It seems like these days, we’ve been going to more benefit shows than the regular sort of rock ‘n’ roll gigs with their usual wanton disregard for the outside world. Shows where Israeli madmen hang from the rafters and our heads are caved in by drone metal are months behind us, replaced with plate passing and dubious Starship covers. All of this caring gets exhausting, but we were totally willing to suck it up for a show benefitting former Grimey’s record jockey Candice Burnside, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in February.
We rolled up to Exit/In earlier than usual, tempted out of our usual Rock Block tardiness by the promise of a bake sale and raffle tickets. While we didn’t score the coveted pet art prize in the raffle, we did take the opportunity to chill by the stage with a beer and a peanut butter brownie while DJ Bawston Sean spun records on the laptop equivalent of the 1s and 2s. Last time we heard the Notorious B.O.S.T.O.N. in action, he was laying down the dense prog metal pretty thick at the Cream anniversary party. Nothing against impenetrable prog metal, it’s just that “Friends of P” by The Rentals gets us amped.
We haven’t seen Cortney Tidwell in a while. Not since the flood knocked her out of the running for the last round of Road to Bonnaroo, at least, so we were eager to see just how badly she would’ve trounced Space Capone in the votes. We’ve noticed a gradual shift in Tidwell’s music from the record to the stage. Her self-described country-gothic style is more or less the base that she works off of, but her live performances are a whole different monster. We don’t know if it’s that Hands Off Cuba record bleeding through, but keyboardist Ryan Norris let us have it with his synth bass, which produced the kind of insane low-register sound that makes you forget who you are and what year it is. What makes Tidwell’s songs really work is when the appropriate amount of weight is behind them. Once she gets some momentum going, there’s no stopping her. And when it builds up to a song like “17 Horses,” there’s nothing we want more than to have our brains liquefied by synth bass.
With an uncertain “Hey … we’re the Hotpipes?,” Jon Rogers, Dan Sommers, half of The Privates (Keith Lowen and Dave Paulson) and De Novo Dahl drummer No. 2, Jerry Pentecost, finally gave us the Hotpipes show we’ve been waiting for. There are some bands that you don’t realize you’ll miss until they’re gone. For a while, it seemed like Hotpipes were constantly playing around town, and, we’ve got to admit, we took it for granted. Then they quietly disappeared last year and we didn’t know what the hell to do. That AMC commercial sure didn’t help any.
We’re not sure how we feel about one-off reunion shows. On the one hand, because Hotpipes faded so quickly and so silently, they were never given the send-off they deserved. But, on the other, it’s like reopening a wound. Like with MEEMAW before them, we spent the set with the words, “Why did this band have to break up? They were so fucking good!” rolling through our head like it was the damn CNN ticker. It was easily the best show we’ve ever seen them play, packed with beer-to-the-sky sing-a-long anthems and a set of sweet-ass bongo drums. And while Sommers is no slouch when it comes to the skins, Pentecost — who we remember best from his stint in Oliver’s Army — is a machine. It seemed like everything was coming up Hotpipes, which made the show pretty bittersweet, knowing that it’ll be their last — at least until the posthumous record comes out.
After the dust cleared, The Features closed out the night with pretty much what you’d expect from a Features set. It was top-loaded with newish tunes, but the bulk of the show comprised of the typical crowd pleasers (“Lions,” “Circus” and “Demons,” among others). The Features are among the most consistent bands in Nashville, and we know more or less what we’re going to get. It’s going to be good; they’re just not going to be playing “Late Night” any time soon. The boys did sneak in a brand new tune though, something by the name of “All for One.” Or maybe it was called “Off or On?” Whatever, we couldn’t make out the song title. It bore the usual hallmarks of a Features work-in-progress. While the choruses and ending were solid and the song as a whole showed promise, the band was clearly still trying to figure out how the locked-down pieces fit together.
At the end of the night, we heard that around $3,500 was raised, enough to pay off a significant chunk of Burnside’s medical bills. And that’s a pretty big win, as far as we’re concerned. Even if Hotpipes didn’t blow our asses away, maybe we ought to reconsider our benefit fatigue. We came away from the show feeling pretty good about ourselves. The fistful of bake-sale cookies for the road didn’t hurt much either.