Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meet in Three: Chris Freeman [Originally posted on Nashville Cream]

Hey Cream, say hello— and goodbye—to Chris Freeman. For the past year or so, Chris has been one of Nashville's more offbeat and original singer-songwriters. However, this "Meet in Three" is also a farewell, as he's moving away to the greener pastures of Portland (Oregon) in the very near future. You can catch Freeman and his band The Unicorn Horns in their last performance tonight at The 5 Spot with Lylas, Velcro Stars and Seth Moore.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Critic's Picks [All originally published in NASHVILLE SCENE]

BEAT The influence of electronic music and technology is more prominent than ever on rock’s national scene, but Nashville’s rockers have been a little sluggish about incorporating synthesizers and beat machines into their usual repertoire. In an effort to remedy this deficiency, yet another local music collective has crawled out of the woodwork—this one calls itself BEAT. Aspiring to build a thriving community of electro-oriented rock ’n’ rollers, BEAT hopes to bridge the gap between synthetic and organic music. Their first event is scheduled for Thursday night and features funky white kids Kink Ador, rock-heavy hip-hoppers Knapsack Heroes, Quiet Entertainer and DJs Viper, Melator and Kidsmeal. 9 p.m. at Exit/In —SETH GRAVES

If the recent surge in hipster dance parties says anything about young Nashvillians, it’s that they’ll take any excuse to cut a rug—be it in a club, a basement, or a dive bar. But unless grinding against hoochie mamas in short skirts to the latest booty jams down on Second Avenue is your thing, the occasion to get down remains sporadic and easy to miss if you’re out of the loop. Stepping into the void is New Rave Thursdays at Bar Twenty3. The weekly event begins this week, featuring DJs Telemitry and Keyboard Guy and hosted by local electro rockers Luna Halo. Modeled after similar club nights in the hipper parts of NYC, New Rave Thursdays promises new rave, new disco and electro music along with video projections and live synthesizer and vocoder action on top of the music. 10:30 p.m. at Bar Twenty3 —SETH GRAVES

GRAND PALACE CHRISTMAS BASH Keeping the Yule Log burning just a few days longer, Murfreesboro’s homegrown bohemians and indie rock do-it-yourselfers Grand Palace are filling out the limbo-esque weekend between Christmas and New Year’s with an official Christmas Bash at Exit/In. The line up features underage power trio Kindergarten Circus, who belt out the kind of savage angst only teenagers can muster; Turncoats will provide their razor sharp vintage pop ’n’ roll in the form of sweet, simple punk jams; and, rounding out the evening, Hands Down Eugene, who keep it on the down low with their dreamy psychedelic pop. Of course, no Grand Palace event would be proper without DJ Bawston Sean behind the turntables, no doubt spinning classic soul favorites and forgotten funk even your parents don’t remember. 9 p.m. at Exit/In —SETH GRAVES

& ALTERED STATESMAN Between outsourcing their talents to more successful touring bands, recording a new album, funding tours of their own, dabbling in side projects and growing out their facial hair to preposterous lengths and shapes, it’s hard to imagine the boys of Ghostfinger having time to do anything other than play rock ’n’ roll. Despite being spread all over the world at times, the mustachioed quartet is still keeping it together, becoming quite possibly the hardest working macho men in Nashville. On their stop at Mercy Lounge on Thursday, The ’Finger will already be well into the first leg of a winter tour that will keep them—and their whiskey-stained, 420-friendly countrified metallic rock—on the road into next year. Joining this cavalcade of local talent are fellow Murfreesboro veterans Glossary, sleepy alt-country faves Lone Official and quirky soul proprietors Altered Statesman. 10 p.m. at Mercy Lounge

THE PROTOMEN Video game-inspired bands have carved out a substantial niche in the underbelly of pop culture, but few have matched the detail and complexity of Nashville’s The Protomen. The band is comprised of seven members, each claiming a purely robotic heritage and never breaking character long enough to lead you to believe otherwise. With the exception of the occasional ironic Hall & Oates cover, their repertoire consists entirely of a fully realized arena-ready rock opera inspired by the Mega Man video game series. Complete with costumes, onstage theatrics and layer upon layer of synth and guitar, The Protomen portray a band of rebel insurgents on a crusade against an evil, fascist mad scientist. Though the most successful stops on their national tours have been at comic book conventions, Protomen have yet to play a home show that didn’t reach capacity. Friday night’s performance should prove no exception. 9 p.m. at The End —SETH GRAVES

Hot Chips [published August 7th in NASHVILLE SCENE]

I was 7 years old when Nintendo unleashed a gadget that would hook me and every kid I knew with an addiction that would last some of us the rest of our lives. Video games were soon all we cared about. Every afternoon after school was a race to see how many levels we could beat before dinner. There wasn't anything we didn't love about the Nintendo Entertainment System, but the one thing I don't recall really giving much of a damn about was the dinky, blippy music that came out of it.

It was nothing to like or dislike. It served its purpose, but it wasn't real music. The songs and sounds were nothing we thought about when we weren't playing for hours on end. At the end of the day, we'd still turn to the Fresh Prince when it was time to rock out. And this was pretty much the prevailing attitude toward video game music for the next 10 to 15 years—that is, until game discs became advanced enough to hold prerecorded music. Then, not only did games feature strings that actually sounded like strings, but you could listen to Bad Religion while playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. These days, narrative-style games are being scored by big-time composers, and games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are built entirely on using popular radio hits as their focus.

But wait...what about all that old 8-bit, glitchy, esoteric, overtly synthetic-sounding stuff from the '80s? A sizable underground movement of composers, hackers and DIY musicians is cracking open old Ataris, Segas and Nintendos, converting them into fully programmable synthesizers and building a blossoming subgenre of electronic music that sounds identical to the 8-bit soundtracks of yore. Video Game Music (or VGM) isn't just what you have to listen to while hunting ducks with a plastic gun anymore. It's being released and distributed everywhere you can imagine on CD, MP3 and cassette by bedroom-based indie artists and labels. People are listening to it in cars and on headphones—not just out of the TV.

The term "chiptune" or "chip music" refers specifically to music where sounds are made by synths rigged from video game console sound chips. Those not mechanically inclined enough to mod out their old Game Boys and Commodore 64s, however, can still find plug-ins and software and make authentic-sounding stuff on their computers. Musically, chiptune sounds exactly as you may remember: Percussive stabs and puffs of filtered white noise provide the beat while echoey blips and boinky bass provide the rhythm and melody.

One proponent of chiptune is Chicago's William Sides, who's been releasing video game music on his label No Sides Records since 2005. His band, William Sides Atari Party, is comprised of just himself, a pimped-out Atari 7800, modified synthesizers and various other electronic noisemakers. Sides is touring the South and Midwest with fellow VGM artist Ian Henningson, who plays under the moniker Giveupnewyork. Hennsington's tunes are composed and performed entirely using the Nanoloop program—a cartridge that plugs right into an old Game Boy system, providing an interface that lets the user access all the sounds contained inside and sequence them into their own compositions. The two are slowly making their way out of basements and VFW halls and into proper music venues.

Sides' love of 8-bit music dates back to when he played the Mega Man games as a kid, but he says there's no way nostalgia accounts for more than a fraction of its general appeal. "It's kind of odd because I see a lot of young kids into it, but I don't think they care about the history of the genre or anything," he says. Then again, why wouldn't youngsters gravitate to the most simple, obnoxious sounds available, created on an instrument they built themselves?