“We’ve had a long year at WMOT waiting to have some live events, and to look in there and see all those people rockin’ out with Christone “Kingfish” Ingram makes me ascendant. I feel like this great weight has been lifted off. We’re turning the corner on this stuff, and we’re going to be back with live music.”
This was Val Hoeppner, Executive Director of WMOT radio in Nashville, who co-sponsored the AmericanaFest weekend event at Eastside Bowl with NPR’s World Cafe. The brand new venue and bowling alley, which had yet to open its doors to the public, saw acts from Sierra Ferrell, Hayes Carll, Early James, Michaela Anne, Brandy Clark, and several others over the course of the weekend.
When asked what makes AmericanaFest so special, Hoeppner said, “What really makes AmericanaFest special is that the music loving community comes out and supports all of us. We’re a public radio station at WMOT, and you know Brandy Clark is an artist, and they support us equally in these things. You can go to any venue on any night and see the same kind of love and support.”
As far as the radio station’s mission, Hoeppner said, “We are a music discovery station here at WMOT. And we always say our mission is to help people discover new music, to build community around that music, and give people up close live music experiences.”
And that’s exactly what transpired on this sunny Friday afternoon.
The old K Mart stood no chance to the charm of the brand new Eastside Bowl, which is the new locale from the folks that once brought Nashville The Family Wash. Construction was still underway on the outside, and I caught the men in the crane putting the Eastside Bowl signage up. Things were still very fresh at this sparkling new establishment that is sure to reel in a unique crowd.
The swanky semi-psychedelic bowling pin carpet and vivid, funky lanes conjured images of The Big Lebowski. On one side of the swirling multi-colored carpet were the sparkling clean lanes, and on the other side was the bar and venue.
The heavy rock and blues came to a fever pitch as I moseyed in, and I first checked the immediate entrance to weasel my way in to watch, but it was thick with patrons. I then checked the second door on the other end, and that was worse.
I eventually slithered my way through the bodies and found a nook along the wall by the sound guys and proceeded to watch Ingram bring the damn house down with his stellar guitar playing and booming, soulful voice. It was all the things one could want out of blues rock: bits of Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters- you name it, Ingram and his band brought it.
“This song’s dedicated to everybody who’s in a long distance relationship,” Ingram says before rifling off a heavy distorted riff leading to his track “Long Distance Woman.”
Ingram would get a standing ovation from the dense semi-circle of onlookers, many pushing themselves out of their Adirondack chairs to hoot, holler, whistle, and clap. And boy did he deserve it.
A tough act to follow, Canadian bluegrass-noir band The Dead South would give it their all.
The four amigos dressed like a mix of undertakers, barbers, and saloon workers from Tombstone, Arizona, circa 1881, when in reality their native turf is Regina, Saskatchewan. But by God none of that matters when the group gets to performing, as their music and stage act was most entertaining.
The quartet worked seamlessly in tandem with one another, often howling haunting harmonies over top spooky minor chord progressions with lots of abrupt and exciting tempo changes. They definitely blur the lines between punk bluegrass, traditional bluegrass, and their own macabre old timey musical concoction.
The band has a massive YouTube presence, with videos garnering millions and millions of views, one being their 2016 video for “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company,” which showcases their signature style chock full of snaps and whistles. For this tune, all but the bass player cracked open a beverage in front of the mic one after another in a fun percussive move leading into the tune.
Other names on the docket that day were Brandy Clark, (hence Hoeppner’s quote) Jackson+Sellers, and Sue Foley. I missed a majority of the acts that played at Eastside Bowl given the smorgasbord of shows happening all over, but I can’t think of a better christening for the new venue and bowling alley than the acts that played at AmericanaFest. It will be of no surprise when Eastside Bowl becomes the buzz about town.
People can support the valiant music and community efforts of WMOT by becoming a member at www.WMOT.org and clicking the red donate button.