Open Casting 

O'Brien tries something new

O'Brien tries something new

You go to see a show at 12th & Porter, taking a seat at a table and gazing up at the stage, never once crossing the invisible curtain that divides the audience from the acts. Russel Brown O’Brien wants to rip that curtain down. For the next four Monday nights at 12th & Porter, O’Brien is hosting an ever-changing performance piece entitled ”A Month of Mondays“ that forces familiar faces from the local music scene to risk looking ridiculous in the service of spontaneous creativity.

The idea originated in a series of well-received shows O’Brien staged last year at the club. A poet, performance artist, and longtime Nashville club fixture who fronted the band Bang Shang-A-Lang in the late ’80s, O’Brien asked a vast assortment of friends—including hillbilly chanteuse Kristi Rose and personnel from various local pop bands—to show up for a free-form jam. To up the stakes, O’Brien placed one restriction on his guests: The performers couldn’t use the songs or instruments they normally play. At a pre-Christmas show, for example, a member of The Cheeksters responded by warbling folk arrangements of tunes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Another night the host passed around homemade instruments.

”People get excited about it because you’re not seeing the same bands performing the same songs,“ says O’Brien, who has just recorded an upcoming CD, Diarist, with producer Rick Will under similar conditions. ”So much more happens when people aren’t being rock stars. Too many kids trim away so much beauty in the name of careerism.“ The prevailing mood is lighthearted, even silly, he says, and that keeps the performances lively and informal.

At the same time, he stresses that he is not hosting an open-mic night. ”I just don’t want it to be like the fucking Gong Show,“ O’Brien notes, although he did once have his friend Henry Mangrum’s dog Violet leap through hoops between acts.

O’Brien revives the series Monday night with songwriter/journalist Bob Bradley, Frank Craven, Chris Jacob, and the country-pop group The Luxury Liners. He won’t say what’s in store, although the ominous phrase ”strange acts with plastic“ has been bandied about. Coming shows will involve rockers Kim’s Fable playing torch songs; the punk band CYOD playing country; and Kristi Rose singing a cappella Celtic tunes. (”I’ll kill her if she does åDanny Boy,’ “ O’Brien warns.) Showtime is 9 p.m.

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