Karen Staley, Ashley Cleveland and Tricia Walker all are talented female country artists who’ve been working it a while, having experienced legit success while eluding the pop stardom of the genre’s elite. They write, sing and make records in a style that, between the three of them, crosses boundaries from R&B, gospel and jazz to country, pop and bluegrass. They’re also the kind of artists local audiences love to see at the Bluebird, which makes this melding of Nashville club life and the Nashville Ballet a signature event. The singer-songwriters perform their music to the classical and theatrical stylings of up-and-coming choreographer Julia Adam (of the San Francisco Ballet) in a unique dance program that promises to wed high art to the characteristic sound of our city. Running Feb. 13-15 in TPAC’s Polk Theater, the Nashville Ballet’s performance will also feature three other short works, “Raymonda Variations,” “Senza Fretta” and “Red Roses.” Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; tickets are available through Ticketmaster. For more information, visit www.nashvilleballet.com.
Dillinger Escape Plan Regardless of your stamina, patienceand lots of itis required to uncover the textural sensibilities that lurk within the Dillinger Escape Plan’s relentless barrage of noise. As if intentionally designed as an exercise in listener acceptance over time, this music speaks first via harshness and blatant, almost inhuman technicality. Yet for all their mathematical focus, the band create a listening state not unlike minimalism or free jazz (though they’re too busy and non-repetitive for the former, too structured for the latter). While they frantically pursue change after change, seemingly in a straight line, they create other structures that exist concurrently. Once you discern the strangeness of how the time signatures are arranged side by side, a method reveals itself, one with which you can become familiar in spite of the transient nature of its expression. Almost five years since their last full-length album, Dillinger Escape Plan come to Nashville with new materialeagerly awaited in the metal underground and due for release later this springthat they allege will confound stylistic expectations. Exit/In
Wheat Those familiar with Wheat’s spacey Hope and Adams LP might find the group’s recent follow-up a bit jarring. With its front-and-center vocals, fat alt-rock drum tones and sing-along choruses, per second, per second, per secondevery second at times feels like a high-fidelity push for mainstream radio play. Gone, almost completely, are the quirky experimentalism and dreamy pop tangents that made Hope and Adams such a standout. Thankfully, however, these reformed shoegazers have retained elements that allow the newer, more accessible Wheat to compare favorably to the old: acrobatic lyrical turns of phrase, frenetic drumming and the element of surprise (witness the horn cameos). They’ve also retained producer Dave Fridmann, who has worked with Flaming Lips and has a history of keeping things interesting. He’s certainly kept Wheat sounding as honest and convincing as they did four years ago, no matter how radio-ready the sheen might be. 12th & Porter
Save The Old Time Pickin’ Parlor When guitar builder Mark Taylor and his son Travis decided to reopen the legendary Old Time Pickin’ Parlor, they had visions of the venue’s mid-’70s heyday. Back then, bluegrass and old-time musicians like John Hartford and Vassar Clements gathered for informal sessions at the cozy Second Avenue club, which was a lynchpin in Nashville’s traditional music scene. During the last 30 years, however, Second Avenue has changed dramatically, and rather than being a home to traditional styles, the new Pickin’ Parlor has developed into an incubator for alternative rock and metal music. That’s a brave mission for the small club, which is located on a strip best known for tourists, dance clubs and expensive real estate. Lately, the OTPP has been struggling; in an effort to repay the rock community’s debt to the musician-friendly venue, the online magazine NashvilleRock.net is sponsoring a benefit that features five of the area’s most exciting young bands: Deadsun, Fall With Me, Supre X, Gear Driven and Derailed. Old Time Pickin’ Parlor
Paul V. Griffith
Friday, 13th-Saturday, 14th
Roberta Flack Now in her 60s, Flack was huge in the ’70s with hits like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and, later, duet recordings with the late Donny Hathaway (“Where Is the Love?”) and Peabo Bryson (“The Closer I Get to You”). She continues to enjoy success through stage appearances, and her weekend performances with the Nashville Symphony should garner devoted, and possibly nostalgic, audiences. Flack’s not done as a recording artist, though, having recently released her 14th album, Roberta, on Atlantic Records. Local musical theater stalwart Mike Eldred opens with the evening’s guest conductor, Jeffrey Steinberg, offering a selection of Tin Pan Alley favorites (“As Time Goes By,” “When I Fall in Love”) and Broadway songs. Jackson Hall, TPAC
