WNXP

WNXP staff

At a first birthday party, it’s typical for the guest of honor to not be fully aware of what’s going on, let alone plan the whole thing. But when that 1-year-old is a public radio music-discovery station launched during a pandemic — which took home Best New Radio Station honors in the Scene’s recent Best of Nashville issue — that infant has earned the right to celebrate however it wishes. On Dec. 1, 366 days after Nashville Public Radio swapped the format on 91.1 FM and 91.One WNXP took to the airwaves, the WNXP crew commemorated the station’s first orbit of the sun with three hours of sets at Exit/In from local artists they have been championing.

Bantug

Bantug

While waiting in the new-normal line of folks showing vaccine cards, I could hear the ethereal synth pop of Bantug pulsing through the walls. Both tranquil and seductive, her sound seemed to have cast a spell over the room by the time I got inside. Her abbreviated set featured a few tunes from her 2021 album 12 Songs About Loneliness, which was WNXP’s Record of the Week back in May. After a quick changeover, songsmith Josh Gilligan shared his neo-yacht-rock-ish style with the crowd. His jazzy take on pop is smoother than freshly polished marble.

Liza Anne

Liza Anne

One highlight of the evening was seeing Liza Anne throw down her thunderous rock ’n’ roll gauntlet in person. Her most popular streaming tracks at the moment are from earlier records, which might lead you to expect various takes on pop that alternate between melancholy and hopeful. In the run-up to her 2020 record Bad Vacation, Liza Anne and her co-conspirators fully embraced the furious beast within. At this show, she came armed with her Flying V, chopping heads and showing no mercy. There were moments that called to mind everything from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Earth to the most aggressive corners of Nirvana’s catalog. Her other guitar player’s lead lines came across as equal parts prog rock and noise-punk, sounding like they came straight out of the mixing board on a late-’80s Sub Pop single.

Repeat Repeat

*repeat repeat

Consummate professional pop ’n’ rockers *repeat repeat give it 110 percent every time they get the opportunity to play. Whether you see them at Bridgestone Arena opening for The Black Keys, at Live on the Green or Bonnaroo, or at a small local bar, Kristyn and Jared Corder and their band expend more energy onstage than you’d think they could possibly contain. The enthusiasm that radiates from the group for music — playing it, hearing it, seeing it — seems untarnished by the patina of cynicism most rock vets build up over years of active duty. Their set at the party, hot on the heels of a new EP called Songs for a Nice Drive, was no exception, as they bounced around the stage and cheered on the other acts.

Namir Blade

Namir Blade

The whole night was a lot of good clean fun to celebrate WNXP’s rookie season, but the final act was a force of nature. Namir Blade, who had the distinction of being the radio station’s first Nashville Artist of the Month, closed out the night. Blade had the whole stage to himself and his MacBook, rapping over tracks he’d produced on his own and others from Imaginary Everything, his collaboration with North Carolina producer L’Orange (which also took home Best Hip-Hop Album honors in Best of Nashville). No local record has spent more time in my headphones this year than Imaginary Everything — like much of the work Blade has been doing around town over the past several years, it’s a lucid dream of rap. He is both introspective and buoyant, affable and isolated, equal parts head trip and body buzz. There is no artist in this whole city that I am more excited about going forward. While some Nashville musicians are doing a pretty damned good job of making their way into the upper stratosphere, Blade is colonizing new planets.

Repeat Repeat

It’s great to have a radio station that celebrates this kaleidoscopic array of music all at once and in such depth. In their first year alone, WNXP’s staff has done a phenomenal job of making the crowded airwaves in Music City better represent the diverse array of musicians living and working here. Now that they’re firmly established, it’s exciting to imagine what they might do next.

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