a fine show at the end this past saturday night, and my second visit to the space. (my first was a WRVU benefit a few weekends ago with a whole mess o' local bands.) located on a stretch of elliston place just a block away from the northern edge of the vanderbilt campus known as "the rock block" because it includes other live music venues (most notable the exit/in) as well as nashville's oldest soda shop, a secondhand bookstore and a number of restaurants and pubs of various qualities and cuisines. proceedings opened a good hour-and-a-half after the door time -- i have yet to determine the proper arrival time for shows in nashville, i think largely because there is no consistent formula. anyway, the cherry tomatoes opened, featuring an amateurish (in the best sense) and whimsical take on the folk genre, which i appreciated although it was at times not terribly to my liking: the swooping vocals would have send joanna newsom fans into rapture.
mick turner was the guitarist for the dirty three, whose sparse acoustic instrumentals provided quite a contrast to most of the recordings coming out on the touch & go label in the mid-to-late 1990s. blue trees, a new release on drag city, caught my eye because of the striking and pleasing cover art, bearing a clear resemblance to the dirty three's cover art because, in fact, turner painted them all. -- and in a quasi-expressionist style full of fuzzy lines and stark color contrasts along with a common mythos (slightly distended mammals against natural landscapes for example). blue trees is a compilation of otherwise hard-to-obtain tracks recorded by turner and tren brothers, the moniker used when he's teamed with former dirty three drummer jim white.
turner was accompanied by a different drummer on this tour (whose name i did not catch), and the formula is even more impressive to witness live than it is on record -- and not only because the live performance is accompanied by a video projection. photographic stills of turner's paintings alternating with video footage of various landscapes shot from inside a moving vehicle provide the image-track accompanying the music, which could have stood alone (and of course does on CD). turner works with a softly amplified and lightly distorted electric six-string (could have been a hollow-body but definitely equipped with a tremolo bar), catch a chord progression or lick in his digital delay pedal and then playing overtop that looped signal. he frequently bows the strings to catch and add a wash of glissandi or harmonics into the mix as well. all the while the drummer reinforces the implied beat or improvises underneath in a seamless blend of premeditation and improvisation.
six organs of admittance headlined, and perhaps by the time ben chasney took the stage (1 am) i was just a little too spent. he opened with a series of solo acoustic numbers, some from his recent drag city offering shelter from the ash, that were deft and resonant. later he was joined by magik marker elisa ambroglio (just friends?) for a nice bit of twin electric caterwaul. it's the times when chasney is reaching for the darkest depths of mordor that his work perhaps least convincing, but otherwise this is inventive post-rock worth keeping an eye and ear on.