To most of us grown folk, Nashville's premiere all-ages mecca RCKTWN is basically the Chuck E. Cheese of rock venues--without the beer, of course. But that's not to say it's entirely without merit to anyone old enough to drink. There are few things as surreal and self-revealing as the experience of placing yourself in the midst of several hundred tweens for a rock show.
We walked in to find The Love Willows already in full swing. Clad in bright candy colors and more than twice as old as 90% of the audience,this boy/girl, guitar/vocal duo backing belted out a string of sugary, upbeat, Disney-ready pop songs along with backing tracks provided by a laptop. With a stage presences as innocuous as their name, they bantered like it was a Sweet 13 birthday bash, but given the primary demographic of this room, that was probably appropriate--and these kids definitely ate it up.
That's another thing: These kids ate everything up. At one point during the sound check for the next band, the crowd even let loose a squealing roar for the drum tech testing out the snare. It was tough not to feel jaded when almost everyone in the room was 100 times more ecstatic to be there than we were. While most hipsters wouldn't be caught dead wearing the T-shirt of the band we're about to see, purchased at that very show just minutes ago, these young whipper snappers could hardly wait.
Next up, The Pretty Reckless silently took the stage and, after a good 10 minutes of technical difficulties, proceeded with their first tune while maintaining their quiet cool. The star of this show was obviously frontwoman Taylor Momsen, better known as the co-star of the CW Network's popular Gossip Girl. Sporting a head of platinum blonde hair, red lipstick, a leather jacket and silk slip, Momsen made the Courtney Love comparison instantaneous and unavoidable. But context and cliches aside, these kids wailed on some pretty dark 'n' dirty alterna-rock that was a great deal more entertaining than we expected--full of swaggery riffs and precocious angst. Momsen pushed her raw, raspy voice to the max, providing a surprisingly soulful howl that combined the foreboding growl of C. Love and the gritty croon of Karen O.
After another 30 minutes of down time, the room had filled with more training bras than the Wal Mart juniors section. If these youngsters got that jazzed over a sound check, you can imagine the shrill clamor elicited by headliners The Veronicas. Without a word, the twin Aussie sisters and their stylish sidemen introduced themselves with the opening synth strings of their hit "Untouched," a sleek, razor sharp, synth-kissed pop song and easily one of the most memorable guilty pleasures of last summer. The rest of the set was blow after blow of sexy, hook-filled modern pop that whipped the mass of prepubescent bodies into a hot frenzy. While they are incredibly easy on the eyes, The Veronicas actually fell a bit flat, for us, in the charisma department. But hey, there we go being jaded again.