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.