Monday, December 5, 2011

Guns N Roses

In the days leading up to this show, everyone, and I mean everyone I talked to had the same reaction. "Nah, you have fun with that, it's not the real Guns N Roses, I think I'll skip it." Being the concert optimist that I am, I thought, well, maybe Slash isn't there, or even a guy with a bucket on his head, but surely Axl will bring a show worth seeing. You might ask, "Why would you have so much faith in a guy who is infamous for being the biggest ass hole in rock history?" Now I am asking myself the same thing.

In what would become the theme of the evening, I spent the first hour in that arena waiting for Black Label Society to start. I figured, the ticket said 7:30, so showing up at around 8:15 would be a safe bet. Not so much. Finally, the B.L.S. started and after the first few seconds, I found myself, again, waiting for this load of crap to be over. When the opening band sucks, you figure its only 45 minutes to sit through. These guys didn't get the memo. Contrary to what they believed, no one was there to see over an hour of their cliche show. They pulled out every worn out hard rock stereotype, from the ten finger tap, to the drum stick twirl, to headbanging in front of their wall of Marshall stacks. With their 15 minute guitar noise solo session, I had enough time to catch most of the second half of the Lions Saints game out on the concourse, along with a couple hundred other people.

When they finally ended, it was on again with the waiting. Another solid hour went by before the newest version of Guns came on, and they started with some Chinese Democracy new crap. I thought "alright, cool, they got that crap out of the way and now it's on to "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Mr. Brownstone"." I thought the show was starting to change directions into the walk down rock memory lane that I had hoped for. Unfortunately, it turned into more waiting. I waited the next 45 minutes for those tatted up nobodies (not to mention the dork on congas and piano) to run through a half a dozen more new songs before hitting "Live and Let Die". When the next two songs were again, new crap, I spit on the floor and walked out. I don't care how nostalgic a live version of "Sweet Child O' Mine" could be, it's not worth sitting through this load of bull. Axl, Slash, Duff, Peter Pan, and freakin' Batman could play "November Rain" and it wouldn't be worth sitting through this. I'm sure they eventually got around to playing that and some other old ones, and I'd also bet that the damned sun was coming up when they did.

Guns N' Roses 2011 are a joke, and they are officially dead to me. Axl can go to hell, and Chinese Democracy can spend eternity in the crap dollar bin at Wal-Mart. Now I know why Slash and the rest of the original crew could not be less interested in rejoining Crap-sel Rose. I wouldn't listen to that dip shit bang cans on the sidewalk. Now I begin the next long wait, the one I'm actually looking forward to, the one where another 15 or 20 years go by before that ass hole is in my town again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wanda Jackson

Last night was a big one for a couple of reasons. Not only was I going to see Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson, I was going to see her in Nashville's newest venue, Marathon Music Works. This was their much anticipated big opening party. They had even given out hundreds of tickets to those who had participated in the contest to name the place, myself included. Even when I got to will call and my name wasn't on the free ticket list as expected, they still gave me a free pair and said "thanks for coming, have a good time." That was a pretty cool way to be in a situation where they could have been jerks. Being cool goes a long way with someone like me.

The new Marathon Music Works is exactly what Nashville needed. It's the venue that bridges the gap between places like Exit In and The Cannery that can hold five or six hundred people, and the Ryman and War Memorial auditoriums that hold a couple thousand. The wide open warehouse style can easily hold over a thousand people, and the crafty layout makes for easily accessible bars and bathrooms, as well as a great view of the stage from just about anywhere in the room. The sound was clear and plenty loud, and the light rig was just enough to make it look good, but not overpower the band. Overall this place gets an ecstatic two thumbs up from me. I can't wait to see more shows here.

The opening band was the Black Belles, a relatively new girl band who caught the eye of Jack White and got scooped up by Third Man Records. Their pale faces and dark eyeliner paired with all black dresses and wide brimmed black hats set the spooky tone for their macabre garage rock. They gave us a solid 45 minute set of crunchy, upbeat tunes that would have easily landed them in the Addams family's top five.

After a couple of sitings of the aforementioned Mr. White and fellow Raconteur Patrick Keeler, some "Soul Satisfying" spins from Johnny Jackson, and a nice little speech from Mayor Karl Dean, Ms. Jackson's band, The High Dollars, came out and got the show going with a couple of tunes sung by Heath Haynes. A few numbers into that, Ms. Wanda Jackson appeared to a huge ovation. She was all decked out in her frilly pink jacket and huge beehive hair, and she wasted no time pointing that little finger in the air and shakin' those hips. She rolled through old classics like "I Gotta Know", "Fujiyama Mama", and "Hard Headed Woman", and she even paid tribute to her old friend and brief sweetie Elvis Presley which included "Heartbreak Hotel". It was awesome. She then moved on to gush about the afore-aformentioned Jack White and the record they recently made together called The Party Ain't Over, and did some of those songs including "Shakin' All Over", and gave some heartfelt love to the late Amy Winehouse with her version of "You Know I'm No Good". By the time they finished with "Let's Have A Party", and encored with "Great Balls Of Fire", Ms. Jackson blew kisses and left the stage as gracefully as she had appeared.

It was truly an honor to finally get to see this national treasure perform. Her intersong banter was as charming as it was endearing, like having a rock and roll lunch with your sweet grandmother. She shared stories about accepting Christ as her savior, and she spilled the beans on Elvis being a good kisser. Whenever an artist introduces a song they were playing in 1954, it is a special occasion, and this night was full of those moments. Wanda Jackson's title of the Queen of Rockabilly is definitely deserved, and she lives up to it with grace and dignity, along with a little bit of sass and mischief.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Here Come The Mummies

The last installment of Live on the Green for the year turned into Live on the Scream, or Scream on the Green, or some other live screaming variation, complete with a Halloween costumed audience, and weirdness from our boys H-Beam and the always funky Here Come The Mummies.

There was another band that played first, but their Kings of Leon meets a depressed Muse emo pop made me head straight for the parking garage where my friend had locked his keys in his car. The stage was still more depressing, and less entertaining for that matter.

H-Beam on the other hand, made it clear from the get-go that they were going to give Nashville their full on assault of crazy characters and shenanigans, the likes of which the Green had never seen. Their Pig Lawyer, dancing Panda, and life sized Mustache all made appearances in skits and songs all night long. They even recruited a handful of hot zombies to dance during their rendition of Jacko's "Thriller". Among all this spectacle, the Beam sounded better than I have ever heard them sound. Curt Redding and Russell Wright have become the most solid rhythm section this band has seen, and Adam Livingston (from Boom Ticket) is melding nicely into the second guitar role. Andrew "Fantastic" fills every other roll with ease, and Matty "Banana" Walberg owned that Green stage. It was great to see H-Beam do what they do, on a huge stage in front of thousands of people, they were true to who they are and they did it well.

Not to be outdone, Here Come The Mummies came marching through the crowd drum line style wrapped head to toe in their usual mummy wrap. When they kicked into their first number, the crowd came alive. The party was on with the undead hosts blasting their funk tunes and waving their huge freak flag. The band consisted of mummy bass, guitar, keys, drums and a huge horny horn section, and their songs were chock full of sexy double entendre, as well as funny puns and party lines. The whole thing was an unadulterated good time. This was the perfect way to end another season of Live on the Green, and also a fun way to kick off Halloween 2011.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weird Al Yankovic

Tonight's show was one that I had been anticipating for quite some time. Although I figured Weird Al at the Ryman probably wasn't going to knock my socks off, I knew it would be fun and unique, unlike anything I had seen before.

