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Home & Away: Culture Bully

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Blue Walrus Music Blog

Maybe it’s the sharp contrast to the sub-zero temperatures which I found myself in a mere seven months ago, or maybe it’s the generally relaxed feeling that resonates throughout the city, but whatever it is Nashville seems to be giving me what I’ve been looking for. Coincidentally, it appears that I’m not the only one who has taken a liking to the city as a few major outlets have recently profiled its burgeoning underground music scene. In her profile of the city and its artists, Nylon Magazine’s Rebecca Davis explained, “From honky tonks on Broadway to the house parties hidden down side streets, this Southern metropolis makes good on the nickname Music City.” She continued, “What you won’t learn from a Taylor Swift song is that Nashville also has a thriving community of designers, artists, and entrepreneurs who have turned it into the coolest city you’ve never visited.” Spin Magazine’s Nicole Keiper recently compiled a similar story, concluding that “Outside the Grand Ole Opry, a young indie rock scene is blossoming.” And one of the voices which has stood out to me thus far has been that of Tristen Gaspadarek (Bandcamp/Myspace). The 26-year old Chicago native and her band recreate a sound that genuinely communicates both a relaxed southern warmth and a rootsy classic-rock vibe. On the surface the description might sound a tad generic, but it was a recent live show of hers that completely won me over.

On their way through the city recently, the Black Cab Sessions crew set up shop at a local record store (Grimey’s) and the small club that resides beneath it (The Basement). Tristen was chosen as one of the select few acts to perform during the showcases; actually, Tristen was the only act to perform at both the afternoon and evening shows. Sandwiched between the Altered Statesmen and Daniel Pujol (who recently released the Jack White-produced “Too Safe“), Tristen owned the night, attracting the evening’s largest turnout and loudest response. Rolling through the short set, which included the three tracks on her “Eager For Your Love” 7″ (which I happily took home with me), I found myself standing at the back of the club in a remarkably odd state, somewhere between confused and turned on. Watching Tristen’s eyes glow as she strummed away at her guitar, there were moments when her voice cracked with emotion and bled a comparison which I dread making: hyperbole notwithstanding, the last time I recall seeing the same expression on a vocalist’s face was when I last watched some archived Janis Joplin footage. As ridiculous as that might sound, that’s what honestly ran through my head in that moment. I can only imagine that as the new year looms, so too does the inevitable success that awaits the unassuming vocalist and her band.

Principal member of the drum and bass group Bad Company, electronic veteran DJ Fresh (Twitter/Facebook) was one of the names that found a home on my stereo for much of the past year due to a couple of key tracks: particularly “Gold Dust,” and his collaboration with Sigma, “Lassitude.”

Primarily my interest in the English DJ was influenced by the stunning music videos which accompany the two tracks, but with such a phenomenal sound serving as the base for the clips I can’t help but hope for more of the like in 2011.

[This article was first published at The Blue Walrus.]