The Spin 

When we pulled onto Cannery Row last Thursday night, the lot was swarming with cars—turns out there was a big Nashville Film Festival to-do downstairs and not, unfortunately, a big turnout for L.A. rockers Film School.
Worse than Tallahassee? When we pulled onto Cannery Row last Thursday night, the lot was swarming with cars—turns out there was a big Nashville Film Festival to-do downstairs and not, unfortunately, a big turnout for L.A. rockers Film School. In fact, when we climbed the stairs to Mercy Lounge, opening duo The Magic Wands were playing in front of about 10 people. By the end of the night, that number would barely double. Eesh. One diehard School fan exclaimed that Nashville should be “ashamed” for the lousy attendance. After all, here’s a band whose first record was released with help from Pavement’s Scott Kannberg, who’ve been on tour for weeks with British Sea Power, and who put on a great show their last time through town (this time, too). Did someone up in this piece mention that bands might want to avoid Nashville? If this next statement doesn’t about sum the night up, we don’t know what will: “This is worse than Tallahassee,” Film School guitarist Dave Dupuis said glumly as he surveyed the empty space greeting local new wavers Plex Plex. Speaking of, the band told The Spin after the show that they would soon be on their way to NYC to record their first album with producer Commissioner Gordon. Film School, meanwhile, with a long haul to Boston on the horizon, probably wished they had skipped our sleepy town altogether. We’re glad they didn’t.

Sultan of sing

His manager said 10 p.m. We rolled up at a quarter of on Friday night, only to find troubadour Cory Branan already well into his epic set. It seems Douglas Corner was an adjustment for all of us weaned on rock o’ clock. Not only did the festivities start on time, but the place was clean, quiet and the full house was respectful. This all seemed to make Branan very uncomfortable. He assuaged his nervousness by cracking jokes, taking lots of requests and downing whiskey & Cokes. The club regular may have had some trouble acclimating to the “listening room” (Douglas Corner’s words, printed at every table urging people to keep it down) vibe, but for the audience it was a treat. With excellent sound, Branan played a wide-ranging set—everything from the lilting “Tame” to the raucous “The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis” to his hilarious dirge for the makeupless incarnation of KISS. Branan also has plenty of excellent new songs in his repertoire. We are unabashedly obsessed with “Summertime,” one he always introduces by talking about growing up listening to John Cougar Mellencamp. (This time he also warned about the dirtiness of the second verse.) But the highlight of the night was a tune we’d never heard him play before: a story-song about the wreck of the Sultana, an oft-ignored maritime tragedy that took place near his old home in Memphis. It was a story related with derision for the greedy captain who packed the old steamship beyond capacity, and with empathy for the soldiers who died so someone else could make a quick buck—the connection to the current political situation wasn’t lost on anyone.

Dawn of the dorks

We knew we were in for a hell of a night when we showed up at the Mercy Lounge last Saturday to find several youngsters decked out in fantasy garb fist pumping before the music even began. These strangely costumed folks were no doubt straight out of the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention being held just uptown at the Sheraton. Local indie pop phenoms (and our new heroes) Heypenny opened the show despite some pretty heavy last-minute adversity: Heypenny’s drummer quit literally as the band was loading in, yet the boys managed to locate a fill-in and prepare their set just three hours before they took the stage. The dapper young rockers’ set went off without a hitch, and we were impressed. Wax Fang took the stage next with their epic, incendiary rock. The Louisville trio was as loud and energetic as ever, though the bass was a little inaudible behind the guitar player’s ethereal shredding and the drummer’s massive 26-inch kick drum. Wax Fang’s drummer Kevin Ratterman, who brings to mind Animal of The Muppets, thrashed wildly behind his sparkle pink drum kit as guitarist Scott Carney masterfully worked his looping pedal and even delivered a searing theremin solo midway through their set. But the true theatrics ensued the moment The Protomen’s set finally began. With a cast of roughly a dozen silver-faced musicians accompanied by apocalyptic lights and projections, all the costumed anime kids finally looked perfectly at home. The Protomen opened with a soaring instrumental that broke only momentarily for a solo from a lone trumpet player who played from the back of the room while bathed in spotlight. The set raged on as the electro-rock champions pumped out massive, thumping walls of sound that can only be created by a band inspired by the video game Mega Man. While we were pretty impressed by the sheer novelty of The Protomen, we decided to step out before things got too surreal.

Please send the most ridiculous things you ever overheard at City Hall to thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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