Judging from the buzz of excitement in the lobby at TPAC before Bill Maher's performance last night, you would have thought Tennessee was a blue state. Of course, Davidson is a blue county, so perhaps it's not surprising. Still, I had that feeling I get when I go to synagogue on the high holidays and think, "Wow! There are really this many Jews in Nashville?"
The ominous strains of the theme to HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher began wafting through the speakers shortly after 8. The packed house rose to its feet for an enthusiastic ovation, and Maher took the stage sporting dark jeans and a "Live Free" T-shirt.
For the next 90 minutes, he had the crowd roaring much of the time, as he took on the contraception debate, Rick Santorum's sweater vest, the hypocrisy of conservative Christians, guns, pot, health care, the Republican debates and much more. He even gave a shout-out to the Scene early on, reveling in our "Here Comes the Antichrist" headline and the cover teaser, "Beloved Infidel: Bill Maher Comes to TPAC."
A few highlights after the jump...
Late last night, we launched the Scene's newest blog, Country Life. Its focus will be on arts and culture — all that stuff at "the back of the book," as we call it, including visual art, books, film, theater, TV and so on.
So why another blog?
Pith in the Wind started out as our catch-all, generally-about-everything blog, but eventually found its voice as a place best suited to news and politics, and all the concomitant arguments and countermeasures. Sure, some of us continued to post about artsy stuff — look, an awesome movie! Hey, that painting has an interesting story behind it! — but it felt a little out of place sometimes.
From here on out, we can keep the political shop talk going right here on Pith — where there's unlikely to be a dull moment any time soon — and the artsy posts will live over at Country Life. We hope you'll check it out.
The Mysterious Rabbit Puppet Army
Where: Little Hamilton, 1318 Little Hamilton St.
When: 7 p.m. Wed., Jan. 4
There's a bit in Ted Conover's nonfiction classic Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing where an inmate tells Conover that the prison has already begun planning and designing prisons that will be built 10 years from then. Who are they built for, the inmate asks, if not for people who are children right now?
The idea that prisons look forward to incarcerating those who haven't committed crimes yet — and in some cases haven't even been born — seems a little perverse, he says. Yet money that could be spent on education is being pumped back into the prison system as if it were some kind of machine. That's the idea behind the prison-industrial system — that prisons are an industry, a corporate entity that makes its profit through the imprisoned.
Little Hamilton, one of the bastions of underground culture in Nashville, is hosting an event that explores this idea. But leave it to Little Hamilton to examine an incredibly relevant topic using an offbeat approach. The Mysterious Rabbit Puppet Army is going to have a puppet show to bring the ideas of prison-industrial system to light. Expect shadow puppets, hand puppets, and a quirky, kid-friendly vibe, but with a strong dose of weirdness. For anyone who grew up on PBS with Grover, Telly, Daniel Striped Tiger and Lady Elaine Fairchilde, well-performed puppet shows make any topic — political, sexual, intellectual, whatever — go down like cookies and a glass of milk.
The Addams Family
Where: Jackson Hall, TPAC
When: Through Jan. 8
$28-$60; check prices here
Created by cartoonist Charles Addams, this grim parody of the nuclear family was first published in The New Yorker in 1938 before enjoying a successful television run in the ’60s, numerous film adaptations and now a transformation onto the stage. Broadway brings this iconic family a new story, which deals with the fallout after Wednesday Addams announces that she is dating a boy, Lucas, from a normal family; the audience is invited to watch as the families meet at one of the weirdest dinner parties the stage has ever hosted.
The cast features Cortney Wolfson, Sara Gettelfinger and Douglas Sills as Wednesday, Morticia and Gomez Addams, and Brian Justin Crum as Lucas. Andrew Lippa wrote the music and lyrics, and the book is by Marshall Brickman (Woody Allen's Oscar-winning co-writer on Annie Hall and Manhattan) and Rick Elice, who also paired on the book for the blockbuster Jersey Boys. The play offers patrons a “magnificently macabre … musical comedy,“ and an interesting, perhaps even familiar, take on what it means to be a family. Tickets are available online now.
Madison Smartt Bell Talk/Jam Session
Where: LeQuire Gallery Green Hills, 3900 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 34
When: Thu., Dec. 29
Readers of this paper, and of papers in general, are likely familiar with Madison Smartt Bell, whose work has appeared everywhere from Harper’s to the New York Times Book Review, and whose novels have earned him wide acclaim — with this year’s feverish 9/11 meditation The Color of Night serving as the most recent demonstration of both his writerly gifts and the respect he commands among critics.
