City Scenes: Jeff Rosenstock at Nashville’s Eastside Bowl

With the first three weeks of the Fall semester having faded into the rearview mirror with nary a road bump or pit stop, I figured the coast was clear for a quick getaway. So with a jetsetter whimsy entirely at odds with my actual socioeconomic station I caught a Friday flight from Pittsburgh to Nashville for a weekend rock show.

My much-more-musically-inclined brother-in-law was driving in from Kansas City to catch Jeff Rosenstock at Nashville’s Eastside Bowl, and a last minute change of circumstances left him with a spare ticket.

Rosenstock first popped up on my radar more than a year ago when a student in my Media and Consumer Culture course submitted a final paper about the musician’s work with Bomb the Music Industry! The general post-punk ethos of DIY distribution and anti-corporate accessibility left a strong impression on me.

The Eastside Bowl is an entire entertainment complex occupying significant real estate in a classically suburban-style shopping center. Purportedly a former K-Mart store, the venue is technically located in the Madison zip code, on the opposite side of the Briley from a strip of East Nashville joints dotting Gallatin Pike, and offers ample parking.

The “bowl” in the venue’s name has nothing to do with amphitheater seating and everything to do with balls and pins. The overall aesthetic recalls vintage bowling alleys both real and imagined.

The sixteen bowling lanes are flanked by neon starbursts that I will always associate with The Big Lebowski.

The smaller of the Bowl’s two venues comprises a low stage in a retro lounge with psychedelic-themed booth seating.

The main stage sits all the way in the back of the sprawling space and features an elevated viewing area along with thematic decorative features befitting the bowling focus.

Signage above the stageside bar pays homage to the site’s former life as a K-Mart.

Now the featured musical acts give new meaning to the phrase Blue Light Special.

My brother-in-law is fond of quoting the adage: “Old punks don’t die, they just stand in the back.” For the duration of the lineup we did indeed stand in the back — comparing our personal reusable ear plugs that we had brought for the event — and shared thoughts on how it felt to be attending a rock show while approaching middle age.

I had to rack my brain to recollect how long it had been since my last concert. Astonishingly, I couldn’t think of a single event I’d attended since seeing The New Pornographers at Pittsburgh’s Mr. Smalls theater nearly ten years ago.

Maybe it was the backdrop of Rosenstock’s trademark standard — a modified pride flag with the number of the beast “666” encircled by a wreath of marijuana leaves — but there was certainly something invigorating about shaking off the dust and getting back in the pit after such a long absence.

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