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Dictionary.com defines a sweat lodge as a "building used for cleansing and purifying one's body by sweating." The Basement was certainly that on Monday night, both physically and ecclesiastically, as The Walkmen, in a magnanimous display of indie cred, choose the (debatably) 200-capacity haunt for the Nashville stop of their current tour. The Spin couldn't be more pleased by their decision.
By the time Nashville all-stars The Privates were into their third song the room was beginning to reach critical mass—confirming that this was going to be a packed house. But the early excitement in the audience was also a sign that it was going to be worth braving the the dogpile of familiar faces, plaid snappy-button shirts and PBR burps.
And no one in the room seemed happier to be there than The Privates, who declared their love for the night's headliners be recalling their Walkmen cover set last August. Always one of the most dependable bands in town, on this night The Privates, with their astute take on Brit-pop—from The Jam to Prefab Sprout—were even sharper than usual. After a between-band exodus to the back porch, the crowd re-congregated inside to enjoy Los Angeles' Little Ones, who, while enjoyable, were far from life-changing. Their spendthrift California pop had its share of hooks, but most of them seemed to disappear in the moment, lacking a strong enough hold to completely reel us in. Maybe there was just to much sunshine and not enough tension to make it feel like there was ever a payoff. Regardless, their redeemable qualities—tight harmonies, happy faces, and danceable rhythms—made them a good fit for the bill overall.
We know that The Walkmen are far from international stadium rockers, but the heroes' welcome they received stepping onto the Basement stage really did make us feel like we were getting the Metallica treatment—props to Grimey for making this happen. The Walkmen are one of the few bands in the indie-rock compendium who need not rely on retro trends or heroin-chic attitude to win over an audience of hipsters. In other words, if there is a contemporary rock zeitgeist free of posture and pastiche then they are it. Lead vocalist and Dennis Quaid look-alike Hamilton Leithauser is a powerhouse. He didn't just sing his balls off, he sang our balls off with both his gruff, deep timbre and his relentless falsetto, his melodies soaring above a sonic landscape that moved between beautifully ethereal and savagely cathartic.
The captivating 90-minute set covered plenty of new material from You & Me, alongside favorites such as "Wake Up," the bouncy daytime stroll of "We've Been Had" and their ultimate crowd-pleasing anthem, "The Rat." Their encore proved that dreams do come true as they brought The Privates onstage to join them on "Thinking of a Dream I Had." As the mirror ball lights turned, we danced until the final notes rang out.