Monthly Archives: November 2009

Something to THANK about

With an abundance of sweet potatoes, cheese grits, gobble-gobble turkey and enough football to make even an avid sports fan bored, let’s not forget that many others are not as fortunate as us. Many people won’t have families to hug, help or argue with to whose wish will come true first after the wishbone is ripped apart. Heck, many people won’t have any food or home to look forward to at all. Thankfully for such people in need, we live in an area that is filled with people that do care.

With places such as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and The Salvation Army, among others, helping this season’s less fortunate with extra clothes and warm food (not to forget a lot of visual artists and galleries soon to give hope and gifts and soon to be written about RIGHT here during the next month and weeks to come; oh do stay tuned), I’d like to spin off of one of my favorite family pastimes. In the past few years, it has become customary to hold hands in a circle and not only say one thing that each of us in the circle is thankful for at the present time but to also sing “The More We Get Together” in sync (needless to say it can often scare the newcomers). And today, the day before our national day of thanks, I’d like to combine the two by telling all of you that I am thankful to have recently been introduced to the musical talents of Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir and remind you that life is better the more we all get together.

This Saturday, November 28, starting at 8pmJonathan Sexton will take the stage at Exit/In with his perfectly named Big Love Choir and an army of positive vibes ready to bombard you with inspiration. Opening for Wrong Way: A Tribute to Sublime, you will definitely be thankful that you don’t miss out on this one. You’ll see; Jonathan is not the best guitar player (a few more hours practicing his pickin’ before he can stand next to Eddie Van Halen) nor the greatest singer in the world (we’ve all seen Celine declare that honor), but Jonathan and his music reflects the best in all of us. Nothing fake about the group (consisting of Jonathan’s good friend, girlfriend, and his dad), Jonathan’s original words and messages are sure to lift your love smile, pick up your spirits now, and leave you with no excuse but to give your all to everyday and help others in any way you can. Basically, you need to end your weekend of thanks by being thankful that you too were recently introduced to the musical talents of Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir. Don’t worry, you can thank me later!

Chuck Beard


Not just another Southern Culture Lowbrow Extravaganza

Hot off of her Senior thesis exhibit for Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, jammed packed with 3D movies, off the wall art and film that will tickle any art fancy, and need I mention free Dippin’ Dots from 6-9pm at Watkins tonight, rising star and Nashville art fixture Mandy Stoller is very excited to follow that up quickly with yet another show this very weekend, Saturday, November 21st, from 6-9pm with 8 other fellow Nashville artists at Charlie Bob’s Restaurant. If you are in the mood for a night on the town with a dinner and a show and want to save the gas so that you can do both in one spot, I can’t think of any place better to go this Saturday than Charlie Bob’s to see some of the most eclectic art from nine total local southern lowbrow artists.

Stoller has joined ranks with fellow artists including Jeff Bertrand, Charles V. Bennett, Brandt Hardin, Ben Johnson, Stephen Jones, Erin Lord, co-planners Brittany Smith and Brooke Elizabeth to put their take on rockabilly, southern music and southern culture in general as seen through their eyes. The works shown will primarily be satirical in nature and seen through each individual artist’s relationship and experiences living in the south. You are bound to find something that jolts your art interest at Charlie Bob’s due to this exhibition’s wide variety of media; ranging from photography, sculpture, paintings and video art.

I really don’t want to spend too much time here talking about each artist because they are all due the respect that they are seeking to attain through their own creative rights. Click on each one’s name above to catch a glimpse of the magic they have worked on up to this point, and please pass the word around for tomorrow’s show so you’ll see these guys and gals before they’re careers really take off.

Chuck Beard

HEARTS AND MINDS: Jonathan Sexton and The Big Love Choir prepare to lead listeners to a ‘New Day’


More about the Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir:
By Steve Wildsmith
of The Daily Times Staff
Originally published: October 22. 2009 3:01AM

“‘Big Love’ was about healing and finding yourself and stripping it down to your roots and finding out who you are — and then beginning to make life choices out of that….

…That’s what ‘New Day’ is about — you get what you’re giving away. To me, there’s a direct connection between the amount of work you put into something and what you get in return. And with this band, we’re all investing in it. It’s not just me doing the work and paying them to show up; I have their support, and even if they don’t believe in everything I’m singing, they believe in me enough to stand up there and sing it with me.”

—Jonathan Sexton, The Daily Times

Chuck Beard

Evening with an Author & the Art of the Written Word

It’s probably of no surprise to those who know me that the combination of art galleries and the written word truly fascinates me and puts me right at home. Thankfully, Nashville is very open when it comes to finding the crossroads between all artistic genres. Specifically writing, I’m a big fan about the ever-growing “Evening with an Author” series. Beginning in 2007, this critically acclaimed series has become the perfect monthly blend of books, wine and witty conversation pieces within the comfort of art galleries.

