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September 11, 2017

Geekdom Comes (Back) to the Music City: Wizard World Comic Con Nashville

After a year away from the Music City, Wizard World Comic Con arrived back in Nashville, and better than ever for 2017.

Their return didn’t disappoint as cult heroes like Brian O’ Halloran and Jason Mewes from “Clerks” fame were in attendance, as well as living legends the likes of Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek) and Sam Jones (Flash Gordon), and lest we forget the living legend of all living legends; the creator of some of the most iconic comic book characters; Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, the list goes on: Mr. Stan Lee.

Lee entertained the Sunday crowd in Music City Center’s Davidson Hall, taking questions from the audience, including his favorite Marvel cameo, here’s a hint, it’s when he gets kicked out of a bar after a little too much to drink. Lee was also gifted a comic book by one fan. The young man, Chris, stepped to the mic, called Lee his hero, and offered up a book that he wrote himself to Lee who took the book and offered his gratitude. Lee’s only concern was that it would one day outsell Marvel to the audience’s delight.

Stan the Man himself

His sly sense of humor bordered on self-depreciating to dry as a desert well. The crowd hung on every word and genuinely enjoyed his words of wisdom including this little nugget:

“Keep writing….the more you write, the better you get. And write stuff that you like. Don’t write something that you figure, ‘eh, that’s not bad, but they won’t like it.’ You never know who they are, and what their taste is. But you know you’re own taste. So always write something that you think is great, and the chances are that there are other people with the same kind of taste. So always write for yourself as your audience and write stuff where you say ‘Boy, that’s good.'”

Be a Raconteur

Another highlight was the teaching and overall personality of Victor Dandridge, who played hype-man before the start of Stan Lee’s arrival in Davidson Hall, but also hosted the “U Cre-8 Comics” panel. Dandridge, a Ohio native, took the audience through the steps of creating their own superhero or super villain with the help of a handy book, essentially a guide to let your creativity run wild. You can find Dandridge’s guide HERE, and start creating your own world-saving hero, or city-conquering villain.

Still the best Batmobile

The showroom was a testament to commerce, autographs, photo-ops, cosplayers, and several dozen exhibitors. Guests were also treated to replicas of the 1989 Batmobile, amongst other iconic vehicles, and sculptures of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man as you entered the main showroom. 

Hulk Smash

The main stage offered great music from the likes of local Nashvillians “Hey, Listen!,” who performed jazzy renditions of iconic video game music, introduced by none other than Kato Kaelin, who played MC all weekend, greeting guests and of course ribbing when ribbing was needed.

Signed by Jeremy Scott himself

If music wasn’t your bag, you could also play some trivia along with CinemaSins, the Nashville-bred YouTube mega hit. Being a film buff, I had to give it a shot, and I ended up a big winner! While the guys from CinemaSins certainly have their detractors, you can look at one recent spat with the director of “Kong: Skull Island,” they are genuine film lovers, and in getting to meet Barrett Share, one of the hosts of The Sincast, he offered some great advice about podcasting, releasing content, and how to grow an audience. It just goes to show you that in a world filled with so many podcasts, film reviews resources, and video content, there is a still a sense of community with those who have common interests and goals. 

With 2017’s Wizard World Comic Con in the books, you have to wonder where the event goes next year. Nashville continues to grow, and the need for bigger events grows with it. While the guest list was a who’s who of pop culture and sports entertainment, fans will continue to expect much more year after year. It’s clear that Nashville has the audience and the fandom needed to continue to grow the event, so it will be exciting what will be in line for 2018.

To find out where the next Wizard World Con will be heading, click HERE.

May 8, 2017

Pixies ‘Mutilate’ The Ryman in Nashville, May 5th 2017

Being in a city that is filled to the brim with musical on a nightly basis, you have to pick your battles and take advantage of the chances you get to see as many acts as possible.

I’ve learned this rather quickly living in Nashville, TN.

Living in South Florida I became complacent and came to terms with the fact that I was likely never able to see bands that I admire and have been listening to for years simply because of geographic discrimination. Unless I was willing to drive several hours, I was going to be stuck with a small pool of shows to pick from. That isn’t to say that I didn’t see several acts I really enjoyed in Florida, but living in Nashville has given me the chance to see acts I probably wouldn’t have been able to see without going the distance. This bring me to the Pixies, one of the seminal bands of the mid-to-late 1980s, a band that inspired Nirvana and so many other acts that created the angst-ridden grunge landscape that so many people lament about to this day.

Two special things happened on May 5th 2017; I saw the Pixies live for the first time and I also attended a concert in one of the oldest music venues in the United States, the Ryman Auditorium. There is something about the venue, the Ryman, where you feel a sense of history and a ghostly aura that hovers around the room. Legends have played there, new and old, and just being able to see a band that helped build a movement in music, even 30 years into their careers, is something very special.

The quartet consisting of Guitarist/Vocalist, Black Francis, Lead Guitar, Joey Santiago, Drummer, David Lovering, and Bassist, Paz Lenchantin, took the stage and began their set with arguably their most well-known song, ‘Where is My Mind,’ which most notably plays during the end credits of the film ‘Fight Club.’ The eeriness infected the venue as people sang along, swayed back and forth as it put the crowd in a trance. It personally almost brought me to tears.

