(Photos by Steve Cross)
Any regular of Nashville's grungy venues such as The End knows that showing up at least a half-hour late is an unwritten rule learned after waiting out endlessly dull sound checks too many times over. Shows are purposefully late to lure in a few bar tabs before the opening band takes the stage. It's to be expected. But when Eastern Block, the bottom rung in a three-tiered line-up, revs into their first song at 10:30–a full hour-and-a-half late–things are becoming immodestly ridiculous. Make no mistake: It was to be a long night.
For whatever reason the gig was delayed, a semi-full venue of cigarette-buzzed 20-somethings didn't seem at all fazed. In fact, it's rare when the opening band seems to gobble up all the attention like Nashville's own Eastern Block did. An unsigned four-piece with little more than a MySpace page to their name, the band welcomed a wealth of cat calls and applause in between songs. The cynic might suspect that several rounds of beers had settled in and, after wearing their asses out on hard bar chairs for too long, were riled up and ready to salute any teen-studded garage band. But it all seemed very genuine, especially as their set came to a close and shout-outs from the audience begged for one more song, despite the venue's ticking clock. The powers that be caved in, though, and Eastern Block quickly spun out another farewell blast of post-grunge clamor.
When Neva Dinova, Ladyhawk's official tour mates, took the stage, the crowd hadn't thinned by much, but the enthusiasm quickly died down. After a few songs to settle in with the crowd, lead songwriter Jake Bellows took a break to self-consciously fumble with his tone knobs when someone in the crowd asked for a joke in the downtime.
"Um, a bunch of guys from Omaha walk into a bar … yeah," Bellows smirked.
As their set wore on, however, Bellow's self-deprecating humor and slippery Midwestern blues rock–an obvious step up in quality from Eastern Block–warmed the crowd. Though most seemed unaware of Neva Dinova's catalogue, which recently saw the release of their third LP, You May Already Be Dreaming, early last month, the band's self-assured presence made for a soothing listen, especially with their dreamy performance of "Clouds."
About the time Ladyhawk finally took the stage, closing time must have been pressing as the Vancouver quintet rushed into their first song before the crowd had even reconvened. As it turned out, though, only the staunch fans had stuck around through the set change, making for a slender but sturdy crowd.
A shot in the arm of indie throwback sound–think a more precise Husker Dü with better mics–Ladyhawk tore into the tireless "S.T.H.D." and "I Don't Always Know What You're Saying" from their latest album, Shots. Able to cue every hook without feeling contrived and splinter a chord progression like the pros they are, Ladyhawk is the kind of talent Nashville should be sure to give a decidedly warmer welcome to next time around.