Red and blue lights shone down illuminating the 3rd and Lindsley Pearl bass drum being kicked by Andrew Zehnal, along with the rest of rock and roll band Hollis Brown.
I got situated at a table towards the mid-left of this storied Music City venue about halfway through their set. Based on what I was hearing, I scolded myself for not getting there earlier.
Hollis Brown is a 5-piece band from Queens, New York, and brought their high energy rock along with them. “Faith and love and everything and God knows what,” lead singer Mike Montali refrained. Being the philosophical type, I wondered if that pertained to me, and if I had some internal reflection to do. It was then I spotted the drink menu. I’d keep it modest with a bottle of PBR.
The next tune brought some upbeat, heavy hitting rock and roll, what with Montali breaking out the tambourine and boosting percussion. It was abundantly clear these guys knew the meaning of a hook, as they delivered with all kinds of catchy riffs and lyrics. A bit of an El Camino Black Keys feel.
Then, out of the clear blue, like an asteroid falling to earth, they seamlessly transitioned to the instrumental portion of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” That widened my eyes and tickled my classic rock funny bone just nice.
It was then I thought to myself had this band been based in say Buffalo or maybe Orlando, they’d be the premiere act in a 50-mile radius. But in Nashville (even though they’re not based here), bands like these get taken for granted because there’s just an endless flood of great music night in and night out.
Then it was time for the headliner and local favorite, Creature Comfort. The delightful MC, Annie from Lightning 100, rattled off the night’s sponsors (New Amsterdam, Goose Island, and Sound Royalties) before thanking Hollis Brown and delivering a proper introduction to the band.
Then I read the words “Hot Ham Sandwich” and “Gumbo” and really had to exhibit restraint. It was beers only tonight, I promised myself. I read the descriptions of several more entrees and felt like I had two devils dancing on each shoulder whispering the fixings to me. Focus, Paul.
I noticed the lone clean-shaven, shorthaired guitarist (Charlie Hickerson) rocking what looked like a faded Steve McNair jersey- rightfully paying homage to the Titans titanic slaying of the villains of the NFL known as the New England Patriots. Fare thee well, old man Brady. The other three gentlemen in the front looked like they could be brothers, what with their longer brown hair and beards to match. (Jessey Clark – Vocals/Guitar, Cole Bearden- Bass, and Alex Robinson- Multi-instrumentalist)
Creature Comfort declares themselves as “bootgaze,” or “Fleet Foxes for people who bail hay.” Consider me curious.
The band has been a staple in Nashville’s indie rock scene for the majority of the 2010’s, having been part of Lightning 100’s Music City Mayhem a few times, which saw them go on to play Live on the Green this past year, and Bonnaroo in 2017.
After a humble introduction, the gentle and dream-like electric guitar picking accompanied with Clark’s vocals started the show, which swelled into full instrumentation and an epic opener. Then came the punch of a heavy rock riff that demanded the attention of all, if it wasn’t already there. The boys were just getting warmed up now.
As songs went on, I was reminded a bit of Jim James and My Morning Jacket, though maybe a bit more condensed and rock-forward: nonetheless delightfully melodic, harmonious, and tight, with epic bridges, breakdowns, and rhythmic changes. They maintain an expansive range without getting in over their heads, and it’s clear they work hard at their craft. I enjoyed the role Robinson played as the Wild Card, holding down acoustic, keyboard, and banjo duties to shake things up. And I musn’t forget drummer Taylor Cole, who with his long platinum blonde hair mastered his way through the kit all night long, hair a-flailing.
They played all kinds of old and new material, including “Heartstrings,” “Teeth For Days,” and delivered a taste of “Big, Buff, and Handsome,” which will be released on their upcoming 2020 album Home Team.
For what seemed like their last song, they brought up a female fiddle player whose name I missed, and played another dream-like picking tune akin to the opener, this time with the beautiful tone of a fiddle. “Should we do one more?” Clark asked afterwards, knowing the answer.
They closed out the night with another classic of theirs, “All My Friends,” which was met with uproarious cheers from the attentive, statuesque silhouettes in front of me. This closed out an epic night of tight-knit rock and roll.
Creature Comfort is the kind of band that fits for most any occasion. You can put them on a work playlist, shower playlist, road playlist, competitive Chess playlist- the possibilities are endless and fitting. It’s no wonder they grow more and more popular in the indie Nashville scene.
Clark and the guys were super humble and modest, and displayed a definite likability. It was a pleasure to watch and listen to them play, and as a mere button-tapper with a love of quality music, I’d implore readers to stay in tune with what they’ve got going on.