Friday night, The Spin ventured to Bridgestone Arena to catch the rockabilly/punk blend of SoCal-punk legends Social Distortion as they opened up for The Avett Brothers and their wilder, more acrobatic take on Granddad's old-time Appalachian music.
Regrettably, The Spin heard opener Social Distortion's final song in the beer line. As we waited to be gouged by 10-buck beers and warmed up after braving the night's near-freezing temperature (a flask would have solved both of these issues ... d'oh!), Mike Ness & Co. concluded their Nashville set predictably with Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" (no stranger, The Spin caught SD at The Mother Church on the last day of the world back in May). The Spin applauds Social D's selection — although more Thunder 94 to the Avett's Lightning 100, they foreshadowed and magnified the Avetts' occasional edginess. And if Americana is embracing punk, then perhaps we'll look forward to the Celtic-punk of Boston's Dropkick Murphys on the next Mumford & Sons tour? Eh?
Although The Spin is also certifiably underexposed to The Avett Brothers' discography, we did learn (thanks to Jewly Hight's preview in last week's issue) that there is a compelling Nashville metric to describe the band's decade-long rise to fame: Their audience has increased nearly 200-fold, from playing the 100-capacity Layla's Bluegrass Inn to selling out The Ryman and now playing a concert at Bridgestone Arena (which holds over 16,000). We also learned that bassist Bob Crawford, who has been caring for an ailing daughter, would perform, and for that we were thankful (she is in our thoughts). The Spin was also fortunate that The Avett Brothers do the arena-rock thing very well. The group is incredibly energetic, often screaming, head-banging and getting rowdy with their instruments, ensuring that those in the nosebleeds don't stop believin'. On "At the Beach," for instance, the song's whistling and island-guitar rhythms rode alongside the band's stomping cadence and certainly warmed the arena to its brim. And The Spin loves a good drinking song, like "When I Drink," in which they sing, "When I drink, I spend the next morning in a haze / but we only get so many days," which, our upper lip stiffened, earned The Spin's quick and little nods of approval.
As The Avett Brothers broadcast their picking party to the arena, The Spin noticed the humongous, vertically lined backdrop's resemblance to a hardwood floor, as if it were still 2001 and the crowd could fit into one living room. Slower songs got pretty intimate until the woman shrieking "Marry me!!!" was upstaged by the grizzly-voiced man yelling the same thing — only it sounded more like "Murder me!!!" coming from him. Not inappropriate, considering it was Halloween weekend. Meanwhile, as the Avetts hummed, hollered and hoe-downed through songs like "Murder in the City," "I Killed Sally's Lover" and "Die Die Die," their set began to sound more like the horror-punk of the Misfits. Happy Halloween indeed!
Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves!
We were surprised to see as many costumes as we did at Mercy Lounge on Monday: Even though it was officially Halloween, the holiday managed to turn into a four-day weekend, and we had wrongly assumed Nashville's partygoers would be over it. Not so! Special shout-out to Animal of the Muppets, the Beetlejuice sandworm and Dr. Tobias Fünke. All noted, all admired. That said, at least on our part, we were quickly reaching the "over it" point, which was exacerbated by the shindig's late start. Bows and Arrows' Jesus and Mary Chain cover set missed a golden opportunity to turn "Just Like Honey" into a festive version, "Bit O'Honey."
The ruffled-shirted Big Sir and his Greater Good knocked out a decent set of hipster-hop that managed to eke the crowd out of a lull for a bit. Unfortunately, we were taking a bathroom break when we missed what was described as the "saddest stage dive ever" from Bummer, who were gamely trying to rouse the crowd with a set of Misfits covers. They absolutely tore into it, but save a few costume-less fellows up front, the crowd wasn't having it — though not for lack of Bummer's trying. Bummer.
Lylas was the first band we noticed all night that actually had full costume participation from every member (Death and Hulk Hogan appeared to be in their ranks, from our vantage point), and they were appropriately Lylas-y and dirge-y for the occasion. We haven't heard banjo that menacing since Deliverance — nor have we ever heard such a slowed-down, folksy version of The Ramones' "Pet Sematary." Casa Castile — clad in Juggalo-lite face paint ("whoop whoop") — was next and announced it was their first-ever show at Mercy Lounge. Their brand of bedroom pop with electronic flourishes was pretty skippy and just skirting the edges of late-era Brit-pop at certain points, but holy crap guys, that was the LONGEST MEDLEY EVER (featuring a brief dip into Blondie's "Heart of Glass"). It would not kill to cut it down.
Shaboi was the beneficiary of an awkward bit of good intentions, in that the house music that was playing while they were setting up just happened to be a Shaboi tune. An expertly played genre grab bag followed — there were bits of hip-hop, country Western, pop, folk and R&B — and it never hurts to have two Walter Whites (of Breaking Bad fame, duh) in your band. After their set was a costume contest, officiated by the night's curators, the kids over at the blog Dixie Downturn. The first prize, a 10-inch extended single of Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters theme, ended up going to the dude dressed as Ultimate Warrior. Nice.
How I Became the Bomb popped on some long-ass beards and performed ZZ Top's "Legs," which got a rousing "woo-hoo!" from Mercy Lounge GM Drew Mischke, not to mention a dance-along from a couple we are tentatively identifying as a raccoon and Cthulhu. The place pretty much cleared out after the Bomb, which was too bad for Fake Brad, the 8-bit soundtrack to video games we never played. We were considering sticking around, but the late start, a four-day party weekend, and the threat of another workday had pretty much wiped everyone, including your intrepid Spinner, all the way out. Happy Halloween, wieners.
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