Another green world
As soon as we heard that tickets to The Greenhornes' show at The Basement on Wednesday night were sold out, we knew we were going to have to deal with a hot, sweaty ass-ton of people packed into a pretty tight space. What's more, we knew people's motivations for being there would be mixed, with some a bit more sordid than others: latecomers who got into The Greenhornes because of the rhythm section's involvement in The Raconteurs, gawkers just there to hopefully catch a glimpse of Jack White (yeah, yeah ... he was there, leaning against the bar and trying to watch like everyone else) and genuine fans of thumping, Nuggets-style psychedelic garage rock.
We showed up at The Basement just after 9 to find — as we'd anticipated — a sweaty ass-ton of people crowded near the stage, around the bar and spilling out onto the patio. My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel and his outfit were performing their low-key, Americana-flavored ballads amid what felt like a 100-degree cloud of evaporated butt sweat. Broemel's songs were wistful, thoughtful and cleanly delivered — a far cry from the psychedelic roots rock we're used to seeing him deliver alongside Jim James and the rest of MMJ, but still well-written and dipped in Southern sensibilities. It was, however, hard to make out some of the more ginger moments over the din of bustling Basement-goers.
Broemel's set lasted just over an hour, and the 'Hornes probably took somewhere in the neighborhood of half an hour to get their gear wedged onstage and set up. By the time they took the stage, with drummer Patrick Keeler announcing off-mic, "We're The Greenhornes from Cincinnati, Ohio ... and Nashville," we had fought our way to the side of the stage, where we discovered about two inches' worth of breathing room.
The Greenhornes led off with "Can't Stand It," and despite not having played that or any other song live in the past five years, they didn't miss a beat. The original trio — Keeler, "Little" Jack Lawrence on bass and frontman Craig Fox — was joined by an auxiliary man who we think was sometime Raconteurs sideman Andrew Higley. Though we're not familiar with every shred of The Greenhornes' catalog, they raced through a set of blues-infused psych rock that betrayed obvious longstanding obsessions with garage innovators like 13th Floor Elevators, The Sonics, The Seeds and The Animals ... only quite possibly tighter, really. We were happy to catch a glimpse of the dudes in their kinda-sorta adopted hometown while we could ... even if we did have to get other people's butt sweat on us.
"If She wasn't Zooey Deschanel, would anyone give a damn?" Wednesday night at The Ryman, The Spin was determined to find out. From the time they took the stage until the ecstatic encore 25 songs later, She & Him — Deschanel, M. Ward & Co., seven in all — gave a flawless, compelling and (dare we say) bewitching performance. The early-'60s pop strains of set opener "I Was Made for You," combined with the vintage finery of the band members, had us thinking we'd been time-warped back to a sock hop in a high school gym. (Actually, the three fedora-donning male band members, excluding Ward, would have looked more at home in Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" than on the set of Happy Days.)
Much of the evening — "Lingering Still," "Change Is Hard," "Don't Look Back," "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" — teetered in that nostalgic realm that had us half-expecting Deschanel to break into Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" at any moment. Covers of The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," Smokey Robinson & The Miracles' "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and Joni Mitchell's "You Turn Me on I'm a Radio" only upped the throwback ante.
The band was superb, with the instrumentalists providing an exceptionally tasteful backdrop yet never drawing attention away from the undeniable star of the show. On the dreamier numbers, Ward's ambient reverb-laden guitar was the perfect foil for Deschanel's ethereal singing. And when the band went into five- and six-part vocal harmonies, including occasional a cappella moments, the result was nothing short of spine-tingling.
Deschanel gave the requisite though clearly heartfelt "I'm so excited to play the Ryman" soliloquy, but perhaps an even greater nod to Nashville was the choice of opening act, the ironically named World Famous Headliners, featuring the cream of Nashville's studio and songwriting crop: "Big Al" Anderson (of NRBQ fame), Shawn Camp, Glenn Worf, Pat McLaughlin and Greg Morrow, who between them have written or played on half the country hits you hear on the radio today. But don't fault them for that — that's their day gig. As a band, they had a greasy, rootsy swagger somewhere between Little Feat and The Band, and The Spin was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic audience response they received, particularly from a crowd we can assume is not typically inclined to such music.
