Live music fans in Nashville have had a pretty good week. Between Yo La Tengo playing Wheel of Fortune at Exit/In, Monotonix being Monotonix at The End and Deerhoof playing music we might hear in nightmares about the circus at Mercy, Saturday could not have been set up any better to cap off one of the best weeks of rock music we've had since winter started. It was Tokyo Police Club's night to win and, well, it wasn't completely terrible, we guess.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin was already into the first few songs of their opening set when we turned up at Exit/In around 9:15. We're just going to lay it right out there: We love this band. There's something about their particular brand of upbeat Midwestern power pop that's so damn charming as to be irresistible. We like to think of them as the evil parallel-universe Weezer, from a world where they didn't implode after Pinkerton. Oh, how we wish we lived in that world.
SSLYBY played more or less how we expected. Their songs are simple and translate well to the stage, particularly the upbeat tunes from their first two records, which they leaned on increasingly toward the end of their set. We got the feeling that only a handful of fervent Tokyo Police Clubbers had any clue who they were, but they got the job done and left us feeling pretty good about having finally seen them live. As far as we were concerned, we could've left the Rock Block right after Boris Yeltsin played “Glue Girls” and we would've felt pretty good about the night. We can only hope that they come around again for a longer set soon.
To be honest, we came to Exit/In with absolutely no interest in Tokyo Police Club. They've popped onto and off of our radar a handful of times over the past few years, never staying long enough for us to get a grasp of what their deal is. But our traditional pre-show research (read: aimless YouTubing) had us feeling disinterested. Apparently we were the only ones, as the young'uns in attendance promptly lost their shit when the PA faded and the stage lights dimmed. Ever seen someone crowd-surf at a low-energy power-pop show? We have now.
Eventually we started to warm slightly to TPC. After all, why should their inconsequential pop music be judged any differently than the inconsequential pop music we were really there to see? But on the other hand, we couldn't shake the feeling that we had somehow stumbled into a Five Iron Frenzy show. Everything felt a little too wholesome, a little too clean-cut. Their set was full of songs that might work better in the background a MTV remake of Degrassi than as the focal point. No amount of crowd participation can cover up the fact that all these songs sound and feel the same. (Just look at KISS.) Tokyo Police Club is a band with no rough edges, which is fine for their fans (of which there were plenty — all singing along, demanding to know if they'll be back for Bonnaroo by the third song), but it didn't give us outsiders much to sink our teeth into.
Tokyo Police Club are not a bad band — they're just not an exciting band, and following shows by artists like Yelawolf in our recent memory didn't do them any favors. By the time they hit their encore, we hit the door, cursing ourselves for not being in the loop on the Mumford & Sons secret show that was already wrapping up by the time we were looking for something else to catch — at least the kids inside seemed to have a good time.