected from a band that has been playing and listening to these songs in the studio for months. They have sort of a Flaming Lips/Zappa type sound with a stage show that could have been an episode from the Muppets. Leader Matt Walberg was excellent on that guitar of his. Russell Wright was a good stable bass substitute, as always, and the rhythm chicken on drums was really good too. Also props to him for the hand fart solo. Awesome. The show came to an abrupt awkward ending when one of the crazed mutant characters apparently pissed off the drummer enough to storm off the stage mid song. You never know, with H-Beam, this could have been planned although probably not the best way to encourage the crowd to buy your new record, which is probably why Beam did it. Kings of theatrics and drama these guys are. I hope Matt comes through on his promise for the next show to be "something we have never seen before."

Major props to Frank for the great mix on the soundboard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Derek Trucks Band

Tonight was another night at Live on the Green downtown. Derek Trucks, with support from Jack Pearson and Homemade Water were on the bill. After 2 full days of rain, the skies let up and gave us a beautiful night for some free music. I think the crowd might still have been a little waterlogged, because the energy was a little down for most of the night.

When I got there Homemade Water was playing. They were a run of the mill hippie jam band. The only thing that stood out to me was that the drummer didn't use sticks. He played the drums with his bare hands. I don't know what kind of statement he was trying to make but I got news for him. Dude, if you want anyone to hear your cymbals, you need to get some sticks. Also, it's hot in the summer and, oh forget it. I'm sure he has some reason for not using sticks. Saving Trees maybe? By the way, the fact that this is the only real thing that stands out about your band is not a good sign.

Jack Pearson's trio was next. He's another former Allman Brother. He was on guitar with Dickey in the 90's. I know he's a good guitar player. He's very talented. To me he was just another one of those guys who strives to play as many notes as he can without feeling any of them. I know he can play really fast, and that sounds cool and all, but with his rapid scale bursts, there was really never a continuous groove to follow and therefore no real dynamics. I know I'm not the only one thinking this because I could just see the crowd standing there like "c'mon, please give us something to dance to." Also the mix wasn't that great, making the guitar too loud, the bass to soft, and the drums kind of muddy. This was the case for most of the night, with all of the bands.

As flat lined as Pearson was, the Derek Trucks band was the complete opposite. Derek Trucks is a master of the dynamic jam. When the band kicks off a song, you could swear you're listening to your parents easy listening record collection. They lull you in with a smooth groove and then the next thing you know, Derek's taking a solo and melting your face with his SG. His playing style is more fluent. He starts off slow and builds up the jam after a minute or two. While there are still the rapid quick notes and random pauses, he makes it flow with soulful bends and more tension and release which gives you something to look forward to in the song. And then just when you think his guitar is going to shoot out sparks and explode, it's right back into the groove to finish the song. By the later portion of the show, this formula was successful in getting the crowd dancing and cheering. Jack Pearson came out for a few songs and swapped licks with Derek, drawing huge cheers from the crowd during the songs, as opposed to his set where the applause came at the end of the songs, seemingly out of obligation.

The DTB is a cool band. If you're looking for the Allman Brothers, you might be disappointed. These guys are more jazzy than southern. Although I've got to say, I'm glad the awesome keyboard player didn't bust out the flute, which I've seen him do before. We all know what the flute can do to a rock show. This show was fun, a good mix of people at a good venue. I hope this concert series goes on for the entirety of next summer and not just a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


In the words of my older sister, "it just won't be the same without Slack "opening" or the lawn fires", but it was still pretty awesome. I've never seen such a collection of bad asses in one place at one time.

In my quest to find a 15 dollar ticket (successful by the way) I came across a guy with an extra. He said he'd rather take in his ticket and waste it than sell it to me for 15 bucks because he got it for free. Some people man. I asked him what the logic of this was and he just looked at me like a five year old who owned the only dodge ball. That's fine, I told him, see you inside. I got to see the show for 15 bucks anyway and he's still a prick.

When I heard the name of the opening band was Lamb of God, I was excited to see a wholesome, nice group of young men with heavenly voices and a fine message. Not really. Lamb of God were your typical heavy metal, head banging, throat screaming band. It was great. Like a scene out of Wayne's World. One highlight for me was when the singer gave a shout out to his good friend Hank Williams III and described Hank Sr.'s being banned from the Grand Ole Opry as bull shatner. Fun show but also a good opportunity to get a fresh beer and use the mensa.

