The Spin 

Totally Snake, Ampline, The Ocelots and more

Spot on

Some weekends, we at The Spin find ourselves hopping venue to venue, trying to catch all the great music going down on a given night. This weekend was most definitely not one of them. What goes up, inevitably crashes down—and this weekend, Nashville’s bubbling music scene took a little breather. That is, except for The 5 Spot, who reigned king Friday through Sunday with what happened to be some of the more exciting rock shows in town. We regretfully caught on a little too late to catch Totally Snake on Friday, arriving just in time to find the confetti-covered wreckage they left in their wake. But we showed up just in time on Saturday to discover what is sure to become a new favorite. Down all the way from Cincinnati just for the occasion, we were already praying that Ampline would find their way back to Nashville soon before they had even finished their first song. They were about three songs in before we realized their songs were mostly instrumental. While a great many bands are apt to ditch the vocals in favor of long and liberal improvisations, Ampline ripped through a series of short, anthemic, tightly structured tunes full of soaring guitar riffs and belaboring drums. Combining elements of surf rock and fuzzy, jangly proto-grunge à la early Dinosaur Jr., the trio occasionally laid some harmonic dual lead vocals on us that resembled something like Fugazi’s poppier moments. Keeping it short and sweet, they were done in less than 20, and local anomaly The Ocelots stepped in to represent the local flavor. Pushed full speed ahead by a barrage of break-neck punk-rock beats, the veteran trio delivered a well-crafted collection of something that was a little too complicated to be twee pop and a little too happy-go-lucky to be math rock. Despite their inability to be pigeonholed into a cozy genre, their fusion works well, and it reminded us old-schoolers of a time when we could just call something like it punk without having to attach any other prefixes, suffixes and trendy buzz words to describe it. Headlining the evening was another rare performance by local experimentalists Hands Off Cuba (not to be confused with other hand-jiving locals Hands Down Eugene and DJ Hands Off Sam). Armed with a set of drums and a stage covered in effects pedals, record players, a keyboard or two and some other mysterious gadgetry, HOC pasted an ambient pastiche of loops, noises, samples, blips, crackles and mind-boggling beats to create an unearthly soundscape that managed to stay captivating despite its ad-libbed nature. Scott Martin kept a death grip on the drum kit, laying down insanely complex rhythms underneath the group’s swirling collages, and often outshining the rest of the band with a technique that was much too impressive to ignore.

Hair of the dog

Sunday night local shows are a mixed bag at best. Without a nationally touring headliner, oftentimes you show up to find a handful of hardcore fans nursing their hangovers, refusing to let the weekend die just yet. While The 5 Spot touted an alluring lineup Sunday night, we showed up feeling a bit careworn ourselves, expecting little else than a low-key night of local rock and moderated boozing. What we got wasn’t much more, but definitely more entertaining than what was expected. Danger Bear had already kicked off what we learned was their debut performance, staggering through some lazy, shit-kicking country-infused rock ’n’ roll. Long, lean and haggardly handsome frontman Jacob Jones serenades with the kind of raspy, hoarse manly-man croon that was scientifically formulated to delineate whiskey-soaked tales of everyday woes and tribulations. They brought an impressive draw for a first-time outing, no doubt in part due to the large number of supportive friends and drinking buddies who continued to shout the band’s name at random throughout the evening. While we were promised a Glossary performance on the proverbial marquee, the Murfreesboro veteran Southern rockers were nowhere to be seen—all except Bingham Barnes, who joined in on the only act left on the bill, Ghostfinger, on bass. The ’Finger brought out their share of avid devotees and took advantage of the captive audience with an ambient instrumental intro that clocked in around 10 minutes. Frontman Richie Kirkpatrick slowly worked himself into a frenzy, no doubt thanks in part to his free-flowing intake of PBR, while the band charged through their anticipated new album in its entirety. Rather than continuing the genre-hopping trend of their first album, Ghostfinger have managed to consolidate their country, classic rock and metal influences into a cohesive gel that manages to both represent each and sound nothing like any of them. The new material ran dry, but there was no sign of stopping from there, as they still had plenty of back catalog to fuel them for another hour or so. Perhaps just as entertaining as the songs themselves are the moments in between where Kirkpatrick and electric piano-man Matt Rowland call and respond with irreverent inside jokes, dirty haikus and Kirkpatrick’s various rants about unwanted Christmas gifts, stories from the road and the pros and cons of unruly facial hair (which each member sports prominently). The event resembled a game show or a PBS telethon, with Rowland often tinkling into familiar interludes of TV themes and guilty pleasures. With an almost psychic connection, the band knows exactly when to follow along or stop on a dime, while Kirkpatrick seems both oblivious and fully integrated at the same time. The small crowd waned only slightly, but most seemed to be digging every minute, dancing, heckling and even into the wee hours, crying out “Danger Bear!”

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