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Ex-Tripping Daisy frontman Tim DeLaughter brings his symphonic-pop busload back to town in advance of The Polyphonic Spree’s third installment, The Fragile Army, out on TVT Records June 19.

THE POLYPHONIC SPREEMonday, May 7th

Ex-Tripping Daisy frontman Tim DeLaughter brings his symphonic-pop busload back to town in advance of The Polyphonic Spree’s third installment, The Fragile Army, out on TVT Records June 19. Until now, the Spree’s recordings have fallen a bit flat, despite their grandiose intentions—they sound like the Flaming Lips, only with fewer ideas and cornier lyrics. Yet DeLaughter’s sunny, lightweight songs come to life in concert. In a musical culture born of cynicism and overflowing with negativity, The Polyphonic Spree are exuberant, giddy fun. Unless you’ve seen them already, chances are good you haven’t experienced a band like them before. But don’t expect to see the robes this time out, since they’ve been ditched in favor of sleek, peace-themed military uniforms. City Hall —ANDREW J. SMITHSON

MUSIC

THURSDAY, 3RD

CHRIS KNIGHT Four albums into his career, Kentucky’s sandpaper-throated singer-songwriter Chris Knight is about as far from stardom as a guy with four albums can be. But that’s just an indication of how unsure a measure of greatness stardom really is. Knight’s latest CD of new material, No Rope (Thirty Tigers), is another stark and compelling portrait of rural life, of reprobates, losers and petty criminals who are getting on in years. Knight is often compared to Steve Earle, but it’s been a while since Earle has written a song as layered and detailed as “Dirt” or as bleak and satisfying as “Enough Rope.” You’d have to think that one day one of Knight’s songs will be picked up by some Nashville stud and shoot to the top of the charts. This thoughtful entertainer has earned no less. Belcourt Theatre —WERNER TRIESCHMANN

THURSDAY, 3RD – FRIDAY, 4TH

PINK MARTINI If you long for the larger-than-life orchestral pop of Frank Sinatra or the sweeter-than-sugar crooning of Doris Day, Portland, Ore.’s Pink Martini should hit the spot. The aptly named band combines the dulcet tones of ’50s America with Bossa Nova rhythms and an ultra-cool swing vibe straight out of an Audrey Hepburn movie. A few lush strings à la “Moon River” and some lyrical jaunts with a romantic bent would complete the picture for most revivalists, but Pink Martini go further. Incorporating worldbeat influences and lyrics in Spanish, French, Italian and even Russian, Pink Martini can soar with a love song. Lead singer China Forbes sets the tone with a classic voice that can put Rosemary Clooney to shame. Schermerhorn Symphony Center —TRACY M. ROGERS

FRIDAY, 4TH

PETER ROWAN AND TONY RICE QUARTET These two six-string veterans have both spent decades at the cutting edge of bluegrass and progressive acoustic music, but they’ve done so in their own distinctively personal ways. Rice is one of the most influential acoustic guitarists of his generation, a tightly wound master known for his crisp, inventive runs and terse, carefully groomed style. Rowan is a loose, long-haired rambler known for his creative detours, whether it’s combining Latin American music or reggae rhythms with mountain instruments, or improvising with a jam-rock band. Both men are known for their restless creativity, but their acoustic quartet—balanced by two young instrumentalists, mandolinist (and former Nashvillian) Sharon Gilchrist and bassist Bryn Davies—achieves a surprisingly well-formed, seamless sound of its own. Their recent album, Dust Bowl Children, doesn’t sound like two acoustic road warriors trading songs so much as a tight-knit group with a clear idea of what they want to do with folk-leaning acoustic tunes. Belcourt Theatre —MICHAEL MCCALL