After Lamb of God the roadies scurried around to prepare for the Metallica spectacle that was soon to follow. The stage was in the middle of the arena, as opposed to at one end, which was pretty cool. With 8 mics on each long side and 2 on each end, the band was free to run amok and please every head bangin crowd member. The coffin light rigs were pretty cool too.

The lights went down, and the band came out. And from that moment on, ROCK. Awesome lasers, lights and pyrotechnics added to the face melting rock provided by the band. Kirk Hammett laid down some of the sickest lead guitar ever. James Hetfield was like one of Hinton's Outsiders but with a screaming guitar and a bad attitude during the songs, which turned to an old buddy between numbers. Robert Trujillo on bass was a monster. He actually looked like a silver back gorilla and rocked that bass down around his knees and ran around like a man on fire. Probably the most entertaining member for me, all music aside. I've never really had much respect for that Lars Ulrich, or any other sad sack of crap named Lars for that matter, but tonight I have to say he worked really hard and did a pretty good job of playing Metallica songs on the drums. And then just when I was getting ready to give him props, he got on the mic and reminded us of how big of a basket he is.

At this point I have to mention the guy outside in the smoking section talking on the phone to his girlfriend. He was sobbing, tearing his eyes out, talking about how the songs connected to him and the Black Album was so important and Metallica was so special. You'd expect this at an Elton John show or a Jonas Brothers concert or even Paul McCartney. But Metallica? Get a damned hold of yourself man!

The show wound down with a stellar rendition of "Nothing Else Matters" mostly with Hetfield singing and playing alone. It was a nice calm before the "Enter Sandman" storm that would close the "regulation" part of the show. In the break before the encore, the roadies loaded another Marshall stack amp onto the stage leading us to believe that this would be another Nashville sit in. Who would it be? Vince Gill? The wonderful John Hiatt? Tim and Faith? NO. Try Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead! Awesome! He came out and led the band through a pair of Motorhead songs which I'm sorry to say I didn't know the names of. But they were sick none the less, including a classic back to back lean between Hetfield and Lemmy. The encore closed with a loud, intense version of "Seek and Destroy" with Hetfield making the fans promise to "leave everything they had in this arena." The grand finale was about 50 huge black beach balls falling from the ceiling and bouncing around. After the song ended the band spent about 5 minutes throwing every pick and drumstick they had out into the crowd. It was nice to see such humble appreciation for the fans who have made this band great for the last 20 some odd years.

As a guy who's not "necessarily" a Metallica fan, this show was pretty great. The energy in the crowd was contagious and the band showed us why they are still one of the best acts around.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

J-Po and the V.A.B

I got to the Closing Bell a little early after walking through the biggest monsoon in the history of the world. This place is more of a bar with a stage than an actual music venue. By day it's a lunch spot for music row suits. None the less, it started to fill up around 9 and the opening band took the stage.
The HGB, (Home Grown Band) were a 3 piece from a little hippie community called the Farm. They launched into their set and did their best to get the collared shirts and summer dresses moving with their Sublime-like songs. The drummer was really tight and he was playing a really cool snare that added a good pop to the sound. The bass player did most of the singing which was good because I'm not sure if the guitar player was awake or aware that he was playing a show or even on earth. These guys were a fun little band. Playing music they like and having fun. They finished their set and were getting ready to leave the stage when a drunk fratty started yelling for "Bad Fish", a Sublime song. Of course they obliged, and did a pretty good job.

Oh, J-Po.

It was fun watching the over sized band play a round of "how many people can we stuff onto this tiny stage?". After a profanity laced self intro, J-Po and the V.A.B got going. Within the first minute of the song, J-Po was up on the bar waving his hands much like he doesn't care.

This guy J-Po is a skinny white kid that is almost like a mix between Ali G and a black southern preacher. He is known for surrounding himself with fantastic musicians which is the only real reason to ever see this act. That and the fact that it was free. I'll never pay to see this joker.

