Maybe it was the week of cold weather and the promise of jingle-jangly sunshine-y power-pop to warm The Spin's cold soul (and colder extremities), but somehow we managed to make it to Exit/In on time Saturday to see San Francisco's Girls.
By 9:45, the room was filled with the expected mixture of beards, cardigans, skinny jeans and those preposterous oversized glasses. But, curiously, we also saw more polo shirts and tucked-in button-downs than we expected. Of course, the brahs had Muffy and Tiffini hanging off their tribal-tatted arms — "OMG me and my sisters LOVE that 'I wish I had a boyfriend' song!" The first band, The Smith Westerns, had an aesthetic that reminded us of The Katies in the late '90s — all striped sweaters and stringy hair and, weirdly, a flannel shirt. They sounded to us like sped-up Del Shannon, except dronier.
Memphis' Magic Kids followed. The fresh-faced six-piece clearly have a following in the 615 — the kids were excited for the Kids. They danced and swayed and held hands as Magic Kids asked, "Where's your boyfriend?" and invited us all to go sailing and play with a Superball. It's the soundtrack to the afternoon after your dream date says they'll go to the prom with you. Unfortunately, that's not a sentiment The Spin is all that familiar with. Despite lead singer Bennett Foster's rocking perhaps the highest-waisted jeans ever seen on the hallowed Exit/In stage (coupled with a bright red Donald Duck sweatshirt), and despite our being annoyed by his Morrissey-like preening on the band's final number (although, the song did sound a bit like an upbeat Smiths tune), Magic Kids cast enough of a spell to have us thinking there might just be a sticky July afternoon waiting outside. It was disappointing to suck down a cigarette on a frigid February evening.
By 11, Girls had taken the stage and begun a set well-suited for the stage at The Bait Shop on The O.C. Closing our eyes, we saw Seth and Summer sweetly kissing, and Ryan and Marissa hashing out their oh-so-complicated relationship again. Girls played all their songs at the perfect volume to be heard but not obtrusive — wouldn't wanna interrupt all that climactic dialogue, y'know. If Juno had a prom, Girls would have played it.
This was a Nashville crowd more amped-up than most — ready to dance, ready to kiss — but the San Francisco treats just didn't bring enough. Not even when they played "Lust for Life." People sorta stood around through the first verse, as if waiting for the naughty video. The night's biggest reaction came as lead singer Christopher Owen explained he was going to play country-and-western songs, pandering to a crowd who yelped with civic pride. To Owens, though, "country-and-western songs" are songs that sound like the rest of his songs, just played to a waltz beat and featuring a harmonica solo.
That was about as innovative as Girls got. Yes, the crowd tapped its feet and one particularly excitable dude threw his hands up to testify, and yeah, the songs were a nice bit of summer novelty in the middle of the winter of our ennui. But as with the summer flings Girls recall, there wasn't much of import to take away from their performance.
We've been Of Montreal fans since the olden days of the early 2000s. We first saw them at Red Rose in Murfreesboro and moved up and over with them — first to The End, then to Mercy Lounge, and Saturday we saw them yet again at their sold-out show in The Cannery Ballroom.
Unfortunately we got sucked into the Sarah Palin Teabag Manifesto, so we missed opener James Husband. When we finally moseyed over, something strange hit us: Of Montreal somehow has a fan base that is perpetually 19 years old. The band's evolution into a gaggle of psychedelic sex fiends lets them make them the perfect soundtrack for the awkward college freshman eager to bang that photography major while the roommate is out of town. Have these people even heard of Cherry Peel? The mind boggles. The Spin felt like a geezer, and was half-expecting the joint to go Logan's Run at any second.
There were two projection screens onstage just like the band's Cannery show last year, but this time there was a new addition: A small group of actors would pop on and off during the show and act out bizarre little skits with strobe lights, smoke machines, pig masks and hot dog-eating contests. It was pretty rad, and didn't distract from the performance of the band at all. They were playing totally live, and sounded great even in the sometimes-problematic Ballroom.
The stage piece during the unsettling "Oslo in the Summertime" was a highlight: Two men, stripped down to flesh-colored underwear, ran onstage and posed like a couple of hipster Charles Atlases. All of a sudden, paisley patterns and flowers were projected over their bodies, making them look like living cartoon characters who just happened to be really cut.
One thing the children do have is unbridled enthusiasm. Sheer joy is a look one rarely sees on the faces of Nashville show-goers — apparently the new fan favorite is "St. Exquisite's Confessions," probably because the kids like singing along about how tired they are of sucking dicks. Seriously, they lost their shit, and cheered like a crowd one usually only sees in Rock Band. Two of The Spin's favorites that night were a throwaway Dick Dale sound-alike and a cover of "I Want You Back." Good times, and over at the reasonable hour of midnight.
Serendipitously, the Cannery show ended at the same time as the show upstairs at Mercy Lounge: The Long Players doing Elvis Presley's Elvis Presley. That audience definitely skewed to the AARP end of the spectrum, and it was a treat to watch the two crowds stream into the parking lot together. The upstairs patrons were mature enough to at least nod politely at the kids all dressed up in glitter and smiles, while the kids ran off to do, we don't know, whatever stupid bullshit teenagers do nowadays.
What is the blurb this week? Oh yeah — it's written down on our hand! Um, "energy," it says. And, uh, "You betcha"? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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