We were told Friday night's show at Exit/In would start promptly at 9:45, so we told our indecisive potential date to enjoy nexting jackers on Chatroulette, or whatever they decided to do, before making our way down to the Rock Block, where we gave our plus-one to a pleasant shaggy-headed fellow who said he used to be a roadie.
When we walked in, Scout Niblett was already singing "Just Do It!" It was just her reedy, spectral voice and a beat-up old Fender Mustang guitar until the drums thwacked and flammed mightily, then fell silent just as suddenly. It was a compelling argument for not playing drums every second of every song the way a lot of bands do, because after long, tense stretches of just singing and guitar, when that snare got to crackin', it felt like our sternum might snap. It was serious. There were some moments when the vocals shot right through our head they were so piercingly loud, but that was a minor complaint. If you've ever ordered a deli sandwich or eaten a vegetarian meal in East Nashville, you probably would have recognized someone down in front of the stage.
Speaking of food, it was around this time that a friend of The Spin handed us a shot of something strong and Irish in origin, and as it hit our belly we realized that skipping dinner might not have been the wisest decision of this young weekend. But onward! When Vetiver took to the stage, the crowd had swelled to just the right size -- big enough to fill the room but not smothering. Where Niblett had been stormy and intense, Vetiver were cheery and fleet. Even when frontman Andy Cabic was singing that he could never make up for his wrongs, he did so wearing a pleasant grin that said, "Happy to be up here!" (Or maybe it said, "I ate the right drugs!" Could go either way -- the band is named after a "perennial grass," after all.) A friend of The Spin remarked that their set was organized exactly like Bob Dylan's career, which we were afraid meant we had some bad synth and underwear models headed our way, but apparently meant that it started folky, then got electric and eventually kind of funky (but not too funky). Vetiver were tight and bright, and we enjoyed them -- especially post-Newport, so to speak.
We also like Caitlin Rose's between-song comedy routine when it's just her with a guitar and some current events up there, but Friday night she was in charge of a full band -- and a great-sounding one at that -- so her only real nod to stand-up was an impression she did of The Spin. Apparently we sound like a naggy housewife! It's OK, though: Rose and her cohorts layered the room with a rich array of guitar, pedal steel and keys, her distinctive voice spinning tales of New York coin-flips and Shanghai cigarettes. By the end of their set, our dinner-less, whiskey-sloshing gut was in serious need of the carbs and grease our impaired judgment was about to procure, so off we went.