Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rebecca Writes, The Velcro Stars & More Bands!!!

The Reverend recently heard from his old friend Rebecca Luxford concerning "The Other Side Of Nashville" Project. Rebecca was editor of The Metro during a particularly difficult time for the magazine and successfully oversaw its evolution from an inconsistent, narrowly-focused music rag into a more professional and diverse publication. Rebecca brought up a couple of bands that should be on the list, the first of which - Joe, Marc's Brother - I simply overlooked for some inexplicable reason. The other band she mentioned, the Times, was pretty well known on the local scene but I don't remember them and don't know anything about them. I've added them both to the "official" list.

My old high school buddy Ron Graham submitted the Nashville band Ligion for the list, as well as John Davis, formerly of Superdrag. I've added them both, and although Davis is shooting for a CCM audience these days, his music is straight indie rock. I think that there's enough flexibility in the list to include Davis. What about Superdrag, though? They've been recommended by just about everybody that has emailed me to date and although they started in Knoxville, did they play around town enough or have enough of a Nashville presence to include them on the list? Please let me know your thoughts on this, either by email through the nifty new link to your right or in the comments box.

Speaking of bands that are on the edge of "the list," what are your thoughts, readers, on the Immortal Lee County Killers? They're originally from Alabama if I remember correctly, but band leader Chet "Cheetah" Weise moved to Nashville a few months before the band recorded their excellent 2005 CD These Bones Will Rise To Love You. Have the Immortal Lee County Killers done enough locally to be included on the list? Do they receive a similar sort of "pass" as Will & the Bushmen? Inquiring minds want to know....

I also heard from Shane of the Velcro Stars, who also recommended a bunch of great bands, including the Hot Pipes, Apollo Up!, the Friendlies and Tony Danza Tap Dancing Extravaganza, among others. Reader Linda Barnett wrote to recommend Alien In The Land Of Our Birth, who I had thought that I put on the list but obviously overlooked. That band's Steve Austin went on to form underground icons Today Is The Day, who were already on the list. Some of the other new bands listed below, which have also been added, I found through their MySpace pages.

Finally, another old friend and a big supporter of the project, Donna Frost, dropped me a line to recommend the Purple Giraffes. Fronted by wildman Billy Stickers, Donna remembers him wearing a tutu on stage and performing all sorts of antics; the band also counted Jeff Johnson, Greg Herston and Richie Owens among its members at one time or another. Donna also brought up Psychic Surgery, and has found some recordings of that band, who were pretty hot in town during their time if my memory serves me right. They're both in....


Kudos to Rebecca for recommending the Enkoder software for our email link. Thanks to her, I can provide a "mailto" link for you all to contact me without getting swamped with spam and porno links. You'll find that link in the column to the right of the screen, and if you have any info on any of the bands on the list, I'd like to hear from you. Rebecca also recommended some improvements to the band list and project pages and so I've made them better and easier to use (I hope).

If you're just now finding this blog and wonder what the project is all about, you can find the project's details here and last of all, the "official list" is now 410 bands big! I know that I've said it before, but unless somebody comes up with a real hot band, I think that the list is closed. Now I've got work to do and a book to write....

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Nashville Rockers On YouTube

I'm sure that I'm not telling you all anything that you don't already know, but I've found YouTube to be a great way to waste a whole heck of a lot of time. You can keep your silly videos of people lip-syncing to Green Day songs, or the dozens of "Barbie Girl" videos (although the one with the Technoboy Justin is a real scream). No, vintage music videos are my drug of choice and for the moment, at least, until the copyright police have them all pulled, there are a lot of classic '80s videos to watch on the site.

Nashville rockers are well-represented among the YouTube masses, thanks to Allen from Practical Stylists. Allen has posted some damn cool local vids, including Jason & the Scorchers, Basic Static, Bill Lloyd and, naturally, Practical Stylists. But you'll also find videos from Webb Wilder, Royal Court Of China, the Pink Spiders, Jonathan Bright and Be Your Own Pet, among others.

Best as I can remember (and I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm wrong), Jason & the Nashville Scorchers' "Absolutely Sweet Marie" was the first rock video by a Nashville band. I still have a VHS copy that Jack Emerson gave me, and evidently so does Allen, who posted a copy on YouTube. The Scorchers' other made-for-MTV videos, which bankrupted the band, can also be found on the site, including the hilarious "White Lies" which would have won the Scorchers a lot of new fans if it had ever been played with any regularity. I remember seeing the "White Lies" video only once, and I watched MTV day and night back the day.

The Royal Court Of China's "Half The Truth" is especially cool in that it was directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) and produced by Bruce Campbell. This was made during RCOC's "L.A." period, but the song kicks ass and Joey comes across like the "next big rock star" on the screen. But the RCOC video for "It's All Changed" showcases a better song, I believe, as well as the original band with Robert Logue and Oscar Rice. It's a trippy, very visual, almost psychedelic video from the band's strong debut album. I don't think that A& M Records ever really had any idea what to do with Royal Court Of China.

