12th and Porter
Welcome back, 12th and Porter – Old Union has been waiting.
12th and Porter once was one of Nashville’s live music hot spots before the taxman came and took it away. However, Old Union sent the place out in style, performing a smoking hot last show there over a year ago.
Thanks to new owners, 12th and Porter has hung its shingle once again, and Old Union still seems to like hanging around.
Chuck Foster’s “1000 New Ways to Fly” greeted the honey hole with perfect sound and a little extra grit. In fact, the energy bursting out at the opening of the show was only minutely stifled by the pause of David Bryndal’s blown snare head being replaced before ripping into “Jericho”. There is no doubt that Old Union’s two guitarists cannot possibly make it through a night of playing without pushing things to blisteringly loud levels. However, the instrumentation of the band has begun to evolve in different layers, and everyone seemed to be playing with a greater level of confidence while riding shotgun alongside new bassist Jason Williams’ dead-on hooks. Williams added a new dimension to the band with his inventive play, and that freshness led to the retooling of some of the Old Union catalog.
“Message to the Maker” continued to showcase a more rounded Old Union as Foster’s barreling boogie-woogie piano strutted around in front of the boisterous and easily provoked guitars. The band segued nicely into “Deadline”, joined by percussionist Andrew Swift from Ballhog!. Swift stayed on stage with them for the remainder of the first set.
The second set started off to the liking of all in attendance with “J-Dubb” Williams on the doghouse bass and the electric guitars laid down to rest, acoustics armed and ready. It was an MTV Unplugged version of an acoustic set if you will. The set started off with a great “Drifter’s Prayer,” followed by a great “Motels and Highways” that took on a new persona as a stripped-away acoustic offering. Both of these songs underwent a little retooling for the acoustic versions, lending an exciting new outlook on two great songs from the bands’ vast arsenal. Spotty’s ability on the dobro alone is reason enough to start incorporating more of these acoustic sections to the traveling show. Then, joined by Randy Russell on background vocals and the band’s talented manager Chris Bledsoe on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, they nailed Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”.
A perfect waterfall of notes rang out from a guitar and landed atop the dancing keys of Foster as the intro to “Last Chance” got the electricity flowing once again. One of the Old Union songs that seemingly received a makeover was “Working.” Again the presence of Williams on bass helped to show great promise, with innovative takes on their own material. Old Union has quite a few Rolling Stones songs in the bag, but the most recent cover “Rain Fell Down” is a scorcher. A good Stones cover can ignite a crowd, and the band nailed this one, then immediately fell into “What’s Going Around,” one of Old Union’s oldest songs.
The night ended with a take on JJ Cale’s “Ride Me High”, a song that Old Union covers fairly often. The crowd’s participation on the last song showed their approval of the night’s performance.
With that, another night of rock and roll was finished. A few cars were towed and a few shots were bellied, all in celebration of the return of 12th and Porter to the Nashville nightscape.