Friday, April 28th, 2023
Relix Presents

Neal Francis


$25 ADV / $28 DOS
Doors: 6:00 PM / Show: 8:00 PM 18+ Years
Neal Francis

Event Info

Venue Information:
Brooklyn Bowl Nashville
925 3rd Avenue North
Nashville, Tennessee 37201

This event is 18+, unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Valid government-issued photo ID is required for entry. No refunds will be issued for failure to produce proper identification.

This ticket is valid for standing room only, general admission. ADA accommodations are available day of show.

All support acts are subject to change without notice.

Any change in showtimes, safety protocols, and other important information will be relayed to ticket-buyers via email.

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Artist Info

Neal Francis

On his new albumIn Plain Sight, Neal Francisoffers up a body of workbothstrangely enchantedandpainfullyself-aware,unfolding insongssparked fromGreek myths andfrenzieddreamsandlate-night drives in the depths of summerdelirium.True to itscharmedcomplexity, thesinger/songwriter/pianist’ssecond full-length came to life over the course ofa tumultuousyearspentliving ina possibly haunted church inChicago.The result:a portrait of profound upheaval andweary resilience, presented in akaleidoscopic sound that’s endlessly absorbing.The follow-up to Francis’s 2019 debutChanges—a New Orleans-R&B-leaning effort thatlandedonbest-of-the-year lists fromthe likes of KCRW, KEXP, and The Current,and saw himhailed as “thereincarnation ofAllen Toussaint” by BBC Radio 6—In Plain Sightwas written and recorded almostentirely atthe church,a now-defunct congregationcalledSt. Peter’s UCC.Despite not identifying asreligious, Francis tookamusic-ministry jobat the churchin 2017at thesuggestion of a friend.Afterbreaking up with his longtime girlfriend while on tour in fall 2019,hereturned to his hometown andfound himself with no place to stay, then headed toSt. Peter’sand asked tomove into theparsonage.“I thought I’d only stay a few months but it turned into over a year, andI knew I had todo something to take advantage of this miraculous gift of a situation,” he says.Mixed by Grammy Award-winner Dave Fridmann (HAIM, Spoon, The Flaming Lips, TameImpala),In Plain Sightfinds Francis again joining forces withChangesproducer and analog obsessiveSergio Rios (a guitarist/engineer known for his work with CeeLo Green and Alicia Keys).Like itspredecessor, the albumspotlightsFrancis’s refined yet free-spirited performance on piano, aninstrument he took up at the age of four. “From a very early age, I was playing late into the night ina very stream-of-consciousness kind of way,”he says,naming everything from ragtime to gospelsoul to The Who among his formative influences.With a prodigy-like gift for piano, Francis sat inwith a dozen different blues acts in Chicago clubs as a teenager, and helmed a widely belovedinstrumental funk band called The Heardbefore going solo.Along with earning lavish acclaim(including aglowingreview fromBob Lefsetz, whodeclared:“THIS IS THE FUTURE OF THEMUSIC BUSINESS!”),Changesled to such triumphs as performing live onKCRW’s“MorningBecomes Eclectic,”sharing the stage with members of The Meters at the New Orleans Jazz &Heritage Festival,andtouring with such acts as Lee Fields & The Expressions and Black Pumas.Recordedentirely on tapewith his bandmates Kellen Boersma (guitar), Mike Starr (bass), and CollinO’Brien (drums),In Plain Sightbears a lush and dreamlike quality, thanks in large part to Francis’srestless experimentationwith a stash of analog synths lent by his friendsin his early days at thechurch. “My sleep schedule flipped and I’d stay up all night working on songs in this very feverishway,” he says. “I just needed so badly to get completely lost in something.”In a move partly inspiredby Led Zeppelin’sHouses of the Holy,In Plain Sighttakes its title from a track Francis ended upscrapping from the album. “It’s a song about mybreakup and the circumstances that led to meliving in the church, where I’m owning up to all my problems within my relationships and mysobriety,” says Francis,whose first full-length chronicles his struggles with addiction. “It felt like theright titlefor this record, since so much of it is about coming to the understanding that I continue tosuffer because of those problems. It’s about acknowledging that and putting it out in the open inorder