After acquiring a cheap ticket relatively quickly, I made my way inside and up to my usual perch in the balcony. I was relieved to see that on this night there was no opening act set up. Sometimes it's nice to not have to sit through a time filler before you get the goods. This development left me with ample time for people watching, which was great with such a colorful crowd. There were mom jeans and turtle necks galore, and weirdos from all ages. The wacky innocence from a crowd full of people who only go to about one show a year, and that show being Weird Al, made me feel like I was at a county fair in Topeka. They filed in brimming with youthful giddiness and handfuls of t-shirts, posters and popcorn.

The lights went down, and as I had quietly predicted, no one stood up. No one moved really. There was some polite applause, and a little yelling, but overall it was a very well behaved welcome. They launched into "Polka Face", a 2011 version of the "Polka Your Eyes Out" medley, with more recent parodies of Justin Beiber and Ladies Gaga and Antebellum, complete with bubbles and zoom whistles. There seemed to be a Nashville homer theme developing, with nods to Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and even a jab at local hero Jack White.

While the songs, with their puns and silly rhymes were one thing, the stage production was quite another. Each number had costumes, wigs, and even some choreographed dance moves. The costume change time between songs was filled with filmed interviews with Pop celebs that were obviously edited for comedic appeal. "Al T.V." made Jessica Simpson, Madonna, and others look like idiots with clever questions and well timed cuts, and they also showed clips from just about every popular T.V. show in the past twenty years referencing Weird Al.

Every song was done all out. "Smells Like Nirvana" had the band members dressed just like the classic "Teen Spirit" video, and there were even a couple of grungy cheerleaders dancing around. After a complete "Amish Paradise" and a long medley of a half-a-dozen favorites, there was another Lady Gaga tune and a couple of hip-hop numbers that I didn't recognize before they ended with "Fat", complete with, you guessed it, the full fat suit. The encore started with eight Storm Troopers walking out on stage along with Darth Vader, and "The Saga Begins", the epic tale of the newer Star Wars films set to "American Pie". Then, as if to make full use of the characters, they finished with "Yoda", one of my favorite Al songs, about the little Jedi monster sung to the tune of "Lola". It was the perfect ending to a wild, wacky, wonderful, weird night.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Robert Randolph and the Family Band

It's that time of year again, end of the summer in Nashville, and that means Live On The Green is back. This year, the free outdoor live concert series boasted a less than stellar line up, but this week was the standout. I was excited to see the good ol' Family Band again, as well as interested in the other bands playing.

I arrived a couple of songs into Moon Taxi's set. They are from Nashville, and I haven't seen them since the Windows On The Cumberland days, but I had heard their new song and it had been stuck in my head all week. These guys really have come a long way in those couple of years. Their funky jam-pop was polished, and their singer's voice made the whole thing sound like what would happen if Kings Of Leon smoked a bone and just chilled out a little.

The next act was introduced as being "voted Knoxville's best band three years running", which to me was like being voted best chicken plucker, probably not a huge amount of competition. I guess you have to factor in the amount of fratties and such amongst the voting fan base. Within the first fifteen seconds of the first song, it was obvious that this was a blatant Black Crowes rip off. It was like if the Crowes replaced Chris Robinson with John Mellencamp, in both singing and songwriting, but Mellencamp still tried to emulate Robinson. I was overwhelmed with cheese ball lyrics about small towns, diners, work on the docks and the like, and the rest of the band was so vanilla and bland that it made Bruce Springsteen look like the Jimi at Woodstock. I say if they play LOTG again for the next two years, they would get my vote for worst band three years running.

Finally Robert Randolph and the Family Band came out, starting with R.R. ripping of a pedal steel solo that already made me forget about the previous band's rubbish. Once the rest of the Family Band kicked in, the party was on. Their jammy funk is a lot like another popular rock family, that of Sly Stone, but with more drawn out jams, and of course the insanely talented front man on the pedal steel guitar. Randolph's chops are up there with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Duane Allman, and the rest of the band hangs right in there, often trading instruments and shining. The whole thing is like a huge party at church, with tons of energy and six dollar beers.

The thing about this night was that the Family Band started off so strong, there wasn't really anywhere else to go. After the first few songs, to me at least, it just kind of became background music as I started to run into friends and socialize more. It was rockin', don't get me wrong, and a lot of the crowd was going nuts, but by the time the clock struck ten, I had been there for almost four hours and I was ready to go. It was indeed a successful Live on the Green, and I'm excited for at least one more pretty good one.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Raconteurs

(This is the first picture I've posted that I actually took)

Imagine this. Your favorite band in the world has been on indefinite hiatus for the past two years. They announce a one-off festival show somewhere in Michigan, which turns into a couple more, including starting the whole thing off at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, which just happens to be the last place you saw them in '08. It was just like finding out that your favorite local band is back together, playing the same old haunt they used to play back then. Tickets sold out in minutes, and I was lucky enough to have gotten one.

Finally, finally, the night came and as hard as I tried not to, I still arrived pretty early. There were two opening bands which I didn't expect. The first was a vaudeville style old timey bluegrass outfit whose name I never caught. I spent the time during their set walking around. The opening act I was expecting were Nashville's own garage psych-punk duo JEFF The Brotherhood. Their set was good, full of bulldozing guitars and pounding drums, and songs that roared despite only being played by two dudes. They had a real thing going, and it was good to see them enjoy their recent success, but agian, I was still a ball of excited energy and spent most of their time pacing the back of the balcony.

After a switch over period that included music that was actually interesting, the Third Man suits vacated the stage, the lights went down, and the crowd went ape. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for since September '08. The Raconteurs took the stage and blasted into a noise bomb, which led to the beginning of "Consolers Of The Lonely", the title track from their second album. From then on, it was hit after hit as "Hands" led into my personal favorite, "Level". You could tell the boys were super stoked to be back, albeit a little rusty as Brendan Benson slipped up on the beginning of "Old Enough", but he recovered quickly with a huge smile. Nashville's favorite adopted son Jack White held the super charged crowd in his hands while he sang (in his own Jack White way) "Top Yourself", even letting us complete the big pay-off line, "DO IT TO YOU".

As the show set in, it was clear that the rhythm section of Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence was my favorite part of this band. Watching Keeler drum is like watching someone push a huge snowball from a wheelchair. He was just relentless, making me wonder how just one guy could make all that noise in songs like "Many Shades Of Black", and "Broken Boy Soldier", which has one of the sickest drum parts in rock history. And although he is small in stature, "Little" Jack's bass lines rival giants the likes of Johns Entwhistle and Paul Jones. These two combine to be the engine that drives the guitar train consisting of Jack White and Brendan Benson, each with their own unique style. It's not hard to see that these friends have been tight for years, long before the Raconteurs began, and even while on hiatus, playing with each other in various groups and projects.

They ended the set with "Blue Veins", the perfect bluesy number for "Big" Jack to freak out on guitar and really leave us wanting a strong encore. They did not disappoint. They hit us with "Salute Your Solution" and "Steady As She Goes" before ending with their epic saga "Carolina Drama", recounting the tale of Billy versus the evil boyfriend. Jack even played the last line, completely without amplification, having everyone in the crowd join in on "Go and ask the milk man." It gave me chills.

This show was as close as I've seen to a perfect 10. Granted, as I said before, it was my favorite band in the world and there were a few slip up moments, but the energy, venue, and band all combined for a concert that was just out of this world. And I say this having just seen Grace Potter just a handful of nights before. The energy and crowd-to-band relationship was right up there with The Flaming Lips, without, of course, the balloons and confetti. I felt privileged to be there and be able to one day tell the kids that I saw the Raconteurs at the Ryman, twice. With the mystery and randomness of all things Jack White, we have no way of knowing if it will be another open-ended aperture, or if we will see a new full record and tour. Obviously, I'm holdin' out for the latter, but history shows us that the best ones always leave us wanting more.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

First off, I have to wish Shows Big And Small a belated second birthday. It's been a great couple of years and I've seen some incredible shows, as well as some not so good ones. One thing that hasn't changed is my love for live music, be it in an arena, at a festival, or in a local club or coffee house. I love going to shows and I love giving my take on them, and I also love any debate that my opinion may spark. I realize that not everyone will agree with every post, and I'm always open for discussion. So here's to another year full of live music in Nashville, including the big 100th show, whatever it may be.

