Go! Go! Champyong!
There's always one in the crowd. More often than not, when that jackass welcomes the headlining band onstage with a face full of ice, you might as well plan on packing it in early. On Thursday night at Mercy Lounge, all the goodwill Portland, Ore., duo Experimental Dental School had generated with their angular post-rock—giving out high fives and toe-tapping more pedal switches than any one person should be able to keep count of—seemed to momentarily hang in the balance.
But Deerhoof, Nashville regulars that they are, took it all in stride and left every pinch of their measureless energy onstage by the end of their hour-long set. With the exception of opener "The Perfect Me," which stirred the audience into an immediate frenzy, and a raucous "+81" mid-set, Deerhoof skimmed past much of the material from last year's Friend Opportunity in favor of cherry-picked Runners Four throwbacks and a handful of fresh-born tracks from their latest disc, Offend Maggie.
The addition of guitarist Ed Rodriguez to the band has undoubtedly been a welcome respite for longtime ax-wielder John Dieterich, who slunk in the shadows for most of the show. Against drummer Greg Saunier, though, who dominated the stage with little more than a downsized kick drum and rickety snare, even Satomi Matsuzaki seemed tame behind the mic. That is, until the pint-sized singer donned a lion's head mask like a snuggly high school mascot for the night's finale, fingers clawed and spouting cheerleader chants for "Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back."
For a band steeped in scattered noise rock, Deerhoof displayed a palpable synergy, synched with each tempo shift and personality tic, making for one hell of a live show. Halloween may have come early for the costumed throngs below at the Cannery for Bone Bash '08, but those folks didn't know what they were missing—all the treats were upstairs.
Steady as she goes
Downtown. On Halloween. A Friday night. A perfect storm to hinder us from arriving at the Ryman in anything resembling a timely fashion. With smaller pay lots already filled and the availability of street parking laughable, we settled for the path of least resistance and parked in a lot for the Sommet Center, which on this unholy night was playing host to goth-industrial rabble-rousers Nine Inch Nails. At first we thought this might be a perfect place to get in the holiday spirit, but when we found ourselves in the middle of the goth gaggle, we realized that the crowd looks like this at any given NIN show—Hot Topical.
We next descended upon the cultural train wreck that is Lower Broad, where scores of people had coincidentally decided to dress up as douchebags for Halloween. All this meant we didn't make it inside the Ryman until 8:45, missing Bobby Bare Jr. The scene inside the building was only slightly better. We know the Ryman is legendary and has that special stained glass, pews and churchy flair, but it can also be a pain the ass. There is only one bathroom in the lobby, the smoking area is the size of a horse corral, and the bar lines are egregiously long and slow. Next time we go we're gonna be sure to insert catheters, stock up on nicotine patches and pre-game it over at Rippy's.
Luckily we were able to make it inside for The Hold Steady, who were decked out in forefathers garb with white wigs, triangular pirate hats and pantaloons. Proclaiming this to be their first time in Nashville, they played their literate bar rock with a special determination to win over the crowd, half of which were Drive-By Truckers fans passively sitting down while the Hold Steady fans rocked the fuck out in scattered factions around the auditorium. It was an odd dynamic that only made us wish we could have a seen the band at a standing-room venue with "people touching people they don't even know."
The end of The Hold Steady's set saw a mass female exodus. (There weren't many women to begin with.) What's the deal? The Drive-By Truckers must just have that thing that appeals to the 35-year-old lonely male types, because during their set we found ourselves standing in the middle of a crowd —over 90 percent dudes—who are all totally gay for this band. They sang along to every word and appeared to be on the edge of tears and/or fainting like teenage girls at a Backstreet Boys concert circa 1998 or Eastern Europeans at a Michael Jackson concert circa 1988. And over a band that sounds like The Wallflowers, but with credibility and a pedal steel player. The Truckers played a song that sounds like Garth Brooks' "Thunder Rolls." (You know, the foreboding, domestic violence-themed opener to No Fences.) And vocally, Patterson Hood is a dead ringer for John Mellencamp. Yawn.
We're getting douchebumps just thinking about all the complaints that are on their way email@example.com.
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