The best reason to watch Saturday Night Live these days is Armisen, even if the show can’t quite figure out what to do with his shape-shifting talent. Instead of celebrity mimicry, Armisen’s gift of mockery takes a harder-to-define form. In the spirit of Ernie Kovacs and Andy Kaufman, Armisen starts with a goofy voice or outré conceita screeching deaf interviewer, an invasive jazzbo, a shamelessly mugging Venezuelan percussionistand pushes it well past an audience’s “is this for real?” comfort zone. It’s all the more impressive because he’s not a comedy-club veteran. A former drummer with the Chicago band Trenchmouth, he fell into a whole new career in 1998 when his then-girlfriend, the Mekons’ Sally Timms, taped him accosting bands and industry bigwigs at Austin’s South by Southwest festival. The resulting tape, “Fred Armisen’s Guide to Music and SXSW,” became a bootleg sensation, leading to gigs with HBO, Bob Odenkirk and ultimately SNL. So far, his funniest moments on SNL have been as a washed-up lounge comic’s decrepit drummer, whose ill-timed rim shots get bigger laughs than the gags. Live, he draws upon his real skill as a percussionist and whatever response he can provoke from the audience. For Armisen’s first Nashville appearance, this Saturday night, thank The End and the efforts of local musician/filmmaker Steve Taylor, a guy who’s typically thinking and watching a few beats faster than the rest of the city.
Drive-By Truckers/Hayseed Dixie With the Drive-By Truckers’ Decoration Day placing high on every 2003 year-end pop and alt-country poll their fans might care aboutand even some they might notthe band’s current (and hard-earned) primacy in rock-from-Down-This-Way isn’t really a question anymore. Even before 2001’s Southern Rock Opera generated attention for its frank exploration of regional identity, their words were getting unusual attention: Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s unrelenting look at what it means to live and die in Dixie when you’re overlooked, underpaid, hanging on, hanging out and still hoping clearly demanded it. With young Jason Isbell also proving a pointed third songwriter on Decoration Day, prospects for the band’s next project are probably the strongest yet. But on any given night, the prospect of a Truckers show being bone-shaking memorable are higher than that: For all the “Hell No, Ain’t Happy” in the lyrics, the band rip into their typically extended sets as if they’re actually very glad to be playingwith a screaming three-guitar attack that sometimes leads to onstage choreography and virtually always to audience exhilaration. The stock-in-trade of opening act Hayseed Dixie might be expertly played bluegrass versions of hard rock hits, but there’s more to the trio’s act than that quick peg might suggest. Mercy Lounge
Moe Raw Spoken over catchy beats and heavy electric guitar, Moe Raw’s “ghetto fried” lyrics mix book smarts with street smarts, his feet planted firmly in the worlds of both hip-hop and rock. On the Nashville-based rapper’s recent self-titled EP, Raw did nearly all of the vocals and playing himself, and many of his influences bleed through, from Sly & The Family Stone to OutKast and Frank Zappa. His raps have a geographically conscious feel akin to those of Arrested Development, as witnessed in “Southern Manors,” where Raw mentions “sitting underneath these Magnolia trees,” the “TSU student center” and the mid-state’s “615 area code.” And as “Mang, Hoo, Lawd!” attests, he doesn’t shy away from booty-shaking melodies. Live, he’s usually backed by Rawgroup, an equally diverse band of performers. Kung Fu Coffee/The Muse
Clamor Music Festival Clamor Magazine relies on a pool of writers from many corners of the political and cultural world to distinguish it from the media and entertainment monoculture. This multi-voiced ethic is reflected in the Clamor Music Festival, a one-night-only event that includes more than a hundred bands in dozens of venues across the country. All of the shows are organized locally and are intentionally decentralized to provide for maximum grassroots participation. Along with the remarkably wide selection of bandsall of whom are local and have self-released recordseach show will spotlight area alternative publications. The Nashville leg, which is co-sponsored by the Murfreesboro small-press publication Zine World, features Nashville power trio Apollo Up, School of Accuracy (who include former members of Serotonin), SourPuss, The Whole Fantastic World and Robber Barons. For more information, visit www.clamormagazine.org. The Boardroom
Paul V. Griffith
David Hungate & Friends The French called it le hot jazz, others have called it Dixieland, and this week several Nashville-based musicians bring the sound of old-time swing to the stage. Hosted by Hungate, a Grammy-winning bassist and trumpet player, this performance assembles a top-notch ensemble well-versed in the language of Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. John Jorgenson, one of the core band members, recently portrayed Reinhardt, the French guitar pioneer, in a movie to be released later this year. Jorgenson will also be releasing an album inspired by Django’s music. Pianist John Jarvis, bassist and singer April Barrows and cornetist David Jellamaall virtuosos and hot-jazz aficionadosmake this a one-of-a-kind event for anyone who loves jaunty, swinging music played with raucous precision. Cafe 123