That being said, last night's Grace Potter show at the Ryman was one of those ones that became an instant classic, up there with Sir Paul, and The Lips. This was one of those shows where I went down and bought a ticket for full price, the day they went on sale, not wanting to gamble on a last minute sidewalk score. I had seen Miss Grace (as she will be henceforth christened) at Bonnaroo a couple of years ago on a side stage in the middle of the afternoon and I remember that set being one of the best of the weekend. I knew this was gonna be good.

I arrived at my aisle seat in the balcony as the openers were finishing their first song. I had seen the Carolina Chocolate Drops open for Old Crow Medicine show a couple of years ago and I remembered being unmoved back then. Last night however, I think I got just plain irritated. At least being paired with Old Crow put them in the right genre, as an old timey string band with tinges of bluegrass and ragtime. When I arrived ready to rock and was met instead with kazoo solos and some sloppy side mouth voice trumpet I was unnerved, and then when they started beat boxing, I shook my head and walked out. If I'm at the fairgrounds for a chili cook-off, then fine, bring on the Drops. But at a rock show like the Nocturnals, don't give me that crap. Next time they're on the bill, I think I'll just stay at the Honkey Tonk a little longer.

When the lights when down, I fully expected the band to come out and start playing before Miss Grace came out. I was pleasantly surprised to see the opposite happen. She came out alone with a white Flying V and played the intro to one of my favorites, "Nothing But The Water" before the rest of the band came out and finished the song. By the end of the first verse I had already moved to the walkway in the back of the balcony. I don't know if the Drops sucked the energy out of the place or if the Mother Church was still asleep from the previous night's gig, but I was already getting sneers for being the only one in the balcony standing up. This lack of energy continued until Miss Grace finally said "Come on, why don't y'all stand up" and everyone woke up and got into it.

I couldn't understand how anyone could sit still. The Nocturnals were smokin', much like what would happen if Heart and The Black Crowes had a rock baby. The dual guitar attack of Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco was flawless and the rhythm section shook the place with Matt Burr's power drumming and the sultry Catherine Popper on bass. Their onstage chemistry and feel for dynamics blended perfectly with Miss Grace's work, both on guitar and Hammond B-3. Whether they were crooning ballads like "Apologies" or rocking out on "Goodbye Kiss", they nailed it. Even when the rhythm section left the stage, the remaining guitarists played a moving acoustic section which included Gillian Welch's "Elvis Presley Blues".

After finishing the set with a blistering number I couldn't identify, they came back for the encore starting with ZZ Top's "Tush". Then, when she started talking about requests, someone yelled out "Tequila", referencing her duet with Kenny Chesney. She obliged, and just when I thought she wasn't a hundred percent perfect, she told the story of Chesney informing her of a CMA nomination only to reply "What the heck is a CMA?" So awesome. They finished up the show with two big hitters, "Paris" and "The Medicine", and left the Ryman in shambles.

I still don't think I've adequately described just how talented Grace Potter is. She didn't just play that organ, she laid down some of the funkiest grooves of the night. Her energy was incredible as she shook and jived all over the stage, and her voice, it was perfect from those low pitch croons to the high squeals and everything in between. Also, it didn't hurt that she had those legs in a dress that Tina Turner would call short. This girl, and band for that matter, is everything that is right in Rock and Roll. I know most of America won't pick up on these guys, but the ones who know anything about good music will catch on and The Nocturnals will become another one of those bands that keeps packing festivals and theaters and rocking those who are smart enough to be there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Laura McGhee

A couple of nights ago I went down to Douglas Corner Cafe to check out a set from Nashville's rising Scottish songstress Laura McGhee. I saw her about a year ago, and I was excited to see how far she's come since then. I knew there had to be some progress, as I have seen her name more and more around town.

First off, I really like Douglas Corner. It reminds me a lot of The Pond in Franklin, with the exact same layout, only with a more Nashville-y feel and a greater sense of history. I also couldn't help but notice the hundreds of rolls worth of duct tape in its natural habitat, wrapped around the ducts. That made me smile.

Laura's set was rife with new material. Her songs ranged from country-pop, to Americana ballads, to traditional Scottish instrumentals, all of which showed a level of improvement that only a year in Nashville with your nose to the turntable could produce. The piece that stood out to me most was a snippet from the arrangement that McGhee herself composed chronicling the history of Scotland. It was a beautiful violin/guitar pairing that, upon closing my eyes, put me right back next to a loch in the bonnie land. Her accompanist, whose name I never caught, did a super job of pairing a handful of different instruments with Laura's guitar and fiddle. He added harmonica, some guitar of his own, and even some penny whistle, which in this case, was exactly the right whistle for its time and place.

While I was standing around chit-chatting, the next act started and immediately grabbed my attention. The best I could do to describe these folks would be like an off lower Broadway honky-tonk, chicken pickin' version of the White Stripes at about age 50. Boomer Castleman and the "fabulous" Lois Hess tore through a set of high speed country numbers, complete with "I wrote this song with (drop name here) intros. There was also some mention of Boomer winning some type of "fastest lick" award, which wasn't hard to believe with the way his fingers ran up and down that fretboard. And Lois, wow Lois. At first glance you might think ol' Boomer picked her up straight from her gig teaching glee club at the local middle school, but she could actually play. Not like Bonzo or anything, but she kept up the groove and even threw in a couple of solos. It was almost like a scene out of a Cohen brothers movie. The whole thing ended with a six minute tribute song in which Boomer would sing a two line verse about a guitar player, and then play a little solo in said guitarist's style. It was cool for about the first few verses, but it just kept going and going and getting more and more out there. He covered everyone from Chet Atkins and Ernest Tubbs, to Scotty Moore and Luther Perkins, and he even did Eddie Van Halen and Chuck Berry. It was interesting to say the least. All in all, it was a good night at an old Nashville spot.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hank III

When one of my sisters won me tickets to this show, benefiting the wag for dogs thing, I immediately began to wonder what in the world a Hank Williams III show at the Factory in Franklin would be like? I began to imagine high fallootin' society types with sweaters draped around their shoulders and no socks, but when I finally got there, I was pleased to see a crowd thick with some Hank kids. It was about fifty percent punk/necks, and fifty percent Franklin types, who were at least cool enough to know that they needed to be at this show. Either way, everyone was there to party.

I arrived to my first ever Factory show a couple songs into the set, and after standing in three different lines before I got one beer, I got myself right into the thick of the crowd. Within the first half hour, they played "The Legend Of D Ray White" and some others that I recognized from the show a few weeks ago. At this point, still having no idea what to expect, I figured we were in for about an hour and a half charity set of the Damn Band's cleaner selections, but again I stood corrected. They played a solid three hours, and as the crowd got smaller and less Franklin adult-y, the band got rowdier and more smokey club-y. There was stand up bass, fiddle, banjo, steel guitar, and Hank on acoustic, a beautiful old Guild much like the old Kemp family Wanzer. They played their blended mix of country punk all night with bored blank stares while still dripping attitude and badness. The steel player especially stood out to me, looking like Johnny Knoxville with a pony tail, in a Fedora, black shades, and a Buck Rogers style shirt, and never once changing facial countenance. Just a smooth bad ass on both pedal and Dobro slides. There was also a drummer who had the old Dave Grohl Nirvana setup with the huge deep mounted tom. He held this freight train on track along with the percussive Doghouse bass player, and Sheldon's nasally wail.

