Take your pick of the three words that compose the name — "next," "big" and "Nashville" — and you'll find a faction of the city's music scene clamoring to push the concept it represents to the top of the festival agenda.
We live in a city rightly known for its musical history, and should always remain mindful of it. But, as many here have struggled to communicate to the wider world, there is so much more here than the storied country heritage. Progressive, forward-thinking minds want to focus on the "next" — from the growing electronic and DJ scenes here to expanding musical vocabularies and the changing ways music is distributed and consumed.
A goal from the beginnings of Next Big Nashville: Grow the festival so eventually it becomes not just a local and regional destination but a national (and, dare we dream, international) one. Some of this year's headlining acts — Yeasayer, Wavves, RJD2 and Washed Out, among others — will look familiar to those who follow the touring industry: Yeasayer played Lollapalooza; Washed Out played the Pitchfork Music Festival. That NBN has landed some higher-profile, nationally recognized acts is exactly what proponents of the "big" in Next Big Nashville have been hoping for, and hope will only continue to build toward even bigger names. This year, some 40 percent of the bands — almost double the amount of any previous year — are from outside the Nashville area. Garotas Suecas and Otouto, for example, have come from as far away as Brazil and Australia, respectively.
And there, for some, is the rub: It's called Next Big Nashville, after all, is it not? But as this year's class of locals gets ready to take to familiar local stages, the mix of local and touring, upstart and established, feels more charged with energy and expectation than in any previous year. And with Leadership Music's Digital Music Summit bringing industry heavyweights to the conference side of the equation, our yearly festival looks ready to blow up no matter which part of its name you choose to emphasize.
There are shuttles. Use them. Seriously, it's actually pretty fun to cruise from show to show and not have to look for parking. They're free, they get you around, and they mean you can party without forcing yourself into a bad decision at the end of the night — well, at least a bad decision that would involve driving drunk. Where you wake up the next morning is your business. RTFO!
This year finds options for free food and booze — V.I.P. badge required — greatly expanded, which means you'll probably find us passed out before the sun goes down. Here's where you can scrape us off the sidewalk.
Gibson/Nashville Scene Party: Last year we left with the kind of buzz that they write Bukowski books about. Also, BBQ. Just sayin'. 6 p.m. at Gibson Showroom
SunTrust/615 Music Party: On top of the world, Ma! Or at least on top of Nashville! Bankers and background-musicians will be emptying bottles in a really tall building. 6 p.m. at SunTrust Tower
ASCAP/Yazoo Beer Brunch: While not too different from our typical morning meals, hot dogs and beer sounds like the perfect way to subsume our inevitable hangover. 11:30 a.m. at Yazoo Brewery
EventBrite Party: The Features, Morning Teleportation, all-female Rage Against the Machine cover band Take Back The Power and free booze? We are so down. 3:30 p.m. at the Neuhoff Building
Fourth Annual BMI Brunch: Get there early, is all we can say. By this point in the festival, folks are famished — and you are definitely going to regret showing up fashionably late. True story. 11 a.m. at Cabana
BY SEAN L. MALONEY
The Hood Internet
When Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, smashing together The Beatles and Jay-Z, dropped in 2004, a door swung open for every would-be DJ with a record collection and a pirated copy of Pro Tools. Although the years that followed were marred by miserable copy-cats like the truly awful Jay-Zeezer "Black & Blue Album," Danger Mouse paved the way for a new generation of legally questionable mashup artists like The Hood Internet, who have been burning up indie dance floors since '07 with their mixes of mainstream hip-hop jams with a slew of underground indie pop, rock and electronic tunes. Unlike Girl Talk, their most visible compadre in the mashup scene, the Chicago duo backs away from GT's trademark frenetic pace in favor of a good dance groove and a near-constant stream of blog-friendly tracks. ABX and STV SLV have released more than 300 songs on their blog (not that anybody's counting), with a modest hit/miss ratio that wouldn't be too shabby if this were baseball. Their fourth mixtape, released late last year and featuring combos like Grizzly Bear vs. Dead Prez and Ghostface Killah vs. Beirut, represents their most consistent work to date. And yet, with all that said, they still can't find a way to make Soulja Boy listenable. They're DJs, not miracle workers. 12:15 a.m. at Mercy Lounge LANCE CONZETT
This Ohio-raised, Philly-based DJ/producer has a resume that reads like a "Best of Backpack Hip-Hop" compilation. Six DJ mixes, five full-fledged albums, two EPs and a head-spinning number of singles and film and TV song placements in just under a decade probably could clue you in that the dude ain't no slouch. But the raw numbers don't tell you how hard the dude kills it. The fundamentals of hip-hop production have been set in stone for more than 20 years, so there isn't a lot of wiggle room unless you plan to just dropkick the whole genre, which RJD2 does on the regular.
