Sam Van Meter @ The 5 Spot

Last night I had the rare opportunity of having a Thursday img_1865night off so I was invited to see a friend of a friend perform a short set at The 5 Spot in East Nashville. I had never been there to see live music before, only the DJs that spin Motown hits on Monday nights (and waiting in line for 12 hours to get a glimpse of Lady Gaga), so I was excited to see
Sam Van Meter play. Most people would say that he falls under the Americana genre but his style proves to be more than that. Even though he was the opening act as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter, he could sure fill up a room with his soul.

Sam is more than just a guitar player; he also plays the harmonica. When he straps that around his neck he gives a whole new layer to his sound. If Bob Dylan and Ray Lamontagne could have a love child you would get Sam Van Meter. His song “Told You Two Times” has a minimalist blues vibe very reminiscent of The Black Keys.

When Sam sings, it is clear that he feels every single word coming out of his mouth. His lyrics show true passion and vulnerability that is sometimes lost with other performers. You can see who Sam Van Meter is as a person just by listening to his songs. I had met Sam a few times prior to this performance but this was the first time I had ever heard him sing, and based on this set I can’t wait to hear more!

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Mandy Cook and the Bandies Live @ Gray’s On Main

Friday night could not have been more perfect for live music. It was the 1st of July and the weather was perfect. Summer had officially started and downtown Franklin was buzzing. Walking up to Gray’s On Main, the pharmacy turned restaurant/music venue, all I could hear were people talking about the Mandy Cook and the Bandies show there later that evening. I am glad I had a reserved seat because the place was packed. Downstairs is a cute little restaurant where you can tell it used to be a pharmacy. Upstairs, past the kitchen, is where the magic happens. There is a giant stage up high enough so everyone can see no matter where your seats are.

Usually I see Mandy perform as a solo act at Hotel Indigo in downtown Nashville, but this performance was such a treat. IMG_1293She had her full band with her (Junior Padilla on drums, Brodie Hutchins on guitar, James Westfall on keys, and Anthony Sallee on bass) and they filled in her songs so nicely. They played the majority of her album “See” (which you can get on itunes) as well as a few well selected covers. If you’d like a review of her album check out my blog post about her CD release party back in September.

There are a few songs that stood out to me the most. One of them was her acoustic version of “Space Oddity” by the incomparable David Bowie. It was raw and emotional and gave everyone goosebumps. IMG_1324The band rocked it with “Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley, and again with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner. My favorite performance of the night was her song “Mississippi Voodo.” I’ve heard her perform that dozens of times but never like this. The tempo was brought down and became more bluesy. She let James start the song off on keys and then added a guitar solo so Brodie could let loose. The whole band looked like they were having a blast playing that song. They all fed off each other nicely.

In between songs Mandy let her inner nerd out unapologetically and it was endearing as hell. It’s great when a musician can show who they really are on stage. One of the most moving songs of the evening is an unreleased song called “And Then There’s Us” which she dedicated to all of our veterans. She wrote this song after the Paris attacks a few months ago. It is a song that is especially pertinent in our social/political climate today. People were brought to tears, myself included.

After bringing the mood down a bit with that song she went for something completely different with another brand new unreleased song called “I’ll Do Me.” It’s a great upbeat song about parting ways with someone you once had a relationship with. Despite the subject matter it is still groovy and makes you want to dance. The last song that she sang with the full band was “Lauren.” Anthony started off with a dominant bass line and then the rest of the band filled in. Definitely a fun song.  13501900_10157140893075451_7583924313684937243_n

She ended the show by putting the guitar down and singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt with only Brodie accompanying her on guitar. It was refreshing to see her perform without the guitar. It was vulnerable and left the audience breathless.

I have seen many Mandy Cook performances but this was by far my favorite. The set list was designed perfectly and it was paired with a great and welcoming venue. Gray’s on Main does a fantastic job at showcasing the artists that play there. The sound is great and the ambiance captures the feeling you want when seeing a great live show.

