The Spin wore earplugs! And yet, even the morning after seeing Black Tusk at The End on Thursday night, our right ear is still like, "Nah, dude. You don't need to hear those frequencies." This is what we get when intrepid Spin photog Diana "Porkchop" Zadlo hooks up the free passes, and it's probably what we deserve for dragging her to all those smooth R&B and weird techno shows. But all auditory perception issues aside, Thursday night's show was exactly what the metal-as-fuck doctor ordered. As Porkchop would say, it was "broooootal."
Lo and behold, we were actually on time. Just in time to catch a really shitty opening band! Like really, really, really shitty. Think half-assed black metal by way of that extremely annoying late-'90s screamo/post-hardcore sound. Every time the band would find a decent riff or groove they'd switch it up with something boring and drawn-out and utterly yawn-inducing. Also — and this is why we didn't even bother to find out their name — the singer had his back turned to the audience, about as active and exciting as a dude waiting for the bus. OK, we did find out their name — against our will — but we're not going to print it, 'cuz we're vindictive, narcissistic mofos and would like our performers to acknowledge our existence. OK, fine. They're called Evolve or Die, and they should probably take the advice their own band name presents.
Whatever, fuck all that — those dudes were just 45 minutes of ear-splitting boredom in an otherwise awesome night. Which brings us to the next order of business: Why didn't anybody tell us about Clorange? Given The Spin's deep love for all things doomy and psychedelic, and our love for tough rocker chicks in leather jackets, and guitar players who look like Leslie West, and guitarmonies, and ... well, you get the picture. How we didn't know about this band is a mystery to us. But they're a mystery no more! Sign us up for the Clorange Fan Club! And Atlanta's MonstrO, too! Those dudes throw down hard on some psych-soaked, prog-powered trad metal, seamlessly fusing Hawkwind and Motörhead like they ripped all their songs out of our pot-fueled daydreams. And guitarmonies! God, we love some guitarmonies!
And headliners Black Tusk were no slouches either. In fact, they were utterly pummeling, epically brutal and downright un-fucking-stoppable. The Savannah, Ga., three-piece has perfected a mix of doomy, sludgy metal and classic tough-guy hardcore that is as intense as it is fun. Hell, they're even an exception to the "singing drummers always suck" rule, which is about as rare as a black rhino flying in a helicopter — it happened once, right?! Nothing says "not Don Henley" quite like some extreme brutality. The Spin doesn't get to spend a lot of time getting our metal on, so we said "fuck taking notes," put our fists in the air and set our heads to banging. And then, when it was done, we bought some merch. It was cold as hell out, and a second hoodie for the ride home seemed like a good idea.
Friday night was not good to us. Well, more accurately, we were not good to ourselves on Friday night, but we weren't going to miss Queen of Rockabilly Wanda Jackson at the brand-new Marathon Music Works on Saturday night. So we got as much fluids and self-pity respectively in and out of our system as possible by 8 p.m. and headed that way.
As DJ Johny Jackson spun some pretty standard rock 'n' roll tunes, we took the opportunity to explore the joint, which was roughly football field-sized and had kind of a coolest-roller-rink-you've-ever-been-to vibe, complete with that new-venue smell (mostly fresh paint). The place had begun to fill out by the start of The Black Belles' set, and while we weren't shocked to see Jack White himself milling about in the crowd with some of his Third Man cohorts, we always get a kick out of watching folks crane their heads and whisper amongst themselves as he passes. Hey, The Spin likes White Blood Cells as much as the next guy, but he's not the damn Queen of England, and all the gawking is causing traffic jams here, people. Eyes forward.
Which brings us to the divisive Black Belles themselves. The fact that these young ladies are being groomed by White puts them under the microscope an awful lot, but let's push all the extraneous factors to the side and tell you, as objectively as we can, what we thought of The Black Belles' performance: The quartet recently completed a brief run of out-of-town gigs, and that seems to have helped them tighten up since the last time we caught them — tempos still rush and drag a bit, however. Some of our favorite portions of the songs are the organ parts, and the addition of D. Watusi's Christina "Tina Nogood" Norwood on keys is definitely a good call. The girl can play. The Belles' spooky, mildly samey garage rock — and we'll concede that garage rock of all sorts can get a bit samey from time to time — was broken up by a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy" toward the end of their set, and we'll give them a million thumbs up for that. We love us some Nilsson.
The lengthy interim between the Belles and Wanda was punctuated with a brief appearance from that charmingly disheveled rock 'n' roll mayor of ours, Karl Dean. He thanked us all for supporting local venues and the arts, citing Forbes' and Rolling Stone's recent features on how great Nashville is, economically and culturally. He did happen to call Rolling Stone "the bible," musically speaking, but we're going to modify that for our purposes and go with "the Old Testament."
In rock 'n' roll revue fashion, band leader Heath Haynes and his Hi-Dollars played a handful of standards — Bo Diddley, the Stones, Buddy Holly, et cetera — before being joined onstage by the perennially sprightly Ms. Jackson. Wanda dove with a vivacious holler right into classics like "Riot in Cell Block Number 9" and "Funnel of Love" — all of them sung in a gravelly warble that's as strong now as it was in 1960. Jackson is of course known for her candid banter, and her set was packed with a half-century's worth of stories. She talked about being friends (and perhaps a bit more) with Elvis Presley in that sweetly coy, blushing-grandma way of hers before playing his "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "Heartbreak Hotel." She talked about working with Jack White, characterizing him as a sweet-but-firm "velvet brick" before playing tunes from last year's White-produced The Party Ain't Over. She talked about her faith before playing "I Saw the Light," and she thanked The Black Belles for opening, saying their style was "unique" but that the pointy-witch-hat thing wouldn't work for her, personally.
While the five-member Hi-Dollars certainly don't create the same immense wall of sound that White's twice-as-large Third Man House Band did when we saw Wanda back in January, the Dollars were finely tuned and armed with relentless chops. We're also happy to report that Marathon's front-of-house sound was mostly on point. Anyway, the point we'll take away from seeing Queen Wanda once again is this: Here we were feeling bedridden and sorry for ourselves a mere 10 hours earlier, and a woman nearly thrice our age was tearing through classics like "Right or Wrong," "Let's Have a Party" and "Mean Mean Man" with gusto. Not bad for a little lady who's just one year younger than John McCain.
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