This time around, staid formalism gets a foot to the face from Inversion of the Colossus, a deep, psychedelic funk workout filled with big banging breakbeats, haunting synths and hellacious horn riffs. This is party music for party people with a low tolerance for pop fluff and a willingness to go way out — chill but invigorating, perfect for a hardcore head nod or a spaced-out soul-strut. Tunes like "The Glow" and "The Shining Path" recall those mid-20th century moments where musicians were just beginning to dabble with electronic instruments but still had to maintain a high level of songwriting and instrumental skills if they wanted to sell some records. Also, RJD2 is the mastermind behind the Mad Men theme, so don't be surprised when you see us with our bitchin' new Sally Draper-inspired haircut, which we got just for the occasion. 11:10 p.m. at The Cannery Ballroom SEAN L. MALONEY
A Place to Bury Strangers
The Brooklyn trio is commonly referred to as "the loudest band in New York," but this description belies the moody nuance of their work, which recalls Serena-Maneesh's winding wall-of-sound, Ministry's dark wave rhythms and Ian Curtis' haunted vocals. APTBS has just two LPs to their name, but tours with Nine Inch Nails and MGMT already dot its resume. So does praise from Pitchfork and The New York Times, which noted its revival of "the ominous, feedback-drenched drones of the 1980s." Said another way: Bring thick earplugs if you plan on making the band's set. 11:30 p.m. at Exit/In RYAN BURLESON
There are plenty of bins into which the music of transplanted Carolinians Roman Candle doesn't quite fit: They're rootsy but not that rootsy, rock but not in the obvious, me-play-guitar-real-loud way, and songwritery but not in the so-introspective-it-hurts kind of way. What their latest effort, Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, manages to be is a solidly American, thoughtfully direct and wholly enjoyable collection of songs from a band that knows its way around their instruments. Just make some room for them in the one bin that matters: the one marked "good." 11:45 p.m. at The Basement STEVE HARUCH
The Fall once articulated their musical mission statement as "the three Rs: repetition, repetition, repetition." Kraut/stoner/psych rockers Moon Duo might endorse a similar set of principles. The San Francisco-based twosome comprises Ripley Johnson (of heavy psych-rock band Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada. Their songs are both minimal and hypnotically repetitive, settling into grooves that change gradually over minutes. "Killing Time" is built from a pounding VU drumbeat, ominous four-note guitar line, a layer of scratchy synth, and dubbed-out vocals that could be about anything. 10:30 p.m. at Exit/In EMILY BARTLETT HINES
In hindsight, last summer's rise of the genre regrettably known as "chillwave" seems less like a natural reaction to, well, less chill indie than a secret pact between young Southern bedroom producers: Georgia gave us Washed Out; South Carolina, Toro Y Moi; Texas, Neon Indian; and Florida, MillionYoung. The latter is the nom de guerre of Mike Diaz, whose songs are more present and club-y than those of his more languid peers, cloaked in the same rich, somnolent reverb that defines the genre. 10 p.m. at The Cannery Ballroom RYAN BURLESON
Bows and Arrows
Don't let the sometimes hushed vocals and occasional twee tangents fool you: When they get down to business, Bows and Arrows can straight rock the fake plastic glasses off every hipster puppy in the room. They've got a kind of turbo boost, which kicks in at the high points of songs like "Burn It," that your average '60s pop-loving indie band just doesn't have, much less know how to use. They're working on a new record, but there's enough good stuff in their current repertoire that you should get to this one early. 8:45 at The End STEVE HARUCH
This being Nashville, an electro-Latin-jazz-future-funk-pop record is going to stick out like a sorely needed thumb against our city's backdrop of singer-songwriters, KoL wannabes and house-show punks. But even if this wasn't Nashville, Mia Calderon's Manik would still pop — its sleek melodies, sure-footed rhythms and tasteful electronic cool felt like a thermal updraft of fresh air when the album was released last year. Calderon's presence on the local scene makes it that much more exciting to see where our city's musical vocabulary is headed. 10:15 at 12th & Porter STEVE HARUCH
Take a Chance On ...
