Racs on tour
We at The Spin are proud of ourselves for showing up at The Raconteurs show at The Ryman right on time Tuesday night. While we had little difficulty parking, working our way through the seemingly endless, snaking beer line—and even longer merch line—was a different story. We spotted quite a few fringe country performers and industry types, kids buying tour posters, frat boys and old folks done up to the nines before finally finding our seat in the balcony to the washed-out sounds of The Kills. Needless to say, the crowd at The Ryman didn't seem fully prepared for the looped beats, filthy riffs and lascivious lyrics of the dancy British duo.
Though we find some of The Kills' tunes relatively intriguing, their indiscernible chord progressions, hipster apparel and lock-kneed dance-struts were certainly the least Ryman thing we've caught at The Ryman. Hank Sr. didn't so much roll over in his grave as sit up and mutter, "What the hell?"
After The Kills' set, the lights came up and The Raconteurs' roadies—every one sporting a stylish hat—painstakingly arranged their masters' equipment. We nearly made a run for beer but were kept in our seats by a pleasant but talkative pony-tailed gentleman from Tulsa who insisted on giving us two copies of his kids' albums. The Red Alert, as they're called, are—guess what—a two-piece featuring a female drummer and male guitarist decked out in red and white, but most of their tunes turned out to be fairly listenable in a Weezer-meets-Apples in Stereo kind of way.
The Raconteurs began their set after what seemed like an eternity, and, despite a big start—complete with seizure-inducing, pulsating floodlights—the sound was immediately somewhat unsatisfying. We can't say how things sounded from the floor, but from the balcony we could only make out boomy vocals and Patrick Keeler's gargantuan, stainless steel Ludwig kit. Little Jack's cream-colored Rickenbacker remained nearly inaudible for most of their set. We all know The Ryman is lauded for its remarkable sound, but it goes without saying that the acoustics seem a bit more suited for sparer vocals and instrumentation.
In the orange pseudo-Nudie Suit we swear he must never take off, Jack White apologetically admitted that, due to a painful slipped disk, he probably wouldn't fully be himself. While White laid back on vocals quite a bit, he still played rather energetically. He and Brendan Benson, however, kept their trademark noodle-offs to a stark minimum. With a set lasting little over an hour, The Raconteurs were able to play a fairly thorough mix of material off both albums, though earlier singles like "Steady, As She Goes" and "Level" got the young-uns and backwards-hat crowd dancing like mad.
Toward the end of their set, The Kills and former Racs touring member Dean Fertita joined them onstage. In the final song of the encore, White's wife Karen Elson joined The Kills' Alison Mosshart to perform some background vocals, though there was much more gaunt, bony, British writhing going on than singing.
The kids are alright
We'll say this about the Greatest Generation (or Second Greatest Generation, senior boomers or whatever they're called): They certainly don't subscribe to the Stephen Malkmus mush-mouth mumblecore bullshit that plagues our peers. We caught Silver Stars, the talent show for "active 60+ adults" at The Ryman on Saturday and were pleasantly surprised to find it lacking in white belts, gender-eschewing capris pants and angular haircuts. Sure, it was modeled after Simon Cowell's American Idol, but thankfully it was short on grunge-lite power ballads, Sanjaya-style pony-hawks and that punchable little fuck David Archuleta.
Instead, we got 14 performers making truly entertaining music that ranged from gospel to Gershwin, from soul to, uh, spoons. (Well, we missed the spoon player because, frankly, we're usually not awake—nevermind at a show—at 4 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.) We did catch some badass yodeling from Bonnie Bishop, the one-two soul-punch of Charles and Yvonne Garrett and the ivory tinkling of second-place winner Jeannie Gleaves. Third-place winner "Uncle Doc" Wilhite did a pitch-perfect impression of The Patron Saint of Bucket City, Uncle Dave Macon, that had us in stitches and wondering if we should have worn Depends. But the night went to Eagleville native Thomas Maupin, who literally kicked it old-school with some badass flat-foot buck dancing, supported by a three-piece bluegrass outfit that included his tweenage grandson. All in all, a really entertaining show, especially considering that it was, ya know, all old people. Plus, it was over in time for us to catch thousands of Auburn fans weeping their way back to Alabama. Music City, rah rah rah!
Ocelots of cookies
We arrived at Grimey's Saturday afternoon to find ourselves completely surrounded by rugrats. Ocelots are apparently popular amongst the toddler set, because close to a dozen earplugged mini-hipsters—we call them yipsters—were milling about, eating the complimentary cookies and touching the records with their filthy little hands. Things got started a bit late, but the spare 15 minutes gave us a chance to check out Grimey's brand new Amoeba-esque preview station, complete with a touch-screen and upcoming performance schedule.
Ocelots opened with "The Truth About Sailing," the first track off their new release The Ghost and the Cellar Have Let Us Down, a melodically mature piece of tempo-shifting, thoughtful punk. They experienced some initial technical difficulties—an ornery kick pedal and a bit of PA feedback foremost among them—but as the set wore on, the sound turned out to be pretty solid and not particularly deafening despite Grimey's limited space.
Ocelots present the sort of unassuming aesthetic—made up of introspective lyrics, smart progressions, punkish, sloppy riffs and occasional vocal swapping—that brings to mind the underappreciated indie-rock acts of yesteryear like Silkworm and Seam. Masters of stage-banter, however, they are not. Nevertheless, Ocelots' slightly awkward segues and stretches of silence coupled with their cornucopia of free cookies made for a pretty charming presence, and their performance, though not utterly airtight, was just raw enough. Although most three-pieces struggle to fill space, Ocelots' dynamic works, and a fourth member would almost certainly distract from their straightforward, minimalist style of songwriting.
After a relatively brief set (less than half an hour of material seems a bit modest for a record release show, though they played most of the album), Ocelots called it an evening. We then spent a few minutes wandering about the moderate crowd, perusing the new releases and snagging another three handfuls of cookies before taking off with Ocelots' "Fight a Tiger" stuck in our heads.
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