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Starry Nights Music Festival Pt. 2, Saturday 10/2/10

There is no other way to enter a Space Capone set than shakin’ and groovin’. Greeted by fellow funk lovers, sunshine on our backs and a whole day of music ahead, the energy was positively radiant. Stacked with groovy breakdowns, tasty guitar riffs and the tightest horn section in town, everyone knows that Space Capone only comes to deliver topnotch performances. Recently named one of the 3 best bands in Nashville by The Scene and the Atlanta Braves band of the year, they truly lived up to their predictably hyped name by getting the party started in solid Space fashion.

The Running helped keep the positive energy going by segueing the crowd from “I just want to dance” to a reggae-rock fusion. Their determination to keep everyone moving with their psychedelic vibes and shred ready guitar solos was not only catchy but also surprisingly original. It’s hard to find a predominantly reggae band that doesn’t feel like a Sublime or Ziggy Marley knock off, but these guys have mastered a grunge/reggae/rock fusion that might even leave a hint of Nirvana in your mouth. Regardless, they kept things fresh and even busted into a little blues number at the end. The trio proved to be a solid festival staple giving the hoopers something to groove to and the drunk Asian boy in the flannel pajamas another reason to thrash around.

As the wind picked up and the cold weather set in, Jeff The Brotherhood had a hard job to do. Amidst the gloom and chilly campers their music had a difficult time warming us up and quite possibly left a few of us deaf. With a similar look and appeal to Joey Ramone, lead vocalist Jake Orrall gave it his all despite his self-proclaimed electrocution and ability to disregard the music cueing him off stage (or was I the only one that heard that?). However, in all fairness, they did have some solid instrumental breakdowns that reminded me of my old school Vans and Marlboro 27s.

Turbo Fruits (whose name made a lot more sense after the fact) had a similar punk rock love affair with music but with a hell of a lot more punch. With each song no longer than three minutes they did a significantly impressive job of reelin’ out the surf rock and keeping up with the energy. Lead singer, Jonas Stein had some sweet jumps that made their tribute to the Volcano Vaporizer all the more entertaining. A fun band with a badass drummer, Turbo Fruits delivered a tight performance leaving me singing, “I wanna go where the stars don’t shine” for the rest of the evening.

After a trip back to the car for many cold weather amenities, we were refreshed and ready to be giddy with Keller Williams and his freakishly fast moving fingers. It was interesting to go from one end of the technical spectrum to the opposite, as we stood waiting for said legendary songwriter Daniel Johnston. As people swarmed around me mumbling things about devil sightings, schizophrenia, and a triumphant victory over a crashing jet plane, I was needless to say intrigued. As Daniel took the stage I was left speechless and confused. Playing an acoustic guitar with half a neck, we watched as he fumbled through his binder to find the right words while uttering something about being in Arkansas. Joined by Cage The Elephant, I started to see the resemblance to Kurt Cobain, but can’t say that I will every fully understand his following. I’ll leave this one up to the other critics.

After a set by Morning Teleportation, we were left anxious to see Nashville favorite, Moon Taxi. From house party to headliner they killed their set with help from trippy black space suits outlined with dancing glow stick figurines. Like all Moon Taxi sets, they came ready to jam. With dueling solos between lead singer/guitarist Trevor Terndrup, lead guitarist Spencer Thompson and keyboardist Wes Bailey, the crowd was found in a serious head banging unison. Their musicality, stage presence, and successful means of dressing up jam rock, leave Moon Taxi to be a forever loved and sought after group – and rest assured, they will be back.

A proud mama moment for all of Nashville, Starry Nights paid quite the tribute to our hardworking musicians. Hats off to the guys at Happy Salmon and everyone else that helped to bring the festival back for another year. -Mackenzie Grosser

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Starry Nights Music Festival Pt. 1, Friday 10/1/10

Starry Nights Music Festival celebrated its third birthday this year, and celebrate we did. Born and raised in the heart of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Starry Nights was held at the same sound location as previous years. A seemingly smaller and colder version of Wakarusa, this festival had all the well-liked components of your camping festival experience. Consisting of two stages encircled by merchants, food, and what I thought was a UFO light structure, the main area left ample room for hoopers, dancers, and shade dwellers alike. Campers set up just outside the music allowing trips to coolers, bonfires, and port-o-potties to be effortless. And then there was the music...

This year’s Starry Nights was nothing shy of an honorary party for Nashville’s hardest working talent, brought to us by our hardest working promoters. A very “coming of age” moment for Happy Salmon Productions, this festival showcased the endless success of Nashville’s industry professionals and their sought out artists alike.

Tesla Rossa and Rayland Baxter started things off Friday with early afternoon sets, and I rolled in just in time to see an unfortunate cancellation by The Ettes turn into a fortunate set by The Kingston Springs. Sun shining and crowd rushing, the Springs sounded as natural as their debut EP Vacation Time had promised.

Armed with serious components of musicality, chemistry, performance, and originality, I’d say they have an ideal thing going right now. Lead vocalist Ian Ferguson doesn’t hesitate to let his high-pitch vocals resonate atop the tightly knit drum and bass duo cutting up the background, as guitarist James Guidry jumps in with rivaling harmonies. As much as I hate to compare them to other artists, their sound is very Vampire Weekend moves to the West Coast - has a baby with an indie rock woman with Beatles influences that plays the tambourine...if that makes sense.

