The Jesus Lizard, Torche, Harvey Milk and Nashville Cream '80s NightThe Jesus Lizard, Torche, Harvey Milk and Nashville Cream '80s Night 

Pure evil
Excitement levels were clearly running high as we watched throngs of people descend upon the Rock Block Tuesday night to catch The Jesus Lizard's first U.S. show in more than a decade. We took the fact we hadn't seen this many Nirvana, Melvins or Shellac shirts at a show since before our balls had dropped as a good sign of things to come. Like the rest of the crowd, who had come from far and wide, we were ready to party like it was 1999—or '91.

Openers Pine Hill Haints, who hail from Huntsville, Ala., were more enjoyable than your garden variety rockabilly ensemble. Acoustic-based, they had a bit of a Celtic sound infused with their loose, insert-whiskey-referencing-cliché-here feel. While their set was appreciated by the crowd, it felt more like waiting room music as people were enraptured in anticipation of the main event.

Luckily it wasn't long before David Yow led the band onstage and told the topical bon mot: "What's the difference between Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson? ....About five hours." Then the band launched into the opening one-two punch of "Puss" into "Seasick." Can you say "holy shit"?

When guitarist Duane Denison told the Scene in a recent interview that singer "David Yow has been flying through the air with reckless abandon" at the band's recent reunion shows, he wasn't kidding. From the get-go, Yow was flailing all over the stage like a man possessed. Hocking lugees, blowing snot rockets and constantly leaping into the arms of the crowd who would swallow him whole—some of those leaps being somersaults—it seemed like Yow spent as much time being passed around (yes, crowd-surfing) as he did onstage.

Denison, as expected, played like the Yngwie Malmsteen of noise-rock guitar while drummer Mac McNeilly mercilessly pounded out the beats like a factory machine and David Wm. Sims' bass playing churned our bowels. In both sound and spirit, it was as if not a day had passed since the band broke up.

The crowd reacted with a primal enthusiasm that was a stark departure from the typical arms-folded, head-cocked Nashville roll. People were howling along with Yow, creating a deafening roar that was more akin to one you'd hear at LP field than Exit/In. A mosh pit, in which folks in their 40s thrashed about like savages, broke out multiple times, and the masses pressed so hard against the front of the staged that a piss break resulted in having to brave a clusterfuck of epic proportions.

While many in this sold-out crowd had clearly come in from out of town to see this show, we did notice many familiar faces acting in a way we've never seen them act before. This is what it's like when Nashville gets passionate, and it rocks. A comical moment came during "Then Comes Dudley," when a rather round security guard ran across the stage to eject one unruly fan who was able to briefly escape his clutches, causing a Looney Tunes-like game of cat and mouse that ended with a hilarious banana-peel fall by the security guard, amusing band members and crowd alike.

The show went on for about an hour-and-a-half, covering all the best bases of the band's catalog, focusing mainly on their Touch and Go releases and featuring such classics as "Mouth Breather," "Chrome," "Boiler Maker," "Destroy Before Reading," "Nub," "Gladiator," "Thumbscrews," and The Spin's favorite, "Monkey Trick." There was never a dull moment, and each song sounded—as intended—like pure evil. Years from now people will be saying, "Remember Jesus Lizard in the summer of '09, now that was a fuckin' show!" We even bought a T-shirt. Then we made our way out of the club, drenched in sweat, and watched the Elliston Place foot traffic as people went about their pathetic, Jesus Lizard-less lives.

Lethargic proportions
As the Rock Block gets on up there in age, rebounding from big nights like Tuesday gets a little tougher. One of the few attendees outside Exit/In on Thursday night confessed, "My ass is still kicked from the Jesus Lizard show." Still, he mustered the energy to come out and see Torche and Harvey Milk, but the small crowd inside shared his lethargy. The room was devoid of enthusiasm, with the patrons seemingly exhausting their reserves just to get there. The loudest crowd member during Harvey Milk's set was Torche guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks.

