We got to The End Friday around 9:30 p.m., early enough to grab a beer and score some free brownies while pondering the unfamiliar gear onstage. A three-piece power pop band with "Jack White" written all over their blues tendencies, Austin Edwards and The Extras started out well enough with a breezy pop-rock number built on the shoulders of catchy hooks and a prominent rhythm section. Then they hit the first guitar solo, and it was all downhill from there. Why do bands insist on derailing perfectly good pop songs with unnecessary, self-indulgent blues scaliness? Whenever the band built some momentum, they'd ruin it with some guitar wanking or an unfortunate journey into psych-rock-land. Pass.
Tristen arrived onstage shortly after the Extras packed up their gear for a rare set all by her lonesome. We've been spinning her Deceivers Are Achievers EP almost nonstop since it found its way into our inbox, but the stripped-down versions of "Matchstick Murder" and "Eager for Your Love" gave us new perspective on them. She didn't seem completely comfortable rolling without the safety net of her pretty righteous band, but the power of her voice at the peaks of her songs covered up any nerves. We appreciate the fact that, in a genre saturated with demure songstresses, Tristen's willing to get in your face a bit.
Despite a lineup overhaul featuring Privates bassist Keith Lowen, the aforementioned Austin Edwards, Bravo Max's Joshua Watson and prodigal drummer Sam Smith, The Comfies aren't far from where they were four years ago. Which is good and bad — Ben Harper has a great grasp of pop songwriting, but for some reason they're stuck in that tier of perennially overlooked and underappreciated local power-pop bands. Even at this show, only a handful of people were around to jam out to the dueling guitar bridge in "Medicine" or the vaguely Spongebath-y "Inaction." Harper's giddiness about performing is infectious, though, and those in the crowd weren't afraid to let it overtake them. It might have been the brownie sugar rush taking hold, but we're pretty sure people were dancing. By the end of the night, we felt satisfied with how The Comfies have stepped up their game. The real question is if anybody else is going to notice.
An early door time and hunger brought us to the Mercy Lounge for the Nashville Cream/Vienna Beef National Hot Dog Month Kickoff Party, oh so conveniently held on July 4. You can say what you will about the state of America today, but just try to deny the heartwarming truth that all citizens are happy to come together and celebrate our nation with cheap alcohol, dangerous 'splosives and delicious repurposed meat by-products.
We shoved a hot dog down our gullet and chilled on the porch with pals, musing over the sunset, when a wedding party bearing sparklers exited The Cannery, and let us tell you: There are few things more fascinating than watching strangers fool around with fire in their nicest clothes. Even the blushing bride played along, shooting off a Roman candle perilously close to the power lines (insert honeymoon joke). We also noticed really decent 'spolsions popping up all over the East Side. Does each neighborhood have a competing display? Serious question! Someone check the listserv!
Big 'splosions started. The vantage point from the eerily quiet smoking deck was pretty good, with most of the 'splosions landing between the AT&T and Pinnacle buildings. And while we're on the 'splosion soapbox, a request: no more smiley face fireworks. We're sure the kids love it, but they're anticlimactic, and always pop out at weird angles that end up looking more like Quasimodo than anything. We were also privy to the one-liner, "That was quite an American Bang," which we suspected had been saved since July 5, 2009.
'Sposions ended. Most of us milled back inside to check out Heartbeater, who had the unenviable task of trying to follow the sky being on fire. They more than held up their end of the bargain, and proceeded to rock the fuck out, straight America-style. They even had the decency to learn a cover (Nashville's favorite thing!) and close with "Rockin' in the Free World," a song by a Canadian.
MC Chris Crofton popped up to introduce the Armed Forces and remind us all that espadrilles are not rock. True, but they are summertime. The Armed Forces had reason to actually play with a real band that night, as they reached their Kickstarter goal that afternoon to press a 7-inch record of catchy-ass pop songs, both of which were played while local fancy boy Matt Friction waved a giant American flag somewhere behind all the smoke onstage. America-style.
Whereas Armed Forces are prone to fits of fey glitterflourish, Ghostfinger toned that shit way down with some two-man Southern pop, America-style. By this point in the night, the crowd was pretty much going America all over everybody's asses back out on the porch, and unfortunately The Spin's resolve was winding down by the time local hero and Nashville Cream legend Chris Crofton pulled double duty and took his Alcohol Stuntband onstage. Tabs were closed, cabs were called. It wasn't the Fourth anymore, it was the fifth. America made it another year in spite of the bullshit, and we hope to hang out with her again next year, and once again share delicious repurposed meat by-products. USA.
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