T-Ran Gilbert Album Review for #TheImprint

Last night I got invited to an exclusive listening party by the President of 22Visionz Record Label for an album called The Imprint by Christian R&B artist named T-Ran Gilbert. I didn’t really know what to expect because I am not so familiar with the Christian music industry. I was sent some music via youtube and was very impressed so I accepted the invitation. It was an intimate setting with only 20 chairs set up for hand-picked people in the music industry. Out of all the sound engineers and radio personalities I was honored to be the only blogger there. I do apologize in advance for the lack of photographs as it was an exclusive event and no pictures/videos were allowed during the party. When I first walked in T-Ran was there to greet me with a handshake and a hug. We had never met before but it was like we were friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. He is a genuinely nice guy and he really believes in the message that his music is sending.

The album is called #TheImprint and it comes out everywhere on Monday 6/6/16. @TRanGilbert has historically been a Christian artist but this album is more mainstream. Now being a, let’s just say, non-Christian, I very much enjoyed this album. Most Christian music is too overtly spiritual for my taste but this album is something I would listen to in my car if I needed some positivity in my life. Each song sounds different. Although all of them mention spirituality in some way (some more blatant than others), there is no doubt in my mind that this album could make it to the mainstream R&B charts.

“Nowhere”, although written about different struggles in his own life, is dedicated to the awareness of sex trafficking around the world. You most definitely won’t find a song like this on the Christian charts. T-Ran is looking to change the game with this track. Most people in this state don’t know that there is a large slavery problem still alive and well in Tennessee. To learn more about what you can do to end sex trafficking here in your own state check out WhatIs13.com.

“Breathe” should definitely be a track that gets sent to every radio station. Although it is about a serious subject (and the video is yet another statement piece), it has a very catchy chorus that is easy to remember and will resonate with a lot of people whether they are spiritual or not. There is also a remixed version on the album but that is the only song we didn’t get to preview.

Most of the songs on #TheImprint can certainly be classified as R&B but “Hands Up” is more of a dope hip-hop dance track. To change the game even further the hardest rocking song on the album is called “Jesus.” This song is not R&B at all and is most unlike the others. It is a hard rock tune and there is a killer guitar solo right in the middle that will most certainly attempt to melt your face off.

“Miracle” is an acoustic track that was written when @trangilbert was just 13 years old. He shared with us that it is about his brother who got diagnosed with diabetes. He had a blood sugar level of over 900. Anything over 600 is considered fatal. But his brother was walking around fine with a deadly blood sugar level. But after a couple of days, he was seemingly cured and his levels went back down to within normal range. This song brought tears to all of our eyes as we envisioned a 13 year old boy begging God to save his brother’s life.

“Let Go” is probably my favorite song on the album. T-Ran calls it his summer single. It is dancey and catchy. This is the joint that will make T-Ran Gilbert a household name. Even though T-Ran has only been in Nashville for a short time, he will soon be known everywhere around town. His brand of Inspirational R&B will speak to everyone regardless of religion or lack thereof. Watch out Nashville! T-Ran is coming by storm!

T-Ran and me at Ocean Way Studio

T-Ran and me at Ocean Way Studio

Spiffy Squirrel Comedy Show @ The East Room Featuring Valerie Tosi

Everyone knows Nashville as “Music City” but what most people don’t know is there is an emerging comedy scene happening. Every week you can find an open mic or weekly comedy show at various venues around town with local and touring comics alike. One of these shows is the Spiffy Squirrel Comedy Show hosted by Chad Riden every Sunday night at The East Room from 6:30-8pm. IMG_0825First up to the mic was the Emcee, Chad Riden. Chad’s jaded look on life leads to his sarcastic comedy about his divorce, crazy family, and what it’s like living in Nashville. One of his many claims to fame is that he hosted and produced the #BrokenRecordShow at the East Room last year which was a non-stop 184 hour 16 minute long comedy show that more than doubled the Guinness World Book of Records for longest stand-up comedy show. He even joked about how even though that is an impressive feat, most adults don’t give a shit about it but his young nephews think that he is a God because his name is in the book. If Chad looks familiar to you, it might be because you’ve seen him on one of the various stages in dive bars around Nashville, or it’s because he ran (unsuccessfully) for Mayor of our fair city last year. If you would like to know when Chad will be performing around Nashville just follow him on twitter.

