Monthly Archives: April 2012

Concert Announcement: Death Cab For Cutie – July 17, 2012

Death Cab For Cutie are set to return to the Ryman this summer for one night only – Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 4 at Noon and will be available here.

By their seventh studio album, many bands are running out of creative steam and original ideas. But in the case of Death Cab for Cutie, nothing could be further from the truth. Codes and Keys is singular in the quartet’s catalog when it comes to sonic exploration and lyrical ambition. If anything, the band has never sounded more excited to experiment with textures, words, sounds and even the process of recording itself.

Death Cab created Codes and Keys in studios up and down the West Coast, in short bursts over a period of seven months. These studios included Sound City in Van Nuys, California (where the band recorded The Twilight Saga: New Moon single “Meet Me on the Equinox”), The Warehouse in Vancouver, drummer Jason McGerr’s own Two Sticks Audio and Tiny Telephone in San Francisco. In between these ten-day or two-week recording sessions, they would put the songs aside and let them “gestate,” bassist Nick Harmer says.

While Death Cab for Cutie has always produced their best work by recording in a piecemeal fashion like this, Harmer says that the process of making Codes and Keys was “most fragmented that we’ve done in terms of time-on-time-off.” But McGerr found a real benefit to having some distance from the music: “There was this constant renewal of fresh inspiration that came from moving from studio to studio.”

But unlike the studio process for 2008’s Grammy-nominated Narrow Stairs – an album the band recorded to tape in real time, with minimal overdubs and studio trickery – Codes and Keys turned into what guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Chris Walla has taken to calling a “construction project.”

The band focused on capturing the best take of their parts – at times separately, at other times in pairs – and built songs by layering these performances (and other musical ideas) on top of each other. “We’ve deconstructed little pieces of songs before like this,” Walla says. “But we’ve never pulled the thread out of the whole sweater and then made a new sweater out of it. Not like this.”

Codes and Keys immediately makes a statement with the first song, “Home Is a Fire.” Staticky percussion chatters beneath several layers of bustling rhythms and echoing, spooky vocals. The lush instrumentation continues with the title track, on which strings from San Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra sway in time with oompah drums and graceful vaudeville piano. The orchestra also adds lightness to “Stay Young, Go Dancing,” an upbeat album-ender that’s as fanciful as Randy Newman’s Pixar movie contributions.

Elsewhere, the New Order-like “Doors Unlocked and Open” has a dense, dark bassline, while the centerpiece “Unobstructed Views” meshes floating-in-space electronic noises with angelic twinkling and strident piano; the effect is a heavenly Explosions in the Sky. “St. Peter’s Cathedral” begins with Gibbard singing a cappella, and gradually blooms into a mournful but somehow joyous song filled with wordless, bubbly harmonies and cinematic synthesized drone.

“With all the songs that Ben wrote, he really experimented a lot with his songwriting,” McGerr observes. “He started to use his voice more as an instrument than just somebody singing lyrics.”

Walla too says he approached Codes and Keys as an experiment, and he’s grateful that his bandmates “were all willing to let me lead them down the rabbit hole on a lot of different songs.” He approached some tunes as if he was a scientist doing an experiment, constructing elaborate gear setups (think a Rube Goldberg machine) to create, manipulate or trigger certain sounds. The result is a complex album whose gifts only reveal themselves with repeated listens. Even Codes and Keys’ poppiest moments, “Monday Morning” and “Underneath the Sycamore,” have dense layers of bustling texture lurking below the surface.

“In the last couple of years I for one have been really moved by a lot of records that have some pretty unconventional palettes,” Walla says. “I’ve been learning that there’s a way to present a song and a way to move somebody with a landscape they haven’t necessarily seen or heard before. I really wanted to try to do that. I wanted to try and make a new visual for the cinema of song.”

Despite the nomadic recording process – and the expanded sonic palette — it’s a testament to the band’s talent and chemistry that Codes and Keys is a cohesive statement, a collection of songs that hangs together as a well-sequenced album. Walla says that cohesion is something he discussed with Codes and Keys’ mixer, Alan Moulder. “I was really interested in making a record rather than a recording,” Walla says. “And particularly when it came to vocal treatments and drawing big, heavy dark lines between verses and choruses and doing that sort of thing, I asked him to be pretty brave and pretty bold with all of that stuff.”