Of Nashville's current artists, Jonathan Bright is a master in using low-budget, high-concept videos as an extension of his brilliant music. "The ABC's Of Love" is rude and crude but it's also funny as hell, clever, and a hell of a cool song. YouTube also has a video for Jonathan's excellent "Tweakin' To A Fine Tune," another very cool rockin' tune. JB's claim to fame, though, has to be his cover of Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher," spiced up with a "ripped from the headlines" edge and great visuals like the Steve McNair bobblehead doll, the clearly visible box fan blowing Jonathan's hair, Joey-Blanton-rockstar-style, and the two-person audience sitting on the couch (I love the Iron City Beer t-shirt). Jonathan's videos seem to all be directed by Dee Nichols; kudos to Dee for putting together creative, entertaining and memorable videos on a budget that is probably a fraction of what was spent on the latest Pink Spiders' video.

The Reverend has been kind enough to put together a short list below of choice YouTube videos featuring Nashville rockers, with links to each video's individual page. Like me, I think that you'll find these tunes to be a fun distraction. If I get enough positive feedback from this, maybe I'll put together a future post with more Music City rock videos.

Jason & the Scorchers "Absolutely Sweet Marie"

Jason & the Scorchers "White Lies"

Jason & the Scorchers "Golden Ball & Chain"

Royal Court Of China "It's All Changed"

Royal Court Of China "Half The Truth"

Webb Wilder "Human Cannonball"

Jonathan Bright "The ABC's Of Love"

Jonathan Bright "Hot For Teacher"

One of the coolest things I've discovered on YouTube is a Firefly fan that pieces together montages of scenes from the TV show with a Scorchers' backing soundtrack. In this case, the unknown auteur's use of the Scorchers' "Bible And A Gun" (from the often-ignored Thunder & Fire album) is especially well-executed, a perfect matching of music and visuals. I like this so much that I've included a YouTube player with the video for all of you readers. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nashville's Starwood Amphitheatre To Close

According to a recent Nashville City Paper article written by my old pal William Williams, Nashville's Starwood Amphitheatre has been closed for the season by its owner, Live Nation, with the few concerts scheduled for this summer already canceled. The 65-acre property has been put up for sale by Live Nation but so far there are no takers. Supposedly Live Nation will work with other venues like the arena or the stadium to promote summer concerts.

I had heard this news a couple of days ago from Rev. Keith Coes via a MySpace bulletin. It's a damn shame about Starwood and, in a lot of ways, the closing of the venue spells the end of an era. Starwood opened in 1985 and as it changed sponsors, was also known as the First American Music Center and AmSouth Amphitheatre. A lot of big shows came through Nashville and stopped at Starwood, including at least one Lollapalooza Festival that I remember, one H.O.R.D.E. Festival and many shows by Bob Dylan, Aerosmith and Hank Williams Jr. among many, many others. The very first program at the new Starwood was Charlie Daniels' 1985 "Volunteer Jam;" ironically, the now-canceled 2007 Volunteer Jam was the only event booked this year in the venue.

The opening of Starwood Amphitheatre during the summer of 1985 coincided with the first issues of The Metro and they were an early advertiser with the rag, possibly the only one that Gus didn't piss off or alienate in some way. During the summer of 1989, Gus worked a deal with Starwood to publish a monthly "concert guide" called All Access. I was the editor of the tabloid and wrote most of the content, rush-to-the-deadline pieces that were a cross between artist biographies and advertising copy. They were often pieced together from label bios, but now and then we scored an interview with one of the performers and could write a proper piece. Mostly, however, the rag just sucked...or so I remember. In our move to WNY, I discovered a bunch of old word processor discs from that era that include all of my All Access pieces. I found a company online to convert the discs to proper Microsoft formats so I'll probably pay them to do so, if only to salvage a bunch of unknown writing files for future projects (like THE OTHER SIDE OF NASHVILLE).

On the plus side, putting together All Access every month netted me and my new girlfriend/future bride Tracey free passes to all the Starwood shows that we could tolerate. I remember seeing Dylan and Aerosmith and Joan Jett and probably a bunch more that we've forgotten. Plus, since Starwood paid Gus for the publication, he in turn threw a few dollars my way, the first (and last) money that I ever got from Palas for writing until he bought out my R Squared zine with Radio Lightning's money. It was a summer that I was trying (and failing miserably) to make a living as a freelance writer and the All Access paydays represented the bulk of my income that year, even if I had to pry every dollar out of Gus' clenched fists.

I hadn't been to Starwood, or whatever they were calling it, for years before moving. Even if you got on the guest list of an artist for a show, you had to pay outrageous parking fees and deal with obscene traffic jams and the resulting road rage going in (and out) of the venue. Beer and coke prices were too damn high, the crowd too often obnoxious, and during the past few years, the shows promoted at the venue held little interest. As is often the case, the best touring shows each summer passed Nashville by and fans had to travel to Atlanta or Charlotte to catch bands.

No matter how you slice it, however, Starwood Amphitheatre had a lasting impact on Nashville's music scene; it was the 800-pound gorilla that you couldn't ignore. It will be missed by many of the city's mainstream music fans who have fond memories of their favorite shows at the venue. In the end, Starwood proved to be another casualty of the changes and declining fortunes experienced by the music industry over the past decade, and I doubt that another venue like Starwood will be built in Nashville in the future...and that's a sad thing, indeed.

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