Chagall Guevara & The Nashville Nexus

I give a lot of thought to how the doors of perception get held open. There’s affirmation. There’s art. There’s well-timed nods. There’s finding something or someone familiar or wonderfully weird and then going to the trouble of risking something in an attempt to get in on the act (or the scene) you see going on. There’s also finding something or someone beautiful and…the desire to be nearer to the beauty. The longing to belong to the beautiful and the beloved. To be beloved. To be beheld.

Chagall Guevara came along at just the right time for me. As I recall in the interview that follows my review of their first studio album in thirty years, Halcyon Days, there was at least one evening in Murfreesboro, Tennessee when I showed up to watch them perform a very late set at a venue called Main Street and, if memory serves, I was the only person watching.

In those days, Nashville was small enough that I’d see the men of Chagall Guevara around town. I remember seeing Lynn Nichols at the Blockbuster Video in Green Hills and asking if he’d let me buy him a doughnut at The Donut Den down the street. “Perhaps another time,” he told me. To this day, we still haven’t broken doughnuts together. *shakes fist at sky*

In time, Wade Jaynes would become a very good friend who turned me on to Paul Virilio and hefeweizen. When I approached Steve Taylor to ask him if he’d read any Dostoevsky, I seem to recall him recommending A Prayer For Owen Meany (Guess what I found, bought, and started reading right away). I only met Mike Mead one time at a Cracker Barrel, but I’ll never forget when he accepted an award on behalf of the band beneath a tent at our State fairgrounds saying, “This is the best thing that’s happened to me all day.”

I’m gonna pause for a moment at the thought of Dave Perkins (who’s giving us all a thumbs-up in the photograph above) to say something about what I call The Nashville Nexus. I mean to deploy the words in a neutral way. The Nashville Nexus names a weird, radiating, sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful…promise which moves along a spectrum of curse and blessing. Nashville’s embarrassing and freshtastik all at once (Have you noticed?). The Nashville Nexus appeared before me in a friend’s New York apartment recently when he told me that his cat has a sibling owned (or looked after) by Taylor Swift. The Nashville Nexus also showed up when Michael W. Smith played “Friends” at a memorial service for Public Servant 41. I felt a disturbance in the Nashville Nexus when a thoughtful young man at a skate park sighed in my presence and begrudgingly acknowledged that, yes, Donald Trump (not yet Public Servant 45) had recently delivered a speech at Rocketown, Rocketown. Come on, The Nashville Nexus!! Don’t do this to yourself. Show some self-respect.

I wrestle not against flesh and blood, but I hate The Nashville Nexus sometimes. I want it to stand up for itself when abusers, bullies, and opportunists promise it the world.

I also think of all the people in Nashville who’ve been so good to me, and then…I love it all over again.

I think of Dave Perkins. If you were there at the Martin Twin (which was eventually destroyed and replaced with Hollywood 27) when Robert Altman’s Nashville premiered in Nashville in 1975, you would have beheld Vassar Clements’ band serving as an opening act. You would also have beheld Dave in that band. Dave Perkins can’t be everywhere all at once, but he’s been there, at the still-beating heart, of all manner of awesomeness in famous and not-famous Nashville. When singer-songwriter-artist gadfly, Jimmy Abegg, began to lose his eyesight and was asked by friends if he’d allow them to conduct a fund-raising evening at Third Man Records to help pay for a backyard studio, he consented under the condition that Dave Perkins be the headliner. They agreed. Amy Grant was the opening act. It was a beautiful evening.

So anyway, Dave Perkins is my hero and friend. You can perhaps imagine the thrill it was to hear him sing this Chagall Guevara song at the Ryman auditorium a few weeks ago.

A couple or three more things: Wade Jaynes didn’t play the Ryman that night, but John Mark Painter (pictured above) of Fleming & John stood in for him. They’re awesome too. They opened for Chagall Guevara a number of times. When I saw them play in the nineties, their opening act was Ben Folds (perhaps ypu’ve heard of him. He’s part of The Nashville Nexus too. Here’s John and Fleming McWilliams joining him on television with a Shakespearean actor from Canada named William Shatner.

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The picture above is a postcard Steve Taylor sent me after I wrote a review of their self-titled debut. It was just the validation I needed. I held on to it and often looked at it whenever I feared I’d never access what Jim Carrey’s character in Dumb and Dumber refers to as “the social pipeline.”

When I worked and lived in Northern Ireland in the Fall of 1992, I met a Presbyterian pastor named Steve Stockman while leading an outdoor exercise at a YMCA. Upon hearing that I was from Nashville, he remarked on the music that comes out of there. I replied, somewhat defensively, that it wasn’t all country music. He smiled and lifted up his sweatshirt to reveal a Chagall Guevara t-shirt underneath. I would go on to serve as his best man, he’d co-officiate my wedding ceremony, and he remains a mentor to me despite the ocean between us.

In short, be the rock and roll you want to see in the world. Thank you, Chagall Guevara, for everything.

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Anybody know what happened to The Gunbunnies?

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If anyone has any words or images for recovering the social fact of an establishment called Multi-Bob’s, please share them with me. This is some of the only evidence I have that it ever existed (right across the street from the pet store that became Fido.

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