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ISSUE 79 THE YEARBOOK ISSUE


8 C1TY BLVD

Nourish + Health

Nashville, TN

onec1tynashville.com

AVO

New year, new you, right? Here at oneC1TY being healthy doesn’t mean being hungry. You’ll find exhilarating plates crafted with amazing care and menus that trumpet fresh, healthy ingredients. Whether it’s a meal on the go, a sweet treat with family or a special night out with friends, the culinary artists at oneC1TY add an elevated level of nutrition and enjoyment to your daily meals. Luckily oneC1TY’s delicious dining options make being the change you wish to see easy. A good place to start is with Avo’s plant-based, locally sourced, Kosher certified menu. Dishes like the vegan pad thai and the lentil-walnut burger, both of which will make you want inspire you to eat healthy all through the year. So, lift your avocado marg and toast the new, healthier you!


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CONTENTS ISSUE 79

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THE GOODS 11 Teachers' Lounge 15 Chemistry Club 18 Home Ec 61 Junior Varsity 65 Ecology 101

FEATURES 22 The Dance Club 32 NATIVE Class of 2019 Superlatives

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42 The Cafeteria 50 The Homecoming Queen

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Beauty: @erica_shenelle | Photographer: @dredrea

YOUR TIME MATTERS Walk-In, call ahead, or check-in online any day of the week! 6

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G E R M A N TOW N - F R A N K L I N - E . N A S H V I L L E - S Y LVA N PA R K - T H E G U L C H | W W W. S C O U T S BA R B E R S H O P. C O M


BEHIND THE ISSUE: Less than a year before his untimely death in 1965, Malcolm X famously told a Manhattan crowd, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” We understand that you’ve more than likely heard this sentence quoted (or misquoted) many, many times before. However, given this is the introduction to our 2019 Yearbook Issue, we thought it was an appropriate time to revisit the quote. After all, what’s the point of having an annual yearbookthemed issue if you can’t talk about learning in it, right? So, at the risk of sounding like a motivational Facebook banner, here’s our two cents. Without education, none of the stuff we aim to celebrate in this magazine—the food, art, music, literature, dance, and the everything else in between that make Nashville so special—would exist. Simply put, there is no way to grow and progress and create things that make the world make more sense without knowledge—and we can’t gain that knowledge without teachers. Whether it was a first-grade teacher who celebrated your, erm, unique artist representation of your family dog, a high school newspaper supervisor that made you fall in love with publishing, or a mentor outside of the classroom who simply never gave up on you (even when you did), you’ve more than likely had a teacher that changed your world. We know we all did. That’s why this month, in the space we usually reserve for editor’s notes or special thanks, you’ll see a list of teachers who impacted various NATIVE staffers’ lives. We figured it’s the least we could do for the people who selflessly devoted their lives to helping goobers like us, and while we’re at it, we’d

like to encourage you to thank that special teacher in your life. It might just make someone’s school year. In addition to thanking our teachers this month, we’d also like to thank Dylan Reyes, who shot our cover story on Caroline Randall Williams and the Nashville Ballet’s Lucy Negro Redux, and Jonah Eller-Isaacs, who deftly executed a story that required deep dives into Shakespeare, contemporary poetry, ballet, and old-time string music—and he did it on a tight deadline (sorry about that, Jonah). Oh, and be sure to check out the NATIVE High Class of 2019 Superlatives (shot by Daniel Chaney, who might just be the coolest kid at NATIVE High) on page 32.

YEARBOOK STAFF PRESIDENT, FOUNDER: PUBLISHER, FOUNDER: OPERATIONS MANAGER:

ANGELIQUE PITTMAN JON PITTMAN JOE CLEMONS

EDITOR IN CHIEF: COPY EDITOR:

CHARLIE HICKERSON DARCIE CLEMEN ROBERTSON

CREATIVE DIRECTOR: ART DIRECTOR:

ERIN OQUINDO

MARKETING AND DESIGN INTERN:

DANA KALACHNIK

PHOTOGRAPHY INTERNS:

HANNAH LOVELL COURTNEY SPENCER

SENIOR ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE:

KELSEY FERGUSON

ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVES:

SHELBY GRAHAM

EVENTS AND ACTIVATIONS COORDINATOR: HUNTER CLAIRE ROGERS ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE/ ADMINISTRATIVE COORDINATOR: PAIGE PENNINGTON PRODUCTION MANAGER:

EDITORIAL INTERN:

GUSTI ESCALANTE

HANNAH DEITZ CHANCE JARVIS

FOUNDING TEAM:

MACKENZIE MOORE JOSHUA SIRCHIO TAYLOR RABOIN

FOUNDER, BRAND DIRECTOR:

DAVE PITTMAN

FOUNDER:

CAYLA MACKEY HELLO@NATIVE.IS

WRITERS:

JONAH ELLER-ISAACS KYLE COOKE CHRIS PARTON COOPER BREEDEN

FOR ALL INQUIRIES:

PHOTOGRAPHERS:

DANIELLE ATKINS DYLAN REYES DANIEL CHANEY EMILY DORIO HANNAH BURTON

Charlie would like to thank: Sue Trout, Dr. Annette Sisson, and Dr. Caresse John

Joe would like to thank: Nancy Jackson

Darcie would like to thank: Mrs. Mary Rankin, Dr. Sandra Hutchins, and Pam Siegler Hannah would like to thank: Carol Hackler and Jorge Montero Shelby would like to thank: Tami Graham Hunter Claire would like to thank: Richard Espenant, Mindy Congleton, and Marci Murphree

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MARCH 21-24, 2019 KNOXVILLE, TN

C E L E B R AT I N G 1 0 Y E A R S O F B O U N D L E S S M U S I C A L A D V E N T U R E

Spiritualized • Art Ensemble of Chicago • Punch Brothers Meredith Monk • Nils Frahm • Richard Thompson • Carla Bley Béla Fleck • Rhiannon Giddens • DeJohnette Coltrane Garrison Harold Budd • This Is Not This Heat • Wadada Leo Smith Sons of Kemet • Alvin Lucier / Ever Present Orchestra Bill Frisell • Mercury Rev • Mary Halvorson • Uncle Earl YoshimiO/Ibarra/Lowe • Joan La Barbara • Ralph Towner Evan Parker • Makaya McCraven • Vijay Iyer & Craig Taborn Yves Tumor • Alex Schlippenbach Trio • Rachel Grimes The Comet Is Coming • Lonnie Holley • Theo Bleckmann Kayhan Kalhor & Brooklyn Rider • Carl Stone • Tim Berne’s Snakeoil Kim Kashkashian • Carla Kihlstedt • Nik Bärtsch’s RONIN Kara-Lis Coverdale • Coupler • & Many More

TRIPTYCH

Nashville Ballet:

Composed By Bryce Dessner • Featuring Roomful of Teeth

Directed by Paul Vasterling • Music by Rhiannon Giddens

& The Work of Patti Smith & Essex Hemphill

& Francesco Turrisi; Poetry by Caroline Randall Williams

(EYES OF ONE ON ANOTHER)

Lucy Negro Redux

1 0 0 + C O N C E R T S • F I L M S • W O R K S H O P S • PA N E L S • E X H I B I T I O N S & M O R E !