The Chromatics These ultra lo-fi (no-fi?) art-punks from Seattle play skronky punk-funk in the tradition of DNA and Mofungo, albeit with down-tempo shifts and nods to prog that are well beyond the ken of those no-wavers. They’re plenty political, too, with dicta like “We pose a threat to your dominance” and “Triple yr lust” targeted at repression of virtually every stripe. Their screeds can be hermetic at times (or maybe just evocative and not much else), and their amelodic blurt rarely locks into a grooveindeed, things forever seem on the verge of falling apart. Yet that’s the idea: By screaming and kicking hard enough, their anarchic noise echoes our homeland hysteria while seizing on a means of resisting terrorism in all its forms. Springwater
Super Furry Animals These Welshmen don’t beg to be taken seriouslyfor one, there’s their name; for another, there’s their history of wearing Yeti-like costumes onstagebut it’s a deceptive absurdity they’re cultivating. Their style owes much to ’60s psychedelia, and they’re not afraid to experiment. One track may be straight-ahead Britpop while another veers off into country or soul, and it’s exactly this juxtaposition of styles that makes SFA so interesting. Lead singer Gruff Rhys’ voice is deep and almost melancholic, and there’s a moody, poetic intellectualism to the band’s new album, Phantom Power. More than one song concerns war, destruction and personal alienation; then again, there’s also one named for tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. For all their ranginess, the band never indulge in bombast; rather, they set tough lyrics against airy instrumentation and almost bouncy rhythms. What they’re saying is important, certainly, but it’s how they say it that’s interesting. “You know we’re digging to hell / Drowning in our oil wells,” Rhys sings in “Liberty Bells.” Yet with the almost sunny melody and the sound of birds twittering in the background, it’s easy to overlook the ominous tone of the lyrics. It’s protest made palatable. Exit/In
Daughter What’s striking about this New York band is the supple way they glide between styles in and outside the punk idiom, despite recklessly changing gears from song to song. Though Daughter seem to have little intention of achieving an overall sense of coherence, they do. And they do so intuitively, almost casually, as if they’re not trying at all. Their grafting of rap to metallic hardcore breathes with distinction and freshness, and their debut, Skin, bounces as much as it grinds. Though the album bears the contemporary stamp of beefy production values, Daughter revisit the feel of vintage punk, successfully creating a sense of nostalgia with a modernized spin. On the more skate-worthy songs, they sound appropriately amateurish and loose, yet piston-tight on others; the individuality in Nicole Lombardi and Mary Louise Platt’s shared yowling places them in a long line of barking hardcore vocalists. Skin is the first rock release on avant jazz label Aum Fidelity, which, considering the band’s adventurousness (they even try dub), isn’t much of a surprise. Springwater
The Zombies Though England’s Zombies emerged from the same British uprising that produced hit-making teen idols like Herman’s Hermits and The Dave Clark 5, their exquisite musical pedigree ultimately lent them enduring greatness. Of the group’s many charms, perhaps none were more effective than the understated vocals of Colin Blunstone. His breathy, winsome delivery was a perfect vehicle for the songs of Chris White and keyboardist Rod Argent, who blended pop instincts with originality. Only a few of their U.K. singles charted here; of them, “She’s Not There” stands apart. Featuring a snaking bass line, a quasi-tribal backbeat and Blunstone’s gasping wail, the track’s combination of aggression and minor-key intrigue is a marvel of ’60s pop. The group’s 1969 single “Time of the Season” employed similar tactics but foreshadowed the coming progressive rock movement with its madrigal-like chorus and Argent’s biting Hammond organ. By the time “Season” arrived, The Zombies had disbanded, but not before delivering their crowning achievement, Odessey and Oracle, which still stands as a masterwork of baroque-pop melodicism. Zombies principals Argent and Blunstone have since collaborated but haven’t toured until recently, in support of their 30th anniversary reunion album, Out of the Shadows. The new CD doesn’t capture past glories, but early reports indicate that the duo’s performances do. B.B. King’s
Benefit Concert for Second Harvest Food Bank Once yearly since 2000, some of our city’s finest musicians have delivered a concert to feed the hungry. This year’s performance includes players from the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, faculty from area colleges and universities, and some outstanding session musicians. Soloists include trumpeter Jeff Bailey, violinists David Davidson and Conni Ellisor, flutist Erik Gratton and clarinetist Lee Levine. Refreshingly diverse selections include works by Nashville composers (Jay Dawson, Carl Marsh, John Mock) and by classical masters Giovanni Gabrielli, J.S. Bach, Modest Mussorgsky and Richard Strauss. Several selections were arranged by Nashville musician Eberhard Ramm. Admission is free, though listeners are asked to donate either money or nonperishable food items to the Food Bank. The music starts 4 p.m. Sunday Feb. 15 at West End United Methodist Church.
