Bloomington welcomes back Austin Lucas tonight to his favorite room, The Bishop. Lucas is more than familiar with that space - in fact, back in his early teens, he helped open an all-ages club (that still exists to this day in another space) in that room. He's played in a variety of bands (Rune, Twenty-Third Chapter, K10 Prospect, Guided Cradle), but he's settled behind his own name now, performing a punk-flecked Americana both solo and with a full band.
I caught up with Lucas - now happily based in Nashville - just before his show at the Bishop.
NUVO: You're coming back for a homecoming show tonight at the Bishop. I wanted to know about a couple memorable shows you've played or seen in Bloomington.
Austin Lucas: Memorable shows I've seen or played in Bloomington ... hmm ... Well, the Bishop used to be Rhino's All-Ages Club. It was the first building that Rhino's was in. That same building, the Knights of Columbus building, that's the first location. I helped open Rhino's years and years ago, when I was 13 years old, 14 years old. I was on a committee to get it open. Before that, we'd have these shows in the gym at Harmony School. A lot of bands that got pretty popular national played in the gym at Harmony School first.
For example, I saw Split Lip, who became Chamberlain. That must have been 1990, 1991. At Rhino's, I saw Bad Brains play there. Laughing Hyenas I saw play there. Some of the best bands ever, you know, right there in that little club, that a bunch of kids and some teachers from Harmony School figured out how to open up.
NUVO: I lived down there for about five years, during the Cinemat to Bishop transition.
Lucas: It's been a lot of rock and roll passing through that club. That's one of the reasons why it's my favorite place to play, because after it was Rhino's it became The Wild Beet. Then after Wild Beet it was Cellar Lounge, then it became the Cinemat, then the Bishop. Just a lot of rock and roll and other types of music going through that building. To me, that room is just magical. It's hallowed ground to me in that city, so I always like to go back and play that room whenever possible.
NUVO: When did you move to Nashville?
Lucas: I've been in Nashville for a year and a half.
NUVO: And how are you liking it?
Lucas: I love Nashville. It's a great city. There's just a lot to do here. A lot of places that I've lived before - I've lived in San Francisco, I've lived in Portland and in Prague - there's always stuff to do in those cities, sometimes so much so that it's overwhelming. And Nashville can be like that as well, but there's almost so much to do here that I feel like I can walk out of my door at any time and go see something. Even on Broadway, which is of course the focal point of music in Nashville, any time of day I can walk out of my door and drive down there and see somebody incredible playing. And it's not just there, it's all over the city.
It's really an inspiring place. There's great restaurants; people here are really friendly. It's just a great town.
NUVO: You're making me feel like i should plan another trip to Nashville.
Lucas: You should! Absolutely. Nashville is one of those cities that's kind of becoming an "it" town right now. Nashville's always been an incredible place and people finally discovered that and realized it. So folks from all over the country are moving here right now. I think they said ... one thousand new restaurants in the last year opened up? And coffee shops and bars and restaurants all over the city popping up. You can really feel the gentrification in [San Francisco and Portland]. And here, it hasn't taken hold yet. You have this great, rustic feel here, and it hasn't been completely been built up by white, middle-class cool people. There's such a rich tradition here, and you can't push that out.
NUVO: I saw you on Twitter taking a couple of requests from someone for a show. Then I started thinking about the setlist for a homecoming show, and how much that's different. Obviously you have some degree of flexibility if you're taking Twitter requests - have you planned your setlist yet? Will it be much different than a regular Austin Lucas show?
Lucas: Yes. I'm playing the majority of the set with the band, and I'm going to play a lot of songs myself as well. Primarily, we're performing material off the new record with a smattering of hits off the records before it. It's a good mix of old songs and new songs, focusing primarily on the new material.