For about the last half hour of the show, we got a little taste of Assjack, the Mr. Hyde portion of most of Hank's shows, in which he dons a Les Paul style Guild and plays some thrashy punk rock, thus another prediction busted. By this time, the troublemakers were moshing and raisin' hell and the bouncer was pretty busy keeping the peace among the fifty or so remaining heathens. The Franklin peace that is, it still looked like the ball pit at Chucky Cheese compared to the last show, but everyone there was having a good time, and it all went to help some dogs not have puppies or whatever. Seriously people, there's enough dogs already, spay and neuter em.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Friday night was another good show from good ol' H-Beam down at 12th and Porter. They were the headliners, supported by Running With Bulls, who I missed completely, and The Justin Caulke Orchestra. I caught the last few of their songs, which included the soundtrack song from Super Mario I, boards 1-1 and 1-2. I sort of got a feeling from their set that was like, "Ok, I get it. You can play guitar really fast. Now show me something that everyone else in this town hasn't already shown me". It's like I always say, play what you feel, not what you know. Caulke certainly knows an awful lot, but it seems like there's just nothing there, like a Boxer mix who's had 3 knee replacements.

H-Beam started a little slow, with their "For Those About To Rock" intro leaking a little, but as soon as they hit "The Girl's Gone Wild", they were all over it. Joining the band this evening on rhythm guitar was none other than Adam Livingston, of Boom Ticket. I've seen Adam play probably dozens of times in the past few years in different bands and on different instruments. The difference tonight was that this was the most enthusiasm I've seen out of him since the old Mile 8 days. It was good to see him shake it and smile and have a visible good time. He didn't sound bad either.

Matt Walberg, looking extra Gallagher-y, was on fire, especially during the "Comfortably Numb" solo section, which was pretty killer. The rhythm section with Curt Redding and Russel Wright is always a pleasure to watch, and they only got stronger as the show went on. H-B's songs were intricate and fun, sometimes a little silly, but always respectable and played with a ton of feeling.

The show's MVP has to be hands down Mr. Andrew Fantastic, on keys and sax. Being the longest current tenured Beamer, other than Matty, he always seemed to be sort of in the back ground. Tonight he finally stepped up, playing well, being funny in character, and even persevering through an overly gropey audience member sketch. Not that he never did those things before, but tonight he seemed to have an abundant confidence and swagger. Good on ya Andrew.

This was the best H-Beam show I've seen in a while. Maybe because it was half of my former favorite local band, or maybe they were all just on, having a great night. Either way, keep it up.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Spongebath Records Night

A few blog posts ago I wrote about how cool it was to be in a big music scene, much like The Who and Zeppelin, and The Dead and The Band, with Old Union and Ballhog, Mile 8, and The C.E. and such. I just realized that when I was about 16, 17, I was right in the middle of a pretty big one. My older sister's best friends in the world were the members of Caesar's Glass Box.. When I was about 14, I started my longest hobby, following a band around. My sister was cool enough to let me tag along, and I got to go to all the shows and hang out behind the scenes. I carried their gear, fixed broken guitar strings, and kicked some serious ass in the mosh pits at places like the Boro, Main Street, Sebastians, 328, and Lucy's in my last 2 years of high school.

So those guys were managed by one of the guys from Spongebath Records, who still, to this day, manages the Features. We all went to church together and after church on Sundays, we would go out to lunch and talk about all the stuff that was going on. Stuff like the new Features record or the next Self show. My sister also dated Josh from the Katies briefly and he actually came down to the studio and brought a snare drum for me to use. Sally and I were in a band called The Friendlies, and we played for a while in Mboro and Nashville. We even got to open for The Fluid Ounces once, and maybe, we might have opened for The Katies too. So anyway, we were in with the in crowd, and it was a blast. During all this, I had my first experiences with alcohol, got high from time to time, and almost failed Algebra II. I also went to dozens of good shows from all combinations of the Spongebath roster. Somehow I got into all those bars.

Spongebath eventually folded, and a lot of the bands, including the Friendlies, broke up and went their separate ways. I graduated and did some traveling and my sister ended up moving to Seattle and marrying the singer from CGB. I just thought about this because The Scene did an article about Spongebath this week and it really made me think about my life long love of being involved with the band and being there for all that shit. Just a little something I thought I might write about.

I wrote this (that ^) the minute I saw the word "Spongebath" in a headline on the Nashville Scene's blog the other day, before even reading the article. The Spongebath days in Murfreesboro in the mid-to-late 90s were some good times around here for local music. The article ended up being some of SB's biggest names talking about the label in retrospect, but also, it was plugging a Spongebath Night show at the Basement. Not my favorite venue, but hell I would go to the Trader Joe's in Green Hills to hear the Katies and Self play some songs.

I got there late and missed most of the Katies set, just catching the last two songs but recognizing neither. I did hear later from an old Slacker friend that they played a bunch of songs from the record and it was awesome. In seeing the two songs I saw, I realized that it was going to be very stripped down, often acoustic tonight, which meant three huge things were missing: Josh Moore, Sam Baker, and Jason Rawlings, three of the four local drummers that influenced me most. It was still great to see Jason and Gary playing and singing together, Jason on a distorted acoustic and Gary with the nicest bass I've ever seen him play.

Next up was Seth Timbs, who still looks, and sounds exactly the same. His band has changed into the Seth Timbs Thing (again, no Sam Baker) but that guy is still making some great songs. He showed us the latest versions of his piano pop, and it was good, but really, we were all there for some old stuff.

The buzz was on, no one really knew what Matt Mahaffey was going to do. It turned out he was going to play drums and Timbs was going to play keys, and they were going to "Comb through the ol' Spongebath Catalog." They took turns, Matt song, Seth song, starting with "Lucid Ann", and rolling through favorites such as "Don't You Wanna Have Fun", "Canon", "Record Stack", and finishing up with "It All Comes Out In The Wash". They even teased an old Features song, giving a nod to the one big SB act that couldn't make it. The rearrangement of Self and Ounces songs into just piano and drums really showcased the two artists' talent. Freakin' Awesome.

The encore featured Mahaffey on keys and Timbs on drums for a couple of songs, and then it was clear they were going to honor the biggest request of the night. They brought up the Katies and played a rollickin' version of Spongebath's own song, "Hey Lou", written by the birthday boy, Sam Baker, but covered by every act on the label.
We all sang along "and over and over and over and over" and it was great, and then it was over.

It wasn't was I was hoping for rock-wise, but it was still a great night. Seeing people that I remember out of nowhere, like Randy Alexander, the Thunder 94 DJ that played Self all the time, and hearing names like Don Sergio and Dietz. And although my favorite drummers weren't there, those two are super incredibly talented and they made some great music. Each has one of those voices that stands out, like Kim Deal or Billy Corgan, totally unique and memorable. Their individual writing styles made for two great bands, but it was something else when they played together. Hopefully, with Mahaffey back in town, we might see more of these reunions. Or maybe something new?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hank III

The other night, I had what Adam Clayton would describe as "a musical journey". There were a few things going on, but I managed to hit all of them. Hank Williams III at the Exit In was the ultimate goal, but I had a few stops to make on the way.

The evening started at the antique auction at Music City Auction house downtown. Although not technically a concert, it is quite a show. It's basically a warehouse full of yard sale junk and three hours of "HEY bibbidy bibbidy five five bibbity five". It's always fun to see what random stuff may come across that block, some junk, and some pretty valuable stuff that goes for crazy deals. I bid on a record player and some Jack Daniel's rocks glasses, but came away empty handed. It was still fun.