With consistent and contagious energy throughout, I couldn’t help but think to myself, ‘they don’t even know what they have right now’. Fresh out of high school, their stage presence was almost frightening - starting out songs like “Little Girl” with a bass riff and keyboard fusion resembling that of a Flaming Lips intro. Does anyone smell a record deal? Needless to say, my expectations for this group were high, and it was a pleasant surprise to see them generate hype both on and off the stage.

In a nutshell, Friday’s highlights consisted of a beautiful appearance from HoneyHoney, an energy hyping set by Sleeper Agent, and the unpredictable and perfected crowd surfing by front man Matthew Shultz from Cage The Elephant. Cage ended their set in collaboration with Autovaugn covering “Killing In the Name Of” by Rage Against The Machine...and leaving the set with a chipped tooth and side cramp I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Ghostland Observatory dipped into the morning with a light show that yielded confirmation from the US Air force, leaving the late-night crowd more than content. I’d say despite my choice to wear flip-flops and a skirt in mid-40’s weather, it was a fine start to the weekend.--Mackenzie Grosser

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Shooter Jennings & Hierophant @ Exit/In

Shooter Jennings returns to his Nashville tonight at Exit/In. The only child of Jessi Colter and the legendary country artist Waylon Jennings, Shooter takes after Dad not only in looks; he’s most famous for doing the country thing, and he does it with a hard riff to make good old-fashioned Southern rock. But this time he’ll be playing with band Hierophant, which formed in 2009 and in 2010 released “Black Ribbons,” a concept album featuring narration and dialogue by Stephen King. With Hierophant, Jennings abandons alt-country for rock that’s more on the psychedelic side. Either way, it’s going to get rowdy, and J-Roddy Walston and The Business will be opening, so come check it out at 8 p.m. – Deli Staff

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NBN Highlights, Pt. 4: Saturday Night On Elliston Place

Photo courtesy of NBN Summit

Venue hopping between Exit/In and The End wasn’t a bad way to spend the last night of Next Big Nashville, what with Cheer Up Charlie Daniels, some colorful out-of-towners and The Pink Spiders’ original lineup playing one of their many “last shows.” I walked into The End when The Lonely H was midway through an outstanding set. The term “Americana” makes me cringe, possibly because the term is so general and overused, or because so many play/try to play it. But if any band can jam blues, folk and rock and roll together and execute it in such a meticulous and infectious manner, it’s The Lonely H. Though the crowd was small – just a few Kings of Leon look-alikes in skinny jeans and hats who all seemed to know each other, it was roots-and-hard rock candy to the ears, made ten times better by the smiling bassist who just looks absolutely thrilled to be in the band.

Across the street, what was possibly one of the most theatric and visually compelling sets of NBN was heating up. Cheer Up Charlie Daniels and Kyle Andrews had already played, but when you walk in and see a clutter of TVs onstage, you know Heypenny is there. Seeing a Heypenny show is like being in Munchkin Land for a dance party. They’re colorful, costume-clad and ridiculous, and whether you laugh at them or with them, comedic lyricism and Ben Elkin’s aptitude for banging out a good beat on the keys makes it worth seeing at least once. Peelander-Z followed, a Japanese group based in New York whose heavy riffs are sort of a bonus to their crowd interaction. Few bands are so interested in the audience that they’d start a conga line in the crowd, pull showgoers onstage to play their instruments and engage in a game of human bowling.

The Protomen brough in a lot of people from outside Nashville, though their crowd was smaller than what they’re used to. A friend told me you have to acquire a taste for Protomen, which may be true; while the people close to the front were clearly big fans, some showgoers near the back seemed less than interested in this masked and face-painted band. I found all the beckoning to the audience a bit arrogant and one attendee remarked that they didn’t play their best songs. Though the songs didn’t really resonate with me, at least they’re loud, ambitious and capable of playing. Plus if you didn’t like it, by closing day of NBN, you probably couldn’t hear it anyway. –Jessica Pace

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NBN Highlights, Pt. 3: Friday Night @ Third Man Records

Photo by Jordan Jacquess

It was an hour later than scheduled with a line snaking down the side of the building before the show at Third Man Records was filled with the din of garage rock and snarly pop punk. It was basically punk night at Third Man, and the venue was pretty much packed for the first set. A super-elevated stage made my usual 5’3”-girl-stuck-standing-behind-a-6’-guy problem nonexistent, which was a pleasant surprise because there was a lot to see in terms of band presentation . Cy Barkley, a fairly new trio of boys who like noise, went on first. They’ve got a 7” out now and are looking for a new moniker for the band, which is currently named after their lead singer and founder. Their gritty Ramones-reminiscent punk riffs and the guttural shouts of the frontman were good, but stage presence paled in comparison to the foursome that followed.

Heavy Cream’s pixie-like frontwoman (Jessica of MEEMAW), clad in skintight leopard print, stole Karen O’s orgasmic vocals and Iggy Pop’s gyrating movements, and it was captivating throughout the entire set of under two-minute songs about stiff legs and girls named Tina. Her squeals and howls were befitting for the grating guitars and percussive rumble backing it, and as a side note: a dollar for every time she showed us the whites of her eyes would have bought everyone a beer or two.

Cheap Time’s mash of scratchy garage rock and punk sentiment with elements of ’60s pop makes for a dynamic set, and towards the end of the erratic session of stripped guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion, Jemina Pearl (formerly of Be Your Own Pet) joined them onstage for a song. That was the last set I caught at the venue, but I’ve little doubt pop-rock trio The Ettes kept up the same energy before JEFF the Brotherhood finished the night. – Jessica Pace

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