It's the chance of a lifetime
Given the elderly nature of the headliners, the tendency of said olds to start their sets on time and end in a timely fashion, and rumors that sets of this particular act were in excess of two hours, The Spin made a rare timely arrival at The Cannery Ballroom on Friday night, one half-hour before openers Times New Viking even took the stage.
On paper, TNV seem like an obvious choice to open, since like the headliners they're a lo-fi indie rock band from Ohio. Sweet twee harmonies, shimmering fuzz and bangin' beats were all present and accounted for, but they must have left their hooks back in Columbus, as it didn't add up to much worth remembering.
In the 45 minutes between the end of Viking's last jam and the moment a neon sign flashed on to declare "The Club Is Open" — signaling the arrival of headliners and cult indie gods Guided by Voices — this thing had gone from criminally underattended to proudly packed. Fist-pumping bros outnumbered the gals considerably, and went various degrees of ape-shit as the band sent out salty salutes to valuable pocketknives, robot boys, games of pricks and kickers of elves. We were soon among the pumpers of fists once we heard the opening riff of "Exit Flagger" and Spin faves like "Striped White Jets" and "Echos Myron." Channeling The Who's most grandiose and energetic moments, echoed through the mighty riffs and epic choruses of Cheap Trick with Barrett-esque lucidity, these jams sounded anything but dated when freed from their original hissy documents. We were finally there. Shit yeah, it's cool.
Mad-libbing laureate, and indie rock's hardest drinking frontman, Robert Pollard was rarely without a beer during songs, sipping harder libations from the bottle in between. And have we mentioned the moves? Heavens, the moves. Between Pollard's mic twirls, karate kicks and toe touches, guitarist Mitch Mitchell's epic windmills and bassist Greg Demos' puffy shirt and vest combo, these cool-dad stage moves would be easy to mock if we weren't too busy reveling in deep cuts from Vampire on Titus and Fast Japanese Spin Cycle, and kinda wishing these guys were our dads.
Due to a mild pain in the ass regarding the guest list, a broken ATM and a bit of finagling, we probably missed about half of Lower Dens' set opening for The Walkmen at Exit/In on Saturday night. What we did see of the Baltimore four-piece, however, we enjoyed: introspective, droney shoegaze with lush guitar tones and understated vocal melodies from frontwoman and prolific singer-songwriter Jana Hunter. Hunter's looking just the slightest bit like Lori Petty (circa Tank Girl) these days, but vocally, her rich alto reminded us a bit more of fellow Baltimorean and Beach House frontwoman Victoria LeGrand — and that's a compliment coming from us.
By the time The Walkmen took the stage, Exit/In was at full capacity, with a sizable chunk of the crowd clearly composed of thirtysomething dudes still recovering from the previous night's GBV blowout at The Cannery. Be that as it may, everyone's hangovers, worries and inhibitions vanished when frontman Hamilton Leithauser hit those impossibly high notes on "Angela Surf City" and "In the New Year" — it really is "gonna be a good year," isn't it, Hamilton?
Anyway, any show from The Walkmen is yet another opportunity to geek out on guitarist Paul Maroon's singular, surfy tone and drummer Matt Barrick's otherworldly stamina. You know. Indie-rock dork shit. Oh, PSA: The men's restroom at Exit/In has migrated a bit, so try not to look like an idiot by knocking on the locked door of the former men's restroom, which now sports an "Employees Only" sign — a sign we failed to notice.
So it was a particularly good show (even for The Walkmen) with a particularly outstanding set list ("138th Street" ... they never play that!), rendering us — in case you hadn't noticed — a bit more earnest than usual. Oh, and they closed with "We've Been Had." Perfect set.
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Damn Sean! Brutal.... Might wanna watch out for Nate around town. Haha. Shit! -Jaren