After a couple of songs filled with "uh" and "what" repeats, we were treated to a cameo from an "MC" who was a lifelong Tennessee resident that thinks he grew up in the Bronx. This guy gets up on stage, rambles off a bunch of nonsense, waves HIS hands in the air and disappears just like that.

So about 20 minutes in, the people started to realize that, yes, this does suck, so they start to leave. What does J-Po do? He cusses them, talks junk about the bars next door, promises an orgy to anyone who stays inside, and launches into his slow dance number "Sex in the Morning". Then he sits down on the bar, lets his awesome band all take solos, and clicks around on his iphone. All in all it was exactly what I expected. A good funky band interrupted by a towel swinging jack-ass. You might ask "why would you go if you knew it would be bad?" Well it was free, a few of my friends are in the band, and J-Po has a tendency to have lots of girls at his shows. It was something to do. More like sitting at a bar with a loud obnoxious juke box than attending an actual concert. J-Po, what a joke.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Toadies

After Stillhouse Hollow in the park, I moved over to downtown Nashville for the premier of Live on the Green with headliner The Toadies. This is the new "Dancin in the District" style, free live show downtown.

I showed up in time to catch the last 3 songs from a local opening Nashville band called American Bang (formerly Bang Bang Bang). Before tonight the only thing i knew about this band was that the lead singer dates a girl i've been in love with for 10 years named Evyn. I keep meaning to see these guys but always secretly hated them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that these guys rocked hard. A four piece rock band, these guys played like they were on their way up. Although i know they've had much bigger shows before, they played like this was their chance to rock out the biggest crowd they've had in their home town. Fun upbeat rock for all listeners, they weren't trying to be anything other than some dudes with an opportunity to play for their home town and have fun. This is in direct contrast to the Toadies.

The Toadies started off their show with a big bust. They tried to pull of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" with some kind of saxamaphone playing the lead singing part. Everyone failed. From the sax man, to the drummer, to the sound man, to the Titans announcer across the river, this was a bust. And this was only the first 90 seconds of the show.

When they moved on to their own material, they pulled it off in a way only a band who has been famous since 1997, broke up for a few years, and got back together, can. The lead singer looked like his head could pop at any time from trying to hit all the "old" notes. The drummer looked like a robot just trying to remember all those parts he wrote when he was 23. At some point, the 2 portly guitar techs each picked up shakers and shook them in the microphone like they were a pivotal part of the 90's. Come on guys, just tune up.

I found myself asking, "is this the big hit?" before more than a couple of their selections. You know, "do you wanna die..." None of them were, but most of them could've been. These guys, unlike American Bang, played like they used to be famous and we should know who they are. Whereas the bang played like their next show will be bigger and better, the Toadies played like their next show was at the fairgrounds in Bowling Green. Time to hang it up dudes. It's been a great 5 years, 10 years ago.

stillhouse hollow

The night started out at centennial park with Stillhouse Hollow. This is my brother's bluegrass band.

These guys are one of a kind. They bring their bluegrass with a hint of old-timey songs while having an obvious great time.

Tonight it was apparent that they were on a time restriction as they played mostly songs from their record,"Dakota". Don't get me wrong, those songs are well written and clever and probably their best material. However, when they have an unlimited amount of time, they mix in all sorts of covers that really make the show interesting and unpredictable. You never know what these guys can pull out. Tonight's versions of "Goosebumps" and "Miss Meg" were especially bouncy and fun.

I gotta say that the recent departure of their bass player has left a huge void that a guitar and mandolin simply can't fill. At some point, these guys have to fill this void, whether it be with bass or something else.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Russ and the Johns

Here's a fun little one for you. Tonight i found myself back at the Cafe Coco for a little jazz. My boy Rusty Badones (pronounced bad-OH-nes) was playing bass with 2 other guys in a funky/jazz/jam/ thing.

First off, the players were all pretty great. The John on guitar has obviously been practicing whatever his guitar teacher has been giving him for homework. No one can ever say that this John can't play a hell of a lot of notes really fast. His best playing however was when he closed his eyes, put his head back and just played what he felt. Most of the time he was transfixed on the neck of his Paul Reed Smith and playing little short explosions of jazz scales while the funky rhythm section laid down the jazzy funky beats. Rusty and Drum John had some great solos on bass and drums respectively.

