photos + words by Kevin Brown
On any given night in Nashville, an individual may be faced with an overwhelming array of options for live music. In fact, as I’ve learned in over a year of living here, this crushing weight occurs not only on any given night, but almost every given night.
Situated just a few blocks away from the renowned honky tonks and wide-eyed buskers down on Broadway, the Cannery Row complex typically offers three distinct options at three separate venues in the same building. Here, in this night captured for DOJO ZINE, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Mitski’s current US tour with the Bostonians of Palehound and PWR BTTM hit the complex’s smallest room, The High Watt, while a weekly free showcase of local musicians took place across a corridor at Mercy Lounge and – yes, they’re still around – pop punk veterans Motion City Soundtrack played downstairs at the massive Cannery Ballroom.
However, as most of you know, not every show just happens. Before I get to the venue, I try to confirm the best possible time to show up with Mitski via text, who ends her initial message by stating that the group of people she’s on tour are “pretty chill.” This doesn’t surprise me, in fact, no band or musician that I’ve been around in a backstage capacity has been anything but pretty chill.
For Mitski and the gang, their pre-show rituals are mostly mundane, an opportunity for relaxation and organization being seized to varying degrees. Once I get to the venue, Mitski greets me in a Drake homaging “Worst Behavior” sweatshirt and promptly jumps behind the merch table to roll up shirts with the title of her excellent 2014 album (Bury Me At Makeout Creek) emblazoned on them. While doing this, she’s also catching up with a college friend from SUNY Purchase, who has since moved to Nashville to pursue a career in songwriting. Though this is a necessary part of most touring musicians’ agenda, Mitski is kind enough to break the necessity for a few moments to take me backstage to meet the rest of the musicians.
None of the six others in The High Watt’s relatively cramped backstage area are knee deep in fabric, but they’re each engaged in some sort of phase of preparation. While Palehound drummer Jesse Weiss catches up on some reading, PWR BTTM are discussing the complexities of a rumor involving Justin Bieber and One Direction. Mostly, they all just come across as a group of friends hanging out before they have to go to work.
Shortly after I excuse myself to go smoke a cigarette at the complex’s scenic porch situated right against a set of active train tracks, I find myself surrounded by Motion City Soundtrack fans, reminding me briefly of the oddness of existing as an omnivorous listener in a city dictated and supported by the production of a certain kind of music. For a night, though, I get the chance to be transported elsewhere, thanks to the top-rope jumping punk of PWR BTTM, the wry and inviting Palehound, and the mesmerizingly heavy songs of Mitski.
by Kevin Brown