Between Tallest Trees celebrating the release of The Ostrich or The Lark across town, The Cannery Ballroom bro-ing down with a free Lucero show and Diarrhea Planet playing in a Pegram basement, it was a good night to be a fan of local rock in Nashville. And yet, with all of those options, we opted for L.A. psychedelic group Warpaint headlining a show at Exit/In with Non-Commissioned Officers and Royal Bangs. In fairness, Warpaint did call Nashville their second home for some reason, so we can totally claim them, we guess.
We’ve seen Non-Comms roughly a quarter of a billion times (give or take), so we notice little things like the fact that they’ve got two new guitarists we’ve never seen before. But aside from Bizzaro Jordan Lehning and Skinny-Tie Jenkins, the Non-Comms are doing more or less the same thing as always. They’re still favoring the '80s-inspired pop-rock tunes from their record, singer Eric Lehning’s stage presence is still bizarre yet captivating, and their live show is still Bonnaroo-worthy. We got the feeling they were still breaking in the new guys, and some of the songs felt a little rushed, but it wasn't far off from any other recent Non-Comms set we've caught. Not quite the best we've seen from them, but still a good warm-up set, and that's all you can really ask for in the first band of the night.
While Royal Bangs set up, one of our compadres turned to us to ask what we knew about them. Our response, "They're one of the loudest bands we've ever seen," left our friend looking concerned. True to promise, Royal Bangs delivered their brand of off-kilter bone-shaking electro-fuzz that sends the uninitiated fleeing towards the bar with their fingers jammed in their ears. The effect was only bettered by the sweet Space Invaders lighting rig on loan to Exit/In while they decide whether or not they want to buy it. We think they should go for it, but nobody asked us.
After Royal Bangs left the stage, the wait for Warpaint began. And continued. For what felt like an hour. The band appeared onstage briefly, much to the delight of a handful of painted-up twentysomethings in the front, only to disappear into the back while the sound guy got things together. Some theorized that perhaps they were putting on GWAR-style costumes, and that's why they were taking so long. We at least expected some crappy face paint. No dice. All we got was a silly little band-member dance off and an audience that clearly had no idea what the fuck was going on.
But that was just the entrance and, anticlimactic as it might have been, we're not so petty that we can't look past that. Unfortunately, “anticlimactic” was the watchword for the whole damn show. Taken in bits and pieces, Warpaint were occasionally brilliant. They're all talented musicians, but their songs are unbelievably flat — a little too jammy, a little too hesitant. We didn't feel a single resonating moment in the entire set. We wanted to like it — we really did — but even while those paint-specked college kids were losing their minds at the foot of the stage, we just couldn't get down with it. We decided to put the night out of its misery before they returned for an encore. Which is a shame, because there's nothing worse than a band with potential playing mediocre songs. At least we got a fancy light show out of the deal.