Of course, the opening act selection made perfect sense, since She & Him recorded a cover of Anderson's NRBQ classic "Ridin' in My Car." Deschanel invited Anderson out to join her band for the number, even letting Anderson take a verse at the mic to a loud roar of approval from the crowd. But the real showstopper was the final encore, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," a duet with Ward on electric guitar and Deschanel on vocals that clearly put a spell on the audience. Deschanel put her thespian skills to great use, hamming it up in the best possible way. At one point she took the mic away from her mouth, belting out with no amplification — a moment that drove home just what an exceptional singer she is, Hollywood star or not. In fact, as our date pointed out, Deschanel is the rare singer whose voice sounds even better live than on record — warmer and more full-bodied, with less of that potentially cloying wispiness.
Though clearly M. Ward deserves great credit for his songwriting, production and arrangement contributions, the act could be more aptly titled just She. And any fear that the "precious" quotient might be more than we could bear was unfounded. As to our lingering question about whether anyone would give a damn if she wasn't Zooey Deschanel? We had our answer.
My so-Creamed band
Nashville Cream's birthday party came a couple weeks late this year, at the front end of our great nation's end-of-summer, start-watching-football and stop-wearing-white-pants weekend. The Spin and the Cream being what you might call kindred spirits, we showed up to Exit/In with bells on Friday night, watching the presents pile up — including three huge bags of CDs and records courtesy of Grimey's — even though we were giving the presents away, and not opening them for ourselves. See how much we love you people?
Before the music got under way, we ducked backstage for a bit and saw the biggest spread of Quizno's subs we've ever seen. Nearby, Luke "From Character" Schneider, wearing about as much seersucker as one can reasonably expect to get away with at a rock show, sat prognosticating about Georgia football, whilst Dave Paulson warmed up his frets and Dan Sommers jonesed audibly for a drink.
When we popped back out into the big room, one-man band Shaky Voices was giving a cross between a Power Point presentation and an open mic performance, wearing a guitar he hardly ever touched, doing occasional drum rolls on a snare propped in front of him and singing his ramshackle bedroom-pop songs along to pre-recorded tracks. We weren't sure what was going on with some of the visuals — the connection between pictures of Tom Hanks and Pavement covers escapes us — but we enjoyed it anyway. More people should write songs about us.
After a turn on the decks by the one and only Doyle "D-Funk" Davis, it was time for Tristen, who's really been one of our favorite songwriters and singers around town for a while now. She managed to pull together a hell of a band for this show — a rhythm section of My So-Called Band's Sam Smith on drums and "The Wizard," Matt Moody, on bass, plus mainstay guitarist Buddy Hughen and very special guest Cortney Tidwell, whose harmonies on "Eager for Your Love" made us all tingly. Two of our favorite singers were singing at our birthday party, so we figured we were doing something right. The crowd, big-but-not-overflowing by this time, was seriously digging Tristen's agile, forceful pop songs, and so were we.
Earlier in the evening, a Cream compatriot said something to the effect of "I'm really looking forward to hearing Pinkerton, drunk." Judging by the collective roar that greeted My So-Called Band as they tore into Weezer's 1997 classic — fanatically, as if their 16-year-old selves had suddenly leapt quantum-ly into their slightly older skins — our friend was not alone in this sentiment.
Oh, sure, fine, there have been a lot of tribute shows in this town this year, but what's the harm in one more? It was perfectly awesome to see a band playing songs they obviously love to a room packed full of people who love those songs too. Fists pumped. The veins on normally mellow necks bulged like little emo snakes. And really, while plenty of dudes can probably toss off a "Pink Triangle" or "Why Bother?" that would pass muster, My So-Called Band's attention to detail really put the show over the top — how about a flautist to start "Across the Sea," or a water-gargling cameo to kick off "El Scorcho"?
Shock of the evening: There were many several women in the audience! Singing loudly along to Weezer songs! This is a band that sang about playing with KISS action figures in the garage, after all, so we were kind of expecting to be — to borrow a phrase from Daniel Pujol — "covered in snakes." Ah, the good life. Happy birthday to us, thanks for celebrating with us, and see you next year.
Now that we're 4, we've got post-catharsis snacking down to a science. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post just introduced me to Justice Yeldham. Holy shit.
Never heard of any of these artists?
Awesome!Love everything Jerry puts out. Definitely check out the Tue Mommies bandcamp for more golden…
the no droning rule is fucking dumb
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning...wait, what? That's not napalm??!"