But readers of this paper may be less familiar with Haitian visual artists, whom Bell will discuss at a free event tonight, and even less so with his musical stylings, which range from bluesy rockers to avant-garde-leaning experiments. Bell did, however, cut a record featuring Mitch Easter on lead guitar — so you know the Nashville native has more than enough Music City in him to give Stephen King’s cover band a run for its money
A ChristMAS Holiday Hangover
Where: The Belcourt
When: 8 p.m. Wed., Dec. 28
MAS Nashville — a “mutual admiration society” consisting of five talented lady performers — gets back in gear just in time to ring out the holiday season with a gig at the historic Belcourt. The MAS missies have previously mounted five well-received cabaret-style shows, but this one features a full band — a fact that may push the presentation into more elaborate territory. But in this case, more is probably more. And even though Christmas itself will have come and gone, these garrulous gals will still offer holiday standards, plus reworkings of familiar carols and winter-type songs, as well as musical parodies. (Above, you can hear their take on Katy Perry's "Firework.")
MAS majordomo Erin Parker sees this date as an opportunity to extend the holidays and to “give people somewhere to take their families that are still in town … or somewhere to escape from the families they’re in town visiting.” (Rimshot!) Expect strong vocals and irreverent humor from Parker, Cori Laemmel, Laura Matula, Melodie Madden Adams and Megan Murphy Chambers, all experienced musical comedy artists. There’s apparently enough of a hint at ribaldry to earn the show a PG rating.
Poetry Sucks! Feat. Nickole Brown, Daniel Pujol, Jacklyn Marceau and Mystery Twins
Where: Dino's Bar & Grill, 411 Gallatin Rd.
When: Thu., Dec. 15
Last month’s inaugural Poetry Sucks! night both lived up to its full and proper name — Poetry Sucks! A Night of Poetry, Music and All Sorts of Bad Language — and marked the auspicious beginning of a genuine happening on the East Side. The December installment will feature Nickole Brown, poet, fiction writer and assistant professor of English at the University of Arkansas, who also worked a spell as editorial assistant for Hunter S. Thompson.
Joining her are Jacklyn Marceau (an instructor at Stephens College whose forthcoming memoir concerns the decade she spent working as a stripper), Daniel Pujol (the local rocker/stream-of-consciousness prose-poem scribe) and Mystery Twins (the new musical duo featuring Doug and Steph from local garage-rock mainstay The Clutters). Come for the culture, stay for the cussing and cheap beer!
Call 226-3566 for more info.
Here in the catacombs of the Scene edit bunker, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn't a fan of Re-Animator, the gonzo 1985 splatter movie freely adapted from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. (If they aren't, they're wise enough to keep it to themselves. Same with Pootie Tang.) That's why we practically bobbled our severed head when we heard that actor Jeffrey Combs — yes, Re-Animator's scientific inquisitor Herbert West in the flesh — will be performing his one-man show Nevermore: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe at the Nashville Public Library 7 p.m. Jan. 19.
The show's a special treat for Re-Animator fans, as it reunites the star with director Stuart Gordon and co-writer Dennis Paoli. (They last collaborated on a Showtime "Masters of Horror" episode derived from Poe's "The Black Cat," which inspired this well-reviewed production.) It's also likely to draw folks who've followed Combs' career through stints on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Enterprise and The 4400.
There'll be a reception at 6:15 p.m. followed by the play, which kicks off a promising new series called "Night at the Library" that expands the downtown library's already plentiful cultural offerings. For more information, see the press release below.
Where: The Basement
When: 9 p.m. Wed., Dec. 14
Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell have been The Greyhounds for over a decade now, and they’ve spent about half of that time in Austin, which is no doubt how singer-songwriter of spirituals and soul — and fellow Austinite — Ruthie Foster wound up recording one of their songs. But there’s nothing particularly Texas-y about their sly garage-funk sound — they've had gigs handling guitar and keyboards for Florida’s J.J. Grey & Mofro and, a few years back, supporting American Idol-sweeping Alabamian Taylor Hicks.
The Spring Training EP The Greyhounds put out earlier this year (which they're currently offering as a name-your-price download) has the sort of rubbery leanness, analog fuzz and half-submerged hookiness that won The Black Keys so many fans — plus a small dose of eccentricity in the form of the synth-driven pseudo-spelling lesson “H-E-L-L-O”. Who wouldn’t root for these guys?
999 Eyes Freakshow w/Panty Raid
When: 8 p.m. Thu., Dec. 8
Today’s culturally sensitive citizen might be wary of paying to see “freaks” exploited onstage. But at 999 Eyes, you can indulge your curiosity with no guilt attached. The genetically anomalous talents behind this touring troupe have rethought the old-fashioned sideshow — their mission is to celebrate genetic diversity and let “freaks” present their unique talents.
Performers such as Elephant Man, The Tiger Lady and Black Scorpion alternate between sword-swallowing vaudevillians and heartfelt storytellers, sharing tales about what it’s like to be born different from everyone else. Circus-style jug ensemble THAT Damned Band’s original numbers provide the perfect background for a night of lurid yet educational fun. The show is profanity-free and appropriate for all ages, but burlesque troupe Panty Raid opens.
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