The Spin pulled up to the Mercy Lounge/Cannery Ballroom last Wednesday night to find that the Amanda Palmer and Five Finger Death Punch color palettes (or lack thereof) blended seamlessly—black into black. We chose our side (black) and stepped into the Mercy Lounge to catch the tail end of openers The Builders and the Butchers. Builders' high-pitched raw vocals were akin to Irish folk music gone catchy. And their energy resonated through the crowd, so much so that it felt like only a few moments had passed before Amanda Palmer walked through the masses, veil over her head. While a procession proclaimed her death, Palmer was lifted onto the stage, where she preceded to pound the shit out of the keyboard on "Astronaut," the dramatic first track off her Ben Folds-produced solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?.
Drama was the word as Palmer breezed through solo tracks and Dresden Dolls songs, accompanied by Lyndon Chester on violin and an occasional choreographed dance with the Danger Ensemble—a four-person interpretive dance troupe from Australia. The Ensemble mimed "Guitar Hero" and "Have to Drive" skillfully—and yes, dramatically—highlighting both whimsical themes and sobering death imagery.
The night wasn't all song and dance though. During an "Ask Amanda" portion, questions from audience members were pulled from a wicker basket and Palmer cheerfully answered anything thrown her way (Q: "What country do you most want to have sex in?" A: "Iceland with Sigur Ros.") Midset, Palmer hosted an on-the-fly rave in which members of the Danger Ensemble combed the audience, filling their combat boots with monetary donations. As a finale, Palmer lip-synched the entire Rihanna song "Umbrella" with such thespian love the audience couldn't help but grin in shock. Black umbrellas protected Palmer while champagne poured down to symbolize the rain. Somehow Palmer succeeded in turning a stiff Goth audience into a pop-dance party.
When it was time for the obituary-encore, Palmer finally stood up to the usual Nashville bar-talkers by climbing on top of the bar (not too amusing to Mercy's management) and singing Radiohead's "Creep," accompanying herself on ukulele. The song quickly turned into an earnest sing-along, and glancing at the audience you could tell they fully internalized the melancholy lyrics. Sweet. In a gross kind of way.
Sweatin' to the oldies
As it is the furthest possible point from Friday, it's easy to regard Monday as something like Kryptonite in today's modern rat race. But apparently, a few of us feel otherwise. While some lower their heads and power through the week, there's a strong contingent on the other side of the spectrum that refuses to let something as benign as a Tuesday morning hangover stop them from keeping the weekend alive just a little longer. Monday nights at The 5 Spot have become one particularly unique case study in Music City night life, in that it's maybe the only place to consistently catch a swingin' weekday party in this town. For the last few months, the venue has stopped booking bands, waived the cover charge, and let drink specials and a handful of DJs take over. We stopped in Monday night around 10 p.m. to find folks already cutting a rug. We still couldn't help but wonder, "Don't any of these people have to work in the morning?!" At 11:30, the house was packed and the dance floor was literally sweatin' to the oldies as a drunken mob of locals bumped and ground to a vinyl-only playlist of vintage rock and soul cuts. By 1 a.m., there were two clear schools of behavior: those who were drinking and those who were dancing. The dancers were obviously drinkers too, but the immoral majority was clearly in favor of dancing. By last call, we were hoping we weren't the only ones taking a cab home, but had the feeling that more than a few folks were going to spend some extra time at the water cooler Tuesday morning, putting back all they sweated out the night before.
We were nervous, Nashville, we really were. The list of worthwhile bands for whom our showgoing public did not make it worth their while is long—Snowden, +/-, dios (malos), Giant Drag, to name a few—but when The Spin scanned Elliston Place for a parking spot Monday night, we were pleasantly surprised to see a small throng gathered outside the Exit/In. This meant that we wouldn't have to add Mates of State to the ranks of the jilted. Thank fucking goodness.
By the time we made it inside, openers Brother Reade had already finished up, and the place was a little more than half full. When Mates keyboardist and singer Kori Gardner walked up to one of the stage microphones and wiped it rather carefully with a towel, a young woman standing next to us wondered aloud to her friend, "Maybe she's sick?"
Seems like both Gardner and hubby/drummer/harmonizer/bandmate Jason Hammel had come down with something. We could detect the slightest rattle in their throats, and they looked a bit tired—but damn if they didn't put on an utterly fantastic show anyway. At one point, Gardner said she was losing her voice and, when she got to "Proofs" on the setlist, she asked Hammel whether he was sure he wanted to do that one. So, the duo brought a few fans onstage to help with the high parts—"Yeeeaaaah, it does not matter...." Later, they would bring out tourmates Brother Reade for a drumline-and-freestyle-rap-enhanced finale that had us grinning.
Playing a variety of songs from their catalog (but no "La'Hov," to our slight, slight dismay), the Mates showed why they've outlasted so many bands who also got their start in the San Francisco indie pop scene of the late '90s: the glow. On the band's tour/family blog Band on the Diaper Run (they've got two daughters, whom they bring on tour), Gardner interviews Hammel, and at one point asks him: "What do you want our children to inherit from me?" His answer: "Your Glow. There is this natural compelling energy that you exude, that makes you instantly and forever likable. That."
Don't sell yourself short, Mr. Hammel—you've got quite a presence yourself—but yeah, we totally feel it, too. Rock on, Mom and Dad. Rock on.
You hated us until we started giving away free tickets. Send your apologies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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