Ross Wariner — formerly one-half of the duo behind prodigious local circus-pop outfit KinderCastle — certainly didn't bow out once KC disbanded. This year's Warm Under the Covers, the second full-length release from Wariner's solo project, Uncle Skeleton, features track after track of intricately composed, layered synth pop. It's the sort of meticulous, dynamic and diverse material that leaves you wondering, "Who is this kid, and can he pull this stuff off live?" Answers, respectively: He's Uncle Skeleton, and yes, he absolutely can. 10:20 p.m. at Mercy Lounge D. PATRICK RODGERS
San Diego's Wavves aren't the first band to add a superfluous consonant to a mundane word in order to form a search-engine-friendly band name, and they certainly aren't the first band to make cheap-sounding recordings on purpose. But they're probably the first band with both a superfluous consonant and an intentionally cheap-sounding record to obtain the kind of instant name recognition and Pitchfork ubiquity that most musicians can only dream of — assuming musicians dream about music sites that run essays on how using shitty photos communicates so much about the universal meaningfulness of twentysomethings who own keyboards.
That the band has become almost as well-known for its spectacularly dumb extracurriculars — onstage meltdowns at large European festivals, fistfights with bands from Atlanta — as for its scratchy, restless rock songs probably says something about our cultural moment, but it's hard to say what. The last time the aforementioned Pitchfork mentioned Wavves, it was to announce that the band will be selling Wavves weed grinders on tour. One assumes that at their Next Big Nashville stop, you will be able to buy these items, so helpful with the grinding of weed, and that, somehow, that fact is worth noting. Come to think of it, maybe Wavves are the first band to sell weed grinders with their band name on them. Their new album, King of the Beach, is actually pretty good, but dudes — weed grinder! 12:10 a.m. at Exit/In STEVE HARUCH
"World-influenced" is a pretty obnoxious label to issue any sort of band these days. Especially considering that all the music we humans have come across and cataloged over the course of history has been from, you know, the world. But Yeasayer's 2007 debut, All Hour Cymbals, had many a critic using that very phrase — though, to our credit, some of us used the more acceptable "Eastern-influenced." Yeasayer's blend of tribal beats, disjointed arrangements and idiosyncratic vocals quickly earned them placement alongside Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear as America's premier psychedelic-leaning indie-rock outfits.
This year's Odd Blood — though still cut from a rhythmic, texturally layered cloth — featured more electronic elements than All Hour Cymbals, and felt more akin to new wave than anything as exotic as, say, "worldbeat." Yeasayer clearly like to toy with instrumentation and production techniques, but that isn't for lack of musicianship. As much as you might expect a hiply clad, quirky, Brooklyn-based experimental outfit to be vapid and douchey (if you'll pardon the term), Yeasayer can truly concoct intoxicating melodies and play the hell out of their instruments.
