John Doe Brings His Eclectic Blend of Music To The Nashville Social Club

October 15, 2022

It was my first time seeing a show at the beautiful new Nashville Social Club in Carson City. It is a gorgeous space. An intimate venue with a tasteful stage and a great sound. 

The Nashville Social Club has a hipster, airy, spacious vibe built around diverse, wide-ranging music, sumptuous, down-home cooking, and a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere.

The entire place was packed. The food was exceptional. You could sense before the show that the audience was pumped to see this musical legend. 

image courtesy of Will Houk

John Doe is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles punk band X  along with Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebreak. The band was an important part of the early punk scene on the West Coast and continues to be an inspiration for musicians from various genres. Their unique sound combined male and female harmonies and continues to be a vital contribution to the world of punk rock. John also fronted the group The Knitters which included most of the members of X along with Dave Alvin, who founded the LA punk group The Blasters. To say he’s an important part of the West Coast punk scene is an understatement. 

After his stint in X, John moved on to working in TV and film. He’s appeared in such movies as Road House and Pure Country as well as the TV show Roswell.  This is when he started a shift in his music to a more folk sound. He’s recorded eight studio albums with guests including Patty Griffin, Dan Auerbach (of Black Keys), and Aimee Mann. His career is wide-ranging and eclectic, and that’s one of the things that is most intriguing about his art. He doesn’t stand still for long and you can bet whatever project he’s involved in is going to be interesting. 

His folk band most often performs as a trio.  They released an album earlier this year called Fables in a Foreign Land. I talked to him about this project,  a concept album set in the US in the 1890s. He said, “For no apparent reason these songs started coming out in a way that told me it could all take place in the 1890s. Like a lot of people, I’m not too enamored with technology and all the so-called advances it’s given us. I think what we’ve lost is not near what we’ve gained. So I paid attention to that and did some research. I was trying to make a world unto itself.” 

One of the most intriguing songs on the record is Guilty Bystander.  This song is about people witnessing a slave being whipped, but the song has modern overtones referencing the murder of George Floyd. When I asked John about this he told me, “When George Floyd was murdered I wanted to respond to that. It’s both parts of a story (in the song) which is about going into town to watch a horse race and having someone whip a slave. And then there’s a social commentary. I don’t want to and choose not to be part of this situation which is the guilty bystander.” 

image courtesy of Will Houk

His band sounded tight. The bass player kept the rhythm on a standup bass while the drummer kept a straightforward solid beat and John’s guitar had an incredible tone, just on the edge of breakup with a little distortion,  but still clean and clear. John’s vocals are very reminiscent of his work with X and The Knitters. The melodies and harmonies he arranges are reminiscent of Roy Orbinson, pure and beautiful but with a bit of darkness about them. It works well for the style of folk the band plays, punk-inspired, but still in the Woody Gutherie lineage of music. 

They played a great mix of songs from his folk career, to songs by X and The Knitters. When the show was finished they got a standing ovation and returned to the stage to uproarious applause. He finished the night with the rockabilly tune The Call of the Wrecking Ball after a number of people shouted out the request. It was an exciting ending to a night of incredible music. 

Will Houk covers the music scene for The Ally. He is the host of the radio show and podcast “Roots, Rednecks, and Radicals.” The weekly radio show airs weekly on KNVC 95.1 FM Carson City Community Radio and features the best of Americana, folk, and roots music. His podcast takes a deep dive into modern roots music featuring in-depth interviews with recording artists. A lover of music and the outdoors, Will was raised in Northern Nevada. He now calls Carson City home with his wife Jes, and son William. He’s a teacher at Carson High School where he has taught Social Studies for 18 years. Here’s a link to his podcast –  “Roots, Rednecks, and Radicals” Podcast and Radio Show  Take a moment and support Will’s work for the Ally here.

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