For all that’s good about Summer Lightsand the number of local acts showcased at this year’s event is truly admirablethere are at least as many perennial frustrations. One is the lack of big-name headliners, apart from CeCe Winans, Terri Clark and Little Milton. Similar festivals in Memphis, Birmingham and Seattle regularly attract talent like Van Morrison, Dr. John, B.B. King, George Clinton and the Neville Brothers, and there’s not even a big local rock name like John Hiatt or John Prine to anchor this year’s lineup.
Another is the continually short shrift given to Nashville rock and alternative-rock bands. If Summer Lights is going to be a local music festival, as the dearth of big national and regional acts would indicate, then it needs the likes of Los Straitjackets, the Tony Guides, Thee Phantom 5ive, Tommy Womack & the Geniuses, or Fun Girls From Mt. Pilot, all of whom are worthy of inclusion. So if you’re in the mood to hear some good local musicand you don’t feel like braving upwards of 25,000 grilled-corn-chomping partiershere are a few acts performing away from Summer Lights that’ll satisfy the bill:
Thursday At 12th & Porter, on a bill with Austin songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, Nashville’s the Evinrudes perform swampy folk-rock that conjures up the South of bait shops, backwoods revivals and Flannery O’Connor. A first-rate rhythm section, songs tinged with mystery and wit, and the sultry vocals of singer Sherry Cothran have marked the group as an act to watch. Across town at the Sutler, poet, songwriter and kick-ass bandleader R.B. Morris leads his literary hoodlums through an evening of roadhouse folk that draws blood.
Friday BR5-49 may be off gallivanting around the country, but thank God we’ve still got Paul Burch to scratch that honky-tonk itch. A gifted songwriter who could’ve subbed for Hank Williams whenever he was sleeping off a bender in his Cadillac, Burch whips his hot band through prime postwar hillbilly music, neatly sidestepping the pitfalls of retro revivalism all the while. He’ll have the redoubtable Kenny Vaughan on guitar this weekend at the Station Inn, so don’t miss him.
On his new Step Right Up LP on Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville label, Memphis singer, songwriter and bandleader Todd Snider combines rollicking boogie, three-chord rock and hangdog country with knowing portraits of backwoods taverns, disenchanted couch potatoes and desperate dreamers. Snider and his kick-ass band, the Nervous Wrecks, play an unusual gig Friday night at “the Church,” a new R&B club under development on 3rd Avenue South; the venue is housed in a former Baptist church building that dates back to 1850.
Saturday Every star in Nashville who isn’t appearing at Summer Lights will be at Saturday night’s “Celebration of the Centuries,” a gala event at the new Bicentennial Capitol Mall. On hand will be Chet Atkins, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee, the Nashville Symphony, Carl Perkins, Michael W. Smith and Take 6. The event begins at 7:30 p.m.
If you’re looking for relief from heat and crowds, however, Fleetwood Mac’s Rick Vito rocks the Sutler at 9:30 p.m. And if you want to see recent A&M signee Matthew Ryan & the Fisher Kings and opening act Joe, Marc’s Brother in a slightly more intimate setting than the Summer Lights stage, show up at 12th & Porter at 10 p.m.
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That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!