Indeed, Moulder’s deft mixing touches helped Codes and Keys’ nuanced details stand out. “Every song is its own little sonic journey, which is a cheesy way of putting it,” Gibbard says. “He found a place on the shelf for every little sound.”

Adds Harmer, “I’m so thankful he was a part of this process. His mixes are incredible, and he brought something to the band that we’ve never had, just that outside perspective. It was nice to have an editor, for lack of a better word, at the very end of it to be able to sift through all of the ideas and focus in on the things that he thought were the most salient and most important ones to save.”

The attention to detail in the music matches the measured precision of Gibbard’s lyrics on Codes and Keys. Silence is just as important as what words are spoken, and economy of language is prized. “Throughout writing almost all of the songs on this record, I found that I wanted to keep it really concise,” Gibbard says. “I wanted songs to have more hooks, less lyrics, if that makes sense.”

If anything, often the lyrics are the hooks. The verses of “Doors Unlocked and Open,” for instance, are a series of clipped but evocative phrases: “Isolations / Dotted lines / Seas of concrete / With wild eyes / Streaking colors.” On “Unobstructed Views,” the song blooms into a section of stacked, Beach Boys-go-prog harmonies cooing, “New love.”

“This record’s more oblique than the last couple of records were,” Walla says. “It’s really economical, but it’s also not hyper-literal. There are pieces of it that are, but it’s not as plain in story terms — or language terms, I guess, than the last couple records have been. And I for one am really thrilled that I don’t have any idea what like five or six of these songs are about.”

The mystery doesn’t diminish the impact of the songs – if anything, they’re more relatable because listeners can apply their own interpretation of the lyrics. “As a band we’ve always encouraged Ben to write from his heart – what do you know, what are you going through – and that will be the truth,” Harmer says.

As always, that soul-searching guided Gibbard to dark and light places. But while acknowledging that he wrote several songs “with a heavy pen” Gibbard says he’s most proud that Codes and Keys is a “very even, well-balanced record, emotionally speaking.” Indeed, the songs run the gamut from “St. Peter’s Cathedral” – which ends with a gut-wrenching refrain, “There’s nothing past this” — to the title track’s assertion, “We are one, we are alive.”

“I didn’t necessarily know it at the time, but I was writing Narrow Stairs in a very dark period of my life,” Gibbard says. “I had lost control over a lot of things that I should have had control over, and I needed to make a lot of changes in my life. The record is a very dark album in a lot of ways. And after we finished making that record and I was listening back to it, I had this realization that I don’t want to write this record ever again. I don’t want this to be the thing that I write all the time.”

Change is certainly something that the members of Death Cab for Cutie experienced in the years between recording Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys. McGerr now has two children, Walla ended a long relationship and moved away from Portland and Harmer got married. Gibbard’s own life changes, in fact, inspired one of the recurring themes of Codes and Keys – musings about the search for (and idea of) home.

The lyrical phrases in “Home Is a Fire” display a certain anxiety – “Bricks make me nervous,” “Plates they will shift/houses will shake” – and ends with the resigned realization, “Nothing’s the same.” The album’s first single, “You Are a Tourist,” makes the insightful observation, “And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, then it’s time to go/And define your destination: there’s so many different places to call home.”

“I feel like if there is a theme of home throughout the record, it has as much to do because of the changes that have happened in my life,” Gibbard says. “I’ve moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, I’ve gotten married, I’ve rediscovered what the definition of home is.” The latter discovery spurred Gibbard to reflect on and revisit – intentionally – some of his past lyrics.

For instance, the line “Life is sweet in the belly of the beast” on “Stay Young, Go Dancing” softens the staunch anti-California sentiments on The Photo Album’s “Why You’d Want to Live Here.” The bird metaphor of Narrow Stairs’ “Talking Bird,” meanwhile, is now turned around and applied to the protagonist of “Monday Morning.” “There is a re-engineering of the lyrics in a handful of spots on the record,” Gibbard says, “just because I want to reclaim sentiment that I wrote about and re-evaluate it and re-present it.”

Indeed, Codes and Keys’ lyrics are very much focused on the here-and-now, which is something Harmer admires. “I’m really happy that his songs are at a maturity level and have a level of wisdom that reflect his age and his adventures,” he says. “They ring true with me in that sense.”

