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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nashville Culture

Culture was on the agenda for this past weekend, with a visit to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on Friday night and a rockin' concert at the Ryman Auditorium on Saturday night.

Friday night proved to be educational and enlightening, visiting the "Capture the Moment" exhibit, a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs from the 1940s through today. I had seen most of the photos before, whether they be in the media or in photography classes in college, but the exhibit afforded me an opportunity to learn the story behind the photo, primarily from the photographer's perspective. It also inspired me to dust off my own SLR and quit neglecting my favorite hobby. Click here to view a sampling of the photos on display.

Saturday night kicked off the Queen MAB summer concert series, with Ray LaMontagne and Guster playing at the Ryman. I've commented many a time about how there isn't a bad seat in the Ryman. For the record, I need to retract that statement and say that there is a bad seat in the Ryman (MF-3, Row Y, seat 3) and I sat in it for the first half of the evening.

The place was sold out and concert patrons were very excited to hear Ray perform, some of them even commenting about how they were only at the show for him. Ray walks somberly on stage and begins to perform. His tone is very rich and bluesy, yet he is so softspoken that you can barely hear his voice when he talks. Ray, accompanied by his acoustic guitar and harmonica, looked like an earthy Jesus-figure, basking in a warm red glow of light. At one point, Ray stops and invites a good friend of his to come onstage and perform some vocals in his song. Out steps Rachel Yamagata. One of the perks of living in Nashville is that you never know what famous rock celebrity is waiting in the wings to come onstage and sing with the person or band you paid to see. This also happened to me in 2003 at the Cake show at the Ryman, when John Mark Painter of Fleming & John, appeared onstage.

Ray played a few songs from the Trouble album, but mostly stuck with recordings from his upcoming album, Till the Sun Turns Black. The best song of the night by far, was "Shelter." Just when I settled in to Ray's set, he starts laughing maniacally. He then proceeds to announce that there is a (insert four-letter word here) in the audience who thinks his music is hilarious and we're all waiting for the (insert four-letter word here)'s kids to grow up and rape. Ouch. He then puts his guitar down and walks off stage. The audience is shocked, because Ray's set was obviously not over. We didn't see him the rest of the evening.

A mass exodus of people commenced and I was a little surprised to see how many people were only there to see Ray. I mean, Ray is great and all, but Guster is pretty rockin' too. I didn't really mind though, because Mason and I moved up about ten rows and had great seats for the Guster portion of the show.

Guster never fails to disappoint, both musically and stylistically---that is, fashion-wise of course. The boys waltzed onstage dressed head-to-toe in sequined, country-themed suits, designed by Nashville local, Manuel. Lead singer, Ryan Miller, remarked that the rhinestone-couture suits were ever-appropriate for three Jewish bearded guys. Guster recently added a fourth member, Joe Pisapia, who is also a Nashville implant, although the only non-Jewish member of Guster.

The show rocked out, and Guster formed a successful balance between their old, acoustic jams and their new electronic sound. They didn't forget to entertain with favorites such as "Fa Fa," "Barrel of a Gun," and "Amsterdam." Ping pong balls flooded the stage at the end of "The Airport Song," as tradition calls for. The boys appeared back onstage for their second encore, completely unplugged and acoustic, with a quiet and sentimental rendition of "Jesus on the Radio." They exited the stage after a very heartfelt and gracious thank you to their fans and I exited the building a satisfied Gusterhoid.

The show brought back memories of the first time I saw Guster perform live, at the late-great 328 Performance Hall on 4th Avenue South on April 13, 2001, one day after my 20th birthday. That was a memorable show for me for a number of reasons. For those of you who remember 328, you know what a special venue it was before it was mercilessly demolished in order to make way for the Gateway Bridge/Demonbreun Street extension. 328 was a standing-room only venue, that only held about 500 people, yet was able to book very large acts. Anyway, I was mashed up against the stage for the Guster show, front and center, and could see Adam Gardner's nose hairs. But that's not the only amazing sight I saw that evening...

A young lad opened the show for Guster that night. He was perched on the stage with a barstool and his acoustic guitar, alongside his squirrelly bass player. I didn't know who the heck he was, but Rachel and I swooned when he opened his mouth and began to sing, "Your Body is a Wonderland." Yes folks, the young lad was a pre-fame John Mayer. Rachel and I knew that we had witnessed something special.

What. a. weekend.


Blogger emilyb said...

You amaze me with you long blogs. You're my hero. Miss ya!

10:32 AM


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