True to form, The Basement provided a more intimate space for Saturday nights show with The Whistles and the Bells, a redirection of local Nashville artist Bryan Simpson, formerly of Cadillac Sky. I walked into the venue with four tables lined up in the front row already filled and a growing audience behind them. I took a quick scan of the room, grabbed a beer and stepped outside while I waited for the band to go on. Promptly at 8pm we hear the music start, and I see everyone take their last drag of their cigarettes, grab their beers, and head inside. In just the short 15 or 20 minutes I was outside, The Basement is packed. People are standing dutifully any place they can to get a decent view of the band.
In Bryan’s performance you can hear his conversion to Christianity, a topic that he’s been open and honest about discussing, it’s prevalent in his lyrics, soulful presentation, and banter in between songs. His sound is nothing like your typical Christian rock, it’s gritty and real. The band moves through genres and at any given moment you can hear the musical influence of gospel, to rock, to country, etc. You can particularly hear this fortitude in “Mercy Please,” in which Simpson sings “If we are what we eat / Then my future it is scary. / For I have been scarfing down / The pages of the devil’s dictionary.” There’s an authenticity to Simpson’s performance, it’s raw and you can feel it in your bones when he plays anyone of his plethora of instruments while singing. I was lucky enough to capture just a fraction of the emotion emitted while photographing the show. A favorite of mine was their performance of “Shadow of Death,” it’s truly unadulterated and the type of song that makes you stop and just listen.
Towards the end of the night, Megan Barry, Nashville’s very own mayor, was spotted near the entrance sporting a Nashville Predators jersey and showing her support, just in time to see The Whistles and the Bells set winding down. They began to play songs that have yet to be heard by “the living or the dead,” as Simpson put it. Their transition into their new music seems to stay in line with their current self-titled album and I know I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from them. As their set came to a close, Simpson thanked the crowd for coming out and went on to talk about how, “this music is a partnership,” a sentiment that couldn’t be more accurate for Simpson and his new endeavor with The Whistles and the Bells. Whether or not your beliefs are similar to Simpsons, their music is worth the listen, the instrumentals are complex and there’s a great story behind it all.
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