The Basement played host to Nashville’s first Mog.com party Saturday night, a relatively new social networking website for music bloggers. Though the numbers are still small, Mog’s members know a good band when they hear one—Chicago rock ’n’ soulers Catfish Haven headlined the gig. Murfreesboro openers SJ and the Props—comprised of members of several past and present ’Boro bands such as The Katies, Mercator and Turncoats—had three extra backup singers, and despite the tight squeeze on stage, they still managed to work the crowd. One audience member quipped, “This guy totally got his moves from Toby Keith.” While the hand gestures, swagger and the cowboy hat certainly bore some resemblance, thankfully the songwriting cues didn’t. Up next were Turncoats, who delivered a tight set of classic power-pop (that also blazed through punk territory with a searing take on Wire’s “Ex-Lion Tamer”) to a crowd that by then had swelled to shoulder-to-shoulder status. DJ Bawston Sean cemented the Murfreesboro takeover spinning soul records between sets. Then came Catfish Haven, who have always been the sort of band that live and die by their live shows and, due to a recent increase in resources, the trio were able to supplement their sound with two backup singers and a second guitarist, resulting in a rich, swinging sound. But the selling point for this band remains frontman George Hunter’s raspy howl and his vintage, no-nonsense lyrics. Despite the band’s narrow musical scope, Hunter’s vocal conviction helps them avoid classic-rock revisionism pitfalls—songs like “Tell Me” and “Another Late Night” are raucous barroom anthems that are just as at home at 1 a.m. in a dark club as they are on a hipper-than-thou indie-rock blog.
The Spin headed out into the unseasonably warm weather a bit late on Saturday, thanks to a nail biter of a divisional playoff game. (Who punts on fourth down with under two minutes to go when you’re down by a field goal?!) But that ended up being a blessing in disguise—we missed the supposed hour-wait to get inside the rapidly filling Cannery. It was the place to be Saturday night for a big, bad, diverse, well-promoted local bill. Kings of Leon showed, as did that other Raconteur, “Little” Jack Lawrence (the one with the glasses), and so did some 1,000 other Nashvillians who were ready to party. Bang Bang Bang brought their hard-charging Southern rock to the level with a tight, loud set of professional swagger, and earned a mostly captive audience for it. By the time The Features took the stage for their headlining slot, the place was full up. Every time we see The Features it becomes harder to believe they’re not one of the biggest bands around. Their creative prowess and obvious love of pop music makes for a batch of dynamic, clever and damn catchy material. Their marathon set included several promising new songs and a myriad of tracks off Exhibit A, their Universal (-ly dumb for dropping them) debut. But the punchiest tracks we heard all night might have been the standouts from the band’s self-released EP Contrast. The insistent, organ-drenched “Wooden Heart” filled the room with joyous noise and “Commotion” rocked socks. The only misstep was the oddly paced title track, “Contrast.” The band never say much, but the crowd never seems to mind—Features fans are easy like that—and with a five-song encore (that ended faithfully on the massive sing-along “Thursday,”) and the preview of new material, we couldn’t complain. Hey blogosphere, here’s your next big thing, the band who’ll moisten your Cheeto-cheese coated blogging fingers with sweat and cause the hair at the base of your ironic mullet to stand on end. Come and get ’em!
The place to be for the post-Features party was Springwater, where locals such as Altered Statesman, Latchlifters (featuring Lone Official’s Matt Button on drums) and comedian Craig Smith joined forces to help raise funds for the growing medical bills of former Springwater manager and booker Kara Nicks, who was in an automobile accident in 2004 that left her unable to continue her work as a nurse. In attendance were Kurt Wagner and Matt Swanson of Lambchop and a rare Springwater appearance from King of Leon Caleb Followill (and entourage). Nathan Vaquez and Jamin Orrall played an impromptu late-night set with yet another side project, Coyote, where they were joined by Bad Friend’s John Adams. The band consisted of three drum sets. It was an intensive, improvised, aggressive onslaught consisting of one long jam that lasted some 15 minutes.
Hip-hop, hype and Hootie
MuzikMafia may have thought they were eclectic because they brought us “hick-hop,” but they never put on a show as diverse as last HiPhi’s CD release party at The End on Thursday night. Opener Denitia Odigie played solo with just an acoustic, and her gossamer Cat Power-ish vocals kept the audience quiet and attentive, leaving us wondering how much more dynamic she’d be with a full band. Next up were The Levees, who smashed the quiet smoky vibe with their rumbling Louisiana swamp rock. Dan Cohen played some ripping slide guitar, making us feel like we were suddenly on Bourbon Street, especially when the frontman whipped out a trombone. Then, like a record scratch, the mood took another left turn as white-boy rapper HiPhi took the stage to celebrate the release of his self-titled debut. He was backed by Hypemaster Mark Lee (the tracks themselves were produced by Bang Bang Bang’s own Jaren Johnston, credited as J-Bang on the CD), and the Bang boys were there to support the side project (the guest list read Bang Bang Bang +1), bobbing their heads along to the bouncy hooks. Also in attendance were local indie-pop songwriter (and Mark Lee’s brother) Steve Lee and Hootie’s Darius Rucker, who left after unsuccessfully trying to get change for a $100 bill from his friends. Sounds like somebody’s still ballin’ big time!
Sultry singer alert
Singer/songwriter Audrey Spillman may attend Belmont’s music school, but her performances around town are a rarity. She brings her sultry voice and infectious folk pop to 12th & Porter this Thursday—fans of Norah Jones and Alicia Keys, take note—for her first gig back in town since showcasing her talents in Manhattan last fall. Preview Spillman’s music at myspace.com/audreyspillman.
Send J-Bang sightings, blogger snack recipes and one good reason why The Features shouldn’t be hugely successful to the firstname.lastname@example.org.