The Spin honestly can't remember the last time we covered a Starlito show, so needless to say, we were pretty excited when we arrived at Mercy Lounge around 10 p.m. Sunday night to find the room already mostly packed and pretty lively. We were greeted by a circle of people dancing enthusiastically as the venue played Lil Boosie, the Baton Rouge rapper who was recently released from prison after serving more than five years of an eight-year sentence. (On a side note, Boosie played his first post-prison show on April 11, in Nashville, to a sold-out Municipal Auditorium.)
The action began with opener Petty taking the stage in a white ski mask, to much applause, spitting a handful of bars before taking off the mask and addressing the audience. Petty, like Starlito, hails from East Nashville and is part of the new school of local hip-hop. Over the past few years, he's dropped a slew of impressive projects, including last year's Short but Sweet, released by local label Gummy Soul. For the majority of his set, Petty played through some of the best cuts from his catalog, with the audience seemingly chanting every word right along with him. For his last song, he slowed things down a bit, grabbing a stool and sitting down to deliver a new cut from his upcoming project, 43V3R. We weren't able to catch the name of the song, but we can tell you it was killer, with Petty waxing poetic for several minutes over a soulful instrumental arrangement while the crowd stood in a daze, occasionally offering hoots of approval.
DJ-ing throughout the night were DJ Coop and DJ Logan Garrett, two of Starlito's in-house DJs. The pair did a good job of maintaining the mood between sets, though the crowd honestly needed little encouragement to keep the energy flowing. After Petty, we stepped out on the balcony to catch some air, returning just in time to see 'Lito take the stage. For his first song, Starlito brought Petty back up for a performance of "One Long Day" from last year's Cold Turkey, and then the shenanigans truly began.
From start to finish, 'Lito's set was a whirlwind of unexpectedness. For the first part of his set, he performed a rapid-fire mash-up of some of his personal favorites, interspersing the cuts with banter and jokes. Then he started to take requests from the audience, with varying degrees of success, as several hundred people simultaneously yelled and repeated the name of the song they wanted to hear.
After playing through a selection of songs from his personal work, Starlito invited Memphis' Don Trip to the stage, and the pair rocked out to some of the instant-classic cuts from their collaboration, Step Brothers 2. Something about Starlito and Don Trip's interplay puts us in mind of a 21st century version of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. And while they've always had sizable fan bases of their own, it was their Step Brothers collaboration in 2011 and the aforementioned 2013 follow-up that exposed them to wider audiences and new levels of mainstream success. (NPR even debuted Step Brothers 2, if that tells you anything.) Most of the shows 'Lito and Trip have played over the past couple of years have been together, so The Spin knew the chances of a Trip cameo were relatively high. Still, when he emerged from the shadows with a microphone in hand, The Spin ditched our trademark cynicism for the giddiness of a kid on Christmas morning.
After the show, Starlito, Petty and Don Trip all stuck around Mercy for a meet-and-greet. So did The Spin and about 50 of our fellow concertgoers. It was a strong showing for a couple of the local hip-hop scene's standout stars, and it probably couldn't have gone any better. And if we're being honest, the icing on our evening's cake was definitely the selfie we snagged with Don Trip in the parking lot before heading home.
Maybe it's a bridge too far to suggest that JEFF the Brotherhood's fraternal heavy sounds are the reason the rest of the world has paid so much attention to our local music scene in recent years. However, they were one of the first of the current wave of Music City rock bands to gain regular national press, as well as a major-label record deal, whatever that's worth nowadays. Recognizing that success doesn't happen in a vacuum, they invested their gains back into their community, helping nurture a crucial segment of the local music scene through the substantial growth of their family record label, Infinity Cat. And as The Spin saw Monday night, keeping all those balls in the air doesn't hamper their ability to put on a sternum-shaking, fist-pumping show that has as many kids surfing the crowd as standing in it, reaching for the rafters like they used to do at long-defunct local DIY venue Glenn Danzig's House.
We sauntered into The East Room to find ourselves in a pop-up disco, and we enjoyed some conditioned air while the DJ played Kraftwerk and Kate Bush and the biker flick Northville Cemetery Massacre lit up the wall. Nursing an energy drink, we watched the mostly younger crowd fill in while Jawws took the stage. The five-piece rests on a foundation like JEFF's: Guitarist/frontman Eli Tidwell's years of playing with his brother Hunter on the drums make their young age irrelevant. Their cohorts, who fill out their sound with two more guitars and bass, are just as in tune with each other and the Tidwells, making the unit tighter than many adult bands we've seen. They came on strong with tunes growing out of a love for trad metal and hardcore, making up their own smooth and full-bodied blend. Halfway through the set, Eli put down his guitar and went into full-time frontman mode, stalking the stage with the holy fury of Henry Rollins and the wailing highs of young Ozzy. We took his dig, "None of you are moving, and that's a shame," as our cue to head to the back; smart move, as one of the biggest circle pits we've seen in a while ensued.
It seems like we run into Cy Barkley everywhere — case in point, we saw his new, slightly more pop-oriented group Los Huevos open for Jacuzzi Boys on Friday night — but it's been a minute since we last caught a Way Outsiders set. This performance, which Barkley mentioned was only their second this year, included a little more of the post-punk nerviness that colors Mutability, the LP he released last fall, and a little less of the raw-power hardcore that is the meat and potatoes of The Way Outsiders project. The sounds they make continue to be very familiar and relatable, but do a stellar job of blending in a wide variety of influences. Like many of the best groups that pack a wallop, there's a pop sensibility underneath the brute force, not unlike pedal-hopping heroes Dinosaur Jr., and it really came to the fore when the thrash broke into sweet, sweet guitarmonies.
After a short break, The Bogus Bros — who were billed for this show as "Dr. Pepper Blues Band," perhaps in an attempt to keep the show somewhat small and test out their new lineup for a local crowd — materialized from a cloud of fog, flanked by some new bandmates: bassist Chet Jameson (who had just wrapped a set as Cy Barkley's guitar dueling partner) and Kunal Prakash on second guitar, later introduced by frontman Jake Orrall as "Kunal, who sleeps on my couch." The group's sound headed in a motorik direction with the previous lineup, which included "King" Karl Bergman on bass and D. Watusi's Christina Norwood on keys, but this incarnation of the Brotherhood dug straight back to what made head-banging kids everywhere fall in love with the group, delivering wave after wave of full-body-massage riffs driven along by thundering beats in near-telepathic sync. The 12-song set, "all we could learn in five days of rehearsal," included favorites from Heavy Days to Hypnotic Nights and everything in between, as well as two new songs that had the kind of powerful yet nimble flavor we got from Big Business when they came to Exit/In in February.
The bridge to "Six Pack" — "It's so hot in this tiny room" — resonated with us after a long, sticky afternoon spent defending our honor in a field day contest (go Team Scene — we came in not-last!), and we found ourselves grateful that the band had, for whatever reason, booked the show under that assumed name, keeping the venue near capacity but not bursting at the seams. Splashed with beer and sweat, we declared the summer of 2014 officially open for business, and peaced out.
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