Selling out a show in Nashville is easy: All you have to do is start a rumor that Kings of Leon are playing. One look at the mass of unfamiliar faces packed into Exit/In Saturday to see the very familiar Features, and it was obvious some folks didn't get the memo that rumors (reported in the British press) that Kings would open for their record label signees were bogus. Inevitably, the rumors flared up again on show day, so even we wondered if something unexpected would take place as we made our way down to the Rock Block.
We see The Features and Cortney Tidwell on a fairly regular basis, but with the show selling out a month in advance due to hearsay, it felt like a much larger event than normal. With people scalping tickets outside and a ridiculously tight guest list, this actually felt more like a big time rock concert than a local show. But with a lineup this good, that's the way it's meant to be, right?
By the time Cortney Tidwell & Co. took the stage we were blissfully buzzed, which is just how you want to feel when seeing one of the most mind-blowing bands Middle Tennessee has to offer. As always, Tidwell's set was hypnotizing, starting off slow and moody before building to a splendid crescendo that reached its apex with the enthralling assault of sound "17 Horses," a song that never ceases to amaze live. The most amusing moment of the night came when -- during a brief pause in the set to fix a blown fuse on a bass amp -- Tidwell guitarist Luke Schneider acknowledged the elephant in the room by playing and singing a verse of Kings of Leon's "The Bucket," leading to a giddy sing-along that made us fear an uprising would ensue if and when a certain band failed to appear onstage. A couple of the brothers Followill were seen hobnobbing in the green room, but that was all we'd see of them.
Luckily, no one seemed to mind when The Features came onstage and proceeded to melt face. The band's entrance was met by a hero's welcome from the crowd who emphatically sang along to the opening lines of "Whatever Gets You By." Hardly coming up for air, they careened through a mix of old fan favorites, new gems, and songs off 2008's excellent Some Kind of Salvation, as the packed house belted out the lyrics with singer Matt Pelham and feverishly clapped and stomped in time to drummer Rollum Haas -- again, more like the crowd at a rock concert than one at a local show.
Of course, there were a lot of faithful Features fans in the crowd, but we saw droves of randos diggin' on "Lions" like it was "Sex on Fire." We suspect that many of these KOL fans had done their homework on their favorite band's favorite band, and liked what they heard. Love or hate Kings of Leon, no one can say their ongoing support of The Features is anything less than righteous and commendable.
At night's end we sensed that converts far outnumbered disappointed KOL fans. In fact, we seemed to be the only disappointed ones -- we couldn't believe that after all this hype, The Spring Hill Spider Party weren't gonna play.