Tracks like "Madder Red," "O.N.E." and "Ambling Alp" — as sonically ambitious as they may be — feature some genuinely impressive pop hooks, not to mention lyrics that are somehow both cryptic and conventionally accessible. As frequently as funny haircuts, exotic influence and Pitchfork buzz turn out to be artifice for an outfit that doesn't have too many ideas, on this occasion, the dudes in question are actually really talented. 10:45 p.m. at The Cannery Ballroom D. PATRICK RODGERS
If there's one over-arching objective to Next Big Nashville, it's to put the local music scene's bubble on the map alongside a musical oasis like, say, Athens, Ga. What better way to do that than by booking an Athens mainstay like Elf Power? As a flagship limb of that city's famed indie-rock collective Elephant 6, the band have spent the greater part of two decades putting out some of the most thoroughly enjoyable lo-fi records this side of Bee Thousand — in addition to playing backing band to the late great Vic Chesnutt. Perennially underrated, they're not as big a festival draw as Wavves or Yeasayer, but their NBN appearance rates just as high on the must-see meter. 11:30 p.m. at The End ADAM GOLD
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Owen Ashworth, aka Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, should get a key to Music City just for his song "Nashville Parthenon," which in addition to being awesome contains this lyric: "I still buy two pairs of everything / So when you come back we'll be twins." This NBN appearance is part of Ashworth's farewell tour — at the very least his farewell to the Casiotone moniker — and while his heartbreakingly droll synth-pop tunes will be missed, his NBN appearance need not be. 9:45 at The End STEVE HARUCH
With his master's degree in library sciences and reticence to tour, Washed Out's Ernest Greene is perhaps the most unlikely blog star of the last decade. Nonetheless, the lo-fi pop gems that comprised 2009's Life of Leisure and High Times EPs quickly made Greene the "poster boy of chillwave," earning him almost universal critical acclaim and a highly-coveted opening spot on Beach House's spring 2010 tour. Greene's success may've not been possible without the Internet, but that barb grows tired when you embrace the sheer songwriting chops immersed underneath his trademark hazy production. 9:45 p.m. at Cannery Ballroom RYAN BURLESON
Arguably one of the most recognizably "Nashville" bands as far as out-of-towners are concerned, Murfreesboro mainstays (gotcha!) Glossary have spent years perfecting the sort of straight-ahead, Southern-tinged rock 'n' roll (not Southern rock) that should make Bucket City proud. With Next Big Nashville growing in scope and outside interest every year, it's heartening to know Glossary can represent a facet of Middle Tennessee to the wider world: specifically, the smile-inducing, jam-along timeless rock facet that just so happens to be catchy as hell. 11:45 p.m. at The Basement ASHLEY SPURGEON
Take a Chance On ...
Let's just skip the whole "how do you pronounce their name?" part because, frankly, I'm not really sure — and my Australian accent is terrible anyway. Plenty of bands try to do the quirky indie-pop thing, but Melbourne's Otouto (it's even hard to type) pull it off in a way that's charming and the right kind of weird. Every time you think you've got them pegged, they pull out a line like "falling in love is like watching a really long video," and you realize their hooks are in you good. 9 p.m. at The End STEVE HARUCH
Hold on to your butts, it's gonna be a bumpin' ride! Is there a better way to cap off a week of celebrating Nashville's increasingly eclectic, genre-flouting music scene than to party down with Music City's own mashup maniacs from the Mashville crew? No, no there is not. We spend a lot of time talking about how much we love the Mashville dudes on these pages, but that's because they spend a lot of time making sure that our faces are melted and our minds are blown — you'd think after three years of covering their monthly dance night we'd be over it by now. That's not the case, as Bateman, Orig, Wick-It, Kidsmeal and crew have used their success to expand not just the province of their tunes but Nashville's entire musical palette, bouncing between pop, hip-hop and electronic music with style and poise rarely seen on these rhinestone-encrusted shores.
These boogie-down boys bring big beats and monster tracks— not to mention an unquenchable thirst for big-time party vibes — to every single show, and tonight at Mercy Lounge will be no different. Well, it'll probably be different, since it seems like every time they get to take over the boomin' sound system on Cannery Row they crank up the awesome to 11 and the audience responds in kind. We can't wait to get down Saturday night — and it's a good thing we already put aside some cab fare 'cause we're gonna get crunk! 12:15 a.m. at Mercy Lounge SEAN L. MALONEY
Nashville's Dead Showcase
If you think of Nashville's garage-rock scene as a building, then the penthouse is occupied by Jack White and his Third Man Records, and the basement is a rowdy den crammed full of the punks that make up the Nashville's Dead crew. Think of this show, the second of the local blog-sponsored nights, as one hell of an elevator ride between the two.
