Nashville New Music Conference ♦ September 11-13 

Music

Music

The music industry may be in meltdown, but it’s not going anywhere. No one can be sure what will emerge from this mess, but what is clear is that music is no less essential to people’s lives than it ever was. The question is, how do musicians and their audiences connect in some mutually beneficial way, even as their world rocks and reels beneath their feet? With the RIAA suing college kids one day and offering them “amnesty” the next, with record labels slashing CD prices maybe five years too late, events like the Nashville New Music Conference bear a responsibility to examine ways to best benefit musicians on the cusp of their careers. This isn’t easy, as one might conclude from some of the topics being addressed by this year’s panels. “Getting Past the Gatekeepers,” scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m., apparently assumes that it’s still worth getting past that gate and into the record racket’s Götterdämmerung, even though these models are likely on their way out and, in any event, are accessed at a heavy cost. But later that same day, other panels tackle “Consolidation in Media,” a more timely concern given radio’s monolithic concentration, and “The Path to Artist Empowerment,” a concept that would have sounded Martian in the era of label dependency. Though no answers are guaranteed, the aspiring artist will leave 2NMC assured that with so many people working so hard amidst all this turbulence, new music will be heard, the rent will be paid—and there may even be bowling, if the first 2NMC charity bowling tournament (1-3 p.m. Sunday at Melrose Lanes) is any indication. But in the end, such events should be all about the music, and this one boasts dozens upon dozens of acts at showcases all over town. Some names will be familiar to local music fans; some won’t. See the music listings, beginning on p. 55, for more information and for descriptions of some of the performers.

—Robert L. Doerschuk

Friday, 12th

Folksongs For The Afterlife Too sprightly and melodic for shoegazers, too lush and dynamic to be lo-fi, too delicate and subtle for pop radio—what is Put Danger Back in Your Life, the new album by Brooklyn’s Folksongs for the Afterlife, other than one of the loveliest records of the year? The vocals and songs belong to Caroline Schulz, the arrangements and most of the surrounding instruments to her partner Chris Sizemore, and how either would sound on his/her own is a mystery. Together, though, they’ve reached some kind of aural symbiosis. It allows the bossa nova affectlessness of Schulz’s breathy voice to register as the most mysterious instrument in the mix, while her songs inspire Sizemore to create shimmering backdrops of synths, acoustic guitar and samples that are almost seismographically attuned to her otherwise imperceptible mood shifts. Dropping comparisons to Yo La Tengo in a quiet mood or The Magnetic Fields in Phil Spector mode might give you an idea of what to expect, but they don’t really explain what makes this record special. You’ll just have to hear how “You Walked Me Home” swells from an insistently pulsing bass line to a surge of almost orchestral maneuvering, or the way a hint of dissonance turns the throwaway sweetness of a line like “I want to lock away your perfect smile / Just for awhile” into something with a bite. The most undervalued aspect of pop, and the hardest to capture, is alchemy. Springwater

—Jim Ridley

Saturday, 13th

The National “Do you still feel clean when the only dirt left is the dirt I left behind?” singer Matt Berninger asks in a dolorous baritone on “Thirsty,” one of a dozen pregnant, vaguely dissolute meditations on romance on this Brooklyn band’s second LP, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. Set to alternately spacious and roiling rock arrangements flecked by French horn, steel guitar and violin (not fiddle), The National’s dour Americana is decidedly urbane—more Magnetic Fields, say, than Whiskeytown. It’s heady and hypnotic, and lingers like a hangover. “Everywhere I am is just another thing without you in it,” Berninger pines, sounding a Go-Betweens-inspired note, on “Fashion Coat.” Thankfully, the band (two sets of brothers plus Berninger) dispel the gloom often enough with some well-earned noise—and always for the sake of the song. 12th & Porter

—Bill Friskics-Warren

Sunday, 14th

The Clientele The mystique of this London trio is rooted in their commitment to pop music as artifact, born of a five-year gestation process in which they released the occasional song onto vinyl EPs and 45s. After herding their orphans onto the CD anthology Suburban Light, The Clientele finally put out a proper LP with this year’s The Violet Hour, which still finds them making slow, hypnotic music drenched in an echo so deep that notes already played hang around and harmonize with notes to come. The title of The Violet Hour is as descriptive as that of Suburban Light: Both invoke the feeling of a late-afternoon or early-evening daydream. The essence of The Clientele’s low, twinkly sound is the breathy voice and reverb-heavy guitar of Alasdair MacLean, with the muted swing of bassist James Hornsey and drummer (and sometime pianist) Mark Keen cruising underneath. It’s a touching, obsessive reassembly of old records and old sensations, fumbling toward an explanation of the inexplicable, and embodied by MacLean’s trademark double-tracked vocals, which sometimes match closely to create a choral effect, and sometimes drift out of synch for harmony’s sake, or to give the sense of someone retracing steps and losing their way. The End

