It may be difficult to follow a sometimes diapered leader who tells us, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.” But Clinton and his P-Funk collective are now in at least their third generation, offering their hazy mix of post-psychedelic electronic riffs and endlessly reborn vamps with each new performance of “Atomic Dog,” “Flash Light” and “Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk).” Their otherworldly stage show, a cross between trippin’ kabuki and urban opera, asserts the redeeming powers of Clinton’s funky cosmology. His rallying cry, “One Nation Under a Groove,” may seem to promise utopia only during those rare funkified moments when all our cultural hang-ups are cast asidenot that anyone expects Dr. Funkenstein, Rumpofsteelskin, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk and P-Funk’s crew of other savvy fools to deliver us all from our follies. But let’s not forget that beneath the comic-book world of orgiastic release, Clinton’s songscapes convey genuine compassion for those who’ve been labeled as part of the “problem,” whether they be inner-city mothers going at the world alone in “Cosmic Slop” or returning Vietnam vets facing a new hell in “March to the Witch’s Castle.” With Clinton now reaping more of the gains from the extensive sampling of his tracks, the P-Funk message has continued to speak across the divide, embracing both funk-rockers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and a whole generation of hip-hoppers. Jump, Little Children and Here Come the Mummies open the show. Dancin’ in the District, Nashville Coliseum Field
This week’s picks by Martin Brady, Chris Davis, Jonathan Flax, Paul Griffith, Bill Levine, Noel Murray, Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, Jim Ridley, Jon Weisberger, Angela Wibking and Ron Wynn.
Rupert Holmes Before getting seduced by lite rock in the wake of his mega-hit singles “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and “Him,” Holmes had a reputation as a writer and performer of offbeat, character-rich story songs that split the difference between the tastefully arranged, schmaltz-pop of Barry Manilow and the sardonic balladeering of Randy Newman. Instead of getting softer and softer and ultimately becoming a punch line, Holmes slipped behind the show business scenes in the mid-’80s. He wrote a few songs for soundtracks and then penned the multiple-Tony-winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood; in the ’90s, he created the well-received cable TV series Remember WENN. For his Nashville appearance this week, he’ll be singing a few old favorites, but his primary business will be signing copies of his debut novel, the giddily sordid Hollywood mystery Where the Truth Lies. Told from the perspective of a ’70s personality reportera sort of female Tom Wolfethe book contrasts the drug- and sex-saturated “Me Decade” with the more covertly ribald late ’50s, as Holmes’ heroine interviews, investigates and becomes infatuated with both halves of a Martin & Lewis-like nightclub act, one of whom might’ve murdered an ex-lover. Holmes slips in some nuanced commentary about the impossibility of fame and honesty ever intersecting, while also indulging in some lively, era-specific free-association that culminates in the collision of psychedelic drugs, Disneyland and a lesbian sexual encounter. It’s an adroit capturing of the mood-altering, libido-stroking power of the popular entertainment world that Holmes knows well. Borders Books & Music, Brentwood
The Dirtbombs w/The Paybacks No band represents their hometown’s musical legacy better than Detroit’s Dirtbombs. Because the band’s sound, which swirls around the hyperactivity of former Gories frontman Mick Collins, owes as much to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye as it does Ted Nugent and the MC5, The Dirtbombs provide even better entry into the Motor City ethos than their gasoline-soaked contemporaries, The White Stripes and The Paybacks (the latter of whom share this evening’s bill). That’s not to say that the guitar/bass/double drums lineup doesn’t kick up a hell of a noise, just that the “neo-garage” tag doesn’t do justice to the band’s staying power (given that they’ve been together for more than a decade) or versatility (which encompasses both hard-edged punk and revved-up soul covers). Slow Bar
Bo Diddley A pair of little-known facts about Diddley, the man who became famous on the strength of a song he named after himself: He rises between 2 and 3 in the morning each day, eager to compose the next “good, clean song for rock ’n’ roll”; he’s also classically trained on the violin. Soon, he says, “I’m gonna start doin’ some of the classical stuff and really freak people out.” Before he pulls a Billy Joel on us, we still have Bo for what he’s known forthe unmistakable rhythmic stamp he put on rock ’n’ roll nearly 50 years ago, when he introduced a Caribbean sense of timing to the pop music vernacular. At the age of 80, his surly confidence intact, Bo is still asking the question, “Hey baby, do you like my stuff?” with salacious swagger. Pointed between-song commentary adds brittle charm to his shows, and his one-off inclusion on this big-name bill nicely augments the presence of the incomparably soulful Mavis Staples, not to mention Tom Petty, whose rock-music legacy stands up in its own right. AmSouth Amphitheatre
