Feable Weiner/Boulevard/River City High/My Hotel Year
May 21 at the Red Rose Coffee House, Murfreesboro
Ah, Murfreesboro, our home away from home. Last Friday night people crammed into the modest Red Rose Coffee House, spilling out onto the front porch while waiting for hometown heroes Feable Weiner. The Tennessee heat afflicted the crowd so much that girls fanned their tank tops and yearned to be doused with ice waterboy heaven. Inside, the stagnant funk was so unbearable that between bands the exit was bombarded with people gasping to breathe fresh air.
A plethora of subgroups populated the deck: hipsters, high-school groupies, goth kids, preteen punks. It was a blur of Nirvana shirts, elaborate wings, short skirts, multiple tattoos and high heels. Those who dressed lightly were smart. Before the headliners took the stage, there were three bands to contend with, and with only two fans cooling the entire room the heat was ungodly. After the first band, many had to switch from beer to water in order to avoid dehydration. The Red Rose didn't sell much coffee that night.
With a hipness native to edgy Athens but mocked in Nashville, Boulevard took the stage confidently, urging everyone to come back inside the sweltering Red Rose from the breezy night air. Diving straight into their set, the band did its best to turn the room into Manchester's fabled Hacienda with its '80s-inflected sound. Even though his speaking voice gave up his Southern roots, frontman Benji Barton's "British" accent was so thick he appeared to be saying "octane luuuva's" instead of lovers. Nevertheless, he commanded attention, gripping the mic stand with both hands and dancing spastically between verses.
Barton's voice tended to overshadow the glammy music, but his bandmates still made an impression. Guitarist Robert Caruthers took advantage of the Red Rose's open space to wander into the crowd, while Holden Spaht struck a rock-star stance midstage to showcase his bass playing. Though Emily Beard's backup vocals were surprisingly inaudible, her mod-rocker keyboard flourishes nicely counterbalanced the heavier playing.
Weaving to the front with his weary-eyed mother was a 12-year-old boy wearing a "River City High - Fuck Yeah" shirt. He was one of many starstruck devotees hankering for an autograph from Richmond natives RCH, whose deafening set made a stark contrast to Boulevard.
With grinding guitar-driven songs and catchy choruses full of the standard "oooohhs," River City High sounded like they'd been directly pulled off Hot Topic's promo CD. But in the acoustically inadequate coffee house, their punk roar was a sonic migraine. Singer/bassist James Menefee spat his lyrics with such disdain they were impossible to decipher, and their set sounded like one long, loud song that droned on for 30 minutes. That didn't stop some guy nearby from gushing, "I didn't even know who that last band was, but they were kick-ass!"
Playing harder-and-faster pop-punk, My Hotel Year performed to an enthusiastic crowd who knew their songs from lyrics to riffs. Heartfelt stories and texturally layered guitars beefed up MHY's poppy beats, resulting in a mall-friendly emocore soundThe Ataris meet Thursday. Matching the audience's passion, the singer played the drama card early and often, beating on his head to emphasize what we can only assume were deep subjects. The crowd's screaming, cathartic response completely made the show, and the contagious buzz was reason to listen a little harder. It was another notch in the column that marks Murfreesboro these days as a better live-music town than Nashville.
As if to hammer the point home, someone shouted "We're rocking Murfreesboro!" from the hidden stage. The four rail-skinny members of Feable Weiner began playing their theme song to welcome the enthusiastic crowd. An entourage of cameras surrounded them, adding to the allure of their multi-frontman status. Early on, FW's pop-punk melodies and high, fast vocals meshed well with snotty lyrics about dating and school similar to Blink-182 and Weezer. On their debut album Dear Hot Chick, FW progressed to subjects like fantasizing about a professor ("Attorneying Me On") and grade-school crushes ("7th Grade Lyrics"), advancing in maturity from, say, eighth grade to ninth. Yet FW possesses the gift of being so tongue-in-cheek that they satirize their own emo-pop genre.
Unlike River City High and My Hotel Year, the Weiners' sound didn't drown the vocals, resulting in lyrics that could actually be heard (and fed the compulsion to sing along). They stated that their mission was to "bring back the fun in rock 'n roll, and the sexiness." The self-promotion was so pompous it was funny. And apparently it worked, considering the crowd showed the devotion of third graders at a NKOTB concert. FW handled every song like it was a big finale by drawing out the endings and wielding their instruments above their heads.
The night ended literally with a bang, as confetti from cheap party favors showered the room during the band's climactic "Shredfest." They finished the night with one of their silliest and most lovable songs, "Lameface," which features the immortal lines, "You said this song was lame/and I said so is your face/You said this song could be better /and I said so could your face." If you don't find that funny as hell, then you probably wouldn't be as willing as the Weiners' fans to tolerate unbearable heat for the sake of fun sing-along tunes. For everyone else, Feable Weiner fills the bun.