From there I shot over to 3rd and Lindsley to catch a set from Ballhog. They were a part of a contest, competing for a spot at the local Head Jamz festival later this summer. There were a couple of other good bands, but I only had time to catch a few from Ballhog, one of which was my favorite of the new crop called "County Jail". They've done a good job filling in for Randy Boen as he sails the seven seas, this time with Jake Burns switching between guitar and mandolin. I guess the judges couldn't come up with a winner so they awarded all the acts with a set at the festival. Looks like I got plans on Labor Day Weekend.

I thought I had planned it perfectly, arriving to find a line out the door and down the sidewalk at the In. Long story short, I eventually bought a ticket off of a guy who had been turned away for being too drunk to get in. To a Hank III show. So I got in, and the placed was packed and rowdy as hell. I love these kind of people, the punk/rockabilly rednecks who go to shows like III, the Reveren Horton Heat, and the Legendary Shack Shakers. They come off as country but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone more punk rock. They thrashed and moshed as Sheldon played through over an hour of country punk songs, including my favorite of the night, "The Legend Of D. Ray White", which payed tribute to Jesco's daddy. At the end of the set, they got a little Nirvana on us, and I was hoping that it was just a taste of the thrash metal set we all had come to expect from the second half of a III show.

What we got was a scoop of half speed, Marilyn Manson style gravy dumped on us. Hank came out with just his drummer for the second set, and laid down some serious slow devil jams while a projector displayed the strange back ground scenery. I guess this is his latest offering called Attention Deficit Domination. It was very dark, and hard to get into. I guess it was interesting for a few minutes, but I was really hoping for more from the Assjack playbook.

I left satisfied, having seen the auctions, a string band competition, the spectrum of Hank III, some bouncers fighting some rednecks, and the inner circles of hell all in one night. If that's not a musical journey, I don't know what is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mucca Pazza

Over the weekend, I went to a cool little show at Exit In. Ballhog was opening for Mucca Pazza, along with The Paperheads. Ballhog put on a strong set, and The Paperheads won over tonight's crowd with their "Doors meets Syd Barrett" approach to psychedelic beach indie. I heard someone observe, "not one of them is as old as the gear they're using." He was right, and it was a good thing. The clanky Silvertone and the little electric organ gave them a fun 60s sound. It did seem that although both were good, it was kind of an odd hodge podge of a musical night, but I guess that's what Mucca Pazza is all about.

First off, Mucca Pazza is a 30 piece punk rock marching band, complete with drumline, brass, woods, accordian, violin, a sousaphone, and an electric guitar. The stringed instruments even had megaphones duct taped to their hats, into which their guitars were plugged while they marched around the club. They also had a few cheerleaders who did actual cheers that were hilarious. One was "Your Name's A Verb". You know, Rob, or Lance, or Pat, it was pretty funny.

So they all marched across the stage and down into the crowd to start the show. When everyone had gotten into the audience, they burst into a song, full on marching band style, right there next to everyone. They were really into getting in peoples' personal space, but it was like a circus atmosphere anyway so it was fun. After a while they all got back onstage and played for a while. They played some funky stuff and some rockin stuff and really made it all work really well. Some sections would hang back while others would shine, and the show was full of dance routines and all kinds of moves from each polyester clad marcher. The energy in this show was contagious. Every member seemed like one of the cool band kids that was older, but still had that weird band thing going on. They were very dramatic and animated, and it made for a wild scene because a lot of the audience members were dressed up in marching garb and having a band kid party on the floor.

They ended the show, and all marched offstage, only to march back across and down into the crowd for an encore. I remember it starting out soft and pretty, and ending furiously. This group from Chicago really put on a cool show, definitely not something you see all the time, but really a good idea.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Motley Crue

Less than 24 hours removed from
U2, I found myself downtown, paying the 20 dollar cover at the Bridgestone Arena for New York Dolls, Poison and Motley Crue. What a difference a day makes. These legendary rockers came to party, and Nashville was happy throw down. There was this one couple, on vacation from Kansas, that asked me what was going on, but everyone else was dressed up right, and in full on party mode.

I finally got in about halfway through New York Dolls' set. This was some of my favorite stuff of the night. The songs were short and mighty, and the band themselves were a riot. These guys seem like they are the real hard rock warriors. They have been at this vocation and lifestyle since the early 70s. Think of what a glam punk band goes through in 40 years. They belong in a smokey club in L.A. with loose women and cheap beer playing songs about how awesome their life is. At least that's what I'd like to think, that they'd kill it in front of 300 people, more so than several thousand. But still, I liked it.

Poison took the stage greeted by a Spinal Tap-type moment when the New York Dolls' banner refused to fall, leaving the glamor shot of Bret Michaels' abs still somewhat covered. While the boys ripped through a couple covers including "Your Momma Don't Dance" and Grand Funk's "American Band", the roadies worked feverishly and finally got that banner out of the way. They ran through a set of what you would expect, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", "Talk Dirty To Me", and "Nothin But A Good Time", stopping only for a killer solo from C.C. DeVille, which was shredded thoroughly with a little Jimmy Page and Eddy Van Halen influence thrown in. Although his energy and showmanship were top notch, Bret's vocals have seen better days, and Rikki Rocket's constant drum stick trickery was ninja-esque.

Motley Crue literally blasted into their set, completely forgoing any dimming of the house lights or music, and suddenly tearing down their black curtain and going right into "Wild Side" along side some startling pyro bursts. Their stage show included scantily clad dancers who doubled as back ground singers. Tommy Lee's drum set was situated on a huge circular metal track, on which the drums would glide during his long electro-techno infused solo. He even got a girl up from the crowd to "strap in" and ride the roller coaster. Vince Neil was his true L.A. self the whole show, with a "F'n this maaaaan" here and an "F'n that maaaaan" there and a whole lot more R rated material throughout the show, but he certainly wasn't the motliest. Nikki Sixx personified debauchery, spitting mouthfuls of water into the faces in the front row, and stopping the the whole show to have an awkward conversation with the audience.

This show was all about having a rollickin', old school good time. The crowd sang along to songs like "Same Ol' Situation", "Smokin' In The Boys' Room", my personal favorite, "Dr. Feelgood", and they all swayed and sang together for "Home Sweet Home." They may be getting older, as they were on their 30th anniversary tour, but they are still just as rowdy as ever. The ending suite of "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Kickstart My Heart" was the perfect finale for this big party.

From here, I went to the after party at 12th and Porter, to which I had come across a "VIP" ticket. It was some kind of promotional red carpet thing for Vince Neil, and apparently, I everyone had the same ticket as me. It was a surreal scene straight out of early 90s L.A, with plastic boobilicious groupies everywhere and creepy leatherfaced rockers slithering about. When I got there, the worst band ever, Messer, was starting. They were just bad, bad enough to make you know who look like the Crue. The only reason I stuck around was because I knew local punks The Worsties were next and I wanted to check them out. They came with their own punk/party tunes and their chick singer thrashed that stage and put on a helluva show. By this time, I realized that I wasn't going to meet Tommy Lee and got out of there, ending my belated 80s glam night.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Finally, finally, after months of hype, discussion, predictions, and anticipation, the U2 show was upon us. The announcement was made last fall, I got a ticket for Christmas, and it seemed like July 2 was eons away. The build up for this show was exactly as it should have been. Covered on the news, in the local papers, and around every bar in town, it was all you heard about. I even walked through Vanderbilt's campus the day before the show just to experience the whole huge scene at the stadium. It was like a bee hive, with workers all buzzing about doing everything from setting out trash cans and lining up Port-Os, to hanging and testing light rigs. Finally for the first time since 1981, U2 was coming back to Nashville.