to mitigate the suffering and try to work on it, insteadof trying to hide everything.”The opulent opening track toIn Plain Sight, “Alameda Apartments” makes for a majesticintroduction to the album’s unveiling of Francis’s inner demons. “I started writing that song maybesix years ago, before I got sober,” hesays. “I was going through another breakup and getting kickedout of my place, and I had a nightmare about moving into an art-deco apartment that was haunted, where the walls were all shifting around.” A prime showcase for Francis’s piano work, “AlamedaApartments” simulates that dream state in its untethered melodies, luminous grooves, and lyrics thatdrift from despair to detached curiosity (e.g., “It remains to be seen if the ghosts are all right”). “Thecraziest thing is that I’d never encountered thename ‘Alameda’ in any time in my life prior to thatdream,” says Francis. “It’s bizarre that I even remembered it, especially since you don’t dream veryoften when you’re getting fucked up.”On “Problems,”In Plain Sighteases into a brighter and breezier mood, with Francis mininginspiration from early-’70s Sly & the Family Stone and the glistening soft rock ofMirage-eraFleetwood Mac. But in a stark contrast to the track’s radiant synth and rapturous harmonies,“Problems” centers on Francis’s exactingintrospection. “It’s about being half-in and half-out of arelationship, and how untenable that is,” he says. “I wrote it at a time when I really couldn’t maintaina relationship, because I had too many issues with myself that needed to be addressed.”Graced with a smoldering slide-guitar solo from the legendary Derek Trucks, “Can’t Stop the Rain”arrives as the first unabashedly hopeful moment onIn Plain Sight. “I wrote that with my buddyDavid Shaw, who came up with the refrain and this idea that eventhough life’s going to throw allthis shit at you, there’s still so many things to be grateful for,” says Francis. Propelled by the track’scascading piano lines and wildly soaring vocals, that refrain takes on an unlikely anthemic power asFrancis sharesa bit of gently expressed encouragement: “You can’t stop the rain/It’s always comingdown/It’s always gonna fall/But you’re not gonna drown.”On the guitar-heavy and glorious “Prometheus,” Francis nods to the Greek myth of the Titan godwho stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to the humans. As punishment, Prometheus spenteternity chained to a rockasan eagle visited each day to peckout his liver—which then grew backovernight,only to be eaten again the following dayin a neverending cycle oftorment. “That songcame from the lowest ebb of quarantine, when Chicago was literally on fire,” Francis says. “It cameto me while I was driving around all these abandoned streets in the middle of the night, and turnedinto a song about facing my problems with addiction and feeling like I’m chained to this set ofcompulsions.” Threaded with plainspoken confession (“It’s not in my nature to try to do better”),the track features a sprawling synth arrangement informed by the many hours Francis spent playingtheSt. Peter’s pipe organ. “I call that section of the song ‘The Pope,’” he says. “It’s this grand,powerful entry that’s sort of sinister, and then it just drops away.”By the end ofhissurrealand sometimes eerieexperience of living at the church—“I’m convincedthatthe stairway leading to the choir loft where I used to practice is haunted,” he notes—Francishad found his musicality undeniablyelevated. “Because I was forced into this almost monasticexistence and was alone so much of the time, I could play as oftenand as longas I wanted,” he says.“I ended up becoming such a better pianist, a better writer, a better reader of music.”Dedicated to awoman named Lil (the de facto leader of the St. Peter’s congregation),In Plain Sightultimatelyreveals the possibility of redemptionand transformationeven as your world falls apart.“When I started the process of writing these songs, I was so emotionally out-of-sorts andreallykindofhopeless that I’d be able to come up with anything,” says Francis. “But then I sat down andstarted working, and embraced whatever inspiration came my way. Sometimes it felt like beating myhead against a wall, but I tried to trust that it would lead somewhere. The whole thing was like aweird dream—this very strangetime of terrible, wonderful isolation.”

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