Peter Case Though he dabbled in punchy pop-rock during the ’70s and ’80s with stints in The Nerves and The Plimsouls, as solo artist Case is a great synthesizer of Americana music: Ostensibly a foot-stomping folkie, he’s also inclined toward R&B, old soul, country and prewar blues. His literary songwritinghe cites Shakespeare and Henry Miller alongside Mississippi John Hurt as top influenceswas in evidence most recently on 2002’s Beeline. Like previous standouts Full Service, No Waiting and the T Bone Burnett-produced Peter Case, the album features heavy narratives packaged with fluid flat-picking, unusual tunings and reedy vocals. Live, especially in an intimate setting like this, Case is a bit more carefree than his recorded work suggests. Bluebird Cafe
Stars for Future Stars: A Nashville School of the Arts Benefit As politicians and educators debate the need for musical instruction in public schools, an impressive lineup of veteran Music City performers will use their talents to raise money for the Nashville School of the Arts, the city’s magnet school for creative-minded students. Country stars Ronnie Milsap and Crystal Gayle headline this event at the Belcourt, and they’ll be joined by blues belter Marion James and acclaimed singer-songwriters Gretchen Peters and Benita Hill. They’ll make their case in the most joyous way possible: by demonstrating music’s power to bring people together and to inspire them to think, feel and act. Meanwhile, on Saturday at the Tower Records on West End, NSA students will perform classical, blues, pop and swing music as a precursor to the fundraiser, which will show why education should be more than numbers, language, science and history. As the poet Hans Christian Andersen said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” And the world needs all the communication and expression it can generate. Belcourt Theatre
B.B. King Hiding behind King’s instantly recognizable trademarksthe vibrato trill with which he punctuates his single-note guitar lines, his gospel-steeped vocals, the way he weaves his guitar and voice together as if playing a single instrumentis his ongoing search for a tonal character on guitar that King claims remains unfulfilled to this day. Beyond creative restlessness or perfectionism, King’s pursuit of his ideal guitar sound is remarkable, among other things, because he says he doesn’t know what it is and wouldn’t recognize it if he found it. It’s easy to overlook this unassuming hunger for evolution and refinement, especially as King rounds his sixth decade as a touring performer and can claim an impact on the styles of Little Milton, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy, among legions of others. Because he has never been a prolific songwriter and has always performed with such confidence, King’s personal motivation toward the blues is likewise somewhat difficult to detect. Where other bluesmen might find their spark in social injustice and romantic woe, King’s blues stem from the quieter, internal feeling of anguished isolation so prevalent in his personal life yet hidden from his audience. B.B. King’s
The Von Bondies The Von Bondies’ new single, “C’mon, C’mon,” is a likable punk sing-along that suggests the quartet could be the next big band to motor out of Detroit. It precedes the March 9 release of the band’s new CD, Pawn Shoppe Heart, which finds these former trash-rockers cleaning up their sound but maintaining the frenetic urgency that once drew comparisons to The Cramps and Motor City peers The White Stripes. The shadow of the latter is one The Von Bondies likely can’t wait to escape. Jack White of The White Stripes co-produced their first album and invited them on tour as his band’s opening act. More recently, Von Bondies singer Jason Stollsteimer made headlines when he was hospitalized after being assaulted by White outside a Detroit nightclub. Soon that’ll be old news. The charismatic Stollsteimer has an unusually clear and forceful voice for a modern rocker, and the harmonies of guitarist Marcie Bolan and bassist Carrie Smith press the issue with sharply cut energy. The Von Bondies’ arrival just prior to their national push makes this an opportune time to catch them. The End
Jane Comfort and Company For more than 20 years, this internationally renowned dance company has been pushing artistic boundaries in progressive works where movement meets language and music. On Feb. 27 at 8 p.m., the troupe brings its pioneer spirit into Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium, where it will present Asphalt, the thoroughly contemporary story of a New York City artist who was abandoned as a child. The sonic backdrop is courtesy of noted avant-turntablist DJ Spooky, the program incorporating rhythmic dancing, chanting and singing. Under the sponsorship of Vandy’s Great Performances Series and Zeitgeist Gallery, this exceptionally talented group of dancers/actors/singers holds a preview performance 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Fisk University’s Van Vechten Gallery. The company also holds a master class 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 28 at Vandy’s Memorial Gymnasium. Tickets for the Langford performance are available through Ticketmaster at 255-9600, www.ticketmaster.com or at the Sarratt Box Office. For more information on the other events, phone 322-2471.