DA I LY T I C K E T S & W E E K E N D PA S S E S AT B I G E A RS F E S T I VA L . O RG 8

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TEACHERS' LOUNGE WITH DARCIE CLEMEN ROBERTSON Copy Editor at NATIVE Beer Name: Blonde Brewery: Czann’s Style: Blonde Ale ABV: 4.25% Food Pairing:  Fried cheese curds and deep-dish pizza Appearance: Gold and clear Aroma: Light wheat and citrus Where to Find It:  312 Pizza Company, Czann’s taproom, and around town Overall Takeaways: We complain about the winter cold here in Nashville, but we could have it much worse. We could live in Chicago, where the wind cuts to the bone and threatens to push you over whenever you walk around the corner of a building. I’ve managed to only spend a few winters in Chicago visiting family, and I always swear to never go back during that time of year. It’s just not right for humans to be outdoors when it’s double digits below zero, and everything in your body tells you so. This might explain why Chicago produces some of the best hibernation foods in the country: deep-dish pizza, cheese curds, beer, hot dogs, Italian beef . . . It would seem their motto is: If you’re going to be stuck inside, you might as well enjoy it.     Thanks to the folks at 312 Pizza Company, we can enjoy the comfort food of the Midwest without the 15-below temps. Best of all, they keep a few local beers on tap, like Czann’s Blonde, which is the perfectly sweet and crisp ale to complement any of the rich fare. Its slight, not-too-hoppy acidity cuts through the crispy fried goodness of the cheese curds while cooling off the spicy sriracha dipping sauce. If you’re in a Bill Swerski’s Super Fans kind of mood, follow the curds with the State Street deep-dish pizza with Italian beef on top. The Blonde’s citrus and malt tones shift from a contrasting flavor to the perfect pairing for the tangy tomato sauce and garlic. Don’t let the golden color fool you—this beer can hold its own against any heavy dish, and the clean finish will keep you coming back for more. So on the next too-cold-for-humans day, settle in with some deep-dish and a Czann’s Blonde. Toast to above-zero temperatures and delicious Nashville beer. And maybe . . . Da Bears.

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The official

@hifibooth

photobooth.

hifibooth.com NATIVE NASHVILLE


CHEMISTRY CLUB: Some Bunny Loves You

BY ANDREA ROSCOE BARTENDER AT AVO

PHOTO BY DANIELLE ATKINS

THE GOODS 2 1/2 oz carrot juice 3/4 oz lemon juice 2 oz Caraway Infused Gin* 1/2 oz ginger syrup 1/4 oz agave syrup

DIRECTIONS Shake all ingredients and strain into a cocktail glass.

*Caraway Infused Gin Recipe: Add 1/4 cup caraway seeds to 750 ml gin of choice. Let steep at room temperature for 1 day. When desired flavor is achieved, strain and discard caraway seeds. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

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PHOTOS BY DANIELLE ATKINS

MARVIN COOKIE

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YIELD:

PRETZEL & POTATO CHIP CRUNCH*

BROWN SUGAR TOFFEE**

THE GOODS

THE GOODS

THE GOODS

16–18 cookies 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp cornstarch 1 tsp baking soda 2 tbsp milk powder 1/2 tsp fresh ground espresso 1 tsp kosher salt 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened   to room temperature 3/4 cup light brown sugar 1/4 cup sugar 1 large egg, at room temperature 2 tsp dark vanilla extract 3/4 cup pretzel & potato chip crunch* 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 1/2 cup butterscotch chips 1/4 cup brown sugar toffee   (broken into bits)**

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine the f lour, cornstarch, baking soda, milk powder, espresso and salt. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar together on medium speed until completely smooth, fluffy, and light in color. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. On low speed, slowly mix in the dry ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be quite thick. Add the crunch, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and toffee, and mix at low speed for about 5 seconds until evenly dispersed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days. Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough. Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Roll the dough into 2 1/2–ounce balls and place on a cookie sheet 2 to 3 inches apart. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until barely golden brown around the edges, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. The cookies will deflate as they cool. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

2 cups pretzels, crushed 2 cups potato chips, crushed 1/4 cup milk powder 2 tbsp sugar 1/4 cup light brown sugar 8 tbsp butter, melted

DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 275 F. Line a full-size baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the pretzels, potato chips, milk powder, sugar and brown sugar to a large bowl. Mix well to combine all ingredients. Pour the melted butter onto the mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar 2 tbsp water 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed 1 tbsp light corn syrup 1/2 tsp salt 2 tsp bourbon 1/4 tsp baking soda

DIRECTIONS Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, cubed butter, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat and stir until the sugar and butter dissolve. Insert a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the thermometer reads 285 F. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the bourbon and baking soda (be careful as the mixture will bubble once baking soda and bourbon are added). Pour the mixture onto the lined pan and allow to cool for 1 hour.

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POPPY: AM I A GIRL? TOUR - CANNERY BALLROOM CHROME SPARKS - MERCY LOUNGE DEERHUNTER w/ FAYE WEBSTER - CANNERY BALLROOM


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The Dance Club

by JONAH ELLER-ISAACS photos DYLAN REYES

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Take Lucy Negro, Redux—Caroline Randall Williams’ Shakespeare-inspired book of poetry about black identity and womanhood—add the Nashville Ballet, plus music from Rhiannon Giddens, and what do you get? One of the most groundbreaking events in the country


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A SULTRY MISSISSIPPI MIDSUMMER, 2012. CAROLINE

