After an attempt to see an afternoon Nobunny set at Third Man Records proved abortive (it started two hours late), we were all the more psyched to see his nighttime show Friday at Springwater. We arrived to find a large crowd displaying their affinity for punk with many buttons and black band T-shirts; in the words of our companion, "I haven't seen this many denim vests since the Muse circa 2002."
We walked in during the Symptoms' set; they played in a thrashy, street-punk style that one audience member described as "like Toxic Narcotic" (if that means anything to you), with lots of "skate or die" breakdowns.
Fog-machine fog filled the room, and the crowd gathered near the stage as Seattleites The Spits got ready to play. They launched into a set of short, high-energy songs that call to mind The Ramones, and Misfits at their Ramonesiest. The Springwater was as packed as we've ever seen it, and the crowd was happily dancing — in some cases (unfortunately) even moshing.
Despite the band's enthusiasm, we weren't really feeling it. The Spits' use of feel-good Ramones chord changes, combined with singer Sean Woods' Joey Ramone vocal affectations, felt too derivative even for derivate punk fans like us. (We also discovered we could sing "He's Gonna Kill That Girl" to every song without losing our rhythm.)
By 12:30, the crowd had actually thinned out a bit — it seems some skate punks and moshers chose not to stick around for the headlining act. But we were thrilled when they walked to the stage, three of them in bunny ears, the drummer in striped boxers and a polka-dot bow tie, Nobunny himself (the jackalope-man is the alter ego of Arizona native Justin Champlin) in a dingy and tattered bunny wig, briefs and high heels. They launched into their theme song, a bunny-themed cover of The Human Beinz's "Nobody But Me."
Their music is high-energy, campily bubblegum punk, and live, their playing is tight and wildly energetic. Nobunny gave a sexually charged performance in which he writhed around on the floor, issued hoarse yells, danced obscenely, and drank whiskey out of his discarded shoe.
After playing some new numbers, and covering "Human Fly," they launched into a faux country song, "The Gutter," from recent release Raw Romance. Nobunny lay down in front of the stage in a pile of newspapers to simulate the song's action of dying like a bum. Subsequently, "We got some Western swing, some folk, some freak-folk. ... This song is called 'At the Bay,' it's about fucking."
By this time the band was dripping with sweat. They finished things off with two favorites from their debut album, "I Am a Girlfriend" and "Chuck Berry Holiday." As this number opened, Nobunny brought out a rather warm and melted-looking chocolate cake, offering it to the audience for bites, throwing bits of it into the crowd and smearing it on himself. By the end he and many of us were sticky with chocolate.
We might have wished for an encore. But we heard afterward that two of the band members had been arrested for possession the previous night in Indiana — so we're impressed at their perseverance in making it here. And they delivered one of the sickest shows we've seen in a while. Let's hope they come back soon.
When we walked into Mercy Lounge Saturday night for the party hosted by local blog Nashville's Dead, a set by the eponymous PUJOL was already in progress in front of a reasonably sized all-age mob adorned in complimentary BluBlockers courtesy of Wayfarer. The band's relentless gigging and frequent tours were evidenced with even tighter chops and hurried tempos as they breezed through a series of sing-alongs, cramming as much efficiency as possible into their short set.
PUJOL has boiled their sound down to the barest elements of pop and injected them with the immediacy of punk, leaving only handfuls of no-frills hooks pushed through their amps at top speed. Apparently we'd missed openers Ben Steine's Money and So Jazzy, and though we were sorry for that, we were mighty stoked to see Natural Child taking the stage next. The Child came out wielding a lumbering haze of low-speed cannabis-core steeped in '60s psychedelia. They occasionally amped it up into punky bouts of singable stoner pop, only to simmer back down into what sounded like what things might have been if Black Sabbath hailed from sunny Tennessee instead of gloomy Birmingham (England, that is).
Just as we were wondering if headliners Those Darlins' draw was slipping, their crossover fan base started to trickle in. By the time the Darlins walked onstage, they had an eager flock waiting that filled most of the room. Noticeably absent was member Nikki Darlin, who'd broken her arm just days before. While the absence of her baritone ukelele was supplemented with Kindergarten Circus' Dillon Watson on guitar, only Jessi and Kelley Darlin were left on vocals. That said, no one seemed to mind a bit. Fists were pumped and boots were scooted as the remaining members ripped full force into their best-known cuts.
As the set wore on, their repertoire expanded into a few covers, and some surfy instrumentals — which, frankly, started to feel a bit like filler. It was too much for our attention span to wrestle. We kinda miss the old 20-minute-set Darlins a little, but our cell phone had gone dead, and we were crabby we couldn't Tweet that very thought or check in on Foursquare, so don't listen to us.
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