The Duke Spirit. Photo by Steve Cross
For more photos, see the Duke Spirit slideshow at nashvillescene.com
We have to admit: We almost didn't make it to Exit/In
Sunday night. With the rain, the cold, the Sunday-ness and the end-of-holiday-weekend blahs, it was almost too much. But we got it together enough to show up late, as usual, and when we walked through the door, openers The Black Fortys
were in the middle of what turned out to be their last song. It didn't do much for us anyway, so we tried to shake off the cold with a cold one and do the math. That didn't take long because the place was mostly empty. Which didn't surprise us, really, what with the rain, the cold, the Sunday-ness and the end-of-holiday-weekend blahs.
After setting up their equipment, which included a gigantic old Slingerland marching band bass drum, the unfortunately named Eulogies
came on and did a lot of things we like--poppy 8th-notes, major chords and straightforward drumming--without ever adding up to anything we could sink our teeth into. Kinda like Grandaddy lite (and that's saying something), with a bit of Arcade Fire smoldering over the top. If it's shallow of us to say the singer's fedora tipped us off that this band was not going to rock us very hard, then fine. We said it.
People started showing up as the Eulogies drew to a close, including both Little Jack Lawrence
and, oddly enough, a Little Jack Lawrence look-alike. Someone to our right (who is new to town) said, "Did you see there are two
guys here who look like Garth?" Party on, dude to our right.
When The Duke Spirit
finally took the stage, they did so to a canned recording of "I Do Believe," the opening salvo from their album Neptune
. They threw on their instruments, and then, just as they do on the record, blasted into "Send a Little Love Token," which brought people to the front of the stage. Where they would stand mostly motionless for rest of the night like--well, like a Nashville audience.
Maybe it was just because singer Leila Moss
was so mesmerizing. From her gold sequined dress to her spidery, double-jointed rock postures, to the fact that she was singing the fuck out of every song, Moss slinked and pumped her fist and commanded the stage like firecrackers wrapped in dynamite wrapped in, like, bombs or something. Her energy was contagious, sort of. Someone handed her a cell phone at one point, and asked her to read a message: "Sunday night is no excuse for not dancing," she obliged, to tepid applause. No, Nashville was not in a dancing mood, even if everyone was pretty into it (which they seemed to be, despite the standing stillness).
When the band started "The Step and the Walk" it was with a different intro from the album version, but once they hit the verse, a ripple of recognition travelled through the crowd, inspiring at least one person to sing along. Yes! The band soldiered on through a set heavy with tunes off Neptune
, playing tight and big. After their last song, someone tried to slow clap the crowd into demanding an encore, but everyone seemed a bit too sleepy for that.
We ran into Moss as she came back out to help pack up the band's gear. "Great show," we said, meaning it more than usual. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled sheepishly. "Eh," she managed. I guess we couldn't blame her for feeling a bit bummed, what with the rain, the cold, the Sunday-ness, the endless touring and playing to a half-empty room blahs.