Randall Williams was indulging in a guilty pleasure: reading British tabloid rag the Daily Mail. Oh, she knows. “I claim that. And I’m not ashamed of it. But I also—I know what that looks like. I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t go to tanning beds. But I do read the Daily Mail every day. “Every so often, they do publish things that are true and interesting,” Randall Williams laughs. “And the way they do the titles is so glorious.” The author, poet, Shakespeare scholar, and Nashville native stopped at a headline. “I came across this article: ‘Was Bard’s Lady a Woman of Ill Repute?’ I go, ‘Yessssssss. Yes! Was Bard’s lady a woman of ill repute?!?’ Anything scandalous to do with Shakespeare. I love things that humanize him . . . I love the idea that Shakespeare fell in love with a brothel owner somehow!” The clickbait title would lead Randall Williams on a fertile literary journey, and even beyond her pages to an eventual collaboration of her words with dance and music—and a powerful reckoning of her identity as a black woman. The accompanying article laid out the research of one Dr. Duncan Salkeld, an expert in paleography, or the study of handwriting. Salkeld was documenting Elizabethan-era prison records, more or less illegible to anyone without his expertise, when he discovered a connection between Shakespeare’s troupe and a brothel owner named Black Luce (an archaic spelling of Lucy). “Black Lucy, aliases Lucy Easte, Lucy Baynum. Black Lucy was a brothel owner, simply put, and likely a woman of Moorish descent,” Randall Williams explains. “She was really successful, and she was never arrested . . . People were constantly getting arrested on her premises—and she was somehow never there. I just found that narrative so empowering and intriguing.” Caroline Randall Williams has invited me to her home, a breathtaking mansion on Blair Avenue owned by her parents, author Alice Randall (The Wind Done Gone) and historian David Ewing. After decades away, she’s returned as an adult to her childhood home (in a piece of multidimensional folk art hanging in the dining room, her smiling family is driving a car toward their home on the hill). Randall Williams and a roommate live here along with Sebastian, her Petit Brabançon Brussels Griffon. Between occasional barks and growls from the minuscule furball, we’re discussing Lucy Negro, Redux , her book of poetry, newly released by Third Man Books, that takes Black Lucy’s story as a jumping-off point for an exploration of otherness, black femininity, and sexuality. Could Black Lucy be the famous Dark Lady mentioned in Shakespeare’s Sonnets? “Up until Duncan came across this record, people had

speculated,” Randal Williams informs me. “People had known about Black Lucy, and scholars have long been hunting for the identity of the Dark Lady in the sonnets, in history . . . Up until Duncan’s discovery, there hadn’t been any document that put Shakespeare and/or anyone immediately attached to Shakespeare and Lucy in the same place, to say, Oh they definitely knew each other.” What Dr. Salkeld found in the 16th-century prison record was documentation of the arrest (at Black Lucy’s brothel!) of an actor from Shakespeare’s circle. Randall Williams flipped. “I’m like, ‘This is crazy! Why is no one freaking out about this?!? Oh my GOD!’” She pauses, takes a breath. “And then I remember that the intersection of people that care about Shakespeare deeply, black woman-ness, and also read the Daily Mail is really limited.” Our laughter fills the room. Even with that unlikeliest of Venn diagrams, Randall Williams wondered, “Where’s the parade? Where’s the party? Where’s the ringing of the alarm?” Since no one else seemed to appreciate the dramatic news, she applied for, and was given, a small research grant through her MFA program at the University of Mississippi. That spring, she flew to England to meet Salkeld. Strolling through Clerkenwell, the London neighborhood where Black Lucy and her ladies walked the streets, Randall Williams found herself in their world. “I was at that point totally captivated,” Randall Williams tells me. Will and Lucy were everywhere. “She was here. She was here. She was here. And he was here. And now I am. And I’m now part of the story of these stones, a story that began before them, but that they added to and that now I’m getting to engage with explicitly.” When Shakespeare wrote, in Sonnet 132, “Then will I swear beauty herself is black,” what if, Randall Williams suggests, “he meant black. Which he probably just did! Shakespeare’s a very intentional writer. He has all of his words.” Was his beauty the Moorish brothel owner, Black Lucy? Thanks to Dr. Salkeld’s research, it’s clearly possible. But does the truth matter? Lucy Negro, Redux exists. It is a real book of poetry. Black Lucy was a real person. Beyond that, Randall Williams explains, the lack of any further details about Black Lucy works in the poet’s favor. “It’s sort of a weird mercy of history that there’s not more,” she posits, “so I can imagine her into existence in a way that feels right to me.” Black Lucy is: whatever the poet needs.   Randall Williams recalls the way her deep dive into Black Lucy gave her a new way to see herself. “Thinking about her caused me to ask so many questions about my own sense of my body in the world and the way people experience it. My color in the world and the way NATIVE NASHVILLE

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people experience it. The way I experience people experiencing it.” She adds with a grin, “Lucy is in that way sort of an avatar for otherness, and for claiming it positively and celebrating it.” “I am the descendant of slave owners and slaves,” Randall Williams tells me. “I don’t have a white side of my family, a black side. I have a lot of history of plantation rape in my family. But that’s always been a meaningful truth in my life, that’s never been mysterious to me. I was raised knowing that.” She lays out her family tree—its rotten roots will be sadly familiar to some. “I am the child of two black people, the grandchild of four black people, the great-granddaughter of seven or eight black people, depending on who you ask. And if you go back one more generation, the majority of my great-great-grandfathers are white men who took advantage of their help . . . [that’s] why I exist, in the color and body that I do.” The history of white plantation owners lusting after their chattel, disgusted at their own forbidden desire is, Randall Williams points out, “very real to black Southernness and femininity. But it’s all up in Shakespeare! And that is what was crazy for me. To look at those poems and say, ‘This thing that I thought was this peculiar hardship of my ancestresses in this country has a narrative that was articulated by my actual alreadyfavorite writer!’” --------------------------------------------------Caroline Randall Williams’ first-ever printed piece was a February 2013 cover story on Justin Townes Earle for this very magazine; shortly after, Ampersand Books released the first edition of her debut poetry collection, Lucy Negro, Redux . Lucy Negro is fiery, complex, and passionate. The book tears across centuries, pulling the reader into the swirling dark waters of Black Lucy. Lucy washes over you, crashing wave after wave, verse after stanza. The poems smell of sweat and sex and stones. Bits of songs ripple through the pages: field hollers, Etta James, juba handclaps, children’s rhymes. Lucy, Lucy where you been? The musicality of Lucy Negro, the bluesy sway and stomp, is certainly part of what captivated Paul Vasterling, the artistic director of the Nashville Ballet—which brings us to the unexpected second chapter in the life of Lucy Negro, Redux. Vasterling is

