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We're not gonna lie: We didn't escape Snowmageddon 2010 completely unscathed. As the city shut down over less than an inch of snow, and as hysteria crept in, we barricaded our door, fearing a combination of icy roads, bad drivers and punk-ass neighbor kids with enough snow to construct a single snowball aimed at our heads. But that was Thursday. On Friday, weary of our Yankee friends calling us wusses, we abandoned our milk-carton-and-bread-loaf fort in favor of The Secret Spot.
We arrived at the south Nashville basement to find a bill in shambles. Bad Cop's Adam Moult was too sick to play, leaving the band without a singer, and O Pioneers wrecked their van two weeks ago, prematurely ending their tour with Lemuria. We hear everybody's uninjured but still, major bummer. The door guy/merch dude informed us that three-and-a-half bands would be playing, with short sets from Diarrhea Planet, Spanish Candles and a three-piece Bad Cop filling in the gaps.
We've made our feelings about Diarrhea Planet clear--a little grossed out by the name, but we still dig the band. What we didn't realize was that Spanish Candles is basically Diarrhea Planet with fewer members and perhaps a little more maturity--they're the band that can play shows at Belmont because they don't have songs about spectral erections. Spanish Candles stick closer to a California surf punk sound that Lookout! Records help typify, which is all well and good, but it didn't hype us up. The tuning breaks between songs shot the momentum all to hell, and if there's anything we learned from The Ramones, it's that momentum can make or break a punk set.
Diarrhea Planet, on the other hand, has that business down cold. Cramped basements are where they're most comfortable. At heart, they're a party band more concerned with how many people they can get shouting "ghost with a boner" than impressing the musicians in the crowd with their technical prowess. Despite being down a couple members due to the holidays, they still had people singing along, even after the song was over and the gear was being broken down. Not bad for a band that had virtually no web presence a couple months ago.
Bad Cop wrapped up the half sets by doing what they could sans-vocals. Former Bad Copper (and member of both preceding bands) Brent Toler gave lead vocals a crack, but quickly gave up, plunging the rest of the set into depths of instrumental rock. We can't fault them for trying to soldier on without a singer, but these songs just don't work without vocals. It felt more like we stumbled into a band practice than a show.
Truthfully, we got what we expected from the locals. We weren't sure what we were getting into with the touring bands. We last saw Lemuria in 2008 as part of the Asian Man Records Tour at The Muse, but that experience was marred by a room full of diehard Queers fans who didn't give a shit about Sheena Ozzella's demure tunes. Lemuria, like many female-fronted punk acts of the past 10 years, owes more to Discount than Bikini Kill. They have a bit of an edge--it's just not a rusty one. Live, their sound is even more twee than on record, which can be off-putting to people only familiar with hyper-masculine punk, but it's a sound that suits them.
Till Plains, however, occupy the opposite end of the spectrum. They're unquestionably Midwestern and closer to the aggressive, anthemic emo of the 1990s. Nobody's going to mistake them for math rock, but they were playing tighter and more complex punk music than we were used to hearing, especially for a band often unable to play because its members are sprawled across several states. We've grown accustomed to a certain sound and style of punk in Nashville--mostly represented by Infinity Cat's predisposition towards heavy psychedelia and what's left of the street punk scene--so we're always stoked for something new and different, even when we have to trek across Hoth to get there.