Fuddy Meers This production represents an interesting theatrical experiment, with Nashville’s Southern Writers’ Theater serving as host organization for the Public Theatre of Kentucky, which performs this daffy comedy by hot New York playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. The four performances are at the Darkhorse Theater, Feb. 26-28. Tickets are available by phone at 599-6566 or online at www.ticketleap.com. See the story on p. 47.
The Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats This troupe has been performing and touring for 25 years, blending stunt work and gravity-defying antics with traditional dance and colorful costumes. Their appearance in the Tucker Theatre on the MTSU campus takes place 7:30 p.m. March 3, and the show is free and open to the public. For further information, phone 898-2551.
“AT HOME: A KENTUCKY PROJECT,” A COLLABORATIVE WORK FACILITATED BY JUDY CHICAGO AND DONALD WOODMAN/Sarratt Gallery Judy Chicago’s career as an artist, educator and author spans four decades and has earned her a reputation as one of the most prominent women artists of the 20th centurywhich should be a good incentive not to miss her lecture at Vanderbilt University this Thursday. Vanderbilt will be one of several institutions to feature Chicago’s most recent undertaking, “At Home: A Kentucky Project,” which can truly be called a collaborative endeavor. In 2001, Chicago and her husband, photographer Donald Woodman, worked with 25 regional artists and students at Western Kentucky University, along with the school’s departments of women’s studies, folk studies, anthropology and art. The team transformed a house in Bowling Green, Ky., into a series of installations, each room charged with a theme such as the “Eating Disorders Bathroom” or the “Rape Garage.” “At Home” explores traditional and contemporary ways of understanding domestic space, gender issues, marital conflicts, sexual abuse and the representation of women in popular culture. The exhibit arrives at Vanderbilt in the form of a 1:12 scale model of the house created by artist Andee Rudloff and WKU professor John Warren Oakes. Augmenting the model will be the artwork of four women artists from Kentucky and TennesseeFreda Fairchild, Farrah Ferriell, Karen Genter and Lesley Pattersonall of whom will exhibit objects they created for the “At Home” installations, including a line of “abuse dresses” by Fairchild and a lamp of pills by Genter. Opening festivities for “At Home” begin at 4 p.m. Feb. 26 with an introduction from Vanderbilt art professor Vivien Fryd in Sarratt Cinema, followed by a reception at 4:30 p.m. in Sarratt Gallery; Chicago presents a lecture and slide show from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the cinema. The exhibit will be on display through March 20. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 343-2547.
Susan Sisk/Zeitgeist Gallery Life is complex: This is the departure point for Susan Sisk’s mixed-media pieces, which layer the familiar with the unfamiliar, the representational with the abstract. In her show “The Wheel’s Still in Spin,” Sisk explores the tensions that arise when recognizable everyday objects and references are projected onto abstract landscapes (and vice versa). The artist shies away from ascribing any definitive meaning to these pieces and prefers instead to let the viewer freely experience any personal meaning that might come to mind. The multiple perspectives and recurring pendulum motif are certainly symbolic of the two polar worlds between which Sisk swings. Moving with a quick step from the humorous to the serious, her work might be mistaken for the juxtaposed imaginations of two artists, a notion borne out by her admission that she feels like “many people lumped into one body.” Sisk’s work is showing alongside new works by Nashville artists Dan Brawner and Jack Dingo Ryan. Brawner’s playful work mixes cartoon images with Americana, while Ryan continues his highly personal exploration of landscapes and interiors in two and three dimensions. The show opens with a reception, 6-8 p.m. Feb. 28, and runs through March 20. For information, visit www.zeitgeist-art.com.