The Athens trio didn't help matters, exercising no urgency tuning between songs, offering little to no banter as an awkward silence hung over the building. At one point singer and guitarist Creston Spiers instructed the audience to turn to the left and introduce themselves to the person next to them "since obviously none of you have anything to say to one another." Admittedly, we've only ever been a casual fan of the Milk, and the cult band that helped cultify the Melvins delivered exactly what we expected—a really good Melvins set.

Torche's approach was different. Rather than simply beating the audience into submission, the Miami combo dared the crowd to have as much fun as they were. Bassist Jonathan Nuñez vaulted around the stage while drummer Rick Smith left his throne as often as possible. Brooks poked fun at the crowd, calling us too old (he's right) and taking the opportunity on a slow night to be as unserious as possible. False starts and tangled cords didn't matter—there was no need to feign professionalism on this night, which is always a breath of fresh air.

Approaching the show, we were curious just how the more melodious tracks on Meanderthal would translate without former second guitarist Juan Montoya, who left the band in late 2008 due to personal conflicts—ones that reportedly led to fisticuffs with Brooks during a sound check. Brooks transitioned into the lead parts smoothly, but the band sounded noticeably less heavy. Thus Torche's distinction among bands pegged as stoner metal—their songs don't live or die by the riff. Here's hoping an off night in Nashville doesn't slide them into the "not playing here" column.

Living in oblivion
We knew that Nashville Cream's '80s night at the Mercy Lounge was going to go one of two ways—either the bands were going to play sincere, earnest covers or just get silly drunk and cheese it up with power ballad after power ballad. Mondays are school nights, but we were definitely in the mood for the latter.

Plex Plex was the first group up, and kicked things off by heading straight down the sincere, earnest road, playing Sinead O'Connor's "Troy" and Chris and Cosey's "October Love Song." Bows and Arrows also decided to go the earnest route. "Just Like Honey" and "Here Comes Your Man" were nice, but a sloppy "Burning Down the House"/"Come on Eileen" medley was a bit uncomfortable.

The awesomely named Eliza the Arrow featuring Thundersnake decided to do this night up right: They were all gussied up like liquored-up rock 'n' rollers, and pulled out the first genuine cheer from the crowd with "Separate Ways" by Journey. Clearly we were not the only ones in the mood for stupid fun.

The night started to go really right with Chris Crofton and the Alcohol Stuntband: We were told that we were finally going to have our "faces melted off," and the cheerful nonchalance of the onstage beer swilling perfectly accented the raucous, coked-out 1-2-3 punch of metal that featured yes, Van Halen and yes, Motley Crue. Finally, we got ourselves an '80s night.

The Non-Commissioned Officers managed to draw the crowd from the bar with a tight rendition of Misfits' "Hybrid Moments," then put on a pitch-perfect "Time After Time" with Mama Lehning on vocals. It's becoming more and more of a pleasure to see this band play out, and their version of "Don't Come Around Here No More" solidified that opinion.

It's no secret that How I Became the Bomb's Jon Burr is a charismatic frontman, but this night belonged to the band's rhythm section, who totally nailed "In the Air Tonight." Much of the crowd dispersed after the Bomb, but there were some kids making out at the bar who definitely stayed to see The Protomen. This was another band that took the theme very seriously, with costumes ranging from a coked-out Don Johnson to a coked-out '80s metalhead. Their Eddie Rabbit and Judas Priest covers were nice, but we couldn't help but wipe away a tear (of laughter) when the disco ball lit up during the climax of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Well played.

The disco ball should have been the climax, but no—the night was brought to a close by Heypenny and assorted friends. The crowd had thinned even more by this point, possibly because everyone appeared to be onstage for a gross/sincere rendition of "We Are the World." The line between earnestness and mockery was at long last blurred. The beer probably had something to do with it.

Getting your outfit together for Cream's '90s night? Better get to your parents' house and start raiding the closets now. See you next week. Email pics of your striped beanie to thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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