The 'Droids you're looking for
Four songs into Japandroids' Thanksgiving Eve set at Exit/In, guitarist and main screamer Brian King shut down the show and made a declaration that would set the tone for the rest of the evening. King, it seems, was fed up with the crowd of perhaps a couple hundred, which had been at turns unenthusiastic, lame, sedentary, lethargic, unimpressed — you know, the usual. At one point, a would-be detractor shouted out, "Belle and Sebastian!"
It was that kind of group. And King was taking no shit.
The night had begun with a set from Brooklyn's Swearin', whom we'd heard one of our rock 'n' roll comrades describe as pop-punk for grown-ups. The Spin was mad skeptical. What the hell is pop-punk good for if it's not silly nonsense music played by chronically immature manchildren? Well, consider us schooled. Swearin's hyper-melodic punk didn't quite win over the small crowd of Japandroids fans — we overheard one dude refer to them as "clown asses," whatever that means — but we were totally charmed by their semisweet post-college punk tunes and the That Dog sticker on singer Allison Crutchfield's guitar.
"All right, Nashville, I see we're going to have to try harder," King later said during the 'Droids' set. "I don't mind. There's going to be a battle for Nashville between you and us, and I plan on fucking kicking your ass."
King, keeping the playfully adversarial tone going, even offered a beer for the night's best heckle — though when you think about it, shouting "Belle & Sebastian" at a Japandroids show is questioning the band's ass-kicking abilities, if not manhood. And the Vancouver, British Columbia, resident became especially vicious when a few hockey-loving fans tried to rile him.
"OK, this next song is off our new album called Celebration Rock," King shouted. "It's called 'Predators Suck, Canucks Rule.' "
The mood matched the set list as King and drummer David Prowse powered their way through pleasingly face-pummeling versions of "The Boys Are Leaving Town," "Fire's Highway," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Heart Sweats" and "Wet Hair." Even so, King admitted he might be losing the fight as he neared the midway point of the meaty 17-song set. Then he changed tactics, going for the heart with a sentimental story about the band's time in Nashville last year (recounted in excruciating detail in Nov. 15's Scene, if you're interested).
Then Japandroids launched into "The House That Heaven Built," the first song they wrote while living in a house just off Gallatin Pike. And that shit totally worked. A few guys in the crowd tried to get a mosh pit going for a minute, the hecklers finally laid off, and things were a little festive even.
And in Nashville, that's something to be thankful for.
Swords with friends
Nothing makes The Spin more thankful than having a good solid excuse to bounce early from family-oriented Thanksgiving activities, and The Sword's appearance at Exit/In on Turkey Day was the perfect prescription. Not that we don't love our family — hell, we actually had a drama-free visit — but our family doesn't exactly bring the monster riffs or write songs about space witches. Good food and pleasant conversation are nice and all, but if The Spin has a rare evening off with no place to be the next morning, we don't want to spend it playing Uno — we want to spend it throwing (figurative) goats and banging our heads at Exit/In for our second night in a row. Which is exactly what we did.
We arrived on time — it's a Thanksgving miracle! — which was actually a little early, as the Exit crew had yet to open the doors. So we had the rare experience of standing in line with our fellow concertgoers, which proved to be awesome. Granted it was a super-short wait, but the dude in front of us kept yammering about this awesome Yngwie Malmsteen show he had seen in '87, yelling details at random strangers in a hyper-excited, barely contained voice that had The Spin in stitches — Yngwie is our all-time favorite metal punch line, and this dude's enthusiasm pushed the whole scene into the arena of high hilarity. It put us in the right mood to party, and for that we are eternally grateful to you, Yngwie Dude. Good lookin' out.
And while the door might have been running a little behind, the bands were onstage right on time — it seemed like 10 minutes between the time we got inside and the time L.A.'s Gypsyhawk took the stage. Now, we'll admit that we didn't bother to look up the openers — we like surprises, and The Sword never shares the stage with chumps — but damn, was that a bad decision. We knew from our first glance at Gypsyhawk's singer-bass player that we were in for a treat: If you sing, play bass, have a Motörhead shirt on and rock a Lemmy-esque beard, you are The Spin's kind of people. And if you play trad-metal that falls somewhere between the New Wave of British Metal and good ol' American heavy-boogie, well, we love you a lot and may even think about posting one of those annoying "I'm thankful" Facebook posts about you. OK, probably not really. Those posts are some seriously annoying shit.
Next was Eagle Claw, who ... well hell, they didn't sing a gawddamn lick! All riffs, no bullshit. It was all of our favorite things about metal — guitarmonies, drum solos, power-chord shredding bass players — and none of the pseudo-metal posturing that makes us cringe. The Claw manages to touch on a lot of genre tropes — there are moments of doom, trad, power and even all the little blackened subgenres that The Spin can barely keep track of — but there's a consistency and uniformity to the way they pummel each song that you don't see in a lot of bands. Eagle Claw's performance was simple — dudes onstage, standing, shredding — but The Spin was enraptured from note one. We watched the whole set slack-jawed and amazed at the sounds coming from the stage. If there were more bands that could shred like Eagle Claw, we'd be thankful a lot more often.
We'd also be really thankful if The Sword came through town more than once a year. We get it, they're busy dudes and have a record to promote all over the country. But if they could, say, route through Nashville once every three or four weeks, we'd be the happiest Spin ever. That's asking a lot, so we'll settle for the once-a-year serving from Austin, Texas' finest trad-metallers — especially if they're touring behind albums as awesome as their latest, Apocryphon. Truth be told, we were ready to leave after the first song — the album-closing title track is pretty much our favorite tune of the year, and once they ripped through that, we didn't need to hear anything else. Of course, we stuck around and were treated to a great mix of new cuts — "Veil of Isis," "Dying Earth," "Seven Sisters" — and classics from Warp Riders, Gods of Earth and Age of Winters. We banged our heads and threw up our proverbial goats and closed out the holiday more thankful for live music than we ever thought the grumpy old Spin could be.
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