Within about 15 minutes of arriving on the field, Florence and the Machine came out to open the show. Florence was adorned in a flowy green leotard dress and she wailed and flailed about the stage like a ballerina fairy while the Machine banged out their dancy beats. And by the way, the harp player needs to look into some P-90s if he expects anyone in a football stadium to hear what he's playing. Come on man, plug that thing in and crank it. Opening for the biggest rock band ever has to be tough, and they held the anxious crowd as well as could be expected, but it wasn't my thing.

We started to get our first taste of the sermon when during the changeover, all sorts of statistics scrolled across the huge screen above the stage. As the house music went down and Bowie's "Major Tom" came on, a video played of the four members of the band approaching the stage like assassins in a Tarantino movie. They came on and waved, and launched into the crazy intro to "Even Better Than the Real Thing", and did three more in a row from Achtung Baby before hitting us with some old school "I Will Follow". At this point I was just getting to be able to focus on the concert. There was so much going on it was hard to focus on the four actual guys playing the music. There was the huge 360 degree screen showing everything from the Hollywood grade video presentation to writhing naked lady silhouettes. There was the four caterpillar-like legs that arched over the stage, and there was the light tower that rose up from the center.

As the show kept rolling, we were treated to some pretty special moments. Coming out of the end of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", Bono whispered into Edge's ear and he grinned and started strumming "The Wanderer", the song co-written by Johnny Cash. I'm pretty sure that's the first time that's ever happened in concert, and a fitting tribute to one of the heroes in our town. An acoustic "Stay ( )" and a strong "Pride ( )" also made great showings, and a brief message from space is always nice at a concert.

About the time Bono started preaching in "Sunday Bloody Sunday", my little sister and I came across wristbands that granted us access to the "inner circle" right by the stage. Having grown up watching Rattle And Hum, we had to jump on the opportunity to be the fans right up front singing along and pumping our fists. It was surreal to be close enough to see The Edge surgically employ all his guitar gadgets, and having the perfect view of Larry Mullen Jr. while he played "With Or Without You" gave me chills. Bono is huge from 50 yards away but up close, his dramatics really hit you when you can actually see the veins bulging in his head.

There were a series of encores that included "One", "Where the Streets Have No Name", and "With Or Without You", and they ended the planned portion of the show with "Moment Of Surrender". I stood there thinking "there is no way that was the last song. Come on, a slow ballad from the new stuff? No way." Then, while exiting the stage, Bono turned to someone in the front row and invited him onstage and grabbed a guitar for him to play "All I Want Is You". The band all came back and ended the show perfectly, with the song that is synonymous with things ending. As Bono hugged the starry eyed guitarist, and actually gave him hollow body archtop, they all waved one more time and left for good, ending one of the most sophisticated, blown out, yet intimate shows Nashville has ever seen.

This show definitely ranks up near the top with Paul Mccartney. There was that same great anticipation of which next hit were you going to get, as well as the overwhelming nostalgia that came with it. Having my baby sister on one side, and a buddy who is known for having the best rock and roll face in town on the other, this show couldn't have been any better. The security was relaxed and the crowd covered the entire spectrum of U2 fan, from dads and daughters to gen-xers to tie died hippies. We all were witness to this event, upon which Nashvillians will be opining for generations to come.

Do yourself a favor and click here for the complete setlist and a few other notes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Black Keys (Special Guest Post)

Last night my sister Sally Kemp got to see the Black Keys in what sounds like an awesome setting. Since I won't be attending any of the literally hundreds of shows around Middle Tennessee this weekend (Bonnaroo, Fanfair) I reckon a review of an out of town event will do the trick. Without further ado, here is her account of the Keys in Indy.

Last night we went to the long awaited Black Keys show at the Lawn at the White River State Park. The park is downtown and in the summer, they set up a stage for shows. It was our first time to see a show there and we were not disappointed!
We arrived to an already full venue and found a spot on the lawn that would later accommodate the 12 of us. The first opener was someone I wasn't familiar with: Nicole Atkins and The Black Sea. While we missed most of her set, what we did hear of her bluesy rock set was surprisingly pleasant and interesting.
The second opening act was none other than Booker T. Jones and again, I wasn't super familiar with his stuff but did recognize a few of his songs and, was glad to listen to the legend's set.
Finally it was time for the headliners and when Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney took the stage, the crowd went wild. For awhile, it was just the two of them rocking through some of their older stuff, including "Thickfreakness",and "Girl Is On My Mind." They covered the Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle," and then the rest of the band came out and they launched into "Everlasting Light" off of "Brothers." I was really impressed that they made it through six songs before the band came out and they started playing the hits. Both Auerbach and Carney are such good musicians that we didn't even miss hearing the other instruments.
They got through the obvious song choices, "Next Girl," "Howlin' for You," and "Tighten Up," and then played some of my faves from "Brothers" and "Attack and Release." At one point, Booker T came out and joined them on the organ for "Ten Cent Pistol" and "I'll Be Your Man," which was really cool.
When they announced that they were going to play just a few more songs, we were all surprised as it seemed like they were just getting going. They ended the set with "I Got Mine," which I loved hearing since that's Amos' favorite song and we regularly rock out to it in the car!
Thankfully, they gave us an encore, playing "Sinister Kid," (my favorite) and "Your Touch." They left the stage leaving us hungry for more but we knew that they were probably pretty tired after having delivered such a rockin' show. They were good performers, but in the sense that they loved music and love playing their songs together.
Overall, I loved it. They played well and hit every note spot on. It was great being outside on a summer night and I loved seeing them play and loved dancing with our friends.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Old Union 10 Year Anniversary

This weekend was one of celebration. Baby showers, Memorial Day, the Indy 500, and most notably, the two night, star studded pair of shows commemorating the decade of rock from Old Union at Exit In.

Friday night started off with the most recent line up of The Last Straw, sans keyboards and with Jason Graumlich now playing second guitar. I'm just glad their old rhythm section is in tact. The Saturday show was opened by Ballhog, with 50% less Randy as Mr. Boen is out on the high seas for the next few months. It was good to see those guys, it's been a while.

Old Union celebrated their 10 year run with two longs nights of great music and wonderful guests of rock past. Friday night featured a couple of songs sung by the legendary Bonnie Bramlett, some Allman Brothers tunes with The Midnight Riders, along with sightings of Johnny Few, members of the Last Straw, and Chris Bledsoe. Saturday night featured guitar hero Jack Pearson, Jimmy Hall, Randy Russell, and Chris West on sax for most of the night.

The music this weekend was great, as always, but the best part of this celebration was bringing together the community that has formed around this band over the years. Between getting down with everyone in the crowd, and hanging out back stage, the close circle that these guys have created really has become, wait for it, and old union. It makes me think of what it must have been like back in the day when the Who and Zeppelin were buddies or when Cream and The Beatles and Jimi were all running together. I like to think that it was just the same, a bunch of old friends, that happen to be in bands, just hanging out and enjoying the company and the great music together. I'm glad to be a part of this scene and I hope to see another decade out of these boys.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flaming Lips

After surviving Jeff Beck and Jon Spencer, the third major concert storm hit a couple of nights ago in the form of the Flaming Lips at the Ryman. I have been really excited to see this show. I had seen them before, but this would be my first up close and personal experience. The whispers on the street seemed to convey concern over whether or not the Mother Church would be down with the sort of party the Lips like to throw, but my hopes were swiftly granted, and they went all out. More on that in a bit.

The opening act was none other than Sean Lennon. He came out in a long coated nautical outfit and played a decent set. His songs were cool and he played a pretty mean guitar. I'm just glad they didn't suck. I've been to too many shows where the support bands were underwhelming to say the least. Lennon was entertaining just enough to get the already freaky crowd ready.

