Next by Southeast
While Next Big Nashville is still a work in progress after four years of trial and error, with the 2010 installment the festival really felt like it's on the way to becoming the force organizers want the music world to reckon with. As 1,000-plus attendees sipped free drinks, sifted through swag and rocked out to The Features at a V.I.P. shindig in a Germantown warehouse, it was pretty easy to convince yourself you were at a SXSW day party. This was also the year that both a White Stripe and a King of Leon took part, showing outsiders that our rock scene and rock stars are part of the same narrative. Sure, attendance varied from show to show, but it was hard to find anyone who's been frequenting the festival for the last five years who would deny that this installment had far and away the most energy thus far. Big Nashville, here's to a job well done.
You know that Kids in the Hall sketch "Premise Beach"? That's what Wednesday night's show at The Basement made us think of — every description we could muster seemed oddly comical. What if ... we were greeted at the door by Janet Timmons, still selling festival wristbands out of her purse like America's most adorable pusher? What if ... Jasmin Kaset decided to score an animated film about a restless rag doll? It might sound something like ... this! What if ... Philly act The Extraordinaires decided to play a song we think might be in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? What if ... Tristen was joined by Cortney Tidwell, who was speaking to us earlier of Janelle Monae? What if ... The Mattoid caused us to oddly reminisce about The Sutler? Funeral Party, indeed. What if ... errbody was there, and it was a killer way to start the festival? Well, that part wasn't so much comical as true.
By the time RJD2 dropped the Mad Men theme on a ready and willing Cannery Ballroom crowd Thursday night, we were about five hours into our best Don Draper impression. That is to say, we weren't necessarily dapper or suave, but we were definitely 33 sheets to the wind. And we were creative too! Did you know that it's possible to triple-fist tequila? Neither did we! We did have a legit reason to celebrate, though: The Spin managed to stand next to Kings of Leons without being struck down by either God or Followill's people. It was a minor miracle, frankly.
But like Draper with an advertising award in his pocket, we're a little fuzzy on the details of the night. We know there was a lot of power-schmoozing and gratuitous groping, and we might have revealed our secret identity to the person we woke up with — in short, it was an awesome night. We're huge fans of RJD2's dope horn-powered beats and his extra funky take on instrumental hip-hop, and we're usually very academic in our appreciation of his work so it was a nice change to just let loose and get down.
The Hood Internet is like Girl Talk for people who think Girl Talk is dumb. They play off the same recognition factor as GT, but it's recognition of Modest Mouse and Justice instead of Rick Ross and Avril Lavigne. But after seeing RJD2 spinning on four turntables at once downstairs, it was hard not to be at least a little disappointed in the lack of spectacle inherent in a single guy with a MacBook and a mixer. The Hood Internet's set was bereft of improvisation, opting instead to approximate the same songs we've already heard online.
We hoped that when Kopecky Family Band's singer hopped onstage to sing the chorus to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in a Cyndi Lauper/Dizzee Rascal mashup, it might spark some spirit of spontaneity in DJ STV SLV or the crowd. Not so much. She awkwardly danced by herself until the song ended, and that was that. The whole affair felt a little too by-the-numbers, and devoid of the kind of excitement that we had hoped would kick our asses. For sure, The Hood Internet's mashup jams are fun to dance to when you're drunk and fighting sleep deprivation with the Red Bull shot from your swag bag — but at that point, what dance music isn't?
Down at the Rock Block, we made it into The End just in time for Forrest Bride's hypnotic set of bone-chilling musical meditations. While we intended to divide our time between The End and Exit/In, note-perfect sets from indie-poppers Bows and Arrows and the ever-reliable Clutters kept us on Bruce and Brad's side of the street for most of the night. Especially of note was a performance from Brazilian neo-tropicalia ensemble Garotas Suecas, who got us to actually unfold our arms and cut a rug.
Across the street we found ourselves wishing we'd ingested psychotropic substances as we took in sonically assaultive sets by San Francisco electro-psych, uh, duo, Moon Duo and "Brooklyn's loudest band," A Place to Bury Strangers — who, despite a name that's more emo than a Hot Topic manager's suicide note, locked eyes with their plimsouls and stayed true to their reputation with a deafening wall of spaced-out, reverb-laden, distortion-driven (insert My Bloody Valentine reference here) that made us lightheaded. Once we had our fill of volume, we hopped back over to The End to catch Chicago mainstays The Ponys, who owned the night as they bulldozed the crowd with an electrifying overdose of rock 'n' roll that let us know what the Wedding Present would've sounded like had they been a Midwestern garage band.
While everyone backstage was amazed that Wavves' tour manager was a bigger brat than their singer, the band still managed to make enemies out of former fans Friday night at Exit/In with their catty comments throughout a second-rate set. Maybe it was just the heavy echo on frontman Nathan Williams' vocals, but we could've sworn there was some friction coming back from the crowd. Audience members shouted vehemently for Best Coast songs and, hell, even Wavves' own best songs. Even so, the few gems the band produced went far, sending brosephs and hip chicks alike into a frenzied scream-and-dance routine.
