Monday, December 29, 2014

Return to Rippy's

October 16, 2014 was the day Paul McCartney came to Nashville to play at Bridgestone Arena.

WannaBeatle Dennis, who seems to have an abundance of good ideas, thought that Paul's concert would be a great opportunity for us to welcome him back to town with a concert of our own at Rippy's, at the corner of Broadway and 5th Avenue. 

It would be a "Welcome Back, Paul" party. A portion of the proceeds would benefit the W.O. Smith School. There would be a psychedelic Love Bus arriving on 5th Avenue, containing dancers who would pour out of the bus onto the street in front of the Arena for a spontaneous flash mob dance, while the sounds of "Twist and Shout" reverberated from the rooftop of Rippy's. We would be introduced by a local television personality, even show up on the evening news. Yes, all this and more...but first, let's go back...

It was a return engagement for us. Back in 2009, we had played the rooftop of Rippy's to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' final public performance as a group, which occurred January 30, 1969 on top of the Apple Records building in London.

Our rooftop show in Nashville was not nearly so cold (mid 40's.) We were written up in the Tennesean, covered on local tv, and taped by a team of videographers from Watkins Institute.

Here's a copy of the article about the show from nearly six years ago:

Many things have changed since then. The Sommet Center has been renamed Bridgestone Arena. Rippy's has installed a tent cover, tables, heaters, and a stage, and now offers music every day on their rooftop. WannaBeatle Jim has left, and WannaBeatle Nathan has joined. 

Rippy's new look includes a steady stream of country performers, doing the typical entertainment on lower Broad. 
Looking toward stage through sports banners 
suspended from beams
Setting up on our small stage
Another view of the stage on Rippy's rooftop
The view across Broadway, looking north, 
toward Tootsie's and The Ryman
Here's David setting up his drums, with a view of Bridgestone

Dennis's planning involved contacting dancers at Belmont who would not only work up a dance routine, but also arrive together on board the "Big Love Bus," which we had first encountered at a previous gig (see "TPAC and Cool Springs Pt. 2, Nov. 11)

Here's the photo of us with the Big Love Bus, at our gig September 18.
And now, here's what the dancers looked like on Oct. 16, 
riding inside the Big Love Bus.
And here they are, as Big Love Bus parked on 5th Avenue, disembarking at the Arena

But, wait, you may be wondering.... how did the Big Love Bus find a parking place on Fifth Avenue downtown at rush hour?

That's where WannaBeatle Dennis shows his skills as an event coordinator. He cleared all the necessary bureaucratic channels to secure us a guaranteed parking space at the time we needed it. 

He even secured professional traffic cones for us to use. This became Bloggin' Bryan's opportunity to learn about a company called Blinker Lite, which provides traffic cones all over Nashville for construction companies and official DOT sites. 

Dennis had called Blinker Lite, securing three brand new bright orange rubber traffic cones for our use, which I picked up, since the company is located in my west Nashville neighborhood. Because our event was officially a charity event, benefitting W.O.Smith School, Blinker Lite was willing to donate the cones.

It was such an unusual assignment to discover Blinker Lite and pick up the traffic cones that I proudly took a "selfie" in the car on my way to the gig, while the brand new cones showed up in my rear view mirror. 

And here's how they looked on Fifth Avenue, preparing for the arrival of the Big Love Bus.
While we were down on the street, we took advantage of the opportunity to pose for a photo.
Here's a view from Rippy's rooftop: the bus is for us, 
the several semi trucks are for the McCartney show

Here we are, ready to start, 
with Rhori Johnston of Channel 5 news, who introduced us

And here are the dancers as they assembled in front of the Arena
Here they are, adoring the cardboard cutout of Paul
 Here are the dancers onstage with us
And here's one next to Nathan
More evidence of tumultuous energy 
from the dancers joining us onstage
We also had a special guest artist join us, singer/educator Suzahn Fiering, who was recently given an "Honored Friend Award" by Sir Paul himself, for her work with the Liverpool Performing Arts Institute.