The first comic in the line up was the very funny Hannah Hogan. IMG_0848Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, Hannah is now a resident of Nashville. You may have seen her at Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern at one of their Monday night open mic comedy nights, or at one of the many festivals she has performed at this year including the Bird City Comedy Festival in Phoenix, AZ earlier this month. Her sweet demeanor plays off very well with her sometimes dark sense of humor. Her jokes ranged anywhere from what it’s like meeting new people to the abrupt death of her mother when she was a teenager. She has a knack for turning her tragic life events into a great comedy bit. Hannah’s next performances in Nashville will be at Acme Feed & Seed on Wednesday April 27th at 9pm and the Comedy Out the Yazoo at Zanie’s on Wednesday May 11th at 7:30pm. To see what Hannah is up to you can follow her on twitter.

Next in the line up was funny lady Katherine Jessup. IMG_0827Her set was a well thought out 10 minutes that drew from her real life experiences living in the nation’s capital. I related a lot to her jokes about what it’s like living on the east coast in a blizzard, being single, and being the “cool aunt” even though we all know that’s code for “most financially unstable.” She has also performed at the Bid City Comedy Festival earlier this month. You can see when she’s performing next by following her on twitter.

Before the headliner there was a “mystery guest” scheduled to perform and his name is Shane Torres.IMG_0834 Hailing from NYC Shane is a comedy force. You may know him from IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang, or his appearance on Conan. His set was hilarious. Like many comics, Shane battles depression and is not ashamed to talk about it. He uses comedy to help cope with it and he does a great job doing it. Despite that, one of the best moments in his set was when he came to the defense of celebrity chef Guy Fieri. His jokes about how people give Mr. Fieri so much shit about the way he dresses made the entire room laugh out loud in agreement. It was a great moment in the show. You can check out Shane and his next appearances by visiting his website or following him on twitter.

The last comic on deck was the headliner, and my personal friend, Valerie Tosi. IMG_0837Tosi, originally from a seaside town in Massachusetts, has spent the last several years living in LA persuing her dreams of becoming an actress and comedian. She hosts multiple shows each month including the all female Mermaid Comedy Hour and Volumizing Comedy Show. Her resume is extensive in many mediums including TV, web series, independent films, and several commercials. Wearing her so-called “Puss Pants” Valerie’s set was filled with bits about her stoner parents, drunken grocery shopping, online dating, what it was like being a former band geek and theater nerd, and even threw in some brand new material about her visit to Nashville. In such a short time, Valerie has accomplished so much and we hope that she will be back in Nashville soon. In the meantime, she will be performing back in LA when she’s not making people laugh at one of the many comedy festivals she was accepted to in 2016. You can follow Valerie on twitter to see where she will be performing.

 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered @ Soulshine

This weekend my friend asked me if I would go see a friend play in a Stevie Wonder cover band at Soulshine Pizza Factory. Now being that I love me some Stevie, of course I was down to go. It wasn’t even a question. With that being said, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, there is a reasonable expectation that a cover band is going to have a few gimmicks and is just going to play the hits to get people dancing. That was definitely NOT the case here. There were no gimmicks…just great music. And people were definitely dancing up something fierce! I don’t normally write about cover bands but this one was so good that I couldn’t not write about it. The musicians were fantastic individually but played together in the 9 piece ensemble like they’ve been touring together for years. After meeting the guitarist’s wife in the crowd we struck up a conversation and she informed me that they actually don’t gig all that much and that this wasn’t even the full band! I was kind of shocked. A band like this should be playing all over town. Each musician has their own project that they work on and it’s a treat when they can get together to play some sweet Stevie Wonder jams.