The first of many, many cool stand out moments of this show came when the members of the Lips came out themselves and tested their gear in the change over like a bunch of roadies. Derek Brown came out and made sure all his crazy noises were in order and Wayne Coyne himself appeared and delivered a public service announcement style warning about the flashing lights and other shenanigans with which we were about to be bombarded. He was also happy to casually add, "When they ask you if he did the bubble trick, you can say, F yeah he did".

When the show "actually" started, the members of the band came down a ramp one by one in front of the huge screen, leaving Coyne to be inflated into his huge clear bubble ball, and rolled out into the crowd to surf around and pose like a golden god, before hovering back to the stage and busting into "The Fear". It looked a little like (exactly like) this and this. From that point on, we were berated with tons of confetti, streamers, and hundreds of balloons, along with some top notch psychedelic rock. Not being super familiar with a lot of the songs, I definitely enjoyed the ones I did know, the obvious "She Don't Use Jelly" and "Yoshimi", along with "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song". "Laser Hands" was brought to life by actual prop huge hands that shot lasers out of the palms.

This was one of those shows at the Ryman where the intimacy is so intense you just don't know how to describe it, even when you wait a few days before you blog about it. The fact that they stuffed their huge, festival sized stage rig into that room and created the atmosphere that they made, brought an energy to that building that may never have been seen there before. It was one of unadulterated fun and all out rock bliss. Nary an ass in a pew all night, everyone in attendance seemed to know that this would be a show that Nashvillians would be talking about for generations, much like the Stones at Vandy and, well, Pink Floyd at Vandy. It was like a circus, with a great band, at Willy Wonka's house, in Oz, complete with Dorothy and Scarecrow dancers, caterpillar monsters and other assorted characters, mutants, and all out stage-side partiers. There was literally too much going on on stage to take it all in, and you could tell just how much the band was actually enjoying it too. Coyne would constantly amp up the crowd with a quick "C'mon C'mon" as if to say, "We know we're here putting on a great show, let's hear it".

Closing the second encore with "Do You Realize" was the perfect climax for this extravaganza . It was equal parts emotional and spectacle, draining the last of the confetti and streamers, and bidding a fond farewell to the gorgeous Ryman. Filing out into the real world brought everyone back to Earth and left us all wondering if we would ever see anything like that again. Doubt it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Tonight I decided to give something new a try, something I wasn't familiar with or have any opinions about. I noticed that a band called Interpol was playing at the Ryman, and tickets were practically being given away on Craigslist, so I got one and went down there.

The opening band came out and looked terrified and played like it was their first show at Jammin' Java. They never said their name, or anything else for that matter, so I spent the majority of their set thinking of names they could be called. I came up with Follow The Sampler, The Naps, 2 Wimps And A Somber Chick, One Chord Is Enough, Whine And Cheese, and The Statue Makers. By the time they were done, the place was like a library. Their monotone boring songs all sounded the same, and none of them rocked.

Finally, after an eternal changeover, Interpol came out to an ovation from a half full Ryman audience comprised of teenagers, parents with teenagers, excited girlfriends, and bored but hopeful boyfriends. My first impression of this band was something like this: if the Cure cuddled up on a rainy night and watched Grey's Anatomy with half of the members of Arcade Fire, this is what it would sound like. By the 5th or 6th song, (opening band included) I was totally over the way every single song started with ambient guitar noise. This was the recipe for the songs all night. Ambient noise, then basic, predictable chord progression and whiny "The rain is gone, the sun is back" lyrics. It's too bad the 8th grader that seemingly wrote all the bass lines couldn't make it to play this show, but his replacement did a good job of keeping up. The rest of the band were an energy black hole all night, standing and moping around with little to no stage presence. All except for the lead guitarist that is. He looked like he had bogarted all of the coffee back stage. Of course with these guys it was probably more like a soy chai low fat mocha espresso latte. Anyway, this lack of enthusiasm seemed to translate directly to the meager audience, who mostly sat still in the pews. Even the few "wild" ones that stood for the show stood still, maybe throwing a head bob in every now and then.

About hour in, I'd had enough. They started another song with ambient noise and I just couldn't take it anymore. I guess if I had gone to high school and broken up with my lab partner on the day before prom I might have been more into this band. It really did have a strong high school-y feel to it. Parents chaperoning, and little hug parties breaking out in the empty sections of the Church when the boppers would find their particular cliques. On my way out, I came across two guys who might have been, definitely looked like the Black Keys, ironically the last band I walked out on at the Ryman, telling the ticket taker they were "on the list". That was probably the most entertaining moment of my night.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

John Spencer Blues Explosion

From one legend to another...

There are nights when I go to a show without a ticket and somehow luck my way in with the attitude of "if I don't get in, I'll just go home". Tonight was one of those shows where I went down, stood in line, and paid full price at the door to make sure that I got to see the show of the year, so far. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was at Exit In and I have been holding back the excitement pee for over a couple of months to finally get to rock out with this band.

Another great thing about this night was getting to share it with my oldest sister Sally Kemp, and my dad Kenny Kemp. My sister and I went to see JSPX in the mid-to-late nineties at 328 so it was fun to get to see them again all these years later, along with my dad who everyone knows, is too cool. Anyway, we sat at the Gold Rush a little too long and miss the headliner's first song.

Upon arriving amidst the second song from JSBX, we were instantly pumped and sonically pleased. Jon was in pure form, growling and screeching into the distorted mic and incorporating his name into almost every song. I have been listening to these guys on my ipod all week and I still only recognized a couple of songs. "Attack" was fun to sing (scream) along with and "Bell Bottoms" was raucous as pancakes on a school day. Think about that.

All I can say is that Jon Spencer is a superhero of mine and it was great to see/meet him tonight at my favorite club. The Explosion has been around for close to 20 years now and their horseplay intimacy is unmatched. They take turns making up for the lack of bass and the drummer makes tons of noise on his minimalistic set. This was really one of the best shows of the year so far, it's gonna tough to beat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jeff Beck

Going into tonight's show, I knew about this much about Jeff Beck: He was in the Yardbirds, he's in the Hall of Fame twice, Pink Floyd was too intimidated to ask him to replace Syd Barrett, and every guitar player I respect has him in their top 3. It was cool to be at the Ryman and watch that many guitar heros watch their hero. Luckily, I had procured my ticket earlier in the week, not wanting to go through this again. There was no way I was going to miss this one.

I got in early enough to catch most of the opener, Tyler Bryan, who I'm pretty sure also opened for Heart. This time he was without his band, alone with just a guitar, and he did alright. He can really play guitar well, but his songwriting seems a little on the weak sauce side. He must have one helluva manager.

Jeff Beck came out and started the show much like a playoff hockey game, as soon as the puck dropped, it was on full force and wasn't letting up. I'm not familiar with his work enough to recognize any of his songs, but each one was unique and rocked with equal force. The band was super tight, featuring former Prince bassist Rhonda Smith, and Narada Michael Walden on drums. This rhythm section was both rowdy and funky, adding great dynamics to the songs, as well as providing the show's only lead vocals on covers "Rollin' and Tumblin'", "Little Wing", and Sly's "Higher". Jason Rebello added another dimension on the keys, providing something for Beck to bounce licks off of. Other moments of note were his personal takes on classic songs like "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "A Day In The Life". Of course my favorite part came in the encore, when Beck paid tribute to his hero, Les Paul, with the only Strat-free number of the night.