THE EARLY EVENING After attempting to ring the bell off the pole with 2003’s And We Can Feel Happy—a two-disc, 33-song epic that strolled from piano balladry to back-porch boogie with lots of summery, gently rolling folk-pop along the way, like two hours of a long-lost FM AOR station circa 1974—brothers George and Dave Daeger have stripped the group down to its bedrock elements: each other. Their latest CD, Nashville Resurrection, is a nine-song acoustic affair that floats on the native Hoosiers’ cushy harmonies: tracks such as “To Be Free and Young and Smiling” and “Witch Hunt” could be the songs coming from the neighbor kids’ basement after they heard their first Simon & Garfunkel album—except the Daegers have had more than a decade to sweeten their maple-sugar vocals. There’s no telling what they’ll do next, but it’ll probably make you think of lemonade and the first shady days out of school. Family Wash —JIM RIDLEY

ALL WE SEABEES Alongside their peers Turncoats, Murfreesboro-via-Detroit quartet All We Seabees are front-runners among a budding new brace of local indie contenders. Independently issued 2006 debut Anne the Snake was full of venom and promise, pitched between the verbose constructions of Neutral Milk Hotel and jangly Britpop. Turning out po-faced character studies of alcoholic fathers and Catholic girls who “always want to score,” the Seabees set banjos and harmonicas against arpeggiated electric guitars to augment their narratives. Expect to see them continue to strip off the layers of influence and affectation like most good young bands. Currently, they’re preparing to take their still-evolving sound out on the road for further seasoning before beginning work on what is promised to be a very different second record at the end of May. The Boro —ANDREW J. SMITHSON

ROWDY FRYNDS TOUR: LYNYRD SKYNYRD, HANK WILLIAMS JR. AND .38 SPECIAL For a brief period in the early to mid-’70s, Florida’s three-pronged guitar beast Lynyrd Skynyrd represented the most dangerous remnants of ’60s counterculture, fried deep in the South. These were longhairs singing about getting loaded and dying, playing songs so loud, fast and boisterous that the end always seemed near. Ronnie Van Zant has been dead 30 years, though the band soldiers on. So does Hank Williams Jr., son of a danger architect: he almost died by falling off of a mountain, and only then did he write his best rules-be-damned songs, “Family Tradition” and “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound.” Now, his “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” anthem is familiar to any 10-year-old who likes football. Add smooth arena-rockers .38 Special to the mix, and this Rowdy Frynds tour spotlights a considerably rusted edge, but if you find three better party bands on one bill in an arena in the South this year, you’re totally dreaming inside an alcohol-induced coma. Nashville Arena —GRAYSON CURRIN

SATURDAY, 5TH

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS Austin’s quirky Asylum Street Spankers may be one of the few swing revival acts to achieve longevity. Mixing old-school jazz and folk with a hearty helping of swing, honky-tonk and blues, the Spankers produce a countrified blend uniquely their own. Formed during the swing upsurge of the mid-’90s, the Spankers are still producing thematic albums about everything from the merits of marijuana (Spanker Madness) and lust (Dirty Ditties) to classic Christmas tales (A Christmas Spanking) and childhood pranks (their latest, Mommy Says No!). It’s no wonder the band has covered everyone from blues maven Bessie Smith and devilish guitar player Robert Johnson to Brooklyn rappers the Beastie Boys and hardcore darlings Black Flag. In spite of their seemingly schizophrenic musical nature, the Spankers are always full of energy and tongue-in-cheek charm. 3rd & Lindsley —TRACY M. ROGERS

GRIMEY’S & THE BASEMENT’S CINCO DE MAYO CELEBRATION & MUSIC FESTIVAL It’s that time again—time to pile into the back parking lot at Grimey’s, drink beer, peruse some discounted records and check out some bands. This spring’s offering happens to coincide with Cinco De Mayo, so it should be easier than usual to convince people to put aside laundry and housework and do some enthusiastic daytime drinkin’. The hefty lineup is a smorgasbord of sound—everything from trad-country vixen Elizabeth Cook to shaggy indie favorites Dr. Dog (who headline at Mercy Lounge later that night) to synthy local party poppers How I Became the Bomb. There will also be DJs spinning between sets and keeping the crowd moving. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. The Basement parking lot —LEE STABERT

