There were only about 200 people at the Belcourt last Friday for Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars—a sad turnout, especially for the tour’s first date. But in the great tradition of historic Nashville shows, there’ll be 2,000 claiming they were on hand. Not just because Joe Perry and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith showed up as promised to sit in—although that finally dislodged stubborn asses from their seats—but because the group put on the kind of exultant, energetic and freewheeling world-music performance the city rarely gets. The All Stars showed a refreshing lack of rock-show protocol, with ebullient frontman Reuben Koroma exhorting his bandmates—who all met in refugee camps in Guinea during the tumultuous civil war in their native Sierra Leone—to stretch out on their loping, high-stepping Afro-Caribbean grooves. The longer they played, the hotter they got: by the time Perry plugged in for a sizzling set, dashing off spiky leads steeped in his own band’s snake-hipped blooze, the All Stars were merrily exchanging top-that dance moves and playing with a swiftness and complexity that made speed metal sound snoozy. A climactic impromptu “Get Up, Stand Up,” with Koroma and Tyler scatting back and forth finally roused even a passel of blasé blondes who seemed more interested in their cells than the show. (Kudos to the hula hooper, whose gyrations helped get the crowd on its feet: the band’s energy and cheer obviously surged.) As a bonus, Tyler and Perry hung out afterward in the lobby signing autographs, posing for photos and appearing as the coolest guys on earth to a trio of wide-eyed little kids. Given the turnout, will Nashville ever get an opportunity like this again? Dream on. For exclusive show photos, including those of Steven Tyler, visit nashvillescene.com.
“I thought they would never come back,” remarked a gleeful friend during Broken Social Scene’s wonderful Sunday night show at City Hall. The Canadian rock collective reminded the crowd that the last time they were in town—playing to about 15 peeps at 12th & Porter—their laptop was stolen, then subsequently mailed back to them, broken and wrapped in T-shirts. Good thing they don’t hold a grudge. Trading instruments, lead vocals and making cracks about Flavor of Love (“What would Chuck D think?”), BSS thoroughly charmed the bigger crowd. With a blend of improv and a magical sense of melody, their quirky, eclectic catalog came to life. The drummer was a standout, scattering the tunes with idiosyncratic surprises. At night’s end, even after the house music resumed, frontman Kevin Drew returned to the stage for one last song, admitting that his band was tired but he wanted to keep playing. And as far as we know, nothing was stolen this time.
Last Saturday, The Spin donned corduroy jackets, brushed our beards and headed to Dickson for the Americana Folk Festival. The weather was perfect and the beer was Yazoo. Dozens of bands played short sets full of mandolin solos, three-part harmonies and sticky sweet, crooning poems of love long lost. And then there were the Avett Brothers. This North Carolina trio literally stomped through a balls-to the-wall set of caffeinated flat-picking. They may have been the only band there to break a sweat, dancing and swinging their instruments around like glam rockers. Seth Avett tapped on a high hat while playing rhythm guitar, while brother Scott didn’t so much pluck his banjo as attack it, creating a stabbing, edgy contrast to the clean staccato of typical grass pickin’. And after a day of down-tempo strumming, the crowd was ready to dance. The Birkenstocked masses pressed close to the stage during the set, letting loose a torrent of feelgood, if somewhat awkward, white-folks boogie. Much to the consternation of the event’s organizers, the Avett Bros. were the only act to play an encore, though they had to steal it. The crowd didn’t mind: 10 minutes after the stage went black, they still were cheering for more.
Mesh: check, glitter: check
At the Scissor Sisters show last Tuesday at City Hall, it took only one song before we rethought our No Mesh Shirts fashion rule. The gay men and the women who love them packed the place with platform stilettos, fauxhawks and so much glitter we thought we were going to develop a skin condition. And despite the hour wait after openers Small Sins—Scissor Sister Ana Matronic dropped her microphone in the toilet right before they went on—the crowd was so excited we thought someone had laced their cosmopolitans. With help from his costume changes (including a gold spandex jumpsuit) and choreographed dance moves, frontman Jake Shears wound the audience into an arm-waving, booty-bumping frenzy. When we woke up the next morning on our apartment floor with only one shoe and a feather boa that didn’t belong to us, we had only one wish: that all Tuesdays could be this cool.
We could have gone our whole lives with out hearing Vanderbilt President Gordon Gee shout, “Who you wit’?” to kick off the university’s homecoming celebration Friday night. With a bill featuring Common and Ludacris, we wondered if the president’s wife was hanging out in the green room, if you catch our scent. After a tribute to every athlete the university has ever offered a letter jacket, the show got under way, with Ludacris’ R&B protégé Shareefa flying through a short set sans band, playing the ’hood rat with a siren’s voice. Then, the anxious audience bum rushed the stage for Common, who initially didn’t disappoint, throwing himself into a medley of songs from his last record, Be, backed by a nu-jazz quartet. But then he pulled the stale “grab a hottie out of the audience” trick, launching into some corny, spoken-word theatrics where the deepest thing he said was that he’s won five Grammys. That’s four more than Ludacris, whose performance lacked energy, though he seemed to amuse himself with his one-liners, constantly checking himself on the giant monitors at stage rear. Maybe he was smiling ’cause most of the packed auditorium knew every lyric. Too bad the acoustics made him sound as if he was rapping in Atlantis.
Starting in Memphis in 1956, guitarist Steve Cropper has made indelible contributions to American music. On Wednesday, Nov. 1 at The Ryman, Play It Steve joins emcee Peter Gallagher and a host of musical guests for a musical celebration of Cropper’s half-century journey. The show benefits the T.J. Martell Foundation’s cancer research.
More than a feeling
It was a Beantown reunion at the Family Wash last Wednesday as Wash co-owner Jamie Rubin reunited with his bandmates from Modern Farmer, who made waves in Boston in the mid-’90s. And what bandmates—former Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels and bassist David Hull, who’s playing with Aerosmith (who played Starwood the following night) while original bassist Tom Hamilton recovers from throat cancer. (Gabrels, by the way, played an epic guitar solo to end Curt Perkins’ set at The Basement a couple weeks back—so epic that musicians in the audience looked at each other afterward with a stupefied, “Did he really just do that?” grin.) Though not an original Modern Farmer, drummer Marco Giovino did a terrific job with virtually no rehearsal. (Of course, he is a Bostonian—must be something in that dirty water.) Other erstwhile Beantowners in the crowd included singer-songwriter Amelia White, bassist Frank Swart and drummer Kevin “Bobo” Rapillo. Oh yeah, and Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer. Also spotted: Warren Pash (who just finished producing a Tupper Saussy record), drummer/producer Ken Coomer, singer-songwriter Molly Thomas and those darn Pisapia boys—you know, the ones your momma warned you ’bout.
Who needs a Ken Burns jazz documentary when you’ve got David Hungate? Sure, Hungate was an original member of pop-rockers Toto, and has backed everyone from Boz Scaggs and Gladys Knight to Barbra Streisand and Conway Twitty, but he’s also one of Nashville’s top jazzers—on both guitar and trombone. This Sunday, Oct. 29, in the Drink Lounge at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza, Hungate presents “From Bix to Basie,” a live performance focusing on the roots of jazz. Accompanying Hungate will be saxophonists Denis Solee and Sam Levine, bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Tom Giampietro and pianist John Jarvis. Jazz singer April Barrows will sit in for a few numbers. The show runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is $10, and it’s a smoke-free event.
Send photos of you and Steven Tyler, leads on the laptop culprit or Halloween costume ideas that are both rockin’ and scary (e.g., a Panic! At the Disco fan) to email@example.com.