Apparently Kings of Leon can't take a joke. Midway through Friday night's sold-out Sommet Center homecoming performance, before more than 15,000 fans, singer Caleb Followill addressed their Nashville detractors they "take a lot of shit from": "I just hope that people who say those things about us, they know how hard we've worked, " he said. Could he really have meant little old us?
A few hours later, as we were being forcibly removed from their after party (presumably at the band's request, or their management's) by security, who relayed the message, "Don't think that you can write the shit that you write and then come down here and pretend like everything's cool"—it became abundantly clear just how thin Followill's skin is.
We initially became concerned when, in what seemed like an attempt to shut us out of the proceedings, the band did not give us any press spots to the show. Determined to see whatever sexy flames the brothers Followill were trying to keep from us, we managed to finagle our way into Sommet by more nefarious means, arriving just in time to see the lights go down and have our eardrums shattered by deafeningly high-pitched teeny-bopper screams. Obviously this forced us to miss some British band called White Lies and local openers Mother/Father—who we're told held their own before a sea of faces who were completely unfamiliar with their music. We extend sincere congratulations to M/F.
It had been a few years since we'd seen KOL, and we were quite curious to see how they've evolved from fresh-faced Southern Strokes-abees to arena rock superstars. We had an open mind, and—as we always do at a spectacle of this size—wanted desperately to be entertained. Unfortunately, KOL are the same boring onstage still-life they were back in the day, only now they have an incredible light and video show to make what's "happening" onstage seem exciting.
That said, this show did have a special hometown-boys-made-good reverence that inspired a little bit more passion than we're used to seeing. The crowd ate up every moment of it, greeting the opening notes of most songs with a roar—hits or not—and filling the colossal structure with a thousands-strong echo of each chorus. One would think that kind of adulation would be validation enough not to care what we think—especially when it coincides with the band's having the No. 1 single on the Billboard Top 40.The truth is, we do realize how hard they work. Watching 15,000 people watch the Kings of Leon was definitely awe-inspiring, and no one can deny them the phenomenal achievement of going from 12th & Porter to selling out the local enormodome. Whether some of us like it or not, KOL are Nashville's ambassadors of rock.
Still, they're just not a charismatic band in concert. They don't really engage the audience, and they play their songs as if miming to a recording. It's just hard to see them maintaining arena status five to 10 years down the road without producing another "Sex on Fire"- or "Use Somebody"-sized hit on their next record, as KOL are a textbook example of a band who've eschewed their cult following in favor of reaching a general and possibly more fickle audience. Since we never thought we'd see the band get to the level they're at now, the new challenge to the Kings is for them to prove us wrong on the previous statement.
The crowd—who offered us a nice preview of the fall lines for Ed Hardy, Abercrombie and Juicy Couture—made us feel like we'd bathed in an ocean of douchedom: dudes high-fiving each other like they're in the volleyball scene from Top Gun and sorority girls dancing like a 52-year-old virgin's Second Life creations. Their reactions gave the band their Nickelback moment during "Sex on Fire," their P.M. Dawn moment during "Notion" and their "Free Bird" moment during "Use Somebody."
After the show we succeeded in smuggling ourselves—sans passes—backstage, where we irrigated our brain cells with enough brown bottle to blot out memories of the mid-tempo hell the band put us through with their slew of sleepy latter-set torch ballads. Having successfully cracked both the show and backstage with no credentials (or money) we just had to go for the gold in our spree of interloping and try our luck over at the super-exclusive fake-L.A. after party the band was hosting at Whiskey Kitchen.
A mere 10 or 15 minutes after arriving, we had our cover blown and were dishonorably discharged from the party by what we can only assume were the band's minions, who were meat-headedly oblivious to the fact that they were totes making our night. The finishing touch: their Secret Service-style ear pieces. (Ironically, we were at the very same bar two nights earlier, along with Kings of Leon, and nobody got kicked out.) Only a punch in the face by a band member—giving us that coveted Mario Puzo-Frank Sinatra moment—could have made our evening more complete. We can't wait for the next time Kings of Leon come to town. Spin for the win!
This band Israeli good
Thanks to antics such as setting fires inside Springwater and collectively stage-diving off Exit/In's bar when opening last year's Silver Jews show, Monotonix—Israel's answer to Lightning Bolt, messy spectacles, The Sonics and The Stooges—have built quite a reputation for galvanizing Nashville crowds with shenanigans unprecedented in their derring-do. Combining their brazen approach to rock 'n' roll with the youthful stoner-punk vigor of JEFF the Brotherhood and Turbo Fruits—both flagship bands of Nashville's D.I.Y. scene—is a match made in heaven.
We hit the Rock Block before showtime and retreated from the inconveniently frigid outside temperatures to the comfort of the merch booth, where we thawed out and took a look at fresh copies of JEFF's Heavy Days and Turbo Fruits' Echo Kid—both of which are hot out of the record plant and ready to facilitate world domination. Normally headliners, JEFF kicked off the show. With lovable bravado they commanded the crowd to unfold their arms and get down to their fusion of psych-punk, Krautrock and brotherly love. As we watched Jake Orrall tower atop his amplifier, we knew exactly which local band of brothers we were really jealous of.
Turbo Fruits have spent the last few weeks on tour with Monotonix, and it shows—15 dates supporting a band who risk life and limb to entertain have inspired them to up the ante. This was especially apparent in frontman Jonas Stein, who smoothly pulled off moves such as midair splits and crowd-jumps, putting his guitar around a showgoer before re-entering the stage via back somersault—all without missing a beat. Bassist Dave McCowen and drummer Matt Hearn—formerly of The Tits—have found their groove with Stein, and it shows.
For those not familiar with a Montonix performance, here's a primer: They play in the crowd, on the bar, up in the balcony and basically anywhere else that is not the stage. They attempt any acrobatic stunt that will scare you into thinking you're about to witness a spinal injury. They drench as many people as they can in alcohol, and they never stop rocking in the process. Given their previous exploits in Nashville, expectations for a dangerously good time were high.
The set started with singer Ami Shalev entering the crowd atop our hands before creating a space dividing us in two. He then emptied a trash can on drummer Haggai Fershtman before wrestling with him in what looked like a recreation of the uproarious nude wrestling scene in Borat. Next, the band launched into a pummeling onslaught of fat beats, unintelligible vocals and a wall of buzz-saw Mediterranean riffs. As is customary at a Monotonix show, the crowd began throwing their drinks at the band. From the outside it looked like a rock group was being swallowed by a volcano of beer and ice. As they climbed on top of audience members and scaled the walls of the club, the crowd pushed, pulled and herded in various directions while band members were momentarily swallowed in the mass, only to re-emerge in another corner of the room. Ten minutes into the show we were soaked, bruised, deafened and screaming for more.
This display continued for close to an hour. It was hard to tell which way was up or down, but there was a point at which a minor scuffle seemed to break out between an inebriated Nathan Vasquez and Shalev. This inspired his repeated declaration of "Never fuck with an Israeli." Monotonix's music may get a little same-y after a while, but their show never loses steam—for them, these performances are their art. People are more likely to say Monotonix are the best band they've ever seen before saying they're the best band they've ever heard. But this Israeli trio is just fine embodying all the disgusting primal glory of rock 'n' roll recklessness in a live experience that's beyond cathartic, and Fun with a capital F.
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