New crop from the Cream
We weren't the only party in our circle commenting on just how fresh the faces were at Heavy Cream's album release show and crawfish boil Friday night at The Zombie Shop. And as ancient as we may then feel by comparison, seeing younger faces at DIY shows means the system is still working, and the kids are still all right.
For example, local two-piece Fox Fun practically floored us with an outburst of high-octane Southern jangle-pop that sounded fresh enough to have been imported via flying DeLorean by Doc Brown himself. That is to say, this was the pure, uncut shit they got in Athens, Ga., back in the day, and how these precious youngsters got hold of it we have no clue. Equipped with just a 12-string guitar and drums, the two had a preternatural feel for dynamics, strategically softening the blow now and again with quiet interludes, making them sound that much bigger when kicking back into full throttle.
We've spilled more than our share of ink on semi-Nashvillian, semi-Memphian trio Cheap Time. But since our last exposure to the band was a muddied, practically instrumental fuzz fest at micro-dive Dino's, we're no longer sure if we even saw the same band. Having always traded on glammy riffs and a snotty punk delivery, Cheap Time has evolved into a louder, snottier, more anthemic, contemporary Southern response to Sex Pistols. Pitting even more shimmery guitar riffs against frontman/guitarist Jeffrey Novak's snottier, brattier snarl, it seems what Cheap Time essentially did was take what they were doing, and did it a hell of a lot more.
At this point, the crowd swelled with a cavalcade of local luminaries, including Serpents and Snakes rep and the night's primary crawfish chef, Seth Riddle, and pop songstress Ke$ha, and most folks were either crowded about the stage or sitting off to the side picking apart plates of boiled crustaceans. The Spin plowed through a plate out back while awaiting Heavy Cream's performance, and we must say, Chef Riddle boiled the hell out of 'em rather skillfully. The spicy critter guts nearly scalded our lips right off, and that's the only way we like our Louisiana lobster. Painfully fiery.
They've always been three-fourths female, but Nashville's prize punk export Heavy Cream is now officially 100 percent woman, having for the time being replaced former bass ringer Seth Sutton with Olivia Fancytramp of Fancytramp fame. The new girl is more than capable of thumping out the band's latest three-chord riffs from the brand-new Super Treatment, and on Friday night, she did so with a bopping energy that almost matched that of brassiere-sporting spark plug and 'tude-drenched frontwoman Jessica McFarland. Heavy Cream has achieved what any band logically aspires to do, and that is simply get better with age. We weren't necessarily sure if we could quite dig on these infantile, snot-punk, Suzi Quatro-recalling darlings at their genesis. But now that they've simmered into a melodic, mid-tempo snarl machine thanks to dozens of road-tested, sweaty rock 'n' roll sets, it might be safe to say we finally get it.
The show was done early by The Spin's standards, and while the option of an after-party at Dino's on the east side loomed pretty large, we resolved to call it a night, heading home to let Heavy Cream melodies dance around in our brains while mudbug meat danced around in our bellies.
On the Lamb
As we were going west down Charlotte Pike on a rainy, breezy Saturday, The Spin cued up The Byrds' country-rock instrumental "Nashville West" on the car stereo while en route to see the rainy-day pairing of Lambchop and The Altered Statesman at VFW Post 1970. Over the past few years, the Nashville bands have inhabited parallel worlds — they share a relaxed but knowing attitude toward their musical sources, creating compelling pop-by-association dreamscapes that get at something rueful and romantic in the Music City psyche.
The Spin shook off the wet and headed for the bar, noting the VFW hall's out-of-order jukebox and characteristically rich mix of old-time regulars and eager young hipsters. The place was packed, and Altered Statesman singer and songwriter Steve Poulton immediately grabbed the crowd with his late-night, early morning, white-soul vocalizing — we've always regarded Poulton as one of the scene's most accomplished singers. His phrasing was immaculate, the mix of Patrick Sweany's guitar and Andy Mabe's trumpet was perfectly in key with the sad, shimmering, soul-influenced songs Poulton writes, and stand-up bass player Stephanie Dickinson and drummer Ben Martin kept everything gently swinging.
The Spin approves of Poulton's subject matter — whether he's singing about someone who needs to send him some loving or the way he used to just hustle some grub, Poulton couches his tough insights in dulcet tones.
You could say the same about Kurt Wagner and Lambchop, but The Spin has always marveled at the way Wagner's vocals cannily mix dulcet tones with elements of pure performance art. Coming off tours to support their new full-length, Mr. M, the band sounded like they were creating a musical watercolor, with Wagner's acoustic guitar sketching out songs that were embellished upon by guitarist William Tyler, pedal-steel player Luke Schneider and guest vocalist Cortney Tidwell. The rhythm section of drummer Scott Martin, bassist Matt Swanson and guitarist-keyboardist Ryan Norris provided a soft, subtle backdrop for pianist Tony Crow.
Doing just about all of Mr. M — highlights included a fine "2B2" with Tidwell contributing eerily gorgeous and wordless vocalizing, and a great version of "Betty's Overture" — the band played in such a minimalist, sneaky way, it got The Spin to musing over the role of Crow in the band. Crow could've easily fit in playing for American Studios in Memphis in 1968 — his immaculate chords and fills on "Interrupted" put us in mind of "I Can't Make It Alone," a classic cut from Dusty in Memphis.
The symbiosis between Crow and Wagner seemed to drive the band, but everyone made thoughtful, Zen-tinged contributions, allowing Wagner to do his thing. The band encored with the theme from Squidbillies, along with Brian Wilson's "Guess I'm Dumb," which Glen Campbell recorded in 1965. The evening ended with Lambchop doing Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away," which was magnificent.
As always, Lambchop and The Altered Statesman gave fans a glimpse into their world, where the gentle rain falls on the happy and the condemned alike.
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