Jeff Beck didn't say much during the show, but he didn't need to. He held a Nashville Ryman crowd, probably full of the harshest, holier than thou guitar players, in the palm of his hand and showed us all how it's done. I knew tonight that I was in the presence of a legend, one of the best guitar players ever. Clapton should be on the side of the stage changing this guys strings and swapping out guitars for him. Anyway, I'm really glad I got to see this show, and I can't wait to dive into the world of Jeff Beck.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hayseed Dixie

Tonight I went to check out a band I had heard of in the past few years but never caught live. Hayseed Dixie was playing at my favorite venue, Exit In, and a couple hours at the Gold Rush put me in the perfect place for this show.

Hayseed Dixie is billed as a band that plays AC/DC songs in a bluegrass style. They sure did a lot of that, but they also played other hard rock standards, as well as a list of originals from a 10 year run. They started off with "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and never took their foot off the throttle. They burned through other hits like "Highway To Hell" and "Hells Bells", as well as some all time classic rock greats. They switched from Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" and "Bohemian Rhapsody", to Zep's "Black Dog", to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", with even a little "Bad Moon Risin'" thrown in for the boomers.

For every classic cover they nailed perfectly, they had an original that was equal parts clever, smart, and musically capable. There was a song sung in all Dutch, and a few about past relationships, and they were all on par with any other bluegrass band in Nashville. They closed out the show with a rowdy version of "Dueling Banjos", which the banjo player's father allegedly wrote.

These guys were a lot of high energy, mixed with tons of talent. They were appreciative of the crowd response and seemed to love the same things I love, mainly making music and drinking beer. The novelty of this band was a lot of fun, but their overall musical ability blew me away.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Queens of the Stone Age

Spring is here, and with it, comes enough money to start going to shows again. It's been a long, slow, showless winter but the sun is starting to shine again and the awesome rock shows are slowly starting to trickle back into town. Tonight's Queens of the Stone Age show at the Ryman has been on my cloudy radar for a while, and I was glad when I finally found that lovely soul on Craigslist that just wanted to get rid of their tickets to someone who would enjoy the show.

My partner in crime for the night needed a bite to eat, thus detouring us into Robert's Western World. Although this little pit stop made us miss the opening act at the Mother Church, the band playing at the honky tonk was really good. The guitar playing front man switched seamlessly between chicken pickin' on a Telecaster and gliding up and down his pedal steel. We got a solid half hour of surfy-rockabilly selections and a good dose of the lower Broadway vibe, not to mention a few cheap cans of Busch.

When we got to the show, we quickly decided that our back row lower level seats just wouldn't do so we made our way up to my usual spot in the walkway in the back of the balcony. I love this spot because it's right next to the light guy and I can stand up the whole time without being heckled by lazy seat nazis.

The first half of the show consisted of the band playing their entire self-titled debut album, which as far as I was concerned, was great. Not being very familiar with much of their catalog at all, I was aware of their rocking potential and I tend to like most bands' earlier stuff anyway. The Queens are a good ol' fashioned rock band, with a tone which is one of all around badass-ness and rock debauchery. Drinking vodka from a beer bottle, Josh Homme delivered his falsetto vocals and savage guitar riffs like a true rock hero. Joey Castillo banged out those tricky drum lines without a flaw and Michael Shuman's bass sounded Entwistle-iscious. The other two guitar players brought additional layers of attack as well as extras such as shakers, keys, and electronic noisemakers that sounded like they were bought at Radiohead's yard sale. The second half of the show consisted of selections from the rest of their albums, including a song requested by a fan which Homme explained was about a teenage experience with LSD, as well as one of the only two songs I recognized, "No One Knows".

The Queens of the Stone Age brought it like I knew they would. Their show wasn't full of fancy lights and flashy effects, but rather filled with crunching, well crafted rock songs and a killer band dynamic. This band to me is one of the most underrated rock acts of my generation and I'm glad I got to see them and can't wait to engulf myself in their entire index.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Old Union

Last night I pulled myself out of the cave that has been my hibernation space for the last month or so and caught myself some good old fashioned live Old Union music at 3rd and Lindsley. It was great to get out and see some familiar faces along with a band that I had never heard of and instantly became a fan of.

After the early show band payed tribute to the entire Police/Sting catalog, and seemingly the entire crew from the Police 2010 reunion tour cleared the stage, two dudes calling themselves the Coldstares took the stage and surprised the hell out of a roomful of people. Their similarity to the Black Keys was undeniable, but as far as I'm concerned, they were much better. I saw the Keys at the Ryman and left early, whereas I couldn't get enough of these guys at 3rd. The singer/guitar player/effects box stomper was super tight with his riffs and solos that sounded like what would happen if Tom Morello got the blues at Led Zeppelin's house. The drummer did a great job filling in the spaces sometimes left open by other rock duos. I bet they'd love to have the chance to tell the Allman Brothers that it really only takes two dudes to play a rockin' Whippin' Post. Keep an eye out for the Coldstares. That is some awesome local rock.

I guess nowadays when Randy Boen, Randy Russell and Spotty are billed to open acoustically, it's a safe bet that means a full on Ballhog set. The 20 minute set up was long and the set was treacherously short. There was an old favorite, an "East Nashville Lullaby" that did a great job of doing what a lullaby is intended to do, and a new one from Russell and Spotty about county jail. How does Randy remember all those words and changes? He nailed it.

Old Union finally came on and treated the 30 or so fans left to a great set. Favorites like "Motels and Highways", "Sweet Freedom" among others were mixed with awesome covers including "Ophelia", "Let It Bleed", and "Serve Somebody". For some reason, Dave the Freight Train was unable to play drums on this night so he was replaced by the drummer from Chuck's solo blues band whose name I never caught. He did a pretty good job for a fill in. He nailed all the stops and changes, and although Dave's rock shoes are almost impossible to fill, the drumming, along with the stellar bass playing from funk house Dubbers, was good and the sub didn't really seem to affect the show. A long jammy sit in from Randy Boen and a vocal appearance from Randy Russell just added to the sense of community. It turned out to be another great night with one of my favorite local bands and all my friends. A good return to live music life after a long winter's hibernation.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Boom Ticket and the Reson-H-Beamers

East Nashville
The 5 Spot
Three bands that I know well
how many times have I seen Boom Ticket
The Resonators
and H Beam

The Facebook reminders
like a pile of electronic fliers
on my laptop windshield
I guess there was just no way
no way I could miss this one

Boom Ticket screamed out
their first line
ironically, right on time
Adam (from Boom Ticket) and crew
pumped up and heavily miked
New pickups in the Strat
apparently means turn it up
even more

Some new songs
some old songs
bongos and congas
as if the prince of darkness
was in concert on the beach
with pina coladas
Set Bobby Free
to bang it out
without mosquitoes buzzing about

More guitars
mean more parts or just
the same line an octave apart
the harmonies in threes
not quite masters of the art
maybe a little more vocal
in the monitors please

not much new
to speak of here
more polished more mature
more confident

Duncan on the other hand
has switched lead guitarists and
in the process reinvented
the Resonators band
with new guitarist Scott Alexander
old friend from Rub
plays not as many notes
but with more wonder

Curt and Tony
still bring the beat like
ebony old school students
of Sly and his family
and on bass Bootsy May

new direction for the Resonators
new songs new writing teams
Duncan Scott and Curt
together finally
this should
be good

H Beam
the show is the thing
long winded characters
puppets and costumes
acting with lines and themes
and in between
songs that rock with a band

Russell Wright
rode off into
the family sunset
replaced highly
by Frank from Guy Smiley Blues Exchange
yeah he got it right

the music rocked
the skits went on
and on
and on
sometimes i just wish
for another song
but i know it's their thing
so i go pee and wait
wait for the next one

you go H beam
the only ones
who do YOUR thing
truly unique and far-out
the right band
for your time and place
some might say
some might say