Music is where they'd like you to touch
"No one likes to be touched in that way. But in Nashville, that's what we do."
So proclaimed Derrick Brown of Spring Hill Spider Party, exhorting members of the crowd to fondle each other. But let's back up for a moment. When we arrived Thursday night at Mercy Lounge, we found a loose agglomeration of people that by no means filled the room. But when the band took the stage, we found that this turnout represented the devoted core of SHSP fanatics. Dry ice billowing around us, everyone crowded toward the stage.
The four-piece band opened their set with a cover of the Who's the Boss? theme song. Nostalgia was a recurring theme of the night; Brown, wearing a naval cap and "THAT WAS EASY" T-shirt, asked the crowd if they remembered the video game "Duck Hunt," before adding that "it sounds like a hip-hop vagina if you say it fast."
They followed things up with two of their better-known numbers, "Spider Party" and "This Club Is Full of Boys." Their sound was so bass-heavy that it made the floor vibrate, and the audience needed no prompting to dance. Some of their material was a bit less familiar to us; Brown proclaimed that "there are a lot of ladies on the dance floor tonight. But wouldn't it be awesome if it was all dudes?" before launching into "No Ladies on the Dance Floor." Among many noteworthy locals in attendance, Basement proprietor Mike Grimes and his fiancée Mindy Coleman were enjoying a romantic night out; Brown invited them onstage for a slow jam, shots and hugs.
They followed this up with "Asscalator of Fudge" and "Youth Group." Brown shared some gossip about opening band Red White Blue, claiming they had written a song called "My Ass Is on Fire," and added that "a lot of our fans have fucked all four members of Kings of Leon." The band members removed their shirts for what seemed to be the final song, "Women Be Shoppin' " (the "sandwich" song); instead, they traded songs for nudity, playing more jams as more audience members stripped down. (Grimes and Mindy complied.) Soon they were playing "Skeletor" and a cover of Montell Jordan's "This is How We Do It" for a largely shirtless crowd.
This audience hardly needed to be won over; they even tolerated Brown's woefully mangling the lyrics of R. Kelly's "Ignition." Still, by the end of the night, the Spider Party had surpassed expectations, defying Nashville conventional wisdom that (in Brown's words) "if you didn't sound like Ernest Tubb, you're not gonna make it."
Our plan for Saturday evening was to catch some local rock 'n' roll on both sides of the river—an order that proved to be quite tall given our perilous weather conditions. But rain or shine, The Spin is prepared to hustle when hustlin' needs doing. We arrived at The 5 Spot to find a few leftover pool-shooters and stragglers from Stopgap's weekly bluegrass show. Just happy to see the place was still standing after last weekend's infamous wedding party fiasco, we took our place among the slowly pooling crowd as Knoxville's The Young kicked shit off.
The three-piece delivered their polished, ethereal pop tunes to an initially meager and rather listless crowd. Though The Young were certainly tight, their material reminded us a bit of Muse—sans the virtuosity—and none of their songs picked up quite enough to wow us.
The moment Tristen mounted the stage with her one-time-only backing band—none other than hardworking power-popsters The Privates—we knew the first stop on our Saturday night escapade had not been in vain. Tristen's captivating but typically sparse folk tunes sounded surprisingly powerful thanks to an injection of brash, jangly pop know-how from The Privates. Fellow songstress Larissa Maestro doubled Tristen's vocals, making her striking melodies just audible enough against Rollum Haas' enormous drumming and Ryan Norris' perfectly sugary key parts. Songs like "Doomsday" and "Eager for Your Love" were refreshingly epic (and totally natural) with the volume boost.
It was already after 11 when we slipped quietly out the back exit of The 5 Spot with our entourage in order to catch as much KinderCastle as we could. After navigating the treacherous streets along our tried and true East-to-West shortcut, we piled out of the Spinmobile and nearly busted our collective ass mounting the steps of Mercy Lounge. Ass intact, we found our way inside during what we gathered was KinderCastle's second or third song.
We initially wedged ourselves stage-right between a cutout of a brontosaurus and a seething crowd of painfully nubile youngsters. Mercy's stage had barely enough room for Kindercastle's ambitious 10-member lineup—not enough room, in fact. KC's vivacious string section was adrift on an annex of sorts, adding their sweetly grandiose parts to the 'Castle's already full arrangements. We have to admit: KinderCastle undoubtedly put forth one of the most remarkably tight sets we've seen from a local act in ages, and their funkier, disco-beat dance numbers had us cutting as much of a rug as our hipster cred sensibilities would allow. From the full house, it was clear folks had made use of Mercy's liberal guest list for the evening, and after sweating out our vodka-sodas and rubbing an elbow or two, we headed back east for the conclusion of our debauched evening among a slightly more seasoned crowd.
Not seeing is believing
So, uh, we missed Lambchop's set at the super-secret hipster show because we were hanging out with Heather Byrd at the Nashville Nightlife Awards. We made the mistake of thinking that the awards were actually going to be starting early and that we could just show up, say our hellos and then roll on over to the house party which would actually get started late. Unsurprisingly, we were wrong on both accounts. When we got to the Mercy Lounge at 8 o'clock, the crowd consisted of The Spin, Ms. Byrd, The 5 Spot's Todd Sherwood and a smattering of Martina McBride super-fans in town for a Wal-Mart promotional show downstairs at the Cannery Ballroom.
Oh lord, the hair on those out-of-towners! It was like a "Best of Lower Broad" but with longer mullets and more turquoise jewelry, verging on a cattle call audition for What Not to Wear. By the time the awards kicked off, we had found the cooler full of free beer and we were feeling randy enough to accept the award for best blogger that we sorta kinda won because The Spin is like a really verbose, white-belt wearing hydra, and if you cut off one head two more pop up in its place.
As our buzz approached mythological proportions, we realized that we were actually supposed to be somewhere else, so we hopped a cab over to the awesome indie-rock insider party that you weren't invited to. When we arrived we were surprised to see that, somehow, Nashville's hipster set actually kept this secret show a relative secret, and the show had started on time—which is not the way things work. We're guessing that sometime between leaving the office on Friday afternoon and leaving the house on Friday night, we had been transported to Bizzaro World Nashville. That would at least explain why our underwear was on backwards.
Luckily, we showed up in time to scarf down some hot chicken, mistakenly rub our eyes with Prince's grease all over our hands and catch the best set from The Features we had seen in a long time. OK, our eyes were welded shut with delicious hot chicken-y pain, so we didn't really see the show, but we can't remember the last time they sounded so fucking killer. It's easy to take Matt Pelham and crew for granted, but it was even easier to well with pride as they peeled the faces of America's indie record store owners. We're so proud that The Features have taken the reins of their own destiny and are actually succeeding on their own terms. It inspires us to do better, gives us hope that we can, and makes us proud of our little hardworking rock scene. Even if our underwear is on backwards.
Check back next week for The Spin's coverage of [name redacted] at [venue redacted]. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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