Dave MacKenzie Few things are musically trickier than updating a vintage style. Artists who take liberties with a particular form get crucified by purists for perverting tradition, while those who faithfully re-create classic performances are skewered for being imitators. MacKenzie has taken another path in his approach to the blues by putting a contemporary spin on the country blues tradition and finding the lyrical, softer side of great songs by the likes of Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. While James Matthus taps the rage and fury of the Delta sound, MacKenzie offers soothing, evocative solos and riffs on his outstanding Solo, maintaining the lyrics’ edge, yet also modifying the intensity of the music on a metal-bodied Dobro, as well as six- and 12-string guitars. His Dobro work is especially haunting, while his 12-string voicings rival those of Big Joe Williams in their fluidity. MacKenzie’s comprehensive knowledge of obscure material and artists is just as impressive as his technique, and he’ll be among the artists appearing at “Blues & Schmooze,” a smart blend of latter-day jazz, swing, R&B and blues. He’s being joined by dynamic vocalist Connye Florance, Les Kerr & The Bayou Band and the always impressive Barber Brothers, who team up this evening with Hammond B-3 ace Moe Denham. Belcourt Theatre
Hem The 25-second invocation that kicks off this Brooklyn quartet’s debut album tips their hand nicely; singing a cappella, Sally Ellyson intones a passage from the traditional lullaby “Lord, Blow the Moon Out Please” and manages to telegraph an entire album of bittersweet resignation and stately reserve. Fleshed out with string and wind arrangements, the rest of Rabbit Songs sustains this mood, weaving various strains of 20th century Americana into a nonlinear history lesson told in rhythm and sound. Cutting through the typically lush mixwhich includes pedal steel and mandolin on one track, an 18-piece orchestra on the nextis the devastating Ellyson, whose backend phrasing and melancholy transport songwriter-pianist Dan Messe’s poignant lyrics. Ellyson can be dreamy, as on sleepy waltzes like “When I Was Drinking” and “Lazy Eye,” or she can be playful, as on the rare drum-assisted “Stupid Mouth Shut,” which also contains Messe’s most pop-oriented hook. Hem takes timea few plays, a few showsto sink in. Fittingly, their path to successthey were just signed last month to the DreamWorks labelcontains an old-fashioned element: a steadfast reliance on grassroots marketing and word of mouth (as well as a decidedly new-fashioned stance on peer-to-peer file sharing of their music on the Web). Rarely has a band evoked such sadness while at the same conveying such delight in being sad. 12th & Porter
Dierks Bentley Another entrant in the growing ranks of neo-New Traditionalist country acts with major label and publishing deals, Bentley has a budding career that owes as much to sheer persistence as raw talent. Still, the combination is a winning one, and his self-titled debut pushes all the right buttons, from the opening mix of rockin’ rhythm, skittering Dobro and youthful high jinks that has pushed “What Was I Thinkin’ “ into the Top 10, to the full-on bluegrass closer featuring the supremely hip Del McCoury Band. Radio-friendly where it has to be, yet full of fiddle, mandolin and steel where it doesn’t, the album is further evidence that the country music industry is dealing with hard times by opening the door to, well, country music. Adding fuel to the flames, Bentley talked his way onto a forthcoming Louvin Brothers tribute, teaming with Harley Allen for a convincing crack at “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby.” Bentley plays the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, Aug. 16, but he’ll be up close and personal at this in-store appearance on the day of his CD’s release. Tower Records, Opry Mills, 6 p.m.
BIG AL DOWNING Downing’s singing and playing encompass the spectrum of American musical styles that have flourished since the dawn of rock ’n’ roll. His pumping piano licks are equal parts two-handed boogie patterns, rumbling R&B phrases and Afro-Latin-inflected riffs. Likewise, Downing’s overall sound merges down-home soul with heartache country and quartet-influenced gospel, enabling him to shift easily from tearful laments and rollicking stomps to humorous retorts and chilling narratives. He’s the type of artist for whom the term eclectic, while accurate, doesn’t come close to describing his uniqueness and importance. As a black artist who prefers country to R&B, Downing has faced his share of detractors through the years, but he neither dwells on obstacles nor pretends they don’t exist. Instead, he has continued playing and performing the music he loves. His new album, the aptly titled One of a Kind, serves as a combination of music manifesto and career prospectus. Billy Block’s Western Beat Roots Revival, Exit In
RESPECT: The Musical Journey of Women Dorothy Marcic is a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management. Also an ardent feminist, she has attracted national and international attention with this musical walk through the social and relationship struggles of women in the past century, which is based on her book, Respect: Women and Popular Music. Marcic usually works as a solo act, providing a broad-perspective lecture on women’s societal roles and interspersing her commentary with sincere, semi-pro renditions of relevant pop, Top 40 and Broadway numbers, including “My Man,” “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” “I Will Follow Him,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “I Am Woman” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” among a host of others that capture the changing female worldview. In a gala Aug. 18 performance at the Belcourt Theatre in honor of the League of Women Voters on the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Marcic will present her inspirational material with the onstage collaboration of various local singers and accomplished female professionals, including Emily Price, Adrienne Ewing-Roush, Judge Marietta Shipley, Dr. Ronnie Steinberg and LWV President Deana Claiborne. The 90-minute show commences at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 292-6875 or online at www.marcic.com/ play.