a voracious reader and consumer of artistic media, and everyone in his sphere knows it. When a board member of the ballet happened to catch a certain poet reading from her new book, Vasterling ended up with a copy of Lucy Negro, Redux. Between the Nutcracker and prep for a gala to celebrate his twentieth year with the company, Vasterling finds time to answer my questions via email. Reading Lucy Negro, he was hooked instantly. “I started this one weekend and almost immediately saw that it could be something—a film, a play maybe,” he writes. “So I called Caroline to ask to meet. When we did, I asked her if she would consider it being a ballet.” Vasterling understood the emphasis the work placed on black identity and womanhood, and so he also asked Randall Williams “if she thought that I, a white man, would be the person to choreograph and direct it. “She said yes,” Vasterling continues, “and then pointed out that a secondary but large part of the story that appears in her poems is that of the alleged relationship between Shakespeare and the so-called ‘Fair Youth’ of the sonnets. Shakespeare wrote twothirds of the sonnets to this young man and the other third to the ‘Dark Lady.’ Being a gay man who has lived my life and my relationship in various levels of ‘outness’— and certainly feeling a strong sense of otherness—I saw my fit for this, a rightness about this project coming into my spectrum at this moment in my life.” The Third Man Books edition of Lucy Negro, Redux includes a conversation between Vasterling and Randall Williams, as well as a condensed libretto of Vasterling’s choreography and photos from early developmental rehearsals. The choreographer notes: “I think ballet, and dance stories in general, lend themselves to this slow burn of understanding. Caroline’s book is a narrative, but one that is not quite linear—I found that I understood the story slowly over the period of the reading.” Randall Williams remembers her response when Vasterling reached out. “I said, ‘I need to meet you and see if it works.’ And then, ‘Do you have a dancer?’ And by ‘Do you have a dancer,’ I mean, ‘Do you have a woman who’s world-class?’ Because the talent alone comes first, right? But then, ‘Do you have somebody who’s world-class, and also a woman of color who can embody this?’”

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She adds, “It’s funny, knowing Paul now, he never would’ve brought this up if he didn’t have one. But you know, sometimes, people are: Just. Not. Woke.” Nashville is blessed to have a spectacularly talented prima ballerina in our local ballet company. Most importantly for this particular role, Kayla Rowser is also African American. “I would never have even come up with this idea if Kayla had not been in Nashville Ballet, or if she had not been at her current very high level of artistry,” Vasterling explains. “As I was reading Caroline’s book, I literally saw Kayla as Lucy. And as I think about it now, I see Kayla—the way she moves, the way she expresses herself in movement. She informs the way I develop this character in my head. All of this will inform the way the movement for the piece is developed.” Rowser deserves an entire write-up all to herself: she’s not only a sublimely beautiful dancer and person, she’s also a deep thinker who’s carefully considered what it means to be a black ballerina. It shouldn’t be rare, and yet it is. It shouldn’t be revolutionary, and yet. I visit the ballet’s studios, tucked away in West Nashville, for a quick chat. They’re dancing when I arrive; they’re always dancing. They rehearse 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week, and most of them have second jobs, teaching or in school themselves. These dancers work their (sculpted) butts off. Rowser exits the sprung floor in a broad tutu and requests a quick change before we talk. The ballet’s staff gets us all set up in a conference room looking out on the main hall. I ask Rowser about

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Black Lucy and she beams. “I’m excited to represent a character of strength, of ambition, but also a black woman. And to have all of that together, and to be able to portray that through my art form, is really, really, really exciting!” Rowser says with a laugh. “I’m obviously a black woman, but my characters have never been black women. “I feel it’s going to be really rewarding,” she continues, “but also emotionally challenging . . . It’s very different, and I’m very excited for the challenge.” If she wasn’t up for facing difficulty, she wouldn’t be here, as the ballet’s principal dancer. She’s a black woman in an art form that’s historically whiter than driving a Prius to a farmer’s market. That has to be tough, right? “You know, on some days, the weight of that feels pretty heavy. And other days, it doesn’t. But I think I’ve been fortunate enough in ballet to have people who have seen my strength as a dancer and as an artist, and they’ve also seen and recognized the fact that I’ve defied some things.” She laughs, big and brightly. “Based on the textbook, I shouldn’t be doing roles I’m doing, I shouldn’t be as successful in my career as I am. “But there are so many nuances,” Rowser points out. “Even from trying to find shoes that match my skin tone. And the costume shop, they so graciously send off tights to be custom dyed for me— but I can’t wear those in rehearsals, because they don’t exist on a shelf. So even little things like that, they’re huge . . . To say that there’s not a lot of weight in being a black woman in ballet would be completely false.” Still, when Rowser considers her skill level and


her career trajectory, she’s certain: “The time is now to do a ballet like this.” The final ingredient in this potent creative stew is the music—ballet isn’t so great without it. Vasterling and Randall Williams agreed that it made sense to seek out a young, talented black woman, and my oh my did they ever find one. Scoring the ballet and performing live in February is Rhiannon Giddens, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” and winner of the Steve Martin Prize for her expert banjo skills and her reclamation of oldtime string band music. More specifically, she takes the music back to its roots—to spirituals, field hollers, and gutbucket Delta blues, before white folk recorded and commercialized it. Before Elvis. (Despite attempts at scheduling a video chat, Giddens and I unfortunately fail to bridge the Atlantic Ocean and the time difference between me in Nashville and her in Ireland before press time.) On the whole, Lucy Negro Redux is remarkable. There are now three supremely talented, young, black female artists working on the project, all of them working in spaces traditionally dominated by whiteness: the scholarly study of Shakespeare, ballet, and old-time music. And, most incredibly, this is all going down here. “This is just greater than the sum of its parts, in terms of the narrative of the collaboration itself, of all the things that had to come together, and of the goodwill of people who want a thing . . . And this is happening in Nashville!” Randall Williams nearly screams with delight. “Can you believe that? Little old Nashville, with its thirty-year-old ballet company, is the city where this gets to happen?! Where we’re writing about Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, [alongside] Grammy Award–winning musicians. And everything is happening in Nashville! It’s amazing.”

Lucy Negro Redux is showing at TPAC’s Polk Theater from February 8 to 10.

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NATIVE HIGH CLASS OF 2019

by NATIVE STAFF photos DANIEL CHANEY

For our fourth NATIVE Yearbook Issue, we once again asked what Nashville would be like as a high school. And once again, we awarded mock superlatives to some folks that are—to put it bluntly—doing really cool shit in Nashville. But this year, in the spirit of creative freedom (and because we may or may not be frustrated scrapbookers), we gave each superlative a disposable camera and told them to shoot whatever they wanted. We then made collages with those images, plus a few more by NATIVE photographer Daniel Chaney, who appropriately shot each of this year’s superlatives at Stratford High. We can’t guarantee that there is an actual high school like this—filled with students making killer murukku, producing international bangers, and creating drony loops that would make Panda Bear proud. But we can guarantee you’ll find all that and much more in Nashville, and we’ll take that any (school) day of the week. NATIVE NASHVILLE

