The Spin 

Thursday night was Nada Surf’s first time playing Mercy Lounge after two straight packed out shows at Exit/In in the last two years.

Nada clueThursday night was Nada Surf’s first time playing Mercy Lounge after two straight packed out shows at Exit/In in the last two years. It seemed like a few of their fans might have gotten lost on the way across town, because although the place was far from sparse, it wasn’t the teeming hoard the band managed to draw touring behind The Weight Is a Gift. Fortunately, those who did show radiated enthusiasm, singing along to favorite tunes and indulging frontman Matthew Caws’ request for a group dance-along during “Inside of Love.” With a keyboard player helping the trio re-create the lush palette of the recently released Lucky, the veteran power poppers were as tight as ever, and still looked like they were having a grand old time. (We’re assuming bassist Daniel Lorca’s ever-present mellow, cigarette-hanging-off-his-lips state is his Zen place—like when our cat sleeps on the windowsill, feet in the air.) Seeing a band play in support of a recently released album is the best: You don’t have to sit through all the “new ones,” but you also get to hear songs you’ve learned to love played live for the first time. Lucky’s “See These Bones” and “I Like What You Say” were exponentially more rocking in live format, and classics like “Do It Again” might just sound good forever. One hardcore fan was overheard bemoaning the fact that the band completely ignored their first two releases. We get that—after all, we’re the ones screaming “Bulldozers and Dirt” at Drive-By Truckers’ shows—but the new stuff is so superior that it’s hard to complain. During the final song of the encore, the deliciously ironic “Blankest Year,” Gumby struck again. The lanky green man with the asymmetrical head who we’ve seen spontaneously take the Mercy Lounge stage lately, busted out some very special dance moves, causing even the band to snicker with delight. We’ve heard rumors about who might be the man behind the mask—we’ll give you two hints: really fucking tall, and possibly quite drunk.

Mountin’ musicSometimes there’s nothing better than arriving early at Springwater, setting up a home base on the rustic-indoor patio furniture, and watching the Marlboro Red smoke roll in. Friday night, that secondhand smoke and the cheap PBRs accentuated the blue-lit, homebrew musical stylings of Jigsaw Mountain Boys and And the Relatives perfectly. The Mountain Boys were up first, and they banged through a spunky set of country punk with a flush-faced, wiry singer who barked out his lines like there was much more at stake than a free pitcher. Next were ATR, a trio whose gregarious stage presence and power-packed drum beats filled the void of a rhythm guitarist. The late-night crowd was an eclectic mix of Vandy student look-alikes, Western shirt-wearing hipsters, local musicians and sad-but-true barflies. ATR energized them with a set that was an even mix of songs off the upcoming 2008 release Below and Above and 2007’s Talking to My Fingers—even tossing in a satisfyingly sloppy cover of Built to Spill’s “Big Dipper. Frontman Andrew Brassell challenged his vocal abilities on tunes like “Puppetry,” while drummer (and Scene contributor) Patrick Rodgers floated in and out of his own world behind the drum kit. Eli Beaird reined in his fellow bandmates throughout the performance with his steady bass lines. Frequently, Rodgers exited his percussive role to address the crowd and exchange witty banter with Beaird—it was an amusing battle of who gets the last word at times. But ATR really thrive in live performances, where there’s never a lull in musical libido.

My bass tone will crush your hipster folk trioFriday nights like this one make us want to write love letters to this little heat island we call home. Maybe it’s the audacity of heavy riddims, but after a few (admittedly awesome) hours of people-watching down at the red-state freak show on Lower Broad we were pleasantly surprised to find a packed house of multi-ethnic modernistas out to see Brooklyn-based DJ Dieselboy. If you had any questions about the health of the jungle massive here in Music City, know that they repped hard and rolled deep at the Mercy Lounge this week. The three-way tag team by local openers Chris Smotherman, Dorian and Mike Allison was a bit schizo, veering between liquid funk, ragga and hard tech, but definitely did the hometown proud. Seattle native and Dieselboy protégé mista DEMO brought a furious set of buzzing thugged-out beats that upped the ante, turning the room into a frenzied, fist-pumping freak-out. When Diesel took the decks with his MC J-Messinian on the mic, we were a bit skeptical. See, we’ve always been of the volition that MCs talk too much, and they tend to interfere with the sublime sound of overwhelming sub-bass, but not so this time. Both disc jockey and mic controller were on fire, propelling the shockingly glow-stick-free crowd into a state of ecstatic bliss that we don’t usually see at the chin-scratching indie rock shows we’re accustomed to. Oh, and we gotta give extra props the Mercy staff for keeping the AC cranking, the drinks cold and making the show sound superb. Kudos, kids.

Sweat it outWe here at The Spin aren’t exactly accustomed to rock shows starting on time, so when we arrived at The Features’ show at Mercy Lounge Saturday night just a bit late, we were disappointed to find we’d already missed most of Atlanta faves The Selmanaires’ set. Once we worked our way through the sweaty crowd (one of the biggest we’ve seen at Mercy in weeks), we discovered it was a Camel promotional event, meaning the entire club was packed with cigarette paraphernalia, posters and employees—even a body painting station. Pico vs Island Trees played second, and their clean, practiced rock translated well. A particularly excited cluster of swooning ladies in the front row seemed to know all of Pico’s lyrics, and lead singer Brian Carter wooed them sassily with tambourine in hand. When The Features finally stepped onstage, they still retained the poise of old pros despite being bludgeoned by the music industry machine one too many times. Matt Pelham’s spot-on vocals had the sweat-drenched crowd echoing his every hook. Bassist Roger Dabbs’ fingers flew across the strings of his Rickenbacker effortlessly as keyboardist Mark Bond’s poppy riffs balanced Pelham’s crystal clear vocals. Once again, Rollum Haas’ furious drumming bordered on assault and battery—one of these days, his kit may just tire of being bashed to pieces and leave him for good. The Features played a lot of new material from the forthcoming full-length Some Kind of Salvation, but the songs were as lively and engaging as ever, and they blended well with the rest of the set. Pelham and company’s banter was about as sparse as it gets, but they let their jaunty, throbbing rock speak for itself. After a pretty lengthy encore, we left The Mercy Lounge with a newfound respect for The Features—and a couple free packs of smokes.

It’s already as hot as balls. Now, imagine dipping those balls in queso. You now know what it’s like to be at Bonnaroo. Got a better metaphor? Send it to thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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