Hollow Ox, The Ascent of Everest and The Inscape at The Stone Fox 

The Spin

The Spin

Ox at The Fox

Hiding from the polar vortex gave The Spin a righteous case of cabin fever, so we had to get out or risk losing what was left of our warped little minds. Lucky for us, Friday night presented a wealth of good choices for an evening's entertainment: underground hip-hop over here, groovy country rock over there, meaty rock 'n' roll yonder, soul-crushing heavy sounds that way. After much squinting at tea leaves, throwing of a 12-sided die and flipping of that Sacajawea dollar we got in change at the post office, we collected as many layers of clothing as possible and set off for The Stone Fox to see if Hollow Ox, The Ascent of Everest and The Inscape could serve up some much-needed brain nourishment.

Rolling in early enough to indulge in some delectable vittles, we watched The Inscape set up while Ascent of Everest co-frontperson and Meltface Video Destruction honcho Devin Lamp prepped a trio of video projectors that would bathe the bands and the mostly full crowd in rippling ribbons of space fractals throughout the night. Today a decent projector is as affordable as a mid-grade TV, and Nashville light-show artists have taken to public performance like proverbial ducks to water. Teamed up with the right band, whether it be weird-ass pop music, heavy psych or something else, their performance adds extra cool dimensions to the show without overshadowing the music.

After a quick line check, The Inscape rolled out a deferential homage to late '60s vintage psychedelic pop. That stuff is our bread and butter, and we enjoyed the hell out of their take, but something was still bugging us. A friend pointed out that the band's tones were a little too calculated for his taste, and that's a small but significant criticism we could apply to The Inscape's whole show. Their playing as a unit was impeccable, with a solid level of energy and period-correct licks and fills in all the right places, but part of the fun of psych rock is that feeling of teetering right on the edge of chaos. You don't have to stumble out of a cramped and smelly van after 10 days of mushroom-fueled vision questing to play good psych, but the music starts to get flat when the edges are too sharp and crisp. The Inscape is close to nailing it, but the local talent pool still has yet to top The Paperhead for striking the right balance.

In the year or so since we last saw The Ascent of Everest, they've shifted tactics a little, trimming down the ensemble to a club-friendly five players and skewing the latest songs a little shorter and more toward pop arrangements. What we've always loved about this band is still fully intact, however, as they continue to deliver sweeping and cinematic soundscapes without playing to their collective navel. The whole set is synched to animated videos and backing tracks, but it's still a performance in a way that a group with less experience might struggle to get across.

With this multimedia extravaganza in full effect, we're not exactly sure where we went, but we definitely didn't feel like we'd spent the last 45 minutes in a rock venue. Well, that's not exactly true — the Fox's P.A. now includes a vintage '80s reverb box, which the evening's sound engineer used liberally. We love the "In the Air Tonight" sound, but a little goes a long way to making the drums big and badass, and to our ear, it didn't really fit with every song in the AOE set. However, the rest of the mix was as well-balanced as you can get, and we'll dub this guy a fine sub for regular sound gal Alicia Bognanno while her band Bully (which was playing the big Mercy Lounge anniversary show across town on Friday) hits the road in support of Those Darlins.

After a quick changeover, Hollow Ox launched an hourlong set blending a plethora of sounds we enjoy getting supremely nerdy about: the ethereal wash of dream pop, the wistful chime of post-rock, the driving motorik heartbeat of krautrock. The group's catalog doesn't boast a ton of variation, but their particular mix sounds great melted into one long song. Getting lost in these layers isn't going to appeal to everyone, but with these sounds coming back into vogue, talented practitioners could become a commodity outside their usual niche, and we hope we'll see these guys out more often. Fortified with ample inspiration for spending the weekend with our guitar, we tightened up our scarf and showed ourselves out.

Email thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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