Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee are — in my opinion — the two best music cities in America. On any given night, you can find an amazing show in one of many great concert venues… not to mention that if you throw a rock in any direction, you are liable to hit a musician in either of these fine American cities. On the Wednesday night of September 8th at The East Room, Nashville hosted one of the best and most entertaining bands from Austin — Calliope Musicals. They were joined by local friends Terror Pigeon, Flesh Eater and Tera Terra.
My first experience with Calliope Musicals came one random evening in Austin, when I wanted some kombucha, so I decided to stop by Radio Coffee. It’s one of my favorite places in the city to procure the beverage. The parking lot was packed with cars and a stage had been created at the front of the building. I had nothing else going on, so I decided to stick around and spend my night checking out some local music. Little did I know my mind would be blown visually and musically that evening. When I found out Calliope Musicals would be performing in my city, I had to make it a point to attend and find out more about this wildly creative group of musicians.
After soundcheck, I had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with lead singer Carrie Fussell prior to showtime.
We chatted about the intricacies of setting up and planning elaborate light shows and who picks the music on the road. We also discussed touring after quarantine and how excited she was to be performing again. Quarantine ended up being a chance for the band to record an unexpected LP: “We have a single called ‘Dr. Pepper’ that’s coming out in October that has a little B-side called ‘Spicy Mouth’, and that’s going to be a release for the end of year. Right now, the album is still in the mixing phases,” Fussell says, “we haven’t self-recorded anything in years! Ryan, our bass player, is a really gifted engineer and we spent a month total doing retreats: a week at a time, working on four to six songs at a time. It came together really naturally. We weren’t planning on making an album.” Fussell went on to talk about how she previously had planned to just release songs a single at a time, yet the concept formed and the rest is sure to be history. The conversation really got me excited to see what they had in store for us, so I made my way inside to catch the other acts.
Flesh Eater kicked the show off, with a frantic explosion of EDM and what felt like spoken word. They could easily fit into any rave scene if they aren’t already immersed in it. I am not sure I could define them by genre, but they were fast and their beats were definitely pounding. Tara Terra, in contrast, was smooth and soothing. The smoky vocals and easy indie alt sounds of Emily Blue and her cohorts brought the crowd back down from the madness of their predecessors. They were beautiful and relaxing — the type of music you play when taking a long drive to the lake on a warm, summer day.
It was an eclectic mix of sounds thus far; the energy was high and fans were eagerly awaiting the next half of the show. Terror Pigeon ultimately closed out the opening acts, with his collection of intense visuals and crowd participation activities, such as a drive around the venue floor: an event where he had the audience hold out their fists and walk around erratically while he performed. He hadn’t played a show in almost 18 months and, while you could tell he was exhausted, he was definitely happy to be back onstage.
The moment Calliope Musicals hit the opening beat of the first song, it felt as if a blast of moonbeams and energy erupted throughout the audience.
Many bands overcompensate with lights and effects for lack of musical talent, but not this band. Calliope Musicals could easily hold their own acoustically, with only the light of an iPhone (if it came to it). However, the visuals they create were simply mesmerizing, in addition to a symphony of sounds that transport the listener to another dimension. Carrie is everything you’d expect from the leader of a band such as this: theatrical and passionate, energetic and dynamic. Her voice rang out from the PA and, like a microwave, caused every molecule inside of your body to vibrate. They donned only black garbage bags — representative of what a dumpster fire year 2020 was. It was a strange contrast to their otherwise colorful performance. Calliope Musicals created magic on a Wednesday evening. For a brief few hours, even though still wearing masks, everyone completely forgot the problems of the outside world.
Photography by Derek Jones