DR. DOG Parker Gipsert, frontman of Athens trio The Whigs, has named Dr. Dog as one his favorite bands crisscrossing the country these days. That’s no surprise considering that both bands—though quite different in influences and outcome—traffic in invigorating, ecstatic, vintage rock ’n’ roll. The joy is palpable in this Philadelphia quintet’s rich, layered palette of ’60s-influenced, vaguely psychedelic rock. Their latest, the excellent We All Belong, is both carefully crafted and endearingly shaggy—the perfect catchall for classic rock and indie fans alike. Delicate harmonies coexist with cowbell and reverb-drenched guitar, and the occasional horn line weaves in and out of deceptively clever melodies and jaunty sing-along choruses. Songs such as “The Worst Trip” sound like a bright summer day—but with just enough heaviness and casual woe-is-me melancholy to convince the listener that these guys deserve to be taken seriously. A final point to prove Dr. Dog’s lovable lack of pretension: they’ll play a 3 p.m. set at the Grimey’s Cinco De Mayo Celebration before their headlining gig later that night. Mercy Lounge —LEE STABERT

MONDAY, 7TH

JOHN LEGEND W/RYAN SHAW John Legend’s Nat King Cole pretensions can sometimes result in schmaltz. But elsewhere on Once Again, Legend tests his pop songwriting skills by bowing to a new set of lords. His breathy vocals along with Raphael Saadiq’s Hendrix-like guitar riffs on the song “Show Me” invoke comparisons to the late Jeff Buckley. He hasn’t quite discovered a definitive voice—the hallmark of the great artists Legend hopes to call peers—but he’s getting there. Opener Ryan Shaw doesn’t sweat that whole original voice thing, he just borrows Sam Cooke’s. Listening to Shaw is like observing an exquisitely painted copy of Monet’s “On the Bank of the Seine”it will do until the real thing comes along. Ryman Auditorium —MARK MAYS

TUESDAY, 8TH

MATRACA BERG, SUZY BOGGUSS, GRETCHEN PETERS This trio of formidable Nashville singers and songwriters embarks on a second tour of the U.K. on May 15 under the name Wine, Women & Song. But their only U.S. appearance is at the Grand Ole Opry, where they’ll give a glimpse of a show that drew immense critical praise earlier this year. Usually fronting their own bands as soloists, together they shatter nearly every Nashville stereotype. They’re three smart, progressive, well-balanced women—anti-divas, if you will—who spin real-life tales steeped in modern love and ripe with wit, depth and spiritual profundity. Each has written classic Nashville tunes: Berg’s “Strawberry Wine,” Peters’ “Independence Day” and Bogguss’ “Hey Cinderella” would top any list of country feminist anthems. Hopefully they’ll see fit to let their hometown see this trio again, but for now, here’s your only chance. Grand Ole Opry House —MICHAEL McCALL

GHOSTFINGER Slightly rearranged, the last three songs on Ghostfinger’s 2005 These Colors Run read “Frozen Moon Rock,” and the group plays with that image on their new single. Recorded in Nashville, “Born on the Moon” and “Follow the Water” inaugurate a series of short-run vinyl releases the band plans this year. Frontman Richie Kirkpatrick says the new recordings have been in the can for a while, and describes them as spacier than those found on These Colors. Sticking close to home for now, Ghostfinger plan to record at a high-school auditorium in Hope, Ark., and they’re working on a new full-length. Still, it’s hard to tell exactly what these jokesters call home—Murfreesboro is one obvious answer, the moon another. They’re as tricky as Pavement and as soulful as The Flying Burrito Brothers, and their lunacy only emphasizes their pop savvy. 6 p.m. at Grimey’s; Friday, 11th at the Basement —EDD HURT

WEDNESDAY, 9TH

THE BELLRAYS Little known but much loved by those who do, the BellRays sound like an amalgamation of Motor City’s ample musical heritage (even though they hail from Cali). The guitars slalom between Stooges-inspired proto-garage, old-fashioned Midwest rock ’n’ roll hoochie-koo and funkalicious throwdowns. Guitarist Tony Fate goes for the groin, while Lisa Kekaula’s stiff vocal roundhouse ensures sweet dreams as she lays ya out for the canvas nap. Despite a history that extends for more than 15 years, the band remains a cult act with a DIY attitude and a six-album discography spanning a handful of tiny labels. Yet success is hardly equated with talent, and you’re unlikely to find a hotter three minutes than when the ’Rays fire up their “Revolution Get Down.” Exit/In —CHRIS PARKER

