As we roll through the latter part of the touring dog days of summer, good shows can be hard to come by, but last week’s saturated slate of shows provided a brief period of cacophonous euphoria from the paltry sum of show the weeks prior. One such show was that of Steve Gunn, the former Kurt Vile/Violator guitarist thrust to the forefront of his own namesake, touring in support of the easy breezes featured on his exceptional new record, Eyes On the Lines, at his Nashville stop at Exit/In on Thursday, July 14th .
Gunn is totally self-effacing in his demeanor (and at times self-deprecating), to the point of which you wouldn’t know he’s managed to quietly put out a total of 14 records to date since hitting the boards back in 2007. There’s no reason for Gunn to necessarily be self-promoting or self-flagellating either way, but when you witness his git-fiddle prowess, how can someone so incredibly talented be so unassuming? I suppose that’s a rhetorical question, but the only thing resembling an answer that I could conceive would be something along the lines of “Steve Gunn is the Tim Duncan of indie-guitar music,” which isn’t really an answer, but I am particularly fond of shoehorning a Tim Duncan reference in here.
Truly, though, Gunn is about as humble and reserved an artist as any, and when it comes
to weaving audience conversation in between his beautifully crafted John Fahey-meets-Indian-Carnatic songs, he opts for no frills disclaimers – “Just saying, my banter is at an all time low. We’re having fun, so we’re going to keep going.” – and sure enough, they did. After opening the set with the airy “Milly’s Garden” off of his 2014 release, Way Out Weather, Gunn and his cohorts kept the breeze of cool guitar tone and Gunn’s vocal rosin, despite a couple of Chatty Kathys that were unabashedly ignorant to Gunn’s playful anecdotal prodding – “One time played this show in Montreal and you could hear the blow dryers as people used the bathroom.”
Ever the professional, Gunn’s virtuoso brilliance quickly overtook the unnecessarily social folks in the crowd, moving into “Ancient Jules,” one of Gunn’s standout tracks off of Eyes On the Lines, which he prefaced with a story of “if you go down to your grandfather’s basement and you kind of just hang out with him – listen to records and play some guitars” which he quickly tried to subvert with the follow up of “That’s not a good story,” and then jumped right into “Ancient Jules.” Gunn’s backing band – the Outliers – really stood out on “Ancient Jules,” specifically the standing steel slide which sounded exquisite in the room.
Following a run through “Night Wander,” Gunn introduced his band and informed the audience that it was his bass player, Jason’s birthday, and without any pronouncement, the crowd broke into “Happy Birthday” and then the band jumped right into a stretch of “Full Moon Tide,” “The Drop,” and “Ark,” all off of Eyes On the Lines. All in all, you couldn’t help but feel a lift from the cool gusts of guitar brought about by Gunn and the Outliers, who ended up providing an excellent alternative to the insufferable summer heat and injected life into the doggedly vacant weeks of a late July (unofficial) live music moratorium.