We were a more than a little surprised to arrive at the Exit/In for the first Rock the Block event of 2010 to find that not only was the place warmer than our frigid flophouse, but it was also full of people -- fuckin' sweet, dude. And we don't want to jinx anything by saying it out loud, but we're definitely thinking that the Meltface music collective may be the harbingers of the Murfreesboro comeback we've been not-so-secretly hoping for. This was definitely the most forceful display of Blue Raider rock prowess the big city has seen in awhile.
We arrived on the scene as the openers were packing up. When we found out that the openers were named Homework we didn't feel too bad -- we were never fans of homework during our 17 years of primary education or the nine years of college we slogged through, unless that homework involved bong rips and Looney Tunes. (Damn, kindergarten was great....) Seriously, "Homework" is the least appealing name for a band ever -- we will most likely avoid them like the plague, for fear of bringing back horrible memories of detention and physics teachers who reek of Seagram's 7 and Kool 100s.
Kat Brock's set was sparse and minimal indie pop with just the guitarist/vocalist accompanied by drummer Simon Lynn, who pulled a Don Henley on the last song and sang along. HP Witchcraft, the new side project featuring James "Wooden Wand" Toth, James "Kevlar Crotch" Robbins and Glossary's Bingham Barnes, played a muscular set of amped-up space country that sounded reminiscent of Crazy Horse. Witchcraft drummer Tyler Coppage wouldn't leave the stage for another 45 minutes, as he was hitting the skins for both Velcro Stars and Hammertorch. The Stars haven't made an appearance in Nashville in a while, so we didn't realize that they had learned how to sing, which makes their approach to classic indie rock work way better than it used to -- we can't wait to hear the new album the just wrapped up.
Hammertorch get the "Glossary Memorial Award for Perpetual Murfreesboro Underdogs," based solely on the number of people who walked up to us and said, "Y'know, I used to think these guys sucked, but now I realize that they kinda rule." Well, duh -- you ass hats -- Hammertorch have always been one of best bands in town, but you were too busy gargling the butt-juice of some soft-rock bullshit band to notice. You should listen to us when we say things -- we spend a lot of time thinking about this sorta thing while you're busy tonguing the taint of Pitchfork Media. Anyway.
The Whole Fantastic World, who haven't played since their guitarist and bassist split for Chicago a few years back, were just as rocking as we remember them, even if they do sound a little strange outside the Red Rose Cafe's huge tiled room. Their tight, jagged prog-pop brought back wistful memories of the classic Theory 8 sound with its frenetic, technical drumming and off-kilter melodies and the general string of awesomeness that ran through the initial offerings from TWFW, Apollo Up!, Forget Cassettes and De Novo Dahl. Not to say that all those bands aren't still awesome -- they are -- but there was something really special about the whole mid-'00s innocence thing. Or maybe we're just lame and old. It could go either way.
The night closed out with a pretty rockin' set from Heartbeater, who totally would have been right at home the Red Rose with their early-'90s indie-when-it-actually-meant-something sound. There was a bit of contention among our associates about exactly who they sound like, but we finally came to the conclusion that while they definitely have a Chapel Hill sound, they sound more like an Alias Records band than a Merge Records band -- think Small or Knapsack. Not quite Archers of Loaf awesome, but close enough for a Tuesday night.