One of the most impressive players was their tenor sax player. IMG_0672I believe his name was Mickey Gutierrez (sorry if this is wrong, I was too in the moment to get all of their names). Not only did he crush it on sax, but he also slayed it on flute. When he wasn’t playing woodwinds, he was picking up the maracas, or the cowbell, or any other percussive instrument. He rarely stood still. If he wasn’t playing anything, he was dancing! Gutierrez was definitely fun to watch.

The other sax player (I didn’t catch his name, sorry!) was anything but JUST a sax player. As the frontman mentioned, he plays several instruments but on Saturday night he played keys, tenor sax, and harmonica. He was incredible on all three! This cat should be touring in major arenas with the talent he has. There is something special about a musician who is proficient on several instruments that are not similar to each other at all. If you want to hear a couple of snippets of his talent, you can watch a short snapchat (@no-h86) video I took here: 

and here: 

 

Now I know what you’re thinking, “those musicians are great but did the singer actually sound like Stevie?” And the answer is absolutely! He was great! Not only did he do Mr. Wonder justice but he was a great IMG_0667frontman even though he was sitting behind the keys the whole time. He commanded the stage and had great rapport with the audience. In between songs and introducing the band, he told stories of how he and some of the band members met which gave it a personal touch. As he introduced each member, he took a backseat and just let them rip on their solos. The percussion “drum off” between the latin drums and drum kit, along with the other solos, made “Superstition” last 15 minutes! He did a great job showcasing the other members.

I really hope this band gigs again soon! I really dug their sound and I think Stevie Wonder would have been proud. Not only did I enjoy the band, but I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere at Soulshine. This was my first time there and I will definitely be returning. The stage was large enough where the band didn’t seem crowded and the covered outdoor experience was perfect for the warm Spring air. I could hear the band down the street before walking in and it definitely let you know where the party was that night. The only criticism I have is the parking situation. We did have to drive around a few times to find some (free) parking on a side street, but it wasn’t that far from the venue. Either way, Soulshine is definitely a great way to spend a Saturday night! And Signed, Sealed, Delivered definitely delivered!

As always you can follow me on twitter and instagram to see when a new blog is going to be posted.

The Double A Octet featuring Tommy Keenum @ The Family Wash

When I entered The Family Wash on Friday evening it was already packed. There was an hour wait for a table and everybody was in a great mood. People were laughing and eating, and those who weren’t were tapping their feet to the music. I took up residence at the corner of the bar while I watched and listened to The Double A Octet‘s jazzy tunes. The vibe in there was pretty great. This was the first time I had been to the new location since they moved to Main St. in East Nashville. The jazz band is lead by Roy Agee (trombone) and his good friend Chris Autry (bass). Most of the charts were written by Mr. Agee and they were arranged beautifully.

When I walked in they were about to start one of the many jazz standards in their repertoire, “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra. Frequently the band features Mr. Tommy Keenum when they need vocals.IMG_0379 (1) His crooning style fit perfectly with the band. The octet (really 9 members plus Tommy) sounded like they’ve been playing together for years and have a really professional and polished sound to them. Throughout the 2 hour set there were solos by Steve Patrick on trumpet, Evan Cobb on tenor sax, Sam Levine on alto sax, and Roy Agee on trombone. In between numbers Roy would grace us with a joke or two.

Even though this is an octet, one of the charts that stood out to me most was when Tommy sang “My Funny Valentine” only accompanied by Chris Autry on bass. As a bass player myself it was really cool to hear that be the main, and only, instrument featured in a song. You can tell that this ensemble was very well thought out and put together. Each member exudes musicianship and professionalism. I would definitely see this band again.