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MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN A SMITHS VIDEO: For better or worse, flowers are associated with stuff that isn’t so great. Funerals, hospitals, half-assed make-goods to significant others—they’re all places where flowers are meant to say, “Sorry things are going horribly, but here are some plants I got at Kroger on the way over.” As a result, floristry—an art that can take years to master and has roots dating all the way back to ancient Egypt—is too often relegated to communicating impersonal, or even downright thoughtless, apologies. The “art” in the term “floral art” has left the building, it seems. Founded three years ago by floral designer Rachel Wayne, local floral studio Daily Bloom offers arrangements that say more than “Sorry I didn’t delete my Tinder profile.” Through her collaborations with countless local artists, musicians, videographers, and photographers, Wayne is proving that flowers can exist as textural worlds that enhance and embolden Nashville’s local art scenes. For example, back in 2017 Wayne teamed up with MKAV mastermind Mike Kluge to bring a psychedelic, kaleidoscope feel to Paramore’s Tour Two visuals; and in May, Wayne’s installations were an integral component of Figures of Color, a beautiful photo essay by former NATIVE photographer Marcus Maddox. And though she admittedly isn’t your typical mom-and-pop florist—Wayne doesn’t do day-to-day orders or deliveries— she’s still made her mark on the wedding circuit, with work appearing in Rock N Roll Bride and 100 Layer Cake. So next time you need to say sorry, maybe don’t reach out to Daily Bloom (unless of course you’re saying sorry as some sort of Abramovic-esque performance art piece—if that’s the case, you should hit Wayne up).

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MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU BATTLE A VIRTUAL SENSEI: Even though we enjoyed Counter-Strike— the blockbuster first-person shooter that ruled early aughts PC gaming—in our youths, we’ll concede that online gaming isn’t always the most productive activity on the planet. We’re not saying your mom was right when she told you to stop playing “those damn vid-ya games,” we’re just saying that gaming doesn’t usually lead to, say, owning your own business (at least that was the case during the pre-Twitch era, when the term “streaming influencer” wasn’t a part of our lexicon). But for Jesse Keogh, the cofounder and lead engineer of indie game studio Giant Scam Industries, that’s exactly what happened. He met future Giant Scam cofounder Charlie Smith on Counter-Strike in 2002 (they didn’t actually meet IRL until 2008), and in the seventeen years since, the Mount Juliet native has earned a master’s in computer science from MTSU, landed a

full-time engineering gig with Eventbrite, and released Chop It, a “VR rhythm game about karate and friendship. Think Guitar Hero meets Fruit Ninja—in virtual reality.” So what exactly does a game about karate and friendship entail? Well basically, you’re thrust into a dojo where a Bob Ross–looking sensei hurls blocks of wood and concrete at you, and your job is to, well, chop the blocks before they hit you in your virtual face. Oh, and you do all of said chopping to the beat of an original score created by local musicians Jason Brooks and Michael Taylor (aka Strange Handle AV). You can also import your own music into the game, which would be a clever way to trick your friends into finally listening to your new demo ( just saying). Give Chop It a try now via Steam, and maybe ease up on your cousin who won’t stop watching all those Ninja streams on Twitch—it could lead to a bright future full of friendship and karate. NATIVE NASHVILLE

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MOST LIKELY TO TEACH YOU THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SINE WAVE AND A SQUARE WAVE: As anyone who has spent hours watching Ableton YouTube tutorials can attest, there’s a pretty steep learning curve when it comes to making electronic music. Compound the sheer technical difficulty with the fact that electronic gatekeepers aren’t always too keen on sharing knowledge, and learning about the art of synthesis can seem nearly impossible (unless, of course, you want to hear pedantic music shop dudes lecture you about microKORGs and Kraftwerk—and you don’t want that, believe us). Luckily, Jess Chambers and Eve Maret—two local electronic musicians who met last year while performing at Knoxville’s Big Ears festival—are looking to bust down these barriers to entry through Hyasynth House, a local collective that aims to uplift female, non-binary, and trans electronic music producers. Inspired by NYC’s Discwoman and Portland’s Synth Library, Hyasynth’s mission is, in their own words: “Three pronged: (1) To provide access to knowledge and resources pertaining to the field via workshops, with a focus on experimentation using electronic media; (2) To empower creative expression and increase the visibility of female, non-binary, and trans folks in the local music scene through organizing shows and events, and (3) TO HAVE FUN!” Here’s to fun on the autobahn and beyond.

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MOST LIKELY TO BE ON YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST’S PLAYLIST: If you’re from Nashville, you’ve more than likely heard the term “Guitarist’s Guitarist.” It’s a label applied to folks who—like former Sturgill Simpson lead guitarist/Telecaster whisperer Laur “Little Joe” Joamets, for instance—are admired by their musical peers for their technique, tone, or just utter badassery. The Guitarist’s Guitarist may not always be familiar to the casual music consumer, and they might not release any solo material, but they’re more than likely one of your favorite artist’s favorite artists. However, as Nashville’s list of musical exports continues to expand beyond people who make music with six strings, you might start hearing the term “Producer’s Producer” more often. Case in point: Jon Santana, an electronic musician whom Pro Tools aficionados admire with the same kind of zeal Tele freaks reserve for Little Joe. Since moving to Nashville in 2015, Santana has racked up millions of plays on Spotify via his solo projects and collaborations with local pop pioneers like CAPPA and Daniella Mason. Plus, his remix of Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” was included on Diplo’s Best of 2016 mix on BBC’s Radio 1Xtra, and he’s charted on Spotify’s Viral 50 in the US, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Poland (no word on whether he’s big in Japan). So if you’ve ever wondered what your favorite pop or EDM artist listens to—who they consider a Producer’s Producer—look no further than Santana.

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MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE FAMILY: Lame sellout accusations aside, there is something special about following a band— especially one that ends up getting really big—from the very beginning of their career. You remember meeting them at the merch table ten years ago (after being one of five people at their show), so when you see them play Fallon or headline Bonnaroo, it makes you proud that they finally got the success they deserved after years of living in a shitty van. Though Vivek Surti has never subsisted on peanut butter sandwiches while living in the back of a ’95 Chevy Astro (or at least we’re willing to bet he hasn’t), we’re proud of the local chef. After years of running blog-turned-legendary-pop-up Vea Supper Club, Surti has finally opened Tailor, his first brick-and-mortar, in Germantown. Much like Supper Club, which offered intimate five-course dinners and wine pairings at private events and local restaurants, Tailor isn’t your boilerplate New Nashville restaurant—you will not pay $25 for “elevated” grits or deconstructed pot pie. Instead, it’s like visiting a relative who just happens to be an authority on South Asian cuisine, drinks (in addition to being a wine buff, Surti founded Sabrage Society and has collabed with local breweries on past menus), and the art of a delicious, relaxed hang. In other words, Surti is taking the sound of his early home-recorded EPs and bringing them to all of Nashville—and that’s something day-one fans and newcomers alike can feel good about.

