To Infinity, and beyond
Friday was Infinity Cat Day in Nashville. Not just at Exit/In, where the patriarchal local punk label hosted the first of two weekend shows to celebrate its 10th anniversary, but at city hall as well. This according to Nashville Metro Council Resolution No. RS2012-339, "honoring Infinity Cat Recordings on its Tenth Anniversary as one of Nashville's best independent labels." Minutes before Tristen took the stage and midway through the night, Nashville Councilman At-Large Ronnie Steine (father of sometime JEFF the Brotherhood sideman and co-founder of local punk blog Nashville's Dead, David Steine) officially presented the resolution to iCat founders Jake, Jamin and Bob Orrall, enlisting the crowd to intone each of the document's seven uses of the word "WHEREAS" in unison.
Unfortunately, it rained on Infinity Cat's parade. As we departed our pregame hang at The Gold Rush, a torrential downpour struck Nashville, making Elliston Place a rushing river that swallowed up the sidewalks and trapped us at the bar's front door. Willing to sacrifice comfort for rock 'n' roll, we re-created the swamp-crossing scene in Stand by Me and, though thankfully leech-free, made our way into the club with waterlogged shoes and soggy threads just as show-openers Psychic Hotline struck their first chord. Inside the room it felt like an early cocktail hour as the band plowed through its throwback punk.
Though Psychic Hotline is a relatively new entity on the local scene, this five-band bill was tipped heavily toward locally familiar faves like Tristen and Diarrhea Planet and the rare-treat rock of Deluxin' and a reunited Skyblazer. By the time Deluxin' hit the stage, a look at the hundreds-strong crowd bore little indication of the stormy weather outside. Deluxin' has kept a rather low profile in the past year or so, making the band's Wipers-inspired, weirdly catchy, deconstructionist noise rock quite a pleasure on the ears. With singer-guitarist Nathan Vasquez speak-screaming like a madman and jumping up toward the ceiling with the aggressive joy of a cartoon tiger, the band was apparently having as much wet and wild fun as we were.
Tristen was an interesting choice for this bill. Though the singer and her band, on this night appearing sans-drummer and with a drum machine, have never had a direct association with Infinity Cat, and are like Fleetwood Mac to Infinity Cat's Buzzcocks- and Clash-inspired roster, their warm, nimble pop was well-received by the normally rowdy garage-rock faithful, thanks in large part to the darkly effervescent singer confidently commanding the crowd's undivided attention with her ever-evolving moves and stage persona.
Less than an hour later, the previously transfixed crowd was shouting, throwing drinks in the air and crowd surfing to the five-guitar-assaultive, nervy, happy hardcore of Diarrhea Planet, who come off more like a shirtless, short-shorts-wearing gang than they do a band. With pop-sensible hooks inspired by The Descendents and a presentation that brings a little Warped Tour-ness to any local rock show, DP could very well one day be Infinity Cat's first band to make the jump to Fat Wreck Chords. And we mean that in a good way.
Closing out the sweat- and rain-soaked show was a one-off Skyblazer reunion. Not only was the band, which features JEFF the Brotherhood's Orrall brothers along with Festival/Cake Bake Betty singer Lindsey Powell, doing its first (and probably last) show in, like, five years, it doubled as a record release for their long-lost LP, which was cut in 2006. Local-rock newcomers unfamiliar with the band's tripped-out simultaneous Slits and Black Sabbath worship undoubtedly heard a primitive, sonic strand of DNA for the psychedelic proclivities the Orralls have increasingly indulged in over time. Could this band have developed into an international entity? Perhaps. But Friday's performance was geared more toward a nostalgic, half-hearted freak-out that went from sounding like JEFF-meets-Jefferson Airplane to JEFF-meets-Edgar Winter. Groovy times!
Watt a night
Thanks to a a solid lineup of heady, intellectual post-rockers, The Spin was prepared for nothing less than having our consciousness blown at The High Watt on Sunday night. And really, it was, except for the fact that hardly anyone showed up to share in the cerebral shredding. When The Spin first arrived shortly after 8 p.m., the parking lot was packed, and for a moment it appeared as if it was going to get pretty asses-to-elbows rowdy. But dreams were shattered when we realized a large church group was meeting downstairs. Where were you, Nashville techie mega-nerds? Was there a video game released on Sunday night that The Spin was unaware of? Surely you weren't gettin' your Jesus on downstairs while we were upstairs drinking beer and getting mind-fucked.
Regardless of attendance, the local staples and Louisville natives brought a pungent stank of profound hallucinatory riffage. Openers Old Baby delivered the best set of the evening — by means of indie supergroup freshness — thanks to members of Young Widows, Your Black Star, Workers, Shipping News and Slint. Unlike Parlour and Shedding, Old Baby takes on post-rock in a less spacey, more dirty-cowboy way — as proven with the union of their song "Pale as Man" with a projector playing footage of old Westerns and horses. There have been times in which the use of a projector has failed The Spin (think back about 10 years ago during the height of cheesy post-hardcore bands), but Old Baby pulls it off nicely — minus one projection at the beginning of their set that looked a little like a Windows Media Player background.
Parlour took almost as long to set up as they did to play, though The Spin wasn't quite as impressed as we were with Old Baby. They were tight musicians, but their new tunes were less impressive than those on previous albums like Octopus Off-Broadway and Googler.
The Ascent of Everest carried out nothing less than a stellar performance — this time with Ashley Morris in tow. She added her strings and soft voice to those of Casey Kaufman to complete the eight-piece experimental onslaught. While it might not matter to some, one plus that AOE brings to the table is their ability to add stage presence to epic jams. It seems more often than not, the deftness it takes to play these highly composed pieces of music keeps musicians from appearing to enjoy playing. Ascent tore it up during "Too Sweet" and "Take Control" — Morris, Kaufman and Devin Lamp coming together with the band to offer a sugary but heavy symphony.
Solo act Shedding (featuring just Connor Bell, previously of Paden and Parlour), added his slow and haunting tunes to the mix, bringing a post-rock lullaby to the end of evening. By the end of Shedding's set and the beginning of The GoldRoom's, four doses of epic cinematic jam content (five if you count the score to The Dark Knight Rises, which we sat through before the show) had already exploded The Spin's mind. And although GoldRoom's solid, '90s-inspired alt-rock was transfixing, too many whiskey drinks and bread sodas were telling us it was time to get a taco and find a bed.
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