Slack/Rich Creamy Paint/Stevie Binge & the Fork Hunts
May 7 at the Exit/In
May 12 at The End
Still puzzled by this quaint phenomenon called "Murfreesboro indie rock," we decided to investigate the Boro beat some more. The best of what we'd seen so far, Imaginary Baseball League and ex-Murfreesboreans De Novo Dahl, made us wonder whether the city had some kind of secret stockpile of artful, ambitious punk-to-pop bands. After seeing Murfreesboro's Slack last weekend, at a crowded Exit/In show where not all the entertainment was on stage-more on that later-we'd say the secret's out.
Actually, we'd seen Slack a few weeks before at the Exit/In, on an off night when the band seemed to be coming out of hibernation. Tonight, their grungy but surprisingly light-fingered punk-pop connected with the audience from the first note. Starting with "Downplayment" from their first record, Sorry to Drop This on You, Slack barreled through its first four songs without stopping for breath, leaving the audience bobbing on its feet.
Much of Slack's fun as a live act comes from the byplay between frontman Chris Slack and his foil Ben Slack. While Chris bounded around the stage doing air-kicks, letting his slurred, syllable-spitting punk vocals give his kidlike exuberance an edge of threat, Ben's dry wit provided an inexhaustible string of asides between the songs. But it was the group's cool-headed handling of a potential disaster, in an event that's been the talk of the club scene over the past week, that really showed their ease on stage.
During the song "Once Before I Die," an attention-starved jackass jumped on stage and knocked over Chris Slack's mic stand. In a retaliatory strike, Nick Slack stood up at his drum kit and chucked a water bottle that smacked the guy square in the head. When the dude got into a beer-flinging fight with a bouncer, ending up outside in a squabble with police, the audience started to turn from the stage toward the spectacle. Without missing a beat, Chris Slack yelled out, "Does anyone like our band?" As if on cue, the crowd cheered and turned back to the show. Even when the band slowed things down for a rare ballad, "My Knife Is on It's Way," they never lost control of the evening.
From outside the Exit/In, Stevie Binge & the Fork Hunts looked like a bad drag show. Inside, they sounded like a trainwreck. But they were totally entertaining anyway, a game attempt at DIY girl-punk thrash. What they lacked musically-which was skill-they made up for with a wicked sense of humor and a so-what kind of self-awareness. Dressed as perverse characters from the Wizard of Oz-bass player Carissa Plato completed her Good Witch outfit with a pink bustier, miniskirt and crown-they made no excuses for what they lacked and acted grateful to the audience for listening and not kicking them off stage.
Even if their four-song set was mostly a jiggle-fest of cleavage and giggly good vibes, several people accepted when the band members waded through the audience with $3 cassettes and free buttons.
We'll write more about Rich Creamy Paint when we can give them the proper review they deserve. But they played a polished set of emo pop that's rougher than their early studio-crafted album. Keyboardist Mindy Painter effectively seduced the audience with her robotic turn-wink, turn-wink moves. Good stuff.
Later that week...We can't really say dancing is our forte, but when the chance to tap our feet to something other than crappy house music arose, we decided what the hell and headed down to The End Wednesday night. In contrast to its bustling neighbor the Exit/In-where Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings were playing that night to a packed house-The End had a homey dive-bar vibe. We arrived to find the garage-like club full of blinking lights but empty of people. The scheduled Mike Watt show had canceled, replaced by a DJ. No worries: it was only 10 p.m., so we nestled in a corner and prepared to be entertained by drunken dancing.
DJ David Sellers' "Different Class," named for Pulp's breakthrough album, means to draw hipsters with a mix of music generally avoided at rock clubs: Britpop, New Wave, garage-rock, and indie delights, all blasted at deafening volumes. Seriously. We left with our ears ringing. The music prevented us from talking, which left us few options other than staring at the door, hoping more people would show up. Our boredom lead to counting the number of people: 20, including the bartender. Even the club's proprietor, Bruce Fitzpatrick, was seen heading across the street to Sharon Jones. Although the DJs were bopping along to the music, the crowd could have used some prodding, or at least a nod to get off their asses.
Notable selections of the night included The Smiths, The Strokes, Happy Mondays, The Flaming Lips, and two Pixies songs that were played within 45 minutes of each other. It was frustrating because the night could have been a blast if more people had turned up-the music and club were great picks. But the tiny crowd and the piercing volume left us feeling like we were at an awkward school dance-alone against the wall, sipping on punch. Let's hope Sellers can draw a bigger turnout. Different Class deserves to graduate.