Walla agrees. “I’m so into this record and connected to this record lyrically in a way that I have only been in pieces for the last couple of records,” he says, citing the “invitation and celebration” of them.

In conversation, it’s obvious that the members of Death Cab for Cutie are still each other’s biggest fans. More important, they genuinely enjoy making music with each other and being in a band together. Their only motivation is to create music they like – and to impress and satisfy each other. Theirs might not be a controversial rock & roll story – but it is one rooted in stable, supportive brotherhood.

“We left college and spent years in a van together, and we’ve spent all of this time learning from one another and growing emotionally and otherwise over the years,” Harmer says. “The fabric of our relationships is very complex and certainly something that is very important to me, and probably to everyone in the band. We are a support network for each other; we are so much more than four guys who get together and play music.”


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Concert Announcement: The Wiggles August 7, 2012

The Wiggles are coming to the Ryman August 7, 2012! Tickets go on sale Friday, May 11 at 10:00 a.m. and will be available via this link.

*$77.50 ticket package includes:
• One (1) premium seat
• Exclusive gift
• Activity sheet
• A chance to dance on stage with The Wiggles

Ryman Ticket Policy

Children ages one and up will require a ticket. Children under the age of one will be admitted without a ticket.

Come and wiggle in the aisles for Getting Strong – The Wiggles! Live in Concert. The Wiggles are strong advocates for a healthy lifestyle and are excited to bring this positive message, on the importance of fitness and exercise for all ages, to Nashville! Audience participation features include:

• Start the fun at home by creating a giant wiggly sign.
• Having fun with your favorite wiggly pal as they sing and dance through the audience.
• Dress up as your favorite character.
• Yelling “Wake up, Jeff!” whenever the loveable Purple Wiggle falls asleep onstage.

Children can have even more wiggly fun while they wait for the show by visiting, The Wiggles’ very own virtual world created specifically for preschoolers and their parents. Parents can monitor their child’s progress and have access to premium promotional offers, contests, merchandise discounts and presale Wiggles tickets! You can also follow the gang on Twitter or become a fan of the group’s official Facebook page.

The Wiggles are proud to announce that the U.S. school readiness initiative Reach Out and Read will be the official charity partner of their 2012 Tour. Reach Out and Read prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to “prescribe” books and encourage families to read together. Together, Reach Out and Read and The Wiggles will work to raise awareness about the importance of parental involvement and reading aloud to young children. Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses serve more than 3.9 million children and their families annually at 4,779 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics and health centers in all 50 states. Parents who participate in the research-proven program read to their children more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and a six-month developmental edge. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales will be used to support Reach Out and Read Programs across the United States.

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Concert Announcement: David Sedaris Nov. 1, 2012

David Sedaris at the Ryman Nov. 1. Tickets on sale Friday, April 27 at NOON, click here to purchase tickets.

Please take a moment to read our ticket policy.

NPR Humorist and Bestselling Author of “Naked,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” and “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.”

With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humor writers. The great skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness proves that Sedaris is a master of satire and one of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today.

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Concert Announcement: Meat Loaf August 29, 2012

Meat Loaf at the Ryman August 29. Tickets on sale Friday, April 27 at 10:00 a.m. For more information and direct ticket link click here.

Please take a moment to read our ticket policy.

Iconic singer MEAT LOAF has announced the first round of dates for his upcoming “MAD, MAD, WORLD” tour in connection with his newly released album “Hell In A Handbasket” (Sony/Legacy).

For the “Hell In A Handbasket” tour, MEAT LOAF says, “People who come to Meat Loaf shows know what to expect. They know they’re going to get full-on energy with the best rock ‘n’ roll band in the world. That’s not an opinion. That’s the truth.” Asked specifically what makes for a good show, he says, “Well, a great play can be done with a table, a light, and four chairs. Great shows are about people. You don’t want to put up a wall with laser lights, production, and dancers. It’s really about going out there and putting on the show of these people’s lives without all of the bells and whistles.”

Joining MEAT LOAF onstage will be his longtime band THE NEVERLAND EXPRESS: guitarist Paul Crook (who also produced the “Hell In A Handbasket” album), John Miceli (drums, percussion), Patti Russo (lead and backing vocals), Randy Flowers (guitars, vocals), David Luther (saxophone, vocals) Justin Avery (piano, organ, keyboard, vocals), Danny Miranda (electric and upright bass) and Ginny Luke (violin, vocals).