Meanwhile at The Cannery, locals Tallest Trees were showing the Yeasayer crowd — which, bit by bit, eventually filled out to probably about two-thirds capacity — that Nashvillians can do psychedelic electro-folk, too. We drifted back to Mercy Lounge for some of The Non-Commissioned Officers, who — thanks to a neverending series of lineup shuffles — are slowly morphing from a band full of dudes we know into a band full of other dudes we know. Still sounding tight, however.
It swiftly grew apparent that Washed Out's Ballroom soundcheck was going to take longer than it would take Pizza Buds' mobile ovens to warm up. So we skipped out to grab a slice, excited about the prospect of seeing Washed Out with a back-up band (Small Black fulfills those duties) rather than rollin' solo. Turns out dudes played an insanely brief set — something like five songs in 20 minutes. Lame. Yeasayer, however, sounded as tight and rhythmically entrancing as ever. Their vocal harmonies on tunes like "O.N.E." kept us interested, despite the most frat-heavy crowd we saw all weekend. Anyhow, Yeasayer had honeycombs-made-of-PVC-lookin' stage design and a back-loaded set, but we'd say they earned their (allegedly) insanely expensive guarantee based on "Ambling Alp" alone.
Word on the street is that the head of Columbia Records was among the throngs of festival goers who were turned away at the door of the sold-out Third Man Records/Nashville's Dead showcase. Jack White was in the house, clad in black and camouflaged in the darkness as he attentively watched the show from the edges of the crowd. While the gawkers were stuck outside trying to talk their way into the slice of rock 'n' roll heaven he and his Third Man crew have created for the city's young punks, the attention inside was focused squarely on the stage, where a leopard-print leotard-clad Jessica McFarland was leading Heavy Cream through the most focused set of Ramones gone Go-Gos garage-rock we've ever seen from them. The night's highlight was a rare set from Cheap Time, who assaulted us with one fat-backed mid-tempo Sex Pistols homage after another, inspiring us to rock out with a swagger that made us feel way cooler than we actually are just for having heard it.
Unlike the arms-folded, head-cocked response that dominates most Music City audiences, Nashville's Dead shows are made up of actual fans of the bands singing along to their songs and oozing youth as they air-drum, flail into one another, run around like dogs chasing each others' tails, surf the crowd and create a moment between them that's truly cathartic and contagious. This was the scene as JEFF the Brotherhood tore through a take-no-prisoners set of Kraut-punk that, at one point, even saw them cueing the house lights like true rock stars. Every year the band's NBN shows are the stuff of legend and Friday night was no exception, especially considering how they were recording the show for a live EP to be released on Third Man. This show was easily among the most exciting in NBN's five-year history.
NBN gets to be a bit of a grind, so it was nice to have the reprieve of a wedding and reception prior to the rock clubbery Saturday night. Honestly, we were being dragass about heading to 12th and Porter for Mikky Ekko — open bar! Shrimp! Friends! — but were able to take the shuttle over. Local music man Ryan Truso had warned us the night prior that Ekko's bassist was "totally badass," and he was correct. In fact, the show as a whole was excellent, with the Buckley-ish Ekko winning over the large, party-ready crowd.
Third Man Records again hosted a brew of hip young things intent on getting down to tunes from the future-beach courtesy of Forever Young and friends. We caught only the tail end of new kids on the block D. Watusi, but we've already seen enough to know that those guys (and girl) are revitalizing a dying breed with their amalgam of spacey vox, insistent keys and boisterous beats. Turbo Fruits nearly stole the entire show with a fire-and-brimstone performance — Jonas Stein howled about whiskey and vice while simultaneously unleashing dexterous riffs before a crowd-surfing finale. PUJOL (arguably the best outfit on the Infinity Cat roster) brought heavy drums, mystical lyrics and psych-punk hook, while Floridian headliners Jacuzzi Boys took the stage to perform for high-energy rewards, pounding out jam after golden jam of laid-back rock 'n' roll. No wonder Iggy Pop thinks they're the greatest thing to come out of Miami since ... well, Iggy Pop.
Mercy Lounge saw two of the best hip-hop acts to come through town in a while, but Music City seemed to have misplaced the memo. Nashville, next time we're out and you start complaining that we never get good rap shows, we're going to just punch you in the throat and walk away. You missed G-Side, and that's why we can't have nice rap things. We get a genuine bona fide indie sensation that have the actual chops and head-spinning songs to back up the hype, and where were you, Nashville? Not watching G-Side drop some of the most progressive, intelligent, anthemic rap music to come out of the South in a generation, that's for sure. Ah well, your loss. Sam & Tre are one of the consistently energetic, entertaining acts in town regardless of genre, and totally give us hope for the scene, even if we are prone to pitching a fit when our favorite acts play for an empty room. But by the time Wick-It and Kidsmeal hit the turntables and then ceded the stage to the slick soul-jazz of The Coolin' System, we were just happy to live in such a great city with so many great musicians. Even if you are a bit tardy sometimes.
And with that, we were done. On so many levels. Most of them involving our liver.
That was a lot of shows! See you in Centennial Park this Saturday for a Scene-curated edition of Musicians Corner. It's free, even if you're not wearing a fancy bracelet. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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