Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Todd Snider at TPAC

Saturday night, one of Nashville's own - Todd Snider- returned home to play the James K. Polk Theatre at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Todd isn't actually a Nashville original; however, he is an EAST Nashville original.

Originally from the Portland, Oregon area, Todd moved to San Fran for what he calls the "couch circuit". He then bounced around Texas for a few years, and later landed a standing gig in Memphis. Then he moved and settled (for now at least) in Middle Tennessee. He's not your typical Music Row Nashville. But he's set the bar awfully high for those living in East Nashville.

I've been a subscriber to Todd fans' e-mail list-serv better known as the The Shit House Wire for several years. (I have no idea about the origin of the name. Maybe one of these days I will.) Todd's fans are passionate about his music and his shows. Through various messages on the SHW, we learned several folks were coming to town from all over the place. After a couple of rounds of brainstorming and false starts, we finally settled on Nashville's Beer Sellar as the place to meet for a pre-show gathering.

Kim, a fellow Todd fan, crafted a badge for us all to print and wear. Normally, I can't stand to wear a "HELLO, My name is..." tag at any event. But in this case I made an exception (1) as a nod to Kim for her efforts (2) to quickly spot fellow fans so face-to-face friendships could build vs. just email-to-name and (3) to begin beer drinking quickly with Todd fans rather than University of Kentucky or Vanderbilt fans who were gathered in another area of the bar watching a hotly contested basketball game and weaving a tapestry of profanities with each made or missed shot.

The show marked the fourth time I've seen Todd live, and fortunately he was in good spirits the three previous times. I've also got a lot of boots of his shows from over the years. Based on some of them, he hasn't always been in the best of moods or "performing condition". So we weren't sure what was to be expected.

The show started with a brief solo set from Jennifer Knapp. I bought three of her CDs she released over a period of time seven or eight years ago. She then kind of just dropped out of sight. She re-located from her home state of Kansas to Nashville, and she is now re-surfacing with a new CD to be released this spring. While I enjoyed her set, it was a bit awkward watching and listening to her in such a large theatre. The vibe of her set seemed better suited to the corner of a mid-size bar. At the same time, Jennifer has a very deep faith, and it it is reflected in her song compositions. I truly hope the audience listened to what she was singing beyond chords, vocal range, and her one-person performance.

Elizabeth Cook was originally announced as part of the bill; however, she didn't perform. I don't know why. Instead, we were treated to a raucous set by Great American Taxi. GAT is a Colorado-based band who has toured a good bit with Todd in recent months. While all of their songs were new to me, the one that has stuck with me the most is the title track from their upcoming CD release - Reckless Habits - inspired by Gram Parsons. Right before the show, someone told me one or more of GAT's members were in the band Leftover Salmon. I'd at least HEARD of them even if I hadn't heard anything BY them. Nonethless, a strong set leading into Todd's performance.

Once Todd came on stage - backed by GAT - I knew right away the evening was going to be great. After opening with his first two songs, he greeted the audience with: "First of all, I'd like to thank Mr. Polk for letting us use his auditorium tonight." He then continued with what turned out to be a solid 2+ hour set.

Thanks Robert Goodwin for use of this pic!

1. Greencastle Blues
2. Is This Thing Working? - First time I'd heard this one live. Great American Taxi nailed the music as Todd worked the mic to perfection.
3. Just Like Old Times - Quickly becoming one of my favorite Todd tunes.
4. Well Hello
5. Tension - His audible during the song was great. "People still dig drugs. Shiiittt man, I live in East Nashville. That place smells like a skunk farm."

Thanks again Robert Goodwin for use of this pic too!

6. Devil's Backbone Story - This story is included on the first Todd CD I bought, Near Truths and Hotel Rooms. I've also heard it told on various boots I've got. But I had not heard it told as elaborately or with the extra details thrown in like he told at the TPAC show.
7. Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern
8. America’s Favorite Pastime
9. Stuck On A Corner
10. Sunshine
11. KK Rider Story - This is another story I'd heard before. But the change he made this time had me rolling. The girl on the swing was wearing a .38 Special t-shirt. He then added her boyfriend was also wearing a .38 Special t-shirt. "Same band, different tour." Very funny moment. Its all in the delivery folks.

12. Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance
13. Bring Em Home
14. D.B. Cooper
15. Easy Money
16. Alright Guy
17. Play A Train Song
18. The Devil You Know
19. Ballad Of The Kingsmen
20. Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Male

Encore No. 1:
21. Serious Song talk
22. If Tomorrow Never Comes
23. Tony Bennett Story
24. East Nashville Skyline - This was a particular highlight - even moreso because he was playing the song less than 2 miles from the "city limits" of the joint.

25. Money Compliments Publicity

Encore No. 2:
26. Good Fortune

Borrowing a line from the final song of the night: "May some good fortune come to you." Well, there is no doubt about it. Plenty of good fortune was bestowed upon me last Saturday. Meeting fellow Todd fans, spending a night on the town, and hearing a fantastic show. Yep.

A Todd noob friend of mine who was a good bit skeptical from the beginning went to the show with me. When all was said and done and the show was over, three simple words were spoken: "I enjoyed that." Now, if Todd can win a person over after only one night's listening, you know its been a damn fine concert.

What? You weren't there and now you wish you were? At the risk of overhyping the greatness of the show, you can download it for $7 from Todd's newly launched Todd Snider Live website.



  1. Thanks. That was a great synopsis. I've never heard of the song #4, "Well Hello," though. I gotta look that one up.

  2. Just watched the "East Nashville Skyline" vid. THANK YOU! --COME ON!--

  3. Thanks Chase. Well done!

  4. it makes me feel like I was there....oh wait a minute I was there.
    The Shithouse wire came from the singing fans being called the shithouse choir from the back of the Songs For the Daily Planet cd.

  5. I don't know about the music, but we've been fans of The Beer Sellar for years :) -Lois

  6. Love the review. It is terrific. Do you have any photos of the pre-show get together? It would be great to see those as well. Thanks much for the great report and hope our paths cross one day at a show.