—Noel Murray

Tuesday, 16th

Patty Loveless In her non-grandstanding way, Loveless has been modern country’s female counterpart to Alan Jackson—a commercial country artist of rare integrity and consistency, who constantly steps forward with material that pulls on all of the genre’s greatest strengths. And her voice—fragile yet strong, aching yet sure of itself—is one of the most compelling instruments of its time. She’s got a great sense timing too—one that likely prolonged her career just as it looked like she was about to leave the mainstream with Dwight Yoakam, Pam Tillis and other peers. But as country music barreled down the pop-crossover highway, Loveless took a back road, recording a career highpoint, Mountain Soul, that coincided with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? phenomenon and ranked as the most critically lauded country album of 2002. Now, as country turns back to its roots to replenish itself, Loveless returns with a crackling album, On Your Way Home, that updates traditional country music with an earnest energy that’s as full of commitment and free of cunning as her best work of the past. And she’s back on the radio and up for a CMA award to boot. Sometimes following your heart really will take you where you need to go. Tower Records, Opry Mills

—Michael McCall

Josh Ritter Almost everything written about this Boston-based singer-songwriter compares his music to that of downer-folk legend Nick Drake. On the surface, these claims have merit: Ritter has much the same unaffected delivery, self-absorption and tousled hair as Drake did. Yet like other contemporary young balladeers such as John Mayer, Norah Jones and David Gray, Ritter lacks the sense of fatal melancholy that gives Drake’s work such power. That said, Hello Starling, Ritter’s new CD, is a fine record. Its light-handed producer, David Odlum—a Frenchman—deserves some of the credit: Ritter’s lightly finger-picked guitar and soothing vocals are given ample room, and Odlum’s organic-sounding backing tracks support the singer’s somber presence without getting in the way. Ritter’s lyrics frequently come off sounding like wordplay—“With fortune’s rocks millstone you hang round my throat / And a brick for my window weighted down with a note”—but that accusation never diminished Drake’s mystique. Ultimately, however, Ritter shouldn’t have to be like Drake. Though Hello Starling may borrow from the latter’s angst-steeped approach, its lack of lyrical pathos isn’t necessarily a liability. Whereas Drake, who essentially died of depression in 1974, was a fragile and troubled genius, Ritter is more of a craftsman, comfortable and self-confident, and that makes a world of difference in the way the two men’s material should be considered. 7 p.m., 3rd & Lindsley

—Paul Griffith

Da Razkalz Cru MCs Sas, Bucklyte and Scrappy of the Atlanta hip-hop trio Da Razkalz Cru breathe fresh air into our popular youth culture, tainted as it is so often by received adult themes. Aged 10 to 14, the trio of young MCs are currently on a youth tour of schools and YMCAs entitled “Drop the Beats, Drop the Knowledge, Rhyming is Fundamental” that seeks to promote literacy among teens by demonstrating the fun and verbal facility that can be gleaned from books. At an early age, Da Razkalz Cru measure life by beats and rests as much as walks and breaths. Their debut single, “I’m So Fly,” which is set to appear on the soundtrack to the movie Looney Tunes Back in Action, is a catchy tune arranged around a smooth R&B hook. If initial mixes of their single are any indication, their forthcoming album, which was produced by Timbaland and Missy Elliott and is slated for February release, should be a good one. 3 p.m. at Moses McKissack Middle School

—Chris Davis

Wednesday, 17th

The Mavericks Too many country artists treat Nashville as if it consists of a few midtown streets lined with corporate entertainment logos. The Mavericks have always been one of the exceptions. From the time the band moved here from Miami in 1994, they built a relationship with the city from the street up, regularly packing local clubs even after they started winning awards and attracting an international following. Then again, maybe that was a sign of their cockiness: Their live shows exploded into the kind of orgiastic audience release that’s the stuff of legend. Singer Raul Malo, bassist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin never completely trusted Music Row, but they were fully committed to the way music could inspire people to let go in a one-off night of pleasure. The band sound as good as ever on their self-titled new album, showing a new maturity since reuniting earlier this year. They’re less coy, less ironic and more willing to reach for a big, brassy sound that exults in the glory that Malo’s big voice is capable of achieving. They’ve got a new guitarist, Eddie Perez, and they’ll likely show up with a horn section that brings out the inner Neil Diamond in Malo’s stage persona. The Mavericks are no longer a Music Row band, but their hearts were always on a different side of town anyway. They start their national tour with this show. Uptown Mix