THE WILLOWZ After 2005’s acclaimed Talk in Circles, it would be natural to expect California band The Willowz to build on their fuzzy garage rock-influenced indie pop for their Dim Mak debut Chautauqua. But instead, they’ve partially reinvented themselves as a blues-based, folk-loving psych-rock band. Famed director Michel Gondry is a fanatical supporter and used Willowz songs on the soundtracks for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep. But the band’s new single “Jubilee,” a punky, post-folk hoedown, suffers on car stereo speakers even if it works well on screen. Devendra Banhart fans will have no problems with singer Richie James Folin, but those who don’t care for the shrill, paper-thin skree of Banhart and his lot will likely pass on Willowz as well. Of local note, The Willowz have toured with The Greenhornes and Be Your Own Pet, so local celebrity sightseeing should be at a premium for this gig. Springwater —JASON MOON WILKINS

THEATER

THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST Beth Henley’s popular Southern-fried comedy focuses on a young lady’s desire to win the local beauty contest—despite the skepticism of friends and relations—and escape small-town Mississippi life. Boiler Room Theatre artistic director Jamey Green heads the company’s new production, which stars up-and-comer Laura Marsh in the role created originally in New York (and later in the feature film) by Holly Hunter. The solid supporting players include Douglas Goodman, Phil Perry-Dixon and Nancy Whitehead. Onstage at The Factory at Franklin May 4-June 2. Phone 794-7744. —MARTIN BRADY

I HATE HAMLET This 1991 comedy garnered only 88 performances in its original Broadway run, despite the presence of such stars as Nicol Williamson and Celeste Holm. It concerns an actor named Andrew who seems to have it all: a starring role on a hit TV series, a beautiful girlfriend, a devoted agent and the perfect New York apartment. But trouble arises on several personal fronts, and when Andrew gets the opportunity to play Hamlet in Central Park, he suddenly wants to have nothing to do with it. Enter the ghost of John Barrymore, and later a real-live Hollywood type who wants to lure Andrew back to La-La Land. The new Tennessee Repertory Theatre production stars Lane Davies, along with Ruth Cordell, Eric Pasto-Crosby and stalwart locals such as Rona Carter, Henry Haggard and Marin Miller. Rene Copeland directs. Performances are May 3-19 in TPAC’s Polk Theater. Phone 255-2787. —MARTIN BRADY

SAVING GRACE Jack Sharkey is one of the dinner-theater circuit’s enduring playwrights. In other words, he writes lighthearted, fairly improbable fare with a sitcom sensibility. Here, a girl named Grace mistakes a telephone repairman for a burglar. Wacky high jinks ensue. Dietz Osborne directs with an eye toward sending up 1970s-style TV shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The experienced cast includes Adam Burnett, David Compton, Nate Eppler, Jennifer Richmond and Martha Wilkinson. Presented by Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre, May 8-June 9. Phone 646-9977. — MARTIN BRADY

ART

THE 60 SECOND SOUTHERN VIDEO FESTIVAL Fugitive Projects will be showing over 100 one-minute videos by artists from around the world at this event, which is part cookout and part outdoor film-festival. The fest kicks off Saturday, with the first screening taking place at 7 p.m. (The program will repeat at 10 p.m. and will include more graphic material not suitable for children.) This is a rain-or-shine public event with a $5 suggested donation. Food and drink are not included, but there will be grills available, so bring your own food and enjoy the 70-acre Harmony Landing site, located in Pegram, before the show. To find directions and more information about the festival, the artists, cabins and camping at Harmony Landing, visit fugitiveprojects.com. —JOE NOLAN

