I'd never really heard of East Nashville before reading something on songwriter Amelia White's webpage about one of her songs showing up on a double-disc compilation called The Other Side: Music from East Nashville . Amelia is not strictly from Nashville -- she moved there from Boston a few years back to make her way in the music world, and lately she's been on the road with her guitar about half of any given year playing finely crafted alt. country/neo folk songs. When I tracked her down Monday she was in Portland. By next Monday, May 21, she'll he here in Humboldt for a gig at the Pearl Lounge with her friend Lila Nelson , a songwriter/deejay/etc. we're all hoping won't be moving to Nashville (or Portland) any time soon.
So, I asked Amelia, what is East Nashville? A part of town? A state of mind? "It's both. In my opinion it's the best part of Nashville. East Nashville is a little like Portland, more liberal and funky, and I'd say there's more left-of-center artists. A lot of painters and musicians have settled there. And there are a few venues over there -- not all of the underground spots, but a few of them. The rent is a little cheaper and all these little studios are popping up. I made my record Black Dove in East Nashville and I finished seven songs out of what will probably be 12 songs from my new record over there too. You just walk down the street, knock on the bass player's door and say 'Come on over, We're ready.' It's pretty cool."
By chance "Black Doves," the title track from her last album, was the very song that appeared on the Music from East Nashville album mentioned above. It's a song about the war, one with a subtle message.
"I actually wrote that song really fast," said Amelia. "It was the night before the war started, I was sitting watching TV, pretty much in horror, seeing men and women get sent off, hugging their wives or husbands or mothers or babies." (She sighs audibly.) "That song is totally from the perspective of the one left behind, feeling the war from that point of view as opposed to some political agenda. I was hoping it would be a short-lived thing -- the war, that is. It really bums me out that it's dragging on for so long. People are so out of touch with thinking about it, about all the people who've been killed over there."
I had to assume that the sentiments in the song are more from the East Nashville side of town. "Actually greater Nashville did go blue in the last election," she noted, "but there's definitely a red side to Music Row. You see what the Dixie Chicks went through. But you know, people are starting to take risks." And she figures speaking your mind doesn't always lead to being blackballed. "As a matter of fact, I think the little bit of political flavor expressed in the Black Doves album kind of gave me a distinction in Nashville. I'm proud of that. I just feel anything you can do to make people think helps."
So she's still writing songs with messages. "This new one I wrote has sort of a personal sexual freedom message in a pretty cool way. Again, it says it in a way that doesn't hit you over the head, but I hope it will make people think. It has this line in it, 'Everybody loves the ones they love. We're all at the end of somebody's chain. Why should anybody care, why should anyone explain?' Then the verses have the stories of these different freaks, like a bartender who wants to become a woman. It's got a bit of everything in it. That one seems to be hitting people; I'm kind of happy about that. That's what songs are supposed to do."
Are you ready for a long, wild rock 'n' roll weekend? It starts Thursday at the Alibi with Dynamite Masters Blues Quartet, a psychedelic punk metal noise band from Japan better know by the acronym DMBQ . Those who have seen the band in action, and particularly the lithe lead guitarist/screamer Shinji Masuko, may find it hard to believe that Shinji founded DMBQ 20 years ago. That's right, in 1987.
Opening the show: Akimbo , a band from Seattle offering a blistering blast of hardcore punk metal, the kind with roaring Satanic vocals. From an e-mail exchange (see it at whoareyouwhatdoyoudo.blogspot.com) I get the sense that the band is both thrilled and apprehensive about touring with DMBQ, "the most insane live band that has ever lived. We are going to have to resort to all kinds of ridiculous shenanigans to make up for our comparatively lackluster snore fest of a show," says bassist Jon.
Friday is Rural Rock & Roll night in Eureka with two screenings of Jensen Rufe's awesome documentary on the Humboldt garage rock scene circa 2005 (@ 6 & 7:30 p.m.) with tons of rockin' music and insightful commentary by notable local pundits. Each show at Accident Gallery will be followed by a Q&A session and a half-hour's worth of "outtakes and never-before-seen footage." After the flick, amble over to the Shanty for an afterparty (at 9:30) where you can mingle with three bands that appear in the doc: The Ravens , The Eureka Garbage Co. and The Ian Fays (up from their new digs in S.F.)