—Michael McCall

Classical

Nashville Symphony Orchestra w/Terrence Wilson In last week’s season opener, the Nashville Symphony gave itself a very tough act to follow. (See the review on p. 54.) But follow it they must, and so they do this weekend with a program that looks mostly—though not entirely—ho-hum. It opens with gaudy Romantic fireworks in the Roman Carnival Overture by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) and closes with the Fifth Symphony by Beethoven (1770-1827). But between these chestnuts comes the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), one of the great composers of the last century. After a tempestuous start as an enfant terrible trying to out-Igor Stravinsky, Prokofiev became one of the great melodists, whose lovely lines thrive in bravura environments demanding transcendental virtuosity, sensuality and delicacy. He himself premiered this concerto in Chicago in 1921. It will be played here by young African American virtuoso Terrence Wilson, who has the right stuff. Performances are 8 p.m. Sept. 12 and 13 at TPAC’s Jackson Hall.

—Marcel Smith

Theater

Knock Knock Jules Feiffer began his professional life as a cartoonist in the late 1940s, eventually scoring a high-profile gig with the Village Voice as a premier commentator on the sociopolitical scene. But Feiffer has also had resounding success as a playwright (Little Murders, 1967) and screenwriter (Carnal Knowledge, 1971), capturing modern life in his keen examinations of neuroses and extreme behavior. Knock Knock, a fantasy comedy from 1976 in which Joan of Arc changes the lives of two elderly recluses, is yet another of Feiffer’s offbeat works, and a new theater company called I’m Your Superhero Productions will present the play at Bongo After Hours Theatre, Sept. 12-28. The youthful Jonathon Kingsbury directs a cast that includes Tony Domenico, Susan Howe and Eric Wagner. For tickets, phone 578-2917.

—Martin Brady

Three Tall Women ACT I opens the 2003-2004 theater season with this Edward Albee Pulitzer Prize winner, which is based on the author’s strained relationship with his adoptive mother. The cast, under the direction of Daryl Pike, features Melissa Bedinger-Hade, Pat Rulon, Jessica Wilsey and Mark Sanders. The play opens at the Darkhorse Theater Sept. 12 and runs through Sept. 27. For info or reservations, call 726-2281.

—Martin Brady

The Last Night of Ballyhoo Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre recently opened this production of Alfred Uhry’s bittersweet comedy about a Southern Jewish family in Atlanta on the eve of World War II. Veteran director Charles Burr’s cast includes Sarah Fleming, Trin Blakely and Mikael Byrd. The show runs through Oct. 11 on the Barn’s Mainstage. Reservations are required; phone 646-9977.

—Martin Brady

Comedy

Kevin Nealon Snagging a gig on Saturday Night Live usually cements a comedy career. In Nealon’s case, he holds the record for longest tenure on the TV institution (1986-1995), doing various impersonations, holding court in “Hans and Franz” with Mike Myers, and creating a few somewhat memorable original characters (among them Subliminal Man). He’s also appeared in a brace of movies (Anger Management, Happy Gilmore) and in a couple of short-lived sitcoms. He also keeps active on the stand-up circuit. He’ll be at Zanies Sept. 11-14.

—Martin Brady

Art

Fugitive Art Center Athens, Ga., has one of the most fertile visual arts communities in the region, if not the country, thanks in large part to the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. Nashville is lucky to have a direct pipeline to the Athens art scene, courtesy of several Fugitive Art Center board members who earned their MFAs at the school. That connection bears fruit once again with a showing of works by Kathryn Refi and Neil Bender, both from Athens. But location—and a serious commitment to their work—may be about all that these artists share in common. Refi’s conceptual multimedia art is highly personal, though very much designed to engage the viewer. “My Half of the Duplex, Apt. A, 346 N. Pope St.” is a scale model of the apartment where the artist lived for three years, a place where the noise of her neighbors constantly infiltrated her daily life. Much more subtle, though just as intriguing, is “Light Readings,” in which Refi has used India ink to replicate the levels taken from a photographic light meter, which recorded the various kinds and shades of light she experienced during the course of one day. Juxtaposed against Refi’s contemplative work, Neil Bender’s 2-D mixed-media pieces may seem downright lascivious: Using hot reds, florid pinks and flesh tones, his renderings of overlapping, interconnecting body parts are at once unabashedly carnal and profoundly disturbing, designed to explore the ways that mass culture exploits human sexuality. The show opens this Saturday, Sept. 13, with an artist reception from 7 to 9 p.m. featuring a “surprise guest DJ.” For information or directions, visit www.fugitiveart.com.