We had our good friend Allan Waugh with us running sound. And plenty of friends in the audience, from Richard Courtney to Lucy Hart and members of the Beatles Meetup Group. It was a great show.
Saying goodnight at the Big Love Bus as they pull away.

If Paul came over to see us, he did a great job of keeping his presence a secret. We understand his show that night went pretty well too.

And both of us made the news that night, on Channel 5. 

Here's the youtube link:

Welcome back Paul. You can play Nashville any time you want. Thanks to Rhori Johnston for introducing us, Rippy's for making room in their schedule, Suzahn for singing with us, the Belmont Dancers for adding so much energy, The Big Love Bus for one-of-a-kind transportation, and Blinker Lite for the finest traffic cones we've ever used.

Bloggin' Bryan 29December2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Battle of the Bands

The WannaBeatles were invited to help judge a Battle of The Bands at the Capitol Theater in Lebanon. The event was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 11. 

The WannaBeatles already had a presence at the Capitol Theater. We had played there last year, and were scheduled to do another concert a few weeks after this October event.

As it turned out, only one WannaBeatle was available to participate - Bloggin' Bryan. And so I went to The Capitol Theater representing The WannaBeatles; not as a performer, but as a judge, observing other performers.

In the process, I got to learn more about the Capitol Theater, from speaking to Bob Black, the owner, who has put a lot of energy and attention into beautifying the building since 2010 when he bought it.

Here's how it looked from the street as the evening began.

Art deco lighting in the ceiling - part of the makeover.

Bob told me about the adventure of finding art deco light fixtures that would enhance the classic style of the building. Searching on the internet, he found some antique overhead lamps that had been made in Germany in 1939, then installed in a theater in Oakland, California in 1941. He bought them from the theater in Oakland and had them shipped to Lebanon.

Bob has been working with other marketing people to find ways to put the 450-seat Capitol Theater to use. Amy Harris is the entertainment booker who brought in The WannaBeatles. Melody VanNus is their publicist who came up with the idea for Battle of The Bands. 

Another creative use of the theater was an interactive lecture by leadership coach John Maxwell, who was speaking in Atlanta, while his talk was simulcast in the theater, with attendees paying $99 for a ticket.

Bob is a jazz fan, and has people like pianist Beejee Adair, trumpeter Rod McGaha, and vocalist Jamie Paul perform at the Capitol. He reports Rod McGaha likes it so much he wants to come back to record his live album at The Capitol.

And of course, the Capitol Theater still shows classic movies. The lobby is decorated with classic posters, like this one from Elvis.

The Battle of the Bands was designed to showcase the musical diversity of the region. Four finalists were selected to perform, from a wide variety of musical genres.

On this particular evening, the lobby also had tables for the four artists to display their CDs and other souvenirs. 

Capitol lobby with merch tables along right side
J Collins table
Callie McKinney merch table
Voodoo Prophet merch table

The judges were assigned to a table in the back of the theater, right in front of the sound booth. I was treated to hospitality, in the form of a soda and popcorn.
"Reserved for Judges" and popcorn
hostess Danielle, married to soundman Josh

I was one of two judges. The other one, sitting beside me at the table, was Phillip Craighead, the Mayor of Lebanon. 

We were given forms to fill out for each act, rating performers in a variety of categories like "originality" and "stage presence" with a number from 1 to 6. 

The first to perform was J Collins, a country artist based in Florida. He wears jeans and a cowboy hat, and a denim jacket with his logo on the back. He brought his own band to back him up, and they came to rock. 
J Collins CD cover

J approaches his time onstage like a rock singer, with lots of energetic moves to get the crowd excited. He writes his own material, and works hard, both as a performer and as an independent promoter of his own career. He's already released two independent self-produced CDs of original material. 

The next act up was a complete change of pace, a Christian pop singer named Callie McKinney. Part of her charm was revealed spontaneously when the sound system was being tweaked for a few minutes before she started her first song - she just spoke to the audience like a casual friend, standing behind her piano, never showing any frustration, but never losing her focus about what she was doing there. 