This month, this Thursday, November 19th, from 6-7pm, Tinney Contemporary gladly opens its doors for the last Evening with an Author until Spring 2010 with a New York bestselling author. Robert Hicks, author of the bestseller Widow of the South and editor of the bestseller A Guitar and a Pen, is more than ready to share his most recent work about the heartbreaking years that followed the Civil War. A Separate Country is a wonderful account about the incredible true story behind the life, life changes and journey of love in the midst of immense adversity and backdrop of New Orleans for Confederate General John Bell Hood.

Not only can you get yourself a signed copy as a gift for your friends, family or yourself during the holiday season, but you will get to pick the brain of the man who wrote the story. Any literary and art aficionado would go to extreme measures to find such an opportunity, but you can do so this Thursday at the aforementioned time and place just down the street on 237 5th Avenue North in Nashville’s Downtown area. If you can’t make it to this one, I guess you’ll have to wait for this kind of opportunity until the coming Spring; that is unless you contact me to order my first book, Adventures Inside a Bright-Eyed Skyand want me to talk about it for you and your friends. For that chance, click here. Either way, don’t wait; read all you can!

Chuck Beard

The Mechanics & Mathematics of Venus Hum

Stars are tricky matters that often fascinate my wondering mind.  Some burst upon the scene, instantly filling the sky’s attention, and just as quickly fade into obscurity or their own black hole.  Some are already dead when you finally see them.  Some continuously move around us only to be witnessed every other century or so it seems if you’re lucky to be born at the right time.  But some, some stars are so special that you may find yourself as the only person in a packed room to even notice it, to fully appreciate its existence within that split second of a moment, and cast your wish out loud that it stay awhile longer before it shoots off stage again … or for good.  Yes, Venus Hum is such a special kind of star; a not-so-country kind of Nashville star.

Now, before over-shooting the whole point and myself, I should clarify some things to straighten your vision.  Venus Hum is no sort of quasar in specific but more so a musical group that was formed in Nashville, TN, consisting of three distinct parts harmony: two folds eclectic electric sounds created, mixed, and arranged by Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle superbly blended with the magic bullet of one Annette Strean’s angelic vocals.  Individually, each brings forth separate talents and flavor of life.  Together, they form a finished product that is never truly finished and yet is unique to every other product on the music market.  With the latest release of their fourth album/CD, Mechanics and Mathematics, Venus Hum continues to separate itself from the overplayed radio pop-pack and trail blaze a path that a loyal and growing fan base is more than eager to dance to and happily follow.

In some ways, Venus Hum’s adventure has yet to begin or reach its potential.  On the other hand, similar to tales of other supernovas that have been before, Venus Hum has had a storybook origin that nobody, including its members, quite ever saw coming.  If you ask anyone in the band how their story ensued so far, you might not get the same answer or exact science of how these three began.  In a lot of ways, the manner in which their first show and the name was realized explains everything they are about.  It just happened.

How else can I explain the causes and effects, the methods behind the glorious madness … the mechanics and mathematics of it all if you will?  Bluntly writing in order of occurrences; two guys met while studying different courses at Belmont University.  Kip was focusing on a career path in Radio at the time while Tony was pursuing knowledge in the business side of music.  They met through mutual friends, an interest and love of the almighty synthesizer, and began making music more as a hobby than anything else. 

Then, out of nowhere from the big beautiful sky or Whitefish if you’re keeping score, a songbird appeared on the scene.  Annette, who had graduated high school in Montana and full-heartedly invested in her song writing/singing skills as her higher education at the time, took a road trip on the whim.  Packed with her guitar, a book of personal lyrics, a carload of confidence in her abilities and aspirations, Annette pulled into Nashville with nothing in mind other than meeting with a friend who had been helping her with advice from afar with her questions about the music biz.  The clouds began to move in the winds.

Annette met with her friend and signed up as a solo act for a show a few months ahead of that time at a rock festival to have something to look and work towards.  Within the weeks following, in less than 6 degrees of separation, Annette was introduced to both Kip and Tony and asked if they would mind finish writing songs together and accompanying her for the show.  During the process of writing a small string of songs, they brainstormed for something to call themselves.  In true pen and pad fashion, they took to writing down the first ideas they could think of when Tony suddenly mentioned that his venous hum was really bothering him (a medical condition where blood flows to the brain and back to the heart so quickly that it causes a humming noise).  The three looked at each other; they put the notepad down and with a small change of the spelling, a name stuck. 