—Jonathan Marx

Cumberland Gallery This Green Hills gallery’s first show of the fall season is “Compilations,” which pairs the work of two artists who use collage to different effect. Pennsylvania artist Tom Judd incorporates painting and swatches of wallpaper into his large-scale works on wood, which suggest a merging or layering of narratives. With its amber, earthy tones, Judd’s “Sunset” counterpoints the domesticity signified by wallpaper with the image of a setting sun; together, these elements capture the feel of something faded from long-ago, as if viewed through the twilight of someone’s memory. A professor at Austin Peay in Clarksville, Billy Renkl also has an appreciation for the detritus of the past, in his case incorporating old books and papers into his drawings. His latest body of work concentrates on plant life—a response, he explains, to mourning the death of his father. Here, the antiquated is juxtaposed with images of growing things, in a quiet, thoughtful reconciliation of decay and regeneration. Thematic concerns aside, both men’s work is rich and tactile, and this show should appeal to anyone who’s ever experienced a revelatory moment while sifting through a junk store or an estate sale. The show opens with a reception, 6-8 p.m. Sept. 13. Renkl will also deliver a lecture at noon on Sept. 18 in Clarksville’s Customs House Museum.

—Jonathan Marx

Frist Center for the Visual Arts/Tennessee State Museum Two of the city’s biggest art institutions have teamed up for “Art of Tennessee,” an expansive exhibit encompassing the entire history of the state, going back to the work of Tennessee’s original Native American inhabitants and extending all the way up to artists of the present day. The hundreds of pieces on display include furniture, maps, quilts, pottery, paintings and sculpture, and the show runs Sept. 13-Jan. 18. On Saturday, the Frist Center also opens a new exhibit in its always interesting Gordon CAP Gallery, which spotlights the work of contemporary artists. “Grace Graupe-Pillard: The Manipulation Series” features paintings inspired by the cinematic medium.

—Jonathan Marx

Art for STARS This Saturday and Sunday, the Old Natchez Country Club in Franklin hosts a show and sale of watercolors to benefit children with life-threatening illnesses currently receiving treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s radiology department. Featured artists include Walter Benneyworth, Creason Clayton, Vinci Kolodziejski, Louise LeQuire, Ginna Priest and some dozen others. For more info—including ticket prices for Friday night’s preview event—contact Debbie Vandegrift at 343-1972.

Books & Learning

Victoria Lancelotta The Nashville-based author celebrates the release of her debut novel, Far, with a reading and signing and at Davis-Kidd, 6 p.m. Sept. 17. See the review on p. 72.

Leonard Garment Washington and Wall Street insider Garment was Watergate-era Richard Nixon’s close friend and attorney. (For the record, he advised Nixon to hang on to those tapes). Before all that, he was a jazz saxophonist who brought bebop sounds to surprised audiences expecting big band swing. Garment now heads the National Jazz Museum in Harlem; his books include Crazy Rhythm and In Search of Deep Throat. He’ll be the featured speaker at the launch of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy, 4:10 p.m. Sept. 12 in Featheringill Hall on the Vanderbilt Campus. For information, call 322-7211.

—Paul Griffith

Marshall Chapman Nashville singer-songwriter Chapman has a new release out—but it’s a book. The lapsed debutante and roots-rocker has turned author, penning Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller, a volume that’s part memoir, part narrative discography. Given her large personality and her penchant for telling a tale, Chapman’s reading at Davis-Kidd, 6 p.m. Sept. 15, should be a little rowdier than the typical book-signing.

—Lacey Galbraith

William Arnett Arnett has written extensively about Southern vernacular art. He’ll be at the Arts Company 2-6 p.m. this Saturday to sign and discuss his contributions to such publications as Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts and Souls Grown Deep Vol. 2: African American Vernacular Art. The occasion is the opening of the downtown gallery’s latest show, “Rethink Contemporary Art: Gee’s Bend Quilts, Thornton Dial, Howard Finster & Purvis Young.”

—Paul Griffith

Events

india festival Now in its second year, this festival comes highly recommended to anyone curious about Indian culture—especially the food. Last year’s event attracted some 1,500 attendees, and one of the strongest draws was the truly amazing food offerings. The India Festival gives Nashvillians the chance to sample edibles rarely, if ever, found on the menus at local Indian restaurants—and the food tables are organized by region, so that visitors get a geography lesson as well. It’s an experience that helps to demystify this large and fascinating land, while highlighting what makes it genuinely unique and historically important. There will also be live performances, demonstrations and more. The event is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday at Sri Ganesha Temple, 521 Old Hickory Blvd. Admission is free, though the food is not—but believe us, it’s worth every cent. For more info, call 356-7207.