MEAT LOAF recently performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” where he sang “The Giving Tree” from “Hell In A Handbasket”. “It’s is the most personal record I’ve ever made,” said MEAT LOAF. “It’s really the first record I’ve ever put out about how I feel about life and how I feel about what’s going on at the moment.” The album, produced by Paul Crook, is an expression of life’s metaphors, driven by excellent musicianship, and of course, the passionate vocals of MEAT LOAF. “Making this album was a great experience,” said MEAT LOAF, “and I hope my fans enjoy hearing it as much as I did making it.”

MEAT LOAF–whose 1977 breakout album “Bat Out Of Hell” defined the arena rock genre and remains as one of the world’s five top-selling albums of all-time, with more than 43 million copies sold to date–is excited about “Hell In A Handbasket”. It’s a thematic record that easily crosses any number of genres, featuring such unlikely contributors as rappers Chuck D and Lil Jon, country star Trace Adkins, and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath.

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Levon Helm, Ramble at the Ryman May 6, 2012

Many of you may have read a statement from Levon’s family on his website about his battle with cancer (see below.) His May 6 performance at the Ryman has been canceled and refunds will be available at the point of purchase. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Helm family during this difficult time. We’ve been honored to have Levon on the Ryman stage over the years and grateful for the joy and music he shared.

Dear Friends,
Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.

Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration… he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage…

We appreciate all the love and support and concern.
From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy

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Merle Haggard, April 11, 2011 setlist and photos

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Photos (c) Steve Lowry/Ryman Archives


Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down
Mama Tried
Today I Started Loving You Again
Honky Tonk Nighttime Man
The Old Man From The Mountain
Big City
Workin’ Man Blues
T.B. Blues
Branded Man
Ramblin’ Fever
A Hundred Years From Now
They’re Tearin’ The Labor Camps Down
Silver Wings
I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink
Back To Earth
Sing Me Back Home
Are The Good Times Really Over (I Wish A Buck Was Still Silver)
If We Make It Through December
Working In Tennessee
Take Me Back To Tulsa
Okie From Muskogee
Folsom Prison Blues

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Hamlet, Markham, and Owen will visit CMHoF before Haggard performs at Ryman Auditorium on April 11.

Norm Hamlet, Don Markham, and Fuzzy Owen will visit the Country Music Hall of Fame for an interview before Merle Haggard performs at Ryman Auditorium on April 11.

Bakersfield Sound pioneers Norm Hamlet, Don Markham, and Fuzzy Owen will discuss their longtime involvement in Bakersfield’s music community and their decades of work with Merle Haggard. In the late 1940s, Charles “Fuzzy” Owen began playing steel guitar in Bakersfield clubs, which led to his original recording of “A Dear John Letter” (with Bonnie Owens) and a regular job on the TV show Cousin Herb’s Trading Post. As a partner in Tally Records, Owen signed Haggard to his first recording contract. He produced and played steel on Haggard’s early records, and became a permanent member of the singer’s business organization. Pedal steel guitarist Hamlet recorded in the 1950s with the Farmer Boys and other Bakersfield-area acts before joining Haggard’s band in 1967. Saxophonist and trumpeter Markham played in many of the house bands around Bakersfield in the 1950s and ’60s, and had joined the Strangers by the early 1970s. Hamlet and Markham appear on a long list of Haggard classics and remain core members of the Strangers today. Still based in Bakersfield, Hamlet, Markham, and Owen will visit the museum for an interview before Haggard performs at Ryman Auditorium on April 11. The interview and concert happen the week of Haggard’s seventy-fifth birthday (April 6), and shortly after the opening of the Museum’s major exhibition The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country. Free.

Pick up your program voucher at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Information Desk or Box Office beginning at 10:30 a.m. on April 11. Voucher required for admittance. Limited seating on a first come, first served basis. Suggest that you get in line at least 30 minutes early. Voucher does not guarantee a seat after the program begins.

Merle will perform at the Ryman April 11 – the show is sold out, but you can click here to enter to win a limited edition Hatch Show Print created especially for his concert.

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