Equipped with a solid set and a name to take notice, the group took to the stage with no expectation or clear thoughts other than that they didn’t want to get laughed offstage.  The music was loud but the praise from the crowd was even louder.  The first show had gone over way better than they every imagined; so much so that things moved quickly in a positive direction from there.  The group began playing steady around the area with a steadfast fan base on the climb and mastered their own self-titled, self-released EP and CD.  It didn’t take long for the record labels to hear the buzz.

Within two years of their first unanticipated show, Venus Hum was the talk of the Nashville music scene with numerous nods as Critics Pick and Best of Nashville awards.  The group decided to sign with two record labels: MCA for the USA and BMG for international play.  Somewhere in those same fast times, the band found new happy faces all over the world while touring with the Blue Man Group and releasing their very own version of the single “I Feel Love.”  They took to the road and overseas as if it was old hat; a non-cookie cutter kind of avant garde homegrown hat that made sounds and stories visually come alive while engaging unsuspecting listeners along their journey. 

With a string of songs from two follow-up studio albums (Big Beautiful Sky and The Colors In The Wheel) appearing on popular primetime television shows, as well as in a few movies, and a sound that had no boundary or lack of appeal, the band was creatively able to do whatever they could think up with the musical side of things.  The business side, however, was sometimes harder to swallow from below.  Typical to stories you may have heard about music executives in the past, the big wigs thought it would be in everyone’s best interests to tweak pieces of the group’s image to quickly grab the attention of a wider audience instead of letting the promising flower bloom on its own. 

When the contracts ran out, the group again unexpectedly revealed newfound passions and skills within their own hiatus of sorts.  Tony honed his craft for producing and design work, Kip threw himself into directing and film production, and Annette nearly lost her voice due to troubles with her vocal chords only to have surgery, recover, and feel better than ever about her overall outlook physically and mentally relating to the health of her favorite and most prized thing in life … music.  They agree that they are each a huge fan of each others’ work, that they have never had a better personal and working relationship together, and they are exactly where they need to be to grow in all directions from this point forward. 

Coming full circle from their original self-released album, the fourth installment, the self-released Mechanics and Mathematics, is an exceptional compilation of the total creativity, ingenuity, and possibility of each of this three part harmony that makes up Venus Hum.  Every last bit of detail, from writing the music, designing the artwork, shooting the videos and distribution of the album via their website and at live shows is 100% Tony, Kip, and Annette. Carrying out their mission to marry pop songs with strange electronic sounds, Venus Hum is better than their described unconventional, three-dimensional and completely five-sensual music … their sound is other worldly beautiful.  With this not-so-country kind of Nashville star, the Big Beautiful Sky is far from their limit.

Chuck Beard

Getting to the bottom of Shelby Bottoms


I am venturing out this Sunday morning to the Greenway at Shelby Bottoms. Anyone that lives in or around the fascinating world of East Nashville is well aware of the natural beauty that surrounds Shelby Bottoms Nature Park. Located just miles from downtown Nashville, some of the area’s best country is a world away from the brightly lit honkytonk dives and songs sung by urban cowboys sporting skinny jeans and fake tans. Plainly put, Shelby Bottoms Nature Park and Greenway is where you can easily spot the country side of our local countryside in which the majority of Nashville is deeply in love.

As if you needed extra incentives besides the tranquil scenery to drive, walk, jog, or ride your bike among other things down to the Park this weekend, feel free to share the news with other outdoor art fans about Erika Wollam’s exhibit at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Installation and Video Work Speaks of Wild Nature is a thought-provoking study and reflection of the collective relationship between wildlife, human beings and urban landscape in relation to undeveloped land. Included within the exhibit will be video, installation, and photography taken by the artist Wollam collected during regular walks on location throughout the past four years.

Saturday, November 14th, from 3:30pm-5:30pm, there was a fairly large crowd supporting the reception for the artist at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. The exhibit will run thru the end of the year, but the reception was a wonderful opportunity for all who enjoy the Park and Greenway for what it’s worth every chance they have free to be able to ask Wollamquestions about her work and specifically learn how to actively participate with the exhibit anytime by sharing their own experiences at Shelby Bottoms.

If you missed the Saturday opening reception, the exhibit is open to the public during Visitor Center hours, Tuesdays through Fridays, 12-4PM and Saturdays from 10AM to 4PM. For more information,call Shelby Bottoms Nature Center at (615) 862-8539. Don’t get left in the dark with this wonderful exhibit. Seriously, I love me some Shelby Bottoms, BUT it’s definitely on the safer side of things to not allow yourself to get left in the dark while in Shelby Bottoms after the sun goes down on all its beauty and peaceful nature.

Chuck Beard