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.