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FIELD TRIP: CON EDITION FEBRUARY 22 - 24 | CHATTANOOGA, TN www.native.is

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The Cafeteria

by KYLE COOKE photos EMILY DORIO

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Located in downtown Nashville’s storied Arcade, the oldest restaurant in Tennessee marches on, one nourishing bowl of “chile” at a time


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FRANK VARALLO SR’S BIOGRAPHY READS LIKE A MAD LIB. HE WAS

an accomplished violinist who played at Teddy Roosevelt’s inauguration. He was an avid hunter who frequently traveled to South America. He spoke seven different languages and was a translator at Ellis Island. But his claim to fame—at least here in Tennessee—is that he opened a chili parlor that eventually became the oldest restaurant in state history, one that is still open to this day. “They say he got in a hunting accident and couldn’t play the violin anymore, so he opened a restaurant,” says Todd Varallo, Frank Sr’s great grandson and current owner of Varallo’s Chili Parlor & Restaurant. Todd and I are sitting across a red and white checkered table at his restaurant, which is located on 4th Avenue North, at the entrance of The Arcade. The restaurant used to be called Varallo’s Too when it opened in 1994. The flagship Varallo’s, which was on Church Street, opened in 1907 and closed in 1998. Frank Varallo Jr., Todd’s grandfather, worked there until he was eighty-six years old. Todd has worked at The Arcade since this location opened (and on Church Street before that), but more than thirty years later he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He says he gets in around 3 a.m. each morning and normally puts in a twelve-hour day. I meet Todd on a Thursday, which happens to be food truck day on Deaderick Street. This usually means the lunch rush isn’t as unremitting as the rest of the week. However, Todd is understaffed on this particular Thursday, so he’s busy taking orders, answering phones, and working the register. When he gets a free moment, he darts over to sit with me and patiently answer my questions. But I’m at the mercy of the crowd, which even on a “slow” day is relentless. Each time the phone rings or diners walk in the door, Todd dutifully springs up and finishes his answer from across the restaurant. When he returns to my table he delivers a friendly but terse, “What else?” Most of our segmented interview concerns the restaurants’ histories. Todd tells me the Church Street parlor was a popular rendezvous for some of the most powerful people in Nashville— politicians, journalists, even judges. In an email, Rep. Jim Cooper tells me he tries to stop by Varallo’s whenever he can. He calls it a “Nashville institution.” “The old restaurant, we had different dining rooms,” Todd says. “So my grandfather closed off one of the back dining rooms where all the judges sat, so they got to be in their own little room.” When I go for lunch, there are no politicians that I recognize, but the crowd is noticeably eclectic. There are men in suits donning long wool coats, women in hard hats paying in change, and a group of young people at a center table discussing if they could make it in California. It’s not hard to see why these otherwise

dissimilar groups find themselves together at Varallo’s, hunched over steaming styrofoam bowls of chili. For one, the location is central to a lot of Nashville’s largest office buildings, so it lends itself to a quick lunch break for people working in the city. And in a downtown that’s sprouting bro-country honky-tonks faster than you can say “Bawitdaba,” many people are searching for a meal that is authentically Nashville. There’s nothing more authentic than Varallo’s. In fact, some may criticize the restaurant for being a little too authentic, insofar as it’s hardly changed since 1994. There are no iPad registers, trendy bar stools, or exposed Edison bulbs. All the cutlery is plastic, and all the bowls are styrofoam. Many of the decorations in the restaurant are older than the restaurant itself. Massive black-and-white photographs of Varallo men are hanging from the walls, bordered by decades of yellowed newspaper clippings recognizing the restaurant for its food, longevity, or both. A poster from Hatch Show Print hangs near the register, commemorating Varallo’s for one hundred years of business, as does a congressional record from Representative Cooper. Behind the register is a photograph of the rolling hills of Viggiano, where the Varallo family emigrated from. “Some people like history and some people don’t. I have some of the young ones come in and they’re like, ‘Oh man this is cool, we got to keep you going,’” Todd says. “And of course you got the other ones. We have some people walk in and we’re not fancy enough. They turn around and leave.” A quick look over the Varallo’s menu isn’t going to blow anyone away, especially the foodies in Nashville searching for the next innovative kitchen. The menu has changed so little over the years that it might as well be carved into stone, but can you blame them? (I mean, they have been open for more than a century.) Plus, the food is really freaking delicious. When I go for lunch, I opt for the chili (duh). The legendary Cheryl McKnight, who has worked at Varallo’s for forty-two years, serves me their famous “three-way” chili: beans, spaghetti, and a tamale, the perfect meal for a chilly December afternoon. I pass on a recommended side of grilled cheese, though it appears the regulars don’t have it any other way. The chili (they spell it “chile” on the menu, no one is certain as to why) is what made the Varallo’s name famous, and it’s the same recipe that Frank Sr. used when he opened the Church Street restaurant. He credited the recipe to the family he lived with during his South American hunting excursions. The rest of the menu is pretty much standard fare—burgers, fried chicken, some vegetables. They also serve breakfast daily. What does jump out about the menu, though, are the remarkably low prices. My chili was less than five dollars. This is intentional. “Well I mean we’re more toward working people, not tourists,”

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Todd says. “If people work for the state, they can’t afford fifteen-dollar cheeseburgers, so we’ve always been more toward working people.” For a restaurant with such a glorious past, the future is very uncertain for Varallo’s. Todd has three daughters who are decidedly against taking over the restaurant once he retires. His son-in-law showed a little interest but ultimately passed. Todd doesn’t blame them; even he didn’t want to work at the restaurant as a young man. But after college he was married with a baby on the way, and suddenly the restaurant business didn’t look too bad. “It was kind of fate,” he says. Fate, however, hasn’t been kind to some of Todd’s neighbors. With The Urban Juicer sandwiched between a cobbler and The Peanut Shop (opened in 1927), it’s evident that the slow crawl of gentrification is making its way through The Arcade. Flocks of Bird scooters are parked outside the entrance like Silicon Valley gargoyles. Luckily for Todd Varallo, his restaurant remains a bulwark against a twenty-first-century dining experience. “I don’t own a computer. Everybody thinks I’m crazy,” Todd says. “All my paperwork is done old school. I still write checks for everything I pay.” At a certain point, the resistance to change is to be expected from Varallo’s (have I mentioned they’ve been open for a hundred years?). As Todd likes to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If only they could fix the rest of the city. As more and more restaurants flood downtown Nashville, Todd finds it more difficult to find steady help. “You have so many people just floating around to whoever can give them the most money,” he explains. This was never a problem for the Varallo men before Todd. Multiple people worked at the Church Street parlor for over fifty years each, Todd tells me. They just don’t make them like Cheryl anymore. I ask Todd if he’s thought about expanding in any way, maybe putting the parlor on wheels and joining the caravan on Deaderick Street. He hates that idea. “I just do what I do. I don’t really worry about anyone else,” Todd says. “I’m just thankful for everybody that walks in the door.”