Last off I will say that if I was listening to a recording of this set on a roadtrip with a certain traveling ensemble, it would get a loud BORING!!!! But seeing these guys do this live was definitely impressive and certainly entertaining. Jazz enthusiasts will love it.

P.S. Kudos to Russel for the beautiful composition named after and dedicated to his recently deceased dog Monkey.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Paul Mc Friggin Cartney

So just to help this blog get off the ground, I'll review the Paul McCartney show i went to a couple of weekends ago.

I was lucky enough to be offered a free ticket for this awesome show. It was at Piedmont Park in Atlanta Georgia. A cool park in the middle of downtown Atlanta. Much like Centennial park without a big building in the middle. The press said there were about 40,000 people there, which is, in my opinion, an understatement.

After waiting in the hot august sun for a couple of hours, the opening band came out. They were called The Script. Let's just say, if I was a Hollywood producer looking for a script, these guys would be perfect if MTV and Nickelodeon had a baby channel and needed a live act to play their opening weekend festival. It turned out to be just background noise for the hot, humid anticipation of Paul. God bless them for trying to get everyone rockin, but how do you really open for Paul McCartney if you're not U2 or Elvis? A good chance to get another beer and stand in line for the port-o-jons and get yourself ready.

Finally Paul came out, opening with Drive My Car, which made Curt the winner of out "first song" bet. He proceeded to rock through songs ranging from Wings to new Paul stuff, to Beatles songs from all eras. Songs such as Jet, Band on the Run and Let Me Roll It, to I'm Down and Paperback Writer throughout the whole show. I could go on and on about the setlist. If you're really interested in the whole thing you can check it out at paulmccartney.com. A real special treat for me was the Day in the Life>Give Peace a Chance. Awesome.

Aside from the great songs, it was like being at a show put on by your old buddy Paul. He would pause between songs to tell stories about his old friends, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison. You know, for anyone else, this sort of name dropping would be pretentious but Paul was sincere in that these guys really were just his old buddies. It was also cool that this weekend was not only the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, but the 45th anniversary of the Beatles show at Shea Stadium, which he referenced a few times.

So after 2 and a half hours, the show started winding down, not songwise, but you know, the endings started getting longer and they left the stage a couple of times. Curt and I knew that it wasn't over because we cheated and looked up recent setlists online. We knew that the show wasn't over till he played Sargent Peppers and The End, which he did in the 3rd encore preceded by Yesterday, Helter Skelter and Get Back. What a great way to end a great show. He did yet another round of his "what, me?" bows to the crowd and thanked us all for being great and it was over. We found ourselves sitting there thinking "did that just happen to us? Was that really one of the Beatles right there?" Indeed it was.

His backup band was totally awesome. His drummer played over sized drums and cymbals and everyone else played gibson guitars and basses. The sound was full and the musicians were top of the line. All in all, one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Thanks to H-ron Redding for the ticket and everything else. I'll never forget this one.

greetings....Funky Miracle

Welcome to shows big and small. A little spot for me to review all the shows i go to. I assure you, this blog will not be a constant thing, it will only be updated when i go to a show. The best time to check in will be Monday or Tuesday, as most shows are on the weekend. So the first review will be for the Funky Miracle, Nashville's Tribute to the Meters. They played in the back room of Cafe Coco to a crowd of about 20 people at the most.

In full disclosure, 2 of the members are my buddies, but they know i have opinions on every show, flattering or not. Really, these guys nailed the songs. Anybody who has ever listened to the meters knows that even though a lot of the songs sound similar, each one has its quirks. The stops and solos and other unique bits that make each song different. It's true they nailed all those bits. At the end of the show when i was hanging out with the guys, the question came about, "did we sound too white?" I think that was the phrase i was looking for. The drummer was great. He nailed all the parts and his fills were right on. However, he was right on the beat. In most bands this would be desirable. In a Meters band, the drummer needs to be a little behind the beat. You know, at the risk of being non-pc, the drummer was a little too white. Anyway, that's the only constructive criticism I could offer to these guys. They've only been playing together for a little while so i have to believe that after a few more rehearsals, they will be nailing it solid.

Stay tuned to my blog if you want to hear about live music in Nashville. More to come for sure.