“Masters of Their Craft: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum”/Frist Center for the Visual Arts The Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., is one of the nation’s premier collections of crafts in the country. The museum collects selectively and broadly to document the country’s most important craft artists: When the Renwick acquires a piece by an artist, it’s equivalent to inducting the artist into a hall of fame. This traveling exhibit of selections from the Renwick collection includes works by masters such as Dale Chihuly (glass), Sam Maloof (furniture), Albert Paley (metalwork) and Beatrice Wood (ceramics). The show opens Feb. 27 at the Frist and runs through April 25.
Alumnae Art Exhibit/Marnie Sheridan Gallery, Harpeth Hall This show celebrates the more than 60 women artists who are returning to their alma mater to exhibit their work. There is a wide range of styles and media on display, including photography, lithographs, pastels, oils, watercolors and sculpture. The quality of the art-making is often pleasantly high, and there are some treasures here. Anne Ripley’s blindfolded subject in “Slingshot” has a mysterious and magical Tarot-like quality that readily captures the imagination. “Flight,” composed on distressed wood by Stephanie Cook, affords the viewer an opportunity to look through a double window into a weird and wonderful hieroglyphic world of birds and veiled symbols. In a more traditional vein, “Bedtime” by Celeste Jones is a beautiful and intimate nocturnal portrait in pastels. The artists are donating a portion of the proceeds to Harpeth Hall School. The opening reception is 5:30-8 p.m. Feb. 28, and the show runs through April 16. For information, call (615) 661-6446 or visit www.harpethhall.com.
By Paul Deakin
My Architect To his colleagues, the late Louis I. Kahn was a brilliant, often exasperating architect. To his son Nathaniel, he was a mysterya remote, eccentric man who had two separate families in addition to his “official” one. In his Oscar-nominated documentary, Nathaniel Kahn interviews his father’s peers and co-workers, including architects I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson and Frank Gehry, along with his own somewhat mystified half-siblings for a portrait of an unfathomable man. The film starts Friday for a week’s run at the Belcourt. See the review on p. 53.
Oscar Night 2004 At least some good comes out of the bloated, self-congratulatory spectacle of the Academy Awards: the Belcourt’s annual gala event, its main fundraiser of the year. Yes, you can ogle Halle Berry and snicker at Sharon Stone with a clear conscience, knowing that your dollars are going to subsidize the kind of cool, offbeat filmmaking Hollywood usually does its best to quash. And it’s a great party too, catered to the nth degree and swimming in beautiful people. Hell, if I were beautiful, I’d go. The event starts 6 p.m. Sunday in Hillsboro Village; for more information, call 846-3150.
Downtown Presbyterian Church film series Starting Thursday, Downtown Presbyterian launches a seven-film weekly screening series for Lent. The selection features 16mm films from Tom Wills’ extensive archive, and the entire list is terrificeverything from the 1961 British melodrama All Night Long (a jazz reworking of Macbeth) to Luis Buñuel’s scandalous Simon of the Desert. This week’s feature is Jean Cocteau’s haunting 1946 version of Beauty and the Beast, preceded by a community meal at 6 p.m. and followed by a panel discussion. For more information, call 254-7584 or check www.dpchurch.com/filmseries.htm.
The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson proves the Crucifixion was no picnic in his forbiddingly brutal account of Jesus Christ’s last hours. The movie opens Ash Wednesday at local theaters; good luck getting a ticket opening day. Also opening this week: the Broken Lizard comedy troupe’s slasher-movie spoof Club Dread.
Twisted A serial killer makes it personal when police detective Ashley Judd’s former boyfriends start turning up dead. From the title, we’re guessing that either a. nobody in the movie really exists; b. she’s actually cop, killer and the killer’s brother, all in one; c. she sees dead people; or d. it was really a sled. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars in this thriller from the estimable Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff); it opens Friday, along with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.
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