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The Rock Block was an easy choice Saturday night. We walked into The End in time to catch the debut of art-punk trio Wright's Jambuliyea Fest dealing out a badass rendition of Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge." Following were short, sweet, fast and fun punk rock sets by Cy and then The Cannonmen. The high evening's highlight was easily Natural Child, who play quirky punk jams executed with an open-chord jangle underneath scream-sung melodies--which sounds like the standard formula for most Infinity Cat bands, only this time it's all a little hazier, lazier and more calculated. Closing with a precisely sloppy rendition of The Who's "Baba O'Riley," they gave us exactly what our week had been missing: a rousing, drunken sing-a-long.
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With Exit/In just across the street, we jaunted back and forth so as not to miss former Pink Spider Matt Friction and his Cheap Shots, a decidedly more mature continuation of the Spiders with tunes that'd easily feel at home on Stiff Records in the late '70s. We were also lucky enough to catch the homecoming gig/near train-wreck of Nashville-born former Be Your Own Pet singer Jemina Pearl, who has since set out on a solo venture. It's no secret Pearl has an infamous reputation for sass and ill humor, and it only took a few technical difficulties to bring her trademark vexation to the surface. In all fairness, her mic kept going out and the mix was less than perfect to say the least. However, after the sound guy caught a verbal beat down from Pearl's mother and tour manager, her demeanor improved radically and she delivered the rest of her surfy pop and punk tunes with a smile and minimal snark.
We rolled up to The 5 Spot at 8:45. That's earlier than anyone not in Stopgap--or there to gawk at members of Pavement--have ever shown up to the East Side haunt in the history of peeps haunting the East Side. Still, we managed to miss openers Bows and Arrows. We'll just assume that--because they named their band after a Walkmen record--their set was great. Luckily we did manage to catch Hands Down Eugene, who are still hands down the best stoner Americana band in town. By the time indie-fatigable rock 'n' roll "animals" And the Relatives hit the stage the Spot was pretty packed. Still, this just felt like your garden-variety 5 Spot show, but with laminates. ATR brought the crowd to their knees with a tour de force combination of awesome, totally rad and fucking badass.
Not that it should have come as a surprise, but the band that really banged us in the jazzola was Bad Friend. We've always had an affinity for this band, but tonight they were on fire with all sorts of Sub-Pop-circa-'93 slacker fury as they treated us to material from their forthcoming full-length. Band members would neither confirm nor deny rumors of an impending break up, so we can only hope they remain Bad Friends and the record doesn't end up becoming a posthumous release. Closing out the night--and ultimately the festival for this chapter of The Spin--were Chris Crofton and the Alcohol Stuntband, who had festival-goers throwing their VIP passes at the stage while the band serenaded us with sordid tales of cocaine abuse, insane girlfriends, getting lost in bad neighborhoods and bloody wrestling matches--pretty much all the things Next Big Nashville is about.