It was more than just a concert and more than just a movie. Tonight, one of Nashville’s finest venues for each hosted both a documentary film and a rock concert featuring Atlanta-based band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. This wasn’t the first or last time that the Belcourt hosted a “Doc & Roc” event like this. In 2009, heavy metal rockers Anvil thrashed movie-goers live after a screening of their bio-pic, Anvil! The Story of Anvil. More recently, the lone surviving member of influential Memphis band Big Star, Jody Stephens, along with Nashville’s Bill Lloyd assembled a group of artists to reprise some of the band’s songs following a screening of Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is an alternative-leaning Southern-fried rock band that musically places themselves somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd and R.E.M. The much-loved band gave the devoted, nearly sold-out crowd a 65-minute toned down set after a screening of Eric Von Haessler’s documentary about the band, Scarred but Smarter (life n times of drivin n cryin).
This was Music City Mike’s first Doc & Roc, so I arrived facing the dilemma of where to sit. Did I want to sit up close for a good concert seat or in the middle for a good movie seat? I chose the former for the sake of getting some good band photos at the expense of a stiff neck from looking up at the movie screen.
At 7:30, the film began with a brief intro from director Von Haessler in which he thanked the band for its cooperation throughout the several years it took him to put this film together. The rather long 110-minute documentary was well done, quite a treat for the Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ fan. For me, a casual fan and chronic napper, I eventually heard enough and couldn’t help dosing off for a bit in the middle. Learning about the band’s members and history, however, set an interesting perspective for the live set that followed.
After a brief break for us to refill our popcorn, the band took the stage. Front man Kevin Kinney started with an immediate disclaimer about needing to turn down their volume–something about plaster falling off the walls during sound check. In what would have made a great scene for the movie, I then heard a Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ diehard yell, “Turn it up or turn it off.”
The four-piece combo kicked off with a nice, laid-back version of the film’s title song, “Scarred but Smarter,” a career prophecy from their debut record in 1986. The current version of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ features two surviving original members: Kinney who sings everything and Tim Nielsen who plays bass. Joining them on guitar was young slinger Sadler Vaden who was seen in town last week as a member of Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit.
The set featured a selection of songs from throughout their years and spotlighted a few from their series of recent EPs. Notable was the tribute song to another Georgia band that they grew up alongside, “REM.” Joined by two women backup singers, they closed down the main set with their anthem to the place our mothers told us we’d go whenever we misbehaved. Despite my belief to the contrary, the catchy chorus of “I’m going straight to hell, just like my Mama said” became an earworm that I couldn’t stop hearing all the way home. A three-song encore ended the night. They got the walls rattling a little when Kinney cranked up his electric guitar during the closing “Fly Me Courageous.” No apparent plaster fallout, however.
Former Dead Boy and current Nashvillian, Cheetah Chrome, who sometimes sits in with the band, was in the house, but did not join in.
It was nice to see the Belcourt use both its screen and stage for a single event in this fashion, and hopefully, we will see some more Doc & Roc events. Perhaps some of the great classic rock films could be reprised with either the original artists or talented local tribute bands like The Long Players providing the music.
- Scarred but Smarter
- Turn Around
- Honeysuckle Blues
- Sometimes I Wish I Didn’t Care
- Let’s Go Dancing
- Roll Away the Stone
- Straight to Hell
- Mystery Road
- Ain’t Waiting on Tomorrow
- Fly Me Courageous
Kevin Kinney – Vocals and Guitar
Tim Nielsen – Bass
Dave V. Johnson – Drums
Sadler Vaden – Guitar