Saturday head back to the Alibi for a party celebrating the release of Tripped Gypsy , the latest from local garagistas Trash & Roll . I'll admit I was surprised at this one, since T&R frontman Freel Freine had told me he was leaving town. But as he explained in an e-mail, he has "put off moving to Florida to play out some new opportunities," including a summer tour by T&R. "This is by far the best line-up the band has ever had," says Freel, "and our best live set of material. Everyone in the band is very excited in the new life that has come over us."
Something he wants to make clear: "Even though this show comes one night after the resurgence of Rural Rock & Roll [T&R was in the movie], it has no affiliation at all. We have a different band and play none of the songs we did on that fun weekend two years ago. We would like all attention for our show to be focused on the relevant and new." The new disc is trippy indeed -- a slice of sonic psychedelia that'll take you back to the Summer of Love, even if you weren't born yet. While Freel has infused it with a garage feel, it was actually recorded in his kitchen, and it has that kind of warmth. T&R drummer Pete Ciotti opens the Alibi show with a solo set of his folky material.
Also in the rock vein, but a bit more in the alt. emo direction, Laden Swallow 's CD release party Friday at Azalea Hall (in McKinleyville) celebrates the band's long-awaited debut disc, Awaken. This one's an all ages affair, with L. Swallow joined by friends Strix Vega , Try-Blynd and Steel Toed Slippers .
Still got energy left after the weekend? Bad Kitty presents another splash of warped Americana on Monday, May 21, at the Boiler Room with rowdy cowpunks The Screamin' Yeehaws from San Diego, greasy country bluesman Toothless George & His One Man Band from Philly, and traditional (but twisted) country from Donny Barnyard & the Dust Devils out of Arcata.
It's the third Thursday in the month May 17, which means KSLG deejay/Eye scene editor Jen Savage hosts another spoken word night at Muddy's Hot Cup, this time followed by a solo set by Clay Smith from The Rubberneckers. Saturday at the Cup, Jeff DeMark revives his solo show on his temp career, Went to Lunch, Never Returned . The Luscious Ladies play after, with a new backup band. And keeping things hot at Muddy's, on Sunday the Humboldt Folklife Society presents an evening with the Hanneke Cassel Trio , featuring the ace Celtic fiddler, cassel, guitarist Christopher Lewis and cellist Rushad Eggleston .
In the world of hip hop we have a Friday show at the Red Fox with Pep Love from Hieroglyphics, Delinquent Monastary and BoRat (all from Oakland) and Fortuna's Dirty Rats (no relation to BoRat). More hip hop Saturday at the Alibi: another return engagement by DJ Thanksgiving Brown (yes, he was just here), this time on tour with legendary Connecticut rapper-producer Dooley-O . Bonus: a few spins from Humboldt Free Radio DJ WMD .
For the deadheads we have another Thursday gig by Play Dead at Clam Beach (May 17), plus a Saturday show at the Red Fox with Workingman's Ed , led by guitarist Stu Allen from JGB, "paying homage to rock legends Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead" with what's described as "a high octane shot of love that will bring you back to the days of psychedelic light shows and swirling electric jams."
You can also get a shot of Little Feat love that night at the Garberville Theater, where two Feat guitarists, Fred Tackett and Paul Barrere, play a benefit for the ALS Association (fighting Lou Gehrig's Disease) in loving memory of Louise Kurtti and the late L.F. album artist Neon Park. The young band Steel Toed Slippers opens with an acoustic set.
And last but not least we have our weekly Reggae report. For live reggae you have a show at Mazzotti's Saturday with Winstrong from Surinam (via Mendo) backed by 7th St. Sound , plus special guest Ishi Dube .
On the Rising/River front we have the Mateel's "minimum needs for Reggae on the River settlement" published in some local publications (not this one). It's basically a sale offer -- if they bite, Tom Dimmick and Carol Bruno would get the show, but with an interesting twist. They'd have to drop the Reggae Rising name and call it Reggae on the River. We'll see what happens.