Friday, Sept. 22, High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.
Greetings from Nashville! Yes, Music City, U.S.A. ' rich with famous labels, studios and superstars ' none of which I've seen since I spent the weekend in the woods at a wedding.
Some friends from San Francisco held their nuptials here in order to absorb the regional splendor, by which I mean dozens of ticks. It was a beautiful ceremony, and I'd have cried had I not already sweated out all my bodily fluids.
But now, in the car ride back to the motel, I'm listening to the Waybacks. It's appropriate. Lead singer-slash-guitarist-slash-mandolin player James Nash is from Nashville originally, but now resides with the band in San Francisco. Is that a freaky coincidence or what?
Labored happenstance aside, the Waybacks make a good Southern soundtrack. Their alt-timey, bluegrungy folkmatter is as relentlessly upbeat as it is regionally appropriate. And Nash's voice has that timeless, clean tenor that sounds just too Grand Ole Opry to be true.
It may just be the ticks burrowing into my brain talking, but over the last year I've lost some of my love for nouveau Americana music. Fiddlebilly is fun, but lack of depth has frayed the novelty.
The Waybacks prove me wrong. Not unlike Lyme disease, these feverish songs are deliriously fun but go down deeper than the strange circular rash on my neck. Here there be jazz, some funk, chance-taking lyrics and forays into emotion that remind us why Tennessee birthed so much music in the first place.
And why it ultimately moves to San Francisco.
Mates of State
Friday Sept. 22, Orpheum Theatre, 8 p.m.
You know those friends you have, the really cute couple with a better relationship than yours, better jobs and with better songwriting skills? In case you're wondering where they go off to months at a time, it's on tour under the name Mates of State.
With signature electric organ, drum machine and unpredictable harmonies, this couple from Lawrence, Kan., make their thousandth annual visit to Madison. My guess is you already know how much fun their shows are. But there may be other reasons to attend.
As infectious as the Mates' ditties are, so too is their relationship. I now know three couples who met or had first dates at Mates of State shows. They're like ground musical rhinoceros horn. And one of those couples? Just went to their wedding. Got some ticks. May have mentioned it.