Frist Center for the Visual Arts Join quilt expert and author Bets Ramsey at 2 p.m. Saturday for a free talk about African American quilting traditions as expressed in the current Frist exhibit “Bold Improvisation.” The show features 43 quilts that reflect both the African and European design traditions that have influenced black quilt makers for the past 120 years. Included in the exhibition is a selection of four African textiles, such as Kente cloth and mud cloth, the rhythmic designs of which are often echoed in the works of their American counterparts. The exhibition also examines the African American quilters’ frequent adaptation and manipulation of European American patterns. On Sunday, the Frist hosts a free gospel concert featuring Cybil Hobson & Friends at 3 p.m.
Books & Learning
Rick Bragg Discredited Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Braggauthor of the best-selling All Over but the Shoutin’will speak about his recent experiences and tell stories about the South at Middle Tennessee State University’s convocation for incoming freshmen. In the wake of the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, Bragg quit The New York Times after it was determined that one of his bylined stories was written, in large part, by someone else. Hopefully, he’ll put the fear of God into any potential cribbers in the audience. Bragg’s talk, which takes place 2 p.m. Aug. 17 at MTSU’s Murphy Center, is free and open to the public.
Cremaster 3 Named for the involuntary muscle that contracts the testicles in a protective response to external stimuli, Matthew Barney’s sensual Cremaster film cycle presents a unique male generative universe grounded in blue Astroturf and the arcana of Celtic myth and Masonic ritual. There’s no need to immerse oneself in weighty tomes to understand Barney’s visual lexicon; all five Cremaster films are as visually stunning as they are confounding on first view. Belcourt Theatre has snagged a coveted print of the series’ crown jewel, Cremaster 3, which braids the construction of the Chrysler Building with the stories of Hiram Abiff, a high-level Mason, and serial killer Gary Gilmore, who (as a woman) digs out of his grave in the building’s foundation. Worry about sifting through the dense visual metaphors after soaking in the sensual reverie of Barney’s masterful film. See the review on p. 57.
Northfork A 1955 town, slated for destruction to make way for a dam, forms the setting of Mark and Michael Polish’s stark, dreamlike drama. James Woods, Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah and Anthony Edwards are featured among the large cast; the Sundance entry opens Friday at Green Hills, along with Philip Seymour Hoffman as the gambling-addicted hero of Owning Mahowney.
Freddy vs. Jason Two audience-depleted horror heroes duke it out for bragging rights, as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) sinks his deadly digits into hockey-masked, machete-wielding mofo Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger). The director is Hong Kong fantasy specialist Ronny Yu, last seen supervising foam-rubber doll sex in Bride of Chucky. Get a ringside seat Friday.
Uptown Girls A rock star’s cash-strapped kid (Brittany Murphy) is forced to take a job as nanny to a neurotic little girl (Dakota Fanning) in this comedy-drama from director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans). It opens Friday, along with the skateboard-competition comedy Grind.
Open Range An honest-to-God Western, with Kevin Costner as a former gunslinger who straps on his shooting irons again to defend free-range cattlemen against a crooked lawman. The superb cast includes Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon and the late Michael Jeter; Costner directed. The movie opens Friday.
The Nashville Pulse Regional music shows make fine time capsules, as viewers of the old Night Train can attest. Here’s a 21st century addition courtesy of host Mary Scruggs: an hour of clips, interviews and performance footage of Nashville bands and scenesters. The first show features the Del Giovanni Clique and Common Ground, radio host Natalie from The Buzz-102.9 FM, and footage from Uptown Mix. It airs 9 p.m. Sunday on Comcast Channel 19; for more information, see www.thenashvillepulse.com.
Casablanca Supplementing the new two-disc DVD of this 1942 classic are a cargo hold full of extras, including a Roger Ebert commentary, the first episode of the 1955 Casablanca TV show, and deleted scenes and outtakes. And of course there’s Bogie remembering the night Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa broke his heart in Paris: “The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.” The disc’s only downside: At home, you can’t join the audience in standing and singing the “Marseillaise” with the patrons of Rick’s Café Americain.
The Thing from Another World A blueprint in some ways for the Alien movies and countless invader yarns, this 1951 sci-fi classic pits an Arctic research team against an intergalactic intruder (Gunsmoke’s James Arness under the makeup) hankering for human blood. The director was Christian Nyby, but the tone seems dictated by producer Howard Hawks: Tough men and women talk fast and act cool in the face of certain death. This “50th anniversary edition” comes with a trailer and no extras.
The Omega Man/Soylent Green Charlton Heston upholds the future of tight-lipped white guys in this pair of 1970s sci-fi cult movies. In 1971’s The Omega Man, a precursor of 28 Days Later, Heston survives a biological-weapons holocaust to defend the human race against vampiric adversaries. Two years later, Heston played a cop in an overpopulated future trying to find the secret ingredient in the mysterious foodstuff Soylent Green. (Hint: It ain’t tofu.) Omega comes with featurettes and cast introductions; Soylent has commentary by director Richard Fleischer and the featurette “Charlton Heston: Science Fiction Legend.”
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That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!