We're not going to lie — even we considered skipping Sunday night's Third Man Records blowout with Cold War Kids. It's not that we didn't have at least a passing curiosity — especially considering how much time they've spent in Nashville lately — but shit, y'all, it was cold, and our car isn't exactly a Todd Palin-approved snowmachine. But urgent tweets from Third Man sergeant-at-arms Ben Swank convinced us that maybe the snow would calm down enough for a drive across town. We're like Marty McFly, if Marty McFly got incensed about “don't fear the reaper” instead of being called chicken.
By 6 p.m., a handful of fans were already camped out in the alley neighboring the venue. By our count, seven or eight people were shivering in a loose huddle, listening to Interpol on a boombox while snow blew through. The only thing that would have made that scene more depressing was if they were actually blasting Joy Division instead. We managed to avoid the freezing wait by stealing away inside Third Man's windowless sensory deprivation chamber while everybody else built snowmen or whatever for the ensuing two hours.
If Third Man has an advantage over “regular” shows in town, it's the fact that every show in the blue room is an event. And the eventitude on Sunday was somewhere in the stratosphere. Aside from the weight of playing in what is effectively Jack White's bonus room, aside from the fact that a record of the night will be hitting eBay listings everywhere in a few months, aside from the filming going on, this band had to engage a surprisingly full room of soggy, mostly unthawed Third Maniacs by playing a set peppered with songs written or recorded in our backyards. In short: They rose to the occasion admirably.
We haven't seen Cold War Kids since they opened for Phoenix and Drake earlier this year at April's nearly rained-out Rites of Spring, but they've never sounded better. To be honest, we're not sure if we've heard any band sound so good in such a small space. Every show at Third Man sounds good, but the band's punchy, hook-laden anthemic indie rock sounded more like it was coming out of our record player than being played onstage.
Over the course of about an hour — two 22-minute sets and a few bonuses — Cold War Kids impressed the shit out of us with some well-played (if a bit by-the-numbers) rock ’n’ roll songs. Their new material carried an almost Features-like aesthetic, possibly thanks to the influence of uber-producer Jacquire King, who manned the knobs on their upcoming record. We've never been huge fans, but the Kids scored some serious points with us — even if they did close the album part of the show with a quasi-cheesy love-letter to our state called “Goodnight Tennessee.” We like you, too, bros, but we don't need to hear your poetry about us yet.
By the time the band returned for an unrecorded encore, featuring our jam “Hang Me Up to Dry,” the realization set in that we would soon have to leave Jack White's Hoth ice fortress and attempt not to die in a flaming wreck on an icy Interstate. At least if we had died that night, we would have gone out after a good show and a record to prove it.