—Jonathan Marx

Film

Once Upon a Time in Mexico How’s this for prolific: One-man-band Robert Rodriguez is back with his second film in six weeks—and like his Spy Kids 3-D, it’s the third film in a series. In the sequel to Desperado (itself a sequel to Rodriguez’s debut, El Mariachi), Antonio Banderas returns as the nimble killer who wields a mean guitar case. Johnny Depp plays the CIA agent who serves as his ally (or nemesis?) in the fight against an all-powerful drug lord; Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo and a Latinized Willem Dafoe co-star. Man, are we psyched. Opening Friday, everywhere.

—Jim Ridley

Nashville Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Screw that well-of-loneliness crap. Over the past 15 years, queer cinema has emerged as one of the largest, most flourishing subsets of independent moviemaking. This three-day celebration at the Belcourt—the first of what may become an annual event—shows there’s more to gay film than anguished coming-out stories and fluffy romances. The movies range from upbeat musical history (Radical Harmonies, about the roots of womyn’s music) to outright farce (the controversial British black comedy Nine Dead Gay Guys) to NC-17 naughtiness (the spycam soap Webcam Boys). At least two features sound like must-sees: the hotly debated doc The Gift, about gay men who actively seek HIV infection, and Suddenly, a femme Argentine variation on Stranger Than Paradise that drew raves on the international festival circuit. And since there’s more to festival-going than sitting in a dark theater, there are receptions, musical performances, panel discussions and parties galore, starting Friday night at Tribe. A review of Suddenly appears on p. 75; for more information about individual films and show times, see our Movie Guide on p. 76 or www.belcourt.org.

—Jim Ridley

American Splendor Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s adaptation of Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical comic series arrives in town this week, already preceded by strong notices. Starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as his wife Joyce Brabner, the film covers the incidents of everyday life that Pekar related with wry, crusty purposefulness in his graphic novels. Pekar and Brabner co-wrote the screenplay with the directors, and the film’s faithfulness to these real-life characters has been the subject of some interesting interviews with the filmmakers. American Splendor opens Friday at Green Hills, along with The Magdalene Sisters, directed and written by Scottish actor Peter Mullan.

—Jonathan Marx

The Happiness of the Katakuris Last represented on Nashville screens by the over-the-top outrages of Dead or Alive, Japanese cult director Takashi Miike returns with his idea of family fare: a pop horror musical with midair dance numbers, singing zombies and claymation violence. The plot concerns a luckless clan whose failing country inn gets a boost from a rash of deaths, while a volcano simmers in the background. To say this movie is like nothing you’ve ever seen would be an understatement. It screens Friday and Saturday at Sarratt as part of the Vanderbilt student theater’s new fall schedule; also showing this week at Sarratt is Fight Club, screening Sunday.

—Jim Ridley

Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time Using the natural elements and forces at hand—scraps of wood, the process of ice freezing, the weight of balanced stones—Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy creates fragile, web-like sculptures that harmonize with their outdoor surroundings. But the works are only temporary: The same natural forces that bind his pieces ultimately scatter and erase them. This documentary by Thomas Riedelsheimer watches the artist at his painstaking, often frustrating work, capturing installations that have long since been torn down by wind and water. The film opens Friday at the Belcourt.

—Jim Ridley

Matchstick Men Advance word is excellent on this Ridley Scott-directed caper comedy about a neurotic con man (Nicolas Cage) who’s thrown off his grift by the arrival of his teenage daughter (Alison Lohmann). It opens Friday.

—Jim Ridley

Masked and Anonymous Is this an inventive deconstruction of the many faces of Bob Dylan, or a belly-flop that makes one long for the cinematic oeuvre of Mariah Carey? On the one hand, there’s Dylan as an outlaw musician forced to play a benefit in an alternate-reality America at war with itself, and he’s joined by maybe the year’s most illustrious cast, including Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Ed Harris and Jessica Lange. On the other, an awful lot of people walked out on this movie at Sundance. Seinfeld alum Larry Charles directed and co-wrote the script with Dylan (who assumed the nom de film “Sergei Petrov”). It opens Friday at Green Hills.

—Jim Ridley

Cabin Fever Stoked on beer and sex, six friends take a vacation getaway to a remote cabin with an uninvited guest: flesh-eating virus. Writer-director Eli Roth, a David Lynch protégé and scholar of splatter (he did the commentary on Troma’s Bloodsucking Freaks DVD), pulls out all the gory stops in this brazenly yucky homage to Sam Raimi and George Romero. It opens Friday; see the review in our Movie Guide on p. 76.

—Jim Ridley

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