Lovenoise: Even those with the most tangential of relationships with Nashville's urban music community know the name. You've seen the fliers. You've seen the advertisements. You've heard the Sunday night radio show on 92Q. And more likely than not, you've been to their shows — from Grammy-winning soul artists to the latest underground hip-hop sensations, local upstarts to legendary performers, Lovenoise has cultivated one of the most impressive résumés in the city. Founded eight years ago by Eric Holt, Chip Hockett, Antoine Nunn and Bryce Page, Lovenoise has carved a niche within the Nashville music community — a cornerstone of our burgeoning urban arts community.
"I was a managing an artist — a hip-hop artist," says Holt. "When that business opportunity was no longer there, me and my business partners, the four of us, we were trying to put our energy into something music related. Something in the music business, something sustainable to dwell in. And one thing that we found while we were managing that particular artist was that in Nashville there weren't a lot of venues or platforms for what we called 'cool hip-hop.' Common-esque hip-hop or whatever.
"There was an opportunity to work on a party that was coming up that really needed help with promotions — needed help with the whole idea of everything. So we joined up with those other guys, and that was essentially the birth of Lovenoise."
Now that the city is knee-deep in "cool hip-hop," with shows and events of every scale happening on most nights, it seems like a stretch to think that there was a time when good urban shows were few and far between. But you can thank Lovenoise for pushing that evolution forward. Since the days of their now legendary weekly parties, Lovenoise has tried to cultivate a sophisticated, music-savvy crowd that is looking for more of a nightlife experience than just grinding to pop hits in the club. And while their shows and audience have grown exponentially over the last eight years — Cannery Ballroom is, figuratively speaking, a long way from the Bar Car of yore (the venue now known as The Listening Room) — there's always a sense of community in the crowd, whether you're watching this year's breakout star Big K.R.I.T. or new jack swing heavyweights Bell Biv DeVoe.
"One of the things that has affected us directly is the openness of the venues. You had — when we first started, there were maybe a handful of clubs that were open to having hip-hop or, like, a Big K.R.I.T.-type show at their venues," says Holt. "It's because they didn't need it, because they were focused on country or rock. Or they didn't want it. It was the unknown for them, the club owners.
"Music in America — and the idea of it, the acceptance of different forms — has changed, and the venue owners have changed their stance on allowing certain promoters to come in and do certain things. That's affected our business in a positive way; we have more options. We can do more things in more places. As well as the artists themselves, locally, have matured and they can draw crowds similar to the rock crowds and the country crowds — that of course make money for the venues.
"You have a crop of artists — it's not just one or two and this is not just hip-hop. R&B, neo-soul, hip-hop ... have developed over the years, [and] built fan bases that they can move from venue to venue, and that's good for business."
Lovenoise is the nexus in Nashville's widening urban music network. They work alongside big-name promoters like AEG — they've partnered on the marketing of Nov. 1's show at Cannery Ballroom featuring R&B songstress Ledisi — and cell phone company Cricket to do events. But Lovenoise also has its ears to the underground, recently partnering with The Boom Bap crew for the Murs/9th Wonder show and consistently putting local up-and-comers on bills with national artists. They know everyone and everything that's making noise in this town — or at least it seems that way once the house lights fall and the show starts. In an era when polarization is the norm, Lovenoise has marked out a social center — a middle path that allows artists and audiences to flourish.
"We facilitate," says Holt. "We don't create art, but we sure facilitate."
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