The nearly 2-hour set consisted of fan favorites such as “Debaser” “Caribou” and “Wave of Mutilation,” as well as a healthy dose of new material from their 2016 album “Head Carrier.” The set was paced well and the band just came out and played music. No interludes, no crowd interaction, just two hours of music from their entire music catalog.

If you’re just seeing the Pixies for the first time, you of course are seeing the band with their new bassist, Lenchantin, instead of Kim Deal, the band’s original bassist. Of course I’ve seen numerous concert performances on TV and online, and both women hold their own, but seeing Lenchantin move on stage, she certainly had an aura about her in the way she moves and her vocals are the perfect foil to Black’s raspy offerings. While it would have been great to see Deal on the bass, and a treat to see “Gigantic” live, which is something that might not be done live anymore, seeing a new energy on stage with Lenchantin looks like it’s breathing new life into the band.

In addition to to the excellent set and acoustics, the light rigging was a welcome addition. It set the tone for several of the songs, and gave the entire performance more of a theatrical feel. The lighting told a story almost as much as the the music itself. It was the fifth member of the Pixies, if you will.

From fan favorites, to new material, May 5th’s show at The Ryman was a concert that I won’t soon forget. Seeing a band that has been putting out trendsetting music for over 30 years and still evolving isn’t something you see too often anymore, and despite the turmoil in recent years, it’s still great to see a band that is galvanized by one thing; the music and the crowd.

January 18, 2017

‘Run the Jewels’ Run a Marathon in Nashville

Some of the comments in this post will not behoove the irony of what they can be taken as, namely the fact that a well known hip-hop duo like Killer Mike and El-P, collectively, Run the Jewels, was widely attending by an all-white crowd.

This is not meant to be inflammatory at all, it’s just a very basic, and simplistic, observation where I was surrounded by a crowd of people that are my skin color. It makes me think of where hip-hop is going and is there an issue with the way shows like this are being advertised. Is it the pricing of the show, is it the venue, which ironically enough is located in a historically black neighborhood. It just made me think since it’s a paradox that hip-hop has had such a far-reaching effect on the Caucasian community who come out in droves to support artists.

Personally, I’ve always loved hip-hop from an early age; my first tape was “The Chronic,” which was confiscated by my parents despite the fact that they were the one’s that bought it for me, and my love for the genre grew over the years. Until about 2008, which to me so the death of hip-hop for many years. It was a wasteland of just bad music that coincidentally all sounded the same. So shit, on shit, on shit…it wasn’t “boom bap,” it was poop shit (yes, very grade-schooler of me).

Luckily, more artists like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Action Bronson have come along, as well as the return of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, hip hop is on the upswing, somewhat, but nothing in my opinion matches the intensity of the super group of Killer Mike, known widely for his contributions to The Dungeon Family and Outkast, and El-P, producer supreme and one of the founders of Company Flow, who formed Run the Jewels back in 2013.

Overall, their performance at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works was a grand success. The crowd was into it, the vibe was communal, and the duo of El-P and Killer Mike is one that is tailor made for a road movie about two buddies, one having just broken up with his significant other, and the other wants to get him out of the slump. The two get along that well on stage that I would love to see them star in something together.

There were some low points to the show of course. While the openers were fine, including two DJs, Nick Hook and Gaslamp Killer, and two MCs, Cuz Lightyear and Gangsta Boo, the former a member of Three Six Mafia, the sets went on a little to longer, but that’s not discounting the effort that they put in for the crowd. The audio fidelity was also a little suspect at certain points of the show. Maybe the bass was just a little too much for the venue to handle. Add some extended feedback hi-jinks which had my ears ringing, and that was the short of the qualms I had with the show, which really isn’t that bad to be honest.

The show in it’s entirety ran nearly four hours, which is a lot of hip-hop to squeeze into one night, and Run the Jewels’ set went for what seemed nearly 90-minutes of high energy rhymes. However, while the verbal intercourse was something to behold, there was also the message that the group, namely El-P wanted to get across. It’s no surprise that El-P and Killer MIke aren’t fans of our incoming 45th President of the United States, and the crowd was clearly behind him. But there was also a message of peace and hope. El-P explained that it was amazing to see so many people out late on a Tuesday night for a Run the Jewels show. He also told the crowd to look around and see the types of people in the room. This was a community of people who were all there for a simple purpose; to enjoy an amazing show. A community of like-minded individuals. A community of neighbors. The main point is that we are all one community, no matter what walk of life we might come from. This heartfelt message was in stark comparison to the fact that he just called our incoming president a “c*nt” and a few other choice words, and he also joked about this getting out and the Trump tweet that would likely follow. It hasn’t just yet of course.

Overall, seeing a group like Run the Jewels is a treat for anyone. It features to luminaries of hip-hop at the top of their game, while acts like Drake or Migos or Future off nothing more tales of drugs, bougie broads, or elementary school raps, El-P and Killer Mike are offering a sampling of conscience rap with an injection of the surreal and that same braggadocios-style that has been a hallmark of hip-hop since LL Cool J exclaimed “I’m Bad!”

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