We're not gonna lie: We didn't escape Snowmageddon 2010 completely unscathed. As the city shut down over less than an inch of snow, and as hysteria crept in, we barricaded our door, fearing a combination of icy roads, bad drivers and punk-ass neighbor kids with enough snow to construct a single snowball aimed at our heads. But that was Thursday. On Friday, weary of our Yankee friends calling us wusses, we abandoned our milk-carton-and-bread-loaf fort in favor of The Secret Spot.
We arrived at the south Nashville basement to find a bill in shambles. Bad Cop's Adam Moult was too sick to play, leaving the band without a singer, and O Pioneers wrecked their van two weeks ago, prematurely ending their tour with Lemuria. We hear everybody's uninjured but still, major bummer. The door guy/merch dude informed us that three-and-a-half bands would be playing, with short sets from Diarrhea Planet, Spanish Candles and a three-piece Bad Cop filling in the gaps.
We've made our feelings about Diarrhea Planet clear — a little grossed out by the name, but we still dig the band. What we didn't realize was that Spanish Candles is basically Diarrhea Planet with fewer members and perhaps a little more maturity — they're the band that can play shows at Belmont because they don't have songs about spectral erections. Spanish Candles stick closer to a California surf punk sound that Lookout! Records help typify, which is all well and good, but it didn't hype us up. The tuning breaks between songs shot the momentum all to hell, and if there's anything we learned from The Ramones, it's that momentum can make or break a punk set.
Diarrhea Planet, on the other hand, has that business down cold. Cramped basements are where they're most comfortable. At heart, they're a party band more concerned with how many people they can get shouting "ghost with a boner" than impressing the musicians in the crowd with their technical prowess. Despite being down a couple members due to the holidays, they still had people singing along, even after the song was over and the gear was being broken down. Not bad for a band that had virtually no web presence a couple months ago.
Bad Cop wrapped up the half sets by doing what they could sans-vocals. Former Bad Copper (and member of both preceding bands) Brent Toler gave lead vocals a crack, but quickly gave up, plunging the rest of the set into depths of instrumental rock. We can't fault them for trying to soldier on without a singer, but these songs just don't work without vocals. It felt more like we stumbled into a band practice than a show.
Truthfully, we got what we expected from the locals. We weren't sure what we were getting into with the touring bands. We last saw Lemuria in 2008 as part of the Asian Man Records Tour at The Muse, but that experience was marred by a room full of diehard Queers fans who didn't give a shit about Sheena Ozzella's demure tunes. Lemuria, like many female-fronted punk acts of the past 10 years, owes more to Discount than Bikini Kill. They have a bit of an edge — it's just not a rusty one. Live, their sound is even more twee than on record, which can be off-putting to people only familiar with hyper-masculine punk, but it's a sound that suits them.
Till Plains, however, occupy the opposite end of the spectrum. They're unquestionably Midwestern and closer to the aggressive, anthemic emo of the 1990s. Nobody's going to mistake them for math rock, but they were playing tighter and more complex punk music than we were used to hearing, especially for a band often unable to play because its members are sprawled across several states. We've grown accustomed to a certain sound and style of punk in Nashville — mostly represented by Infinity Cat's predisposition towards heavy psychedelia and what's left of the street punk scene — so we're always stoked for something new and different, even when we have to trek across Hoth to get there.
There was a 7-foot-tall ice stalagmite sticking out of the back porch at Mercy Lounge Saturday night. Almost a foot in diameter, the frosty phallic wall sculpture was a reminder of the stone-cold dickin' Mother Nature had strapped on the midstate. How so little precipitation can shut down an entire region will always be a mystery to us, but we have to say we're glad that the Great Snow Flurry of Twenty-Tennessee didn't stop the city's dubstep massive from scraping the frost off their windshields and rolling out on a gelid Saturday night.
First off, if you didn't get the memo, dubstep — the bastard spawn of dub-reggae bass fetishism and aggro-techno electronics — is where it's at right now. Nashville, it seems, is way into the rumbling half-step riddims and has been for a while. We've known about it, and we've seen it in action, but only now are we convinced it's an actual thing that's actually happening.
It's not just a bunch of nerdy dance fans who are into it, either. The audience seems to cover quite the cross-section of subcultures — hippies, punks, backpackers, yuppies, squirrelly-looking dudes in Hurley sweatshirts who've had a 50-yard stare since JNCOs were almost considered cool and, of course, the dude who goes to great lengths to explain that he's not looking at you, he's looking through you, man. Well, those last two types of dude are inevitable whenever there's loud bleepy music being played but, other than that, it was a surprisingly diverse crowd.
DJs Bateman, Mage and Jamwerks reminded us early on that maybe we ate a little too much dried fruit to be attending such a bass-heavy evening, but the tunes were loud enough and the hippies stinky enough that nobody noticed our, um, musical accompaniment. Seriously, dried fruit is delicious but should only be consumed in moderation if you're planning to cozy up next to a bass-bin later on in the evening — just a bit of friendly advice from us to you. All three of the opening DJs managed to entice the steadily growing crowd out onto the dance floor, belying Nashville's typical immobility for once, and the crowd seemed awfully grateful.
Local favorite Kidsmeal dropped an all-new set of original dubstep, co-produced with his brother Sam, that ripped the roof off the motherfucker. Whereas a lot of dubstep gets over-obsessed with the most booming bass tones to the point where dancing and rocking the party become secondary concerns, The Brothers Shacklock keep the party front-and-center, maintaining the bombast and studio wizardry but tempering them with strong melodies and Kidsmeal's impeccable skills as a turntablist. The combination makes for a much more interactive, engaging experience than just another dude behind a laptop pressing start and stop. Let's hope that we see some sort of record release from this gruesome twosome real soon.
By the time Karius Vega took the stage, our legs were like Jell-O and our brains had been reduced to puddles of wobble bass. Vega's set was a bit more high-energy than his predecessors, upping the tempo a bit and sprinkling more four-on-the-floor beats into the mix — culminating in a beguiling, but pretty rad remix of The Ramone's "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World." We had to cut out about half way into Mike Vulcan's set — dried fruit waits for no one, so to speak — but it was easy to tell by the undulating bodies on the dance floor that tonight would not be the last time we heard the big-bottom boom of dubstep in our beloved city.
In preparation for the next gathering, we're all tattooing the whites of our eyeballs! And you thought your clever T-shirts were clever. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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