No matter what show you go to at the 5 Spot, you'll feel like you're in a commercial for the Hip Zipper. Saturday night was no exception. We arrived at The 5 Points' only game in town for rock 'n' roll just as former MEEMAW co-frontman Daniel Pujol & Co. were beginning their set, after a short surprise performance as their alter-ego band, Denny and the Jets. Pujol's too-cool-for-school demeanor is matched perfectly by his voice--which brings to mind punk forefather Richard Hell--and backing band Some Beaus, who never let the frenetic jackhammer energy fade. As soon as Pujol has a set of songs that are each as good as the stellar chestnut "Black Rabbit," he's sure to be the talk of the town.
After spending the last couple months spinning Ham1's excellent Infinity Cat release The Underground Stream, we were pretty excited to see the Athens quartet. Luckily, they did not disappoint. Sounding just as shambolic and ramshackle live as they do on recording, the band put on what felt like the Pavement show the 5 Spot stage has been waiting for since February. The band treated us to about half of The Underground Stream, along with what we can only assume were cuts from previous recordings.
Live they are reminiscent of golden-era Sebadoh: trading instruments and making awkward stage banter in-between blissful indie-pop ditties. The all-star of the night was drummer Eric Harris--better known as the skin-beater for Elf Power and Olivia Tremor Control--who wailed supreme on a tiny three-piece kit that looked like it had been salvaged from a toy store dumpster. The band seemed thrilled to play for us and we were downright thrilled to have them. In fact, if Ham1 would like to relocate to Music City, then we'd happily help them find a place to crash.
Rounding out this excellent bill were a three-piece incarnation of Clem Snide, whose wry country rock paired well with Ham1's Athenian irreverence. Eef Barzelay--ever the charismatic frontman--was making fun of all the formalities that come with onstage showmanship while decked out in a baggy three-piece suit. The 5 Spot is one of the chattiest venues in Nashville--nay, the world--however, Barzelay managed to repeatedly capture and silence the bar during the more reflective moments he was able to create, "Fight Song Melodies" being a perfect example of song with which Barzelay had us in the palm of his hand before catapulting us in the emotional stratosphere with an epic sonic climax. The show, however, was mostly lighthearted. A shout out to our local inglorious basterd David Berman preceded a song mentioning mitzvah mobiles. There was a short solo set from Barzeley that was sardonic as ever, as well as tastelessly timed cover of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." All in all, it was night for which Nashville should be proud.