Varallo’s is open Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. They have a website—if you can believe it— at varallosnashville.com.

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The Homecoming Queen by CHRIS PARTON photos HANNAH BURTON

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Natalie Prass channels the shock of the 2016 presidential election into a grooving work of female empowerment, The Future and the Past


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NATALIE PR ASS WASN’T ALONE IN BEING

surprised—shocked, even—by the night of November 8, 2016. But her reaction to President Donald J. Trump’s election was a bit stronger than most. At the time, the critically acclaimed indiepop songstress had her second album planned out and ready to go; all she had to do was hit the record button. But all that changed in a flash. “I immediately knew that if I released that record, I would never forgive myself,” she says, sipping tea on a sunny morning in Nashville, now more than two years removed from election day. Scrapping that ill-fated “relationship record” led to a split with her former label, but what she created instead is something more intriguing. The Future and the Past is a funky mix of experimental pop and gospel that takes aim at America’s progress toward real gender equality . . . and spoiler alert: the picture is not as promising as once thought. Having spent the past few years in her native Virginia—where both The Future and the Past and her mesmerizing 2015 debut, Natalie Prass, took shape—Prass is newly returned to Nashville and now far enough away from that delirious night to parse the personal fallout. She was certainly rooting for Hillary Clinton, but not just because she wanted to see a female president in her lifetime, Prass says. She saw Clinton as the more qualified candidate by a long shot, and that, perhaps more than anything else, forced the singer-songwriter to stop quietly enduring the hidden injustices around her. As a semi-autobiographical fusion of music and activism, The Future and the Past lays out those injustices, from double standards in the workplace to tacitly accepted domestic violence, and yes, the sizable contingent of voters who chose a reality TV star over a serious stateswoman. “[Clinton] was like the dorky girl in school running for class president who put all the posters up and did everything she could,” Prass says, explaining the wave of emotions Trump’s victory unleashed. “She was ready and prepared, and then this nasty misogynist guy—who never even tried—beats her. That story is just so tired and it’s still happening, and I felt hopeless. It made me feel like, ‘What am I doing trying to run my own business? Why am I trying to say something and make a difference?’ . . . I’m getting emotional even talking about it now.” Prass spent the next month holed up at home in Richmond, scouring news reports for answers about how this could happen, but eventually realized her catharsis would only come from within. She rented a local rehearsal space and set to work getting all of her “depressing shit” out, working by morning to avoid the metal bands

who shared the space. “It was like, I’m-cryingwhile-writing-this stuff,” she says with an uneasy chuckle. “But I knew that wasn’t the record I wanted to make. I needed to put some joy into the world.” Inspired by politically conscious R&B heroes like Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield, plus the gospel music that was keeping her spirits up, Prass and producer Matt White landed on a sound she describes as “rich and big”—one that’s more groove oriented than her previous work. She started sorting through what it’s really like to be a woman in a world that is supposed to be past gender discrimination but constantly falls short— especially in the music industry. “You’re just on a tightrope constantly, especially if you’re in charge,” she says. “It’s like you can’t be too this or too that—you have to know when to bob and when to weave. Because otherwise you’ll be labeled as ‘difficult’ or as a ‘bitch’—you’ll be written off as too hard to work with. But if it were a guy, that would be normal. It’s amazing when I see Matt say something in the studio like, ‘This is what I want,’ and everyone is like, ‘Cool.’ But if I say, ‘This is what I want,’ everyone is like ‘. . . Okay.’ It’s a little uncomfortable sometimes.” At the heart of the album is “Sisters,” a track that might be the the best introduction to Prass’ headspace. Featuring jazzy piano jaunts, drummachine beats, and a gospel choir, its anthemic chorus is an honest call to action. “Keep your sisters close / Gotta keep your sisters close to you,” it goes. Prass says elsewhere on the record, she was trying to channel Wonder’s ability to speak truth without judgment, but with “Sisters” she couldn’t hold back. “I wanted to talk about family leave, working, and the pay gap,” she explains. “I know for a fact I make less money than my male peers for shows, but I don’t know why. I also wanted to talk about abuse, domestic violence, and I wanted the chorus to be this rally cry where everyone comes together like, ‘We can change this.’ Because no matter what your political thing is—left or right—all women face these issues.” Tracks like “The Fire” explore how these issues can manifest in unhealthy relationships—and how sometimes people can’t help touching a flame, even when they know it will burn. Propulsive yet introspective, with breathy vocals conveying both guilt and strength, the song is equal parts slowburning dance-floor jam and questioning think piece. “That’s a relationship song,” Prass says, “but it’s also political in that the person I was in a relationship with had so much power over me, and he made it known constantly. I was embarrassed

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that I was even trying to give it a shot, and I knew it was bad, but he just knew how to bring me back in.” Its surreal music video brings the political side to bear. Filmed amid a jumble of massive plaster cast presidential busts (which are currently rotting away in a Virginian field), Prass dances all around, with the message being that women are a part of their world—whether they like it or not. But it ends with a twist, effectively questioning how this period of American history will end up. Meanwhile, “Ship Go Down” paints a fairly bleak picture of that endgame. Starting off slow and measured, it steadily devolves into unhinged chaos in a way that echoes American politics, finishing off with the tick-tocking of a clock and a wailing vocal which plays off the hook “It’s crazy to see a ship go down.” Broadly inspired by the idea that our priorities are backward, Prass says visiting a sister who lives in Germany brought the track into focus. Instead of the hyper masculine, every-man-for-himself system she was used to back home, she felt welcomed by a society structured around improving lives. “In Nashville, for instance, teachers, cops, firemen, they can’t afford to live here, they have to live outside of the city,” she says. “How sad is that? I think it’s really disturbing when guns are a 54

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part of our culture but healthcare isn’t, and people just expect to be in debt and claw our way through life. That’s no way to live, and it’s just getting worse.” Having recently returned from a European club trek, she’ll take her message of feminine common sense on the road in January with Kacey Musgraves, another progressive artist determined to challenge the status quo. Calling Musgraves’ surprising Album of the Year win for Golden Hour at this year’s Country Music Association Awards “a victory for all women,” Prass says they’ll both be looking to spread ideas of positivity and inclusivity, and says that despite our lingering problems, hope remains. “It’s hopeful that more women than ever are running for political positions,” she says, vowing to continue speaking her truth through socially conscious pop from now on. “That is the only good thing, I think. People are talking about all these tough issues, and they make us feel uncomfortable, but that’s part of growing. That is the silver lining for sure . . . Hopefully it doesn’t backfire.” The Future and the Past is available now. Natalie Prass is on tour with Kacey Musgraves now through January 26.