It's fitting that PUJOL named their first release of the year 2010, because it's starting to look like they own that shit outright. Already the most beguiling songwriter in the Infinity Cat stable, frontman Daniel Pujol has been on a tear of late, writing and recording songs at a crazy pace. Speaking of recording, the aforementioned Jack White produced a 7-inch for PUJOL — the A-side, "Black Rabbit," will be familiar to fans of his cassette-ography — which will be available for the first time at this show. (An EP of Pujol's live set, opening for Nobunny at Third Man, is also forthcoming.)
Florida's Jacuzzi Boys bring their scrappy guitar jams (and playfully pervy design aesthetic) back to Nashville after nearly blowing up Glenn Danzig's House a few months ago. Local trio Turbo Fruits, whose new label Turbo Time will also be releasing a PUJOL 7-inch (to give you an idea of how in-demand they are right now), bring their baked-out rock stomp to the party along with D. Watusi, the new project from southpaw guitar basher Dillon Watson of Kindergarten Circus. It might get loud. 7:30 p.m. at Third Man Records STEVE HARUCH
Do you know how tough it's been to watch this Athens, Ala., rap duo blow up in the national press — Fader, The New York Times, Pitchfork, etc. — without getting a Nashville stop on their itinerary? Seriously, Southern rap hasn't been this exciting, innovative and soulful since Outkast went their (sorta) separate ways. Not only have G-Side made the synth-trance hip-pop style actually sound fun and swanky, they've got all the funk and thump that made you fall in love with hip-hop in the first place. 8 p.m. at Mercy Lounge SEAN L. MALONEY
It's a treat to listen to Mikky Ekko flit around the pop music spheres: at the top, he demonstrates an almost feminine dreaminess with his disarmingly temperate voice, but can quickly transition to an (almost literal) earthly digging-through-the-dirt groan, sometimes during the same song — sometimes during the same line. Backed by fluid instrumentation that wouldn't be out of place as music to time-lapse nature photography, the combination somehow works — and most importantly for gentle kook pop, the boy can deploy one hell of an earworm melody when needed. 11:35 PM at 12th & Porter ASHLEY SPURGEON
What's that? You've never witnessed the antics of NYC-by-way-of-Japan's color-coded "Japanese Action Comic Punk" troupe Peelander-Z? Claiming residency on the planet Peelander, the trio's legendary performances typically feature members diving offstage, jumping and dangling from balconies, engaging in human bowling, encouraging mad audience participation and forcing their instruments on unsuspecting spectators. Their costumes — which they claim are not costumes but in fact their alien skin — are of a Power Rangers-meet-Earth Girls Are Easy sort of aesthetic. In short, if you haven't seen these weirdos do their thing by now, you're doing the whole "going to shows" thing wrong. Make it right. 10:30 p.m. at Exit/In D. PATRICK RODGERS
Sam & Tre
The big trend in Nashville's urban music community this year was definitely packing up and leaving Music City for more rap-friendly locales like L.A., New York and Atlanta. But this was also the year Sam & Tre appeared out of nowhere to raise the bar and double down on whatever we might have lost in the Great Brain Drain of 2010. Their first single, "We Do," is an instant classic with a hands-in-the-air hook, big rumbling dub-bass and a swagger previously unseen in these parts. 8:45 p.m. at Mercy Lounge SEAN L. MALONEY
Take a Chance On ...
There's something delightfully strange about Spider-Friends that isn't easy to put a finger on. The band of war-painted experimental art rockers manage to shrug off nearly every stereotype associated with being "Belmont musicians," but they're still hard to separate from the university. They aren't winning showcases and knocking church groups dead, but they do have a kind of charmingly funky musical idealism that can only be bred at a liberal arts university. 10:30 p.m. at The 5 Spot LANCE CONZETT
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