MANDY ROGERS HORTON Once, Mandy Rogers Horton painted quiet narratives of young women who seemed ill at ease with themselves and their situations. Given the expressionistic abstracts the artist debuted a little over a year ago, perhaps the subjects of her earlier work were simply all-too-aware that their time was over, and that this artist had a far more complex tale to tell. Rogers Horton’s new show opens at Twist Gallery in the Arcade on Saturday with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. It runs through May 26. —JOE NOLAN

BOOKS

TIM SHARP According Memphis Music: Before the Blues by Tim Sharp, it takes “population, affluence and leisure time” to create great culture. Memphis has all three, and for decades the result, says Sharp, has been “an export even greater than cotton—the ephemeral product of music.” W.C. Handy, Stax Records and Elvis Presley all came from Memphis, but Sharp—a respected academic at Rhodes College and Clare Hall, University of Cambridge—goes further back. His focus is the Civil War, the yellow fever epidemics and the great rush of European immigrants during the 19th century, when cultures mixed and creativity sprang forth. Nearly every page of Memphis Music is filled with archival sheet music, photographs, portraits and newspaper advertisements. “Music was the seed that took root and grew, generation after generation,” says Sharp. “This story is about the creative soil and soul of the Delta, where music emerged in new and innovative ways in each succeeding decade.” Sharp will appear at Davis-Kidd Booksellers at 6 p.m. May 3. –Lacey Galbraith

FILM

BELCOURT AIR GUITAR COMPETITION Hey, you—yeah, you with the bandanna and the fingers twiddling in midair to “Whipping Post” and the constipated grimace known universally as the Rock Face. This is the crossroads, baby, and you’re Ralph Macchio about to throw down against Satan’s own hired axe Steve Vai. In honor of this weekend’s doc Air Guitar Nation (see Short Takes on p. 69)—about the fearsome rock-off to declare the World Air Guitar Champion—the Belcourt invites Nashville’s Rocky Balboas of imaginary instrumentation to finger the Emperor’s New Stratocaster. Competition will be limited to 15 participants, who will each have exactly one minute to (pretend) kick you in the (actual) balls. Send an MP3 of your one-minute solo selection to Belcourt Air Guitar Headquarters ( toby@belcourt.org ) or deliver a CD copy in person (with selection and time code marked) to the Hillsboro Village arthouse by Friday, May 4. The contest will be held before the 9:30 screening Saturday, May 5. The winner gets a Midnight Movie Party of their choice and the coveted title of Belcourt Air Guitar Champion; the audience will determine the outcome, so box-office chicanery is encouraged. Start practicing your devil horns. For more information, call 846-3150 or see belcourt.org. —JIM RIDLEY

WOMAN IN THE DUNES One of the week’s must-see movies. In Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1964 masterpiece, an entomologist (Eiji Okada) on an expedition to study beetles becomes trapped in a sandpit by an enigmatic woman (Kyoko Kishida) who won’t let him leave. Their Sisyphean task is to fill bags with the endlessly shifting sand that pours into the pit, which villagers then remove and sell. As the man’s rage at imprisonment intensifies into erotic obsession, Teshigahara and cinematographer Hiroshi Segawa fill the screen with shockingly alien and beautiful textures: of shimmering sand, of wind and heat, of grit patterned on skin hot with desire. (On the big screen, the black-and-white imagery is unforgettable.) The movie is a sensual fever dream, heightened by Toru Takemitsu’s harsh, discordant score. It screens at the Belcourt in a brand new print as part of the “More 50 Years of Janus Films” series. —JIM RIDLEY

TA RA RUM PUM A Hindi version of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby? We are so there. In this Bollywood musical shot in North Carolina, Saif Ali Khan stars as a grease monkey who becomes a superstar race-car driver, only to be reduced to poverty by an accident. Can he and his wife (Rani Mukherjee) convince their kids that they’re playing a poor family in a reality-TV show? The musical comedy-drama screens one time only, 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at the Belcourt, in Hindi with English subtitles. —JIM RIDLEY

TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER Wisit Sasanatieng’s rainbow-colored homage to spaghetti Westerns and the cinema of his native Thailand has proved unexpectedly popular with Nashville audiences. A few screenings have been wedged in Saturday at the Belcourt; see belcourt.org for show times. —JIM RIDLEY

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