Rites of Spin
• Did you hear? This year’s Rites of Spring
festival at Vanderbilt was going to admit what Vandy kids like to call “Nash Trash”—i.e., regular Nashvillians who don’t roam the university’s hallowed halls—and that was, like, really gross. Can you believe they were actually going to let these people on campus, let them stand next to the real Vandy students, brushing shoulders with the cream of Southern youth? But the nightmare never really came true; the Nash Trash stayed away and the Vanderbilt youth were left to swig Busch and Miller Lite in peace, taking hits off each other’s joints and crushing their cans in the ground only to pull another out of their pockets, their bags, their coolers. So many coolers, so many heads of tousled hair bobbing along—not to the music but to each other, a sort of droopy, drunken sway. Which band was playing? Nobody could tell for sure. Was it Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
? No, they played last night, right before that shirtless dude puked in front of you. Remember? It’s probably Ben Lee
. No, Folds. Ben Folds
. You can tell because he has a piano and he’s kinda old, like probably 30. Well, whatever it is, it’s some great music. And definitely great beer. So have another Miller Lite and watch the guy next to you make out with a girl and text his friends about it at the same time. Awesome.
• We could spend hours pondering the cultural conundrums that arose during our stay on Vandy’s Alumni Lawn. How many pairs of Rainbow flip-flops can you fit on one beer-can bespeckled lawn? Who could predict that a homemade confederate flag dress worn with cowboys boots would look tacky? What’s so wrong with a girl in pearls and seersucker culottes waving her “guns in the air,” giving big ups to 2pac and Biggie in response to urging from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony? But we’d rather talk about My Morning Jacket
—because they fucking rocked. By the time MMJ closed out Friday night’s bill, the thunderstorms had passed, allowing the band (and the crowd) to stay dry. Their vibrant, psychedelic sound, jammy but not annoying, was a perfect fit for the big space, the spring breeze and our cold beer. The Louisville quintet’s music is ambitious, virtuosic and grand, but it succeeds because of the joy and humility they radiate in performance—we would have considered ourselves lucky if we’d been having half as much fun as they were. The Spin also gives props to San Francisco’s Hot Buttered Rum
, who made it all the way from the left coast in a van powered by vegetable oil for their Saturday afternoon performance under the sun. A belated happy Earth Day to all!
Robot rock invades Nashville
You’d think local clubs were competing with Rites of Spring for the crowds this weekend, but the sold-out show Saturday night at The End proved otherwise, when Murfreesboro’s latest electro-wave journeyed up I-24 and into the future. The bill featured three incarnations of synthesized pop stylings, with band-of-the-moment How I Became the Bomb
followed by sets from Makeup and Vanity Set
and The Protomen
. We knew The Protomen were hot on the house party circuit, but who knew they intended to save not just rock, but ultimately mankind? Apparently, there’s an epic battle raging between man and robot, and we need heroes, because we have no choice, and we have to stand together, or something like that. At the set’s pinnacle, two helmeted bots exchanged some rather dramatic dialogue onstage, resulting in a kind of mythological confrontation between the forces of good and evil. The powered-up crowd was full of what appeared to be disciples: guys and girls in face paint and military gear who looked like citizens of a futuristic bombed-out rock apocalypse. It’s safe to say the performance was more about the theatrics than the music, but, shit, it was awesome. There was even a dude wearing a Nintendo power glove, pumping his fist in the air as the robot-rock opera neared its end. It was a close call, but as a single slo-mo punch from Mega Man
sent the red helmeted robot (we assume it was Zero
, though we don’t recall that he wore pleated dress pants) crowd-surfing off the stage, we were fairly confident that good had, in fact, triumphed.
Can (the) openers
To Nashville’s opening acts, a bit of advice: keep it tight, keep it modest and, above all, keep it well under an hour. Scratch that—under 40 minutes. Know your place; if you don’t, it’s just plain indulgent (especially if your set includes an acoustic mini-set in which you butcher one of our favorite Drive-By Truckers songs). We don’t care if you’re the next Arctic Monkeys—by eating up the clock you are not only doing a disservice to yourself, but to the headliner who was kind enough to include you on the bill. Taking the stage around midnight last Wednesday at Mercy Lounge, after a marathon of mediocrity, Justin Earle
was great—and thank god, because we deserved it for sticking it out. Playing with his band The Distributors
, Earle’s organic, melodic rock was like water in the desert to our aching ears. Though it didn’t show in his performance, even Earle was a little bit drained by the evening’s antics, admitting, “We’ve been in the studio all day and we’re plumb wore out—and we still have a lot of songs to play.” If you’re Steve Earle’s son, you can’t very well get up there and suck, so it was a relief to see the junior Earle’s calm, self-assured stage presence, as he played music distinctively different from the political country-rock of his famous father (though you could hear a hint of Justin’s lineage in his easy, expressive voice). Unlike the rootsy bluegrass of his previous band The Swindlers, The Distributors play straightforward rock ’n’ roll, and it seems to suit Earle just fine. They closed out the evening with a Replacements cover—lets just call it a lullaby, since it was way past our bedtime.
Roller skatin’ to the top
It wasn’t enough when The Pink Spiders
signed to Geffen and dropped a half-mil on a record with Ric Ocasek; they had to go and make a big shiny video and debut it on MTV’s teen-targeted popularity contest, TRL
, last Tuesday. A preview of the video, for the single “Little Razorblade,” was already available on the director’s website; not only does it look like a big-budget, glossy affair, it was directed by heavy-hitting movie and video director Joseph Kahn. If you’ve seen videos for Britney Spears’ “Toxic” or Eminem’s “Without Me,” then you’re familiar with Kahn’s slick work. The video is a roller-skating romp featuring a blonde wallflower type who musters the courage to don pink legwarmers and join the fun on the rink. Like all good little video vixens, once she pledges her allegiance to the rock, she becomes instantly hotter. Watch for the shocking ending when we find out that her trippy escapade was—gasp!—all just a dream.
If the demise of NashvilleZine.com has left you searching for new ways to procrastinate on the Internet (and you’ve already loaded those half-naked pictures of yourself onto MySpace, then blogged about it), check out weownthistown.net
. Managed by Doug Lehmann
of The Clutters, the site looks to pick up where NashvilleZine left off, featuring upcoming shows, photos, news, reviews and people’s random, snarky comments. It also serves as a home for Lehmann’s local rock podcast of the same name (drawn from a line in an Ole Mossy Face song). There are even a couple video podcasts, including an interview with Todd Kemp
of the Carter Administration in which he explains how the band fit all their gear and all their members into his P.T. Cruiser—a vehicle he recommends for touring bands everywhere: “You pull up to a club and everybody goes, ‘who are those losers?’ And we go, ‘we’re motherfucking ZZ Top, bitch.’ ” Though it’s early in the game, weownthistown definitely shows promise, and we’re eager to see more.
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