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YOU OUGHTA KNOW: JUNIOR VARSITY

PET ENVY

When did music stop being, ya know, fun? We’re not saying every band has to be The B-52’s, and we’re not saying music has to be apolitical or easy listening. What we mean is that as of late, it seems like a lot of contemporary music doesn’t offer a glimpse of hope, joy, or catharsis (anybody listen to that new Low album?). Even in the pop sphere, dreamboats like The 1975 are singing lines like: “Jesus save us / Modernity has failed us.” All in all, it seems that today’s music—not unlike the gritty, color-graded superhero movies Zack Snyder will seemingly shove down our throats till the end of time—simply reminds us of the looming chaos in today’s world while offering little in the way of release or solutions. While we don’t know how to fix what’s going on around us, we do know one thing: going to a (good) show can make you feel a little better, even if it’s only for an hour. That’s why we think You Oughta Know about Pet Envy, the most fun live band to come out of Nashville in years. Fronted by vocal powerhouse Shelbi Albert—and propelled by guitar-bass duo Jake Diggity and Emma Lambiase, who are both killer singers in their own right— Pet Envy is a funky, effortlessly danceable quintet that makes getting out on the floor easy. Add in Prince trombonist Roy Agee

by NATIVE STAFF

photo EMILY DORIO

and Dave Matthews saxophonist Jeff Coffin (who appear on Pet Envy’s 2017 EP Flowers for Your Brain), and you’ve got a bonafide groove machine that could even make Ben Affleck’s dour Batman tap his foot (maybe). But just because Pet Envy is music you can move to, that doesn’t mean it’s a totally vapid affair, either. Says the band in a joint statement about their new single, “Middle Man”: “[It’s] about finding the strength in yourself and your bandmates to pick yourself back up, and the powerful realization that you can save yourself as an independent artist.” Naturally, a band dedicated to fun and the redemptive power of friendship chose Hathorne, a restaurant that’s close to the members’ hearts, as their favorite local eatery. “The owner, John Stephenson, is a big part of how this band got its start back in the early Family Wash days,” Pet Envy told us over email. “All of us worked there together and played some of our first live performances there as well. We are so excited for Hathorne to be open, and we wish him best of luck in his new endeavor.”

Pet Envy’s latest single and video, “Middle Man,” is available now.

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From the floodplains of the Mississippi River to the high elevation forests and balds of the Blue Ridge, the mosaic of landscapes in Tennessee harbors a rich natural heritage. This includes over two thousand species of plants, nearly a quarter of which are considered rare. However, this rarity doesn’t necessarily mean there are five hundred species slipping off the precipice into oblivion. Species may be considered endangered or threatened at the federal level (under the Endangered Species Act) or at the state level. In general, a federal listing means a particular species is in dire straits. Of our hundreds of rare plants, only twenty-one are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. That leaves the vast majority that are deemed rare only within Tennessee’s borders. In these cases, its rarity outside of the state varies. If a species is generally abundant but happens to be rare only within Tennessee’s borders, it’s tempting to take the view that it ought not be considered rare. After all, many state borders are arbitrary lines and nature pays them no heed. There are a number of different philosophies on this issue, but one is that it is important to prevent local population extinction (versus species-wide extinction). An argument for this view is that the genetic differences between populations of the same species are ultimately the basis of biological diversity. So if biodiversity conservation is a goal, it’s important to

preserve populations where they exist regardless of their rarity elsewhere. A loca l popu lation that was successfully preserved is one of our state wildflowers, the Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis). It was first discovered in the late 1800s and was presumed extinct for decades until it was rediscovered in the 1960s. Only a few populations were discovered in the years that followed, and some believe that many were drowned when the freeflowing Stones River was dammed up to create Percy Priest Lake. The Tennessee coneflower’s rarity earned it federally endangered status in 1979, and it was one of the first plants to make that list in our country. A fter its listing, a number of different agencies, university researchers, conser vation-focused nonprof its, botanical gardens, and others teamed up to bring it back from the brink of extinction. More than two decades of conservation efforts ensued: coneflower land was purchased and transferred to the state, seeds were harvested and propagated, and new colonies were established. During these conservation ef for ts, one of the f ive know n populations—which was on unprotected private land—was destroyed. However, tha n ks to prev ious propag ation efforts, seeds from that population had already been collected, grown, and were then reintroduced elsewhere, where they flourished as a sustainable population. Eventually, the hard work of so many dedicated individuals paid

off: the Tennessee conef lower was deemed secure and removed from the endangered species list in 2011. Many species are now in the same boat that the Tennessee coneflower was once in—their populations are teetering on the edge. But unlike the Tennessee coneflower, these plants have no one lending them a helping hand. And while we do have a handful of hardworking botanists and ecologists managing rare species, it is unrealistic to expect these scientists to manage the long list of rare plants themselves. Fortunately, a group of plant geeks from all sectors of society banded together a few years ago to strategize how to more effectively tackle this problem. Guided by successful grassroots models in New England and Georgia, they established the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance. This is a network of university researchers, public agencies, nonprofits, businesses, land managers, and citizen scientists all working toward the common goal of preventing the local extinction of our rare plants.* The initiative is still brand new, but given the amount of interest as well as the track record of similar programs in other regions, it has the potential to give a leg up to some of the overlooked, imperiled plants in our floristically rich state.

*To learn more, and even get involved, check out the website attnplantconservation.org. Full disclosure here, I’m the coordinator of the initiative, so feel free to reach out with any questions.

*ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cooper Breeden is the conservation coordinator for the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance and is finishing up his graduate degree at Austin Peay, focusing on botany and ecology. In the past, he worked in watershed and wetland restoration, environmental education, fisheries management, and philanthropy. NATIVE NASHVILLE

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Profile for Native

NATIVE | ISSUE 79 | NASHVILLE, TN  

The Yearbook Issue, featuring Caroline Randall Williams and the Nashville Ballet, Natalie Prass, 2019 NATIVE High Class Superlatives, Varall...

NATIVE | ISSUE 79 | NASHVILLE, TN  

The Yearbook Issue, featuring Caroline Randall Williams and the Nashville Ballet, Natalie Prass, 2019 NATIVE High Class Superlatives, Varall...

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