Cannery Ballroom Come Saturday at midnight, scores of addled rock fans will stumble into The Cannery—ears ringing, heads pounding—and we'll be looking for strong drink and fat beats. Luckily for us, two of Nashville's liveliest and most practiced acts will be there to sate our thirst for the latter. Local favorites The Features will play an hour-long set, sure to be full of tunes off their latest album Some Kind of Salvation, a departure from their former circus-pop sound. Glitzy electro-pop duo Jensen Sportag will wrap with a set that can best be described as Buddytown music—high energy, coated in '80s luster and unmistakably hip. Can you honestly think of a better place to be at 3 in the morning? 12:30 a.m. —D.P.R.
Evil Bebos at Exit/In Readers over at the Scene music blog NashvilleCream.com nominated four bands to be considered for inclusion in NBN '08, resulting in an online poll to decide the winners. Evil Bebos topped the list, and being a last-minute addition means the Bebos weren't necessarily considered in the programming of the festival's lineups. The result is a square peg in a round hole. Lake Fever Productions likely didn't plan to have their showcase of quirky pop and new wave to be kicked off with eight-minute songs filled with metal riffs and growling vocals about Greek gods—but it's probably gonna rule. 8:15 p.m. —M.S.
Exit/In Following in Evil Bebos' dark path are Coral Castles, who make sunny British Invasion pop that will no doubt give you that good clean Orbit-gum feeling by comparison. But The Privates—we can't say it enough—will knock the balls right out of the pinball machine with their turn-on-a-dime spastic pop. The Howlies bang the vocable-heavy garage-rock drum something fierce, and rounding out the night are two stalwarts so mightily knighted in the local rock scene they may have to up the ante a little for the fatter crowd. Ghostfinger's new material suggests they've shape-shifted their way from schizophrenic genre-jumping to a bona fide Stonesy country-rock stagger, but How I Became the Bomb—tsk, tsk—have been resting on the same terrific dork-synth material for some time now. Might we suggest an old-fashioned joust? 8:15 p.m. —T.M.
Cannery Ballroom The Ten out of Tenn complilation—now on its second volume—sought to dispel the still-prevalent myth that the only music escaping the Volunteer State came from session players, suitcase songwriters and pert country stars. It seems like a shame, then, that the collection's scope feels so narrow: pop and folk-tinged singer-songwriters as far as the eye can see. It's also ironic that the real highlight of this bill is the guy playing straight-up trad country: Silver-voiced singer-songwriter Thad Cockrell, still one of Music City's best-kept secrets, will break your heart if you let him. Must-see runner up is the sublimely talented piano-pop songstress Brooke Waggoner—the velvety shimmy of her tunes makes a great case for Tennessee's still underappreciated scene. 11:15 p.m. —L.S.
The Main Event
The Basement If the demise of No Depression signaled alt-country's final descent into the oblivion of yesterday, then this bill announces something new. Each of these acts synthesizes vintage country elements into something fresh—whether they're hiding traditional riffs beneath the fuzz of distorted guitars or adding a crass, contemporary sensibility to coy country songs.
By putting them on the cover, we've thrown our support firmly behind the recently renamed Shoot the Mountain. If the bill across town draws on Euro cool, then this one—and this band—draws on the new South: a place where the sounds of the past bubble up inside head-nodding, ramshackle rock. Following on their heels are Brooklyn transplants Danger Bear, who remain closest to their alt-country forebears—channeling heartbroken shuffle and honky-tonk attitude through a roughhewn indie lens.
Meanwhile, Caitlin Rose adheres passionately to the traditions of her country heroes, covering Patsy Cline while still peppering her originals with decidedly modern touchstones. The first signees on Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' nascent label Acony, Whispertown 2000 can verge on grating with their self-conscious quirk, but there are enough surprising moments to make the band worth paying attention to. And it's only fitting that the force behind Clem Snide—a band that managed to transcend the alt-country label by infusing their twangy tunes with a crisp, swooning pop sensibility—also appears on this bill. These days Eef Barzelay has narrowed his aural palette but continues the never-tired country tradition of story songs and character sketches. Austinite (and former Nashvillian) Claire Small closes out the evening with her breed of pretty, mature pop—think Josh Rouse with two X chromosomes. 8 p.m. —L.S.
The Rutledge For those who want a break from the "it's country, no, it's alt country, no, it's Americana, no, it's roots music" debate that threatens to become interesting at any moment, consider spending Saturday night at The Rutledge. No one here is going to pose in front of railroad tracks with a dusty guitar and pretend they don't have an iPhone in their back pocket. A little modern sophistication never hurt anyone, and if The Basement's earnest, folky lineup wants to sit with you by a campfire, this lineup wants to make out with you in a bathroom stall and then send you back out into a sweaty club with lipstick smeared on your face.
Franklin's Cali opens things with an R&B-inflected pop set, then gives way to stylemongers nite nite, who've been busy this year with residencies at Springwater among other venues for their sleek, wistful pop.
Forget Cassettes, Beth Cameron's nom de guerre for years, have been on a hiatus of sorts—Cameron's been recording a new album of less guitar-heavy songs under the moniker Elizabeth GRACE—but FC have earned their local following through gritty songwriting and utter ownership of the stage.
At last year's festival, Plex Plex held Mercy Lounge rapt with their Siouxsie-meets-New-Order pop theatrics. This year, they've got a new album in the can—they recently got back from NYC, where they recorded with producer Commissioner Gordon—and seem poised to take that next step. At turns dark and majestic, Plex Plex will put the new-wavy gravy on the evening's festivities. 8 p.m. —S.H.
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