When they finally started, she was unfazed by the delay, and delivered a pure vocal performance over her delicate songs. Callie's three-piece band included her younger brother on drums and harmony vocals, whose long curly locks resembled hers, and evoked a bit of Robert Plant. 
During a break between sets, Paula Hamblen, the manager, introduced the judges, which led to a mention of The WannaBeatles.  
General manager and stage announcer, Paula Hamblen

And they played our video "We Wanna Meet Paul," both to promote our (then) upcoming concert at The Capitol (Nov. 14), and to promote our upcoming appearance at Rippy's in downtown Nashville, across the street from the Bridgestone Arena, to celebrate Paul McCartney's appearance there October 16.

But that's another blog. Or two.

The third act was pure heavy metal, a group called Voodoo Prophet. They had elaborate stage setup, with three banners draped across the full width of the stage.

When they started, they were loud, and tight as could be. Their lead singer growled like Cookie Monster with laryngitis. They executed their metal licks with fanatical precision, even flinging their long hair together in time with the music. 

They ran into the audience with their wireless guitars, and worked at maximum energy to deliver their show and engage the audience. It was quite a sight to see, and they rated high marks for their professionalism.

Photographer Jim Young caught some photos of the evening, including this shot of the bass player from Voodoo Prophet getting into it.

The last act to play was another complete change of pace: The Blues Brokers, a local R&B show band, with a horn section and several singers. 

Their musical focus was classic soul music and some early horn-based rock songs, like Chicago's "Twenty Five or Six to Four." They were good at what they do, and did a great job with the Blues Brothers material, but because they were covering older songs, they lost points for originality.

Phillip and I were aware of our predicament as judges: we were scoring all the acts fairly high, because they were all very professional in their own way. How could we pick a winner?

When Paula, the manager who was hosting the show, gathered our score sheets and prepared to announce the winner, she mentioned how close the scores were. She even paused to invite audience cheering to break a tie between Callie McKinney and Voodoo Prophet. It was very close, but the final prize of $1000 went to Callie McKinney.

Thanks to Bob, Paula, Melody, Amy, Josh, Danielle, photographer Jim Young, the musical performers and all the other folks who help make The Capitol Theater such a special place. We're glad to play there, and glad to support the Battle of the Bands.

Bloggin' Bryan 14Dec2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Columbia By Bike

On Saturday October 4, The WannaBeatles played Puckett's in Columbia.
Here's the hand-painted sign they put in their window.

Columbia is a charming town with its dignified courthouse on the square, like so many other Southern towns. It was a beautiful afternoon when we arrived.
The view of the courthouse 
from the sidewalk outside of Puckett's.

One thing that made this particular gig different was the presence of our "paperback writer," Sally Burbank. 

Sally, the wife of WannaBeatle Nathan, is also a doctor and a writer. In addition to various magazine articles and Chicken Soup for the Soul contributions, she has written and published her first full-length book, "Patients I Will Never Forget." 

Here's what it looks like:
It's available at Amazon.

The book was released a few months ago, and we're happy to support Sally by offering her book at our merch table, alongside our tee shirts and bumper stickers.
Dr. Sally and Nathan bringing books into Puckett's

Sally's book being out also gives us a reason to play 
"Paperback Writer," another cool Beatles song.

To make the evening even more memorable, Sally decided to ride her bike from Nashville to Columbia that afternoon. That's over forty miles, which is no small amount of exercise.

Nathan was her driver - the guy who spotted her in Columbia, and offered her a ride for the final mile of her journey. 

Puckett's is nice enough to serve us dinner when we play there. This time, as we gathered around the table, we got to hear Sally's account of negotiating the various traffic patterns and construction sites along Highway 31 between Nashville and Columbia.

Some people think the music business is rough, but the example of a doctor who publishes her own book and tackles a forty-mile bicycle ride makes us look pretty wimpy.
David and Nathan setting up onstage at Puckett's

We had a good night. We were proud to play "Paperback Writer" and announce Sally's new book. And we feel healthier, and a little bit exhausted, just thinking about that long bike ride.

Bloggin' Bryan 2December2014