Jack White was indeed in the house, clad in black and camouflaged by the darkness as he attentively watched the show from the edges of the crowd. While the gawkers were stuck outside trying to talk their way into the slice the of rock ’n’ roll heaven he and his Third Man crew have created for the city’s young punks, the attention inside was focused squarely on the stage, where a leopard-print leotard-clad Jessica McFarland was leading Heavy Cream through the most focused set of Ramones-gone-Go-Gos garage-rock we’ve ever seen from them.
The night’s highlight was a rare set from Cheap Time, who assaulted with one fat-backed mid-tempo Sex Pistols homage after another, inspiring us to rock out with a swagger that made us feel way cooler than we actually are just for having heard it.
Forgoing the arms-folded, head-cocked response of most Music City audiences, Nashville’s Dead shows are packed with actual fans of the bands singing along and oozing youth as they air-drum, flail into one another, run around like dogs chasing each others’ tails, surf the crowd and create a moment that’s truly cathartic and contagious. This was the scene as JEFF the Brotherhood tore through a take-no-prisoners set of Kraut-punk that, at one point, even saw them cuing the house lights like true rock stars. Every year the band’s NBN shows are the stuff of legend, and Friday night was no exception — especially considering they were recording the show for a live EP to be released on Third Man. This show was easily among the most exciting in NBN’s five-year history.