Joe Goode Performance Group Founded in San Francisco in 1986, this acclaimed troupe combines music and the spoken word with high-velocity modern dance. Goode’s company will present two pieces in its Nashville appearance: “What the Body Knows,” which features comic monologues and explores how human bodies perceive knowledge, and “Folk,” wherein the ensemble’s six cast members offer a rumination on the “simple” rural life, with singing, acting and dancing combining to render a full-bodied demonstration of musical theater. The 8 p.m. Feb. 14 performance takes place at Vanderbilt’s Ingram Center for the Performing Arts. Company artists will also hold a master class 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at Vandy’s Memorial Gym. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance Love, mysticism and good and evilthat’s what this worldwide dance phenomenon is all about. But mostly the 50 million humans who have seen the show already are simply enraptured with the exciting, percussive Celtic-inspired dancing, the dramatic music, the colorful costumes and the high-tech staging. Mastermind Flatley won’t be performing when the show hits Gaylord Entertainment Center on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m., but he’s still the brains behind a troupe comprising Irish dance champions whose abilities stretch every boundary of this ancient dance form. Tickets can be purchased at the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.
Before the People Came The collaborative spirit among Nashville theater companies continues apace when jeff obafemi carr’s Amun Ra Theatre joins forces with Nashville Children’s Theatre to present this retelling of an African folk tale. The main characters here are animals starving in the midst of a drought, as a clever rabbit schemes to stave off a fierce tiger and distribute the fruit of a well-guarded pear tree. carr is the director of a cast that includes Jeff D. Boyet, Persephone Felder-Fentress, Jenny Littleton, Herbert Mark Parker and Brett Wilson. Performances are Feb. 16-Mar. 6 in NCT’s Cooney Playhouse. For tickets, phone 254-9103.
Eaten Alive For nearly a decade, professional actress Eva Van Dok has been touring colleges and arts centers with this one-person play exploring the lives of five women, all of different ages and circumstances, who suffer from eating disorders. Van Dok draws on personal experience hereshe is a recovered anorexic and bulimicand she’s wholly committed to the idea that theater is a powerful tool to help young women and men cope with issues of identity, confidence and individuality in a weight-obsessed culture. Van Dok resides in New York City, and besides legit credits with Manhattan and regional theater companies, she has been an actor/teacher with numerous children’s theaters, including Kaketeateret, a company she co-founded for young women in Drammen, Norway. Her performance at Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Student Center is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16. Admission is free; a Q-and-A session with Van Dok, psychologist Kendra Gray and dietitian Heather Holden follows the performance.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle Vanderbilt theater professor Jeffrey Ullom has assembled a large cast of 29 for this mounting of Bertolt Brecht’s issues-oriented think-piecebased on an ancient Chinese fablewhich raises questions about the nature of ownership and the ethics of capitalism. Brecht isn’t performed very often in Nashville, and this student production, featuring some experimental approaches, could be worth a serious look. Presented Feb. 13-20 at Vanderbilt’s Neely Auditorium. For tickets, phone 322-2404.
Fairy Tale Confidential Myra Anderson’s screwball takeoff on the psychological plight of fairy-tale heroines returns to Bongo After Hours Theatre, with two shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 14. The cast has been tweaked for this reprise performance, with Clay Hillwig, Kelly Meece, Debbie Throckmorton and Stephen Wood taking over key roles. Playwright Anderson also puts in a stage appearance. For tickets, phone 385-1188.
Vincent Former People’s Branch Theatre artistic director Brian Niece once again performs his passionate one-man show about the relationship between tortured painter Vincent van Gogh and his devoted brother, Theo. The limited engagement, Feb. 12-15, takes place in the auditorium of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Show time is 7:30 p.m., and tickets may be purchased at the door. For more information, phone 244-3340.
Catch Me If You Can Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre opens this mystery laced with comedy on Feb. 17. Carter Thrower directs the action, as a honeymoon goes awry at a mountain lodge. The cast includes Kimberly Nygren, T.K. Durham and Warren Gore. Performances run through Mar. 20. Recommended for viewers 13 and up. For reservations, phone 646-9977.
“Artists Select Artists”/ Cumberland Gallery Every five to seven years, Cumberland Gallery asks six artists to nominate another artist for inclusion in a group exhibition. This year, Raine Bedsole, Ben Dallas, David Kroll, James Lavadour, Andrew Saftel and Suzanne Stryk were asked to nominate someone whose work they believe should be receiving greater public attention. The six artists they chose live all over the U.S., and their work is equally wide-ranging: Sandy Chism creates her partly abstract nature studies with acrylics; Burleigh Kronquist reworks his original Polaroids with paint; Jim Phalen contributes seductively simple still lifes in oils; Marie Watt exploits ready-to-hand objects and a wide range of materials such as fabric, stone and corn husks; Sun Koo Yuh is a thoughtful ceramic artist whose work veers between the serious and the lighthearted; and Charles W. Goolsby builds fluid oil washes of color that suggest dances in their use of sweeping, controlled movement. This is the first time these unquestionably pedigreed artists have been shown locallyreason enough to take a look. The show runs Feb. 14-March 13, with an opening reception 6-8 p.m. Saturday.
Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, Trish Tallon-Blanchard and Laura Young/University School of Nashville Frequent collaborators, local artists Engel, Tallon-Blanchard and Young are currently exhibiting a number of “process pieces” at USN that illustrate the ways these three women work together. They’re also showing a selection of their solo works, which should provide an interesting contrast to their joint efforts. The collaborative pieces are abstracts, thoughtfully composed in predominantly bold, primary colors. Helical and amoeba-like shapes drift in and out focus, along with spirals, networks and shell formsit’s organic stuff, and the effect is familiar in a primal sort of way. The show runs through Feb. 29 at University School of Nashville’s new Christine Slayden Tibbott Center visual arts center, with a public reception, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 29. For information, call Engel at 943-1557.
A Conversation in Poetry with Dave Till & Friends Local poets Jeff Hardin, Bill Brown, G’anne Harmon and Frank and Peggy Steele gather this week to honor Dave Till, poet and retiring English professor at Austin Peay. Till is best known for founding and editing the international literary journal Zone 3 and for mentoring a generation of aspiring poets. His former student Jeff Hardin, the author of two chapbooks and a teacher at Columbia State Community College, recently won the hugely prestigious Nicholas Roehrich Poetry Prize; his first full-length collection, Fall Sanctuary, is forthcoming from Story Line Press. Joining Hardin are the Steeles, both professors of English at Western Kentucky, and Nashville poet G’anne Harmon, who teaches creative writing at the Harpeth Hall School. If there is a star of the show, it is probably retired Hume-Fogg teacher Bill Brown, whose most recent book, The Gods of Little Pleasures, is an exquisite and often astonishing display of love for “the wilderness / of mountains, rivers and swamps, / landscapes that celebrate / the brutal and beautiful / dealings of God.” The event is free and will be held 8 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Music/Mass Communication Bldg. at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. For information, call (931) 221-7031.
Laurie Lynn Drummond Drummond is a former Baton Rouge, La., policewoman whose debut collection of short stories, Anything You Say Can & Will Be Used Against You, has garnered rave reviews from veteran crime fiction writers such as Joseph Wambaugh and Elmore Leonard. Like exalted mystery writer Patricia Highsmith, Drummond avoids cliché by placing her all-too-human characters at the center of the action; also, like Highsmith, she writes as if she has an insider’s knowledge of evil. Drummond reads and signs her work at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 6 p.m. Feb. 17.
Paul V. Griffith
Kids First! Film Festival Kids get the red-carpet treatment from this touring festival, which arrives this weekend at the Belcourt. It’s a package of independent films (some shot by young filmmakers), animated shorts and sneak previews of TV favorites such as Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and Jimmy Neutron. It also includes “The Tin Forest,” a Reading Rainbow episode that deals with children’s responses to 9/11. The films are shown in clusters according to specific age groups (starting with ages 2-5 and ending with 12-15) and have been chosen by the Coalition of Quality Children’s Media, a nonprofit group that promotes enriching TV programming. Each film is $3.25, or parents can buy a block of three tickets for $7.25 or a $10 pass for the entire festival. It starts 10 a.m. Saturday and continues at noon on Sunday; for a complete schedule, see www.belcourt.org. Jim Ridley
The Triplets of Belleville In Sylvain Chomet’s fanciful animated feature, a phenomenon overseas and a just-announced Oscar nominee, a trio of ex-vaudevillians come to the aid of a French grandmother and her pooch when the woman’s grandson is kidnapped during the Tour de France. It opens Friday at Green Hills, along with the Michael Caine thriller The Statement; see the review on p. 68.
In America Jim Sheridan’s bittersweet story about a bereaved Irish family seeking a new start in New York became the surprise recipient of three major Oscar nominations, including nods for the luminous Samantha Morton as best actress and Djimon Hounsou as best supporting actor. It returns for a week’s run at the Belcourt, as part of the theater’s countdown to its Oscar Night gala on Feb. 29. The theater has also held over two other worthy nominees, Lost in Translation and City of God.
Love Actually As gooey a cinematic Valentine as anyone could stand, Richard Curtis’ sprawling romantic comedy gathers most of England’s finest (and a rogue Yank or two) for a kaleidoscopic view of love in London at Christmastime. The movie is the Sarratt Cinema’s Valentine offering; the Vanderbilt student cinema also gives local viewers another crack at Wayne’s World (Sunday) and the spelling-bee doc Spellbound (starting next Wednesday). For more information, call the theater’s hotline at 343-6666.
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