Given the relentless onslaught of great Nashville rock shows The Spin was lucky enough to attend over the past week, there was certainly no dearth of things we could have written about. Metal legends Pentagram killed it at Exit/In Wednesday night, with frontman Bobby Liebling being goblinesque and generally awesome, and local psych-punk openers JEFF the Brotherhood once again made us proud. There was the farewell show for local indie rockers Heartbeater Friday night at The 5 Spot, with openers Bows and Arrows and Action! also sounding totally on point. But with our beloved — and perhaps sometimes be-loathed — blog turning 5 years old and celebrating with three of our favorite local outfits at Third Man Records ... well, we figured it was all right to toot our own horn about it one last time. So prepare for a horn solo.
We popped down to the Cannery Row area a bit early on Saturday, first pre-gaming with the rest of the Cream Team at a contributor's nearby apartment, and then sauntering over to the Toyota Antics show in Mercy Lounge's parking lot. We got to watch a bit of Turbo Fruits while chowing down on a delicious barbecue melt from the Grilled Cheeserie, and while sound is always a bit dry and iffy at outdoor shows, the Fruits put on a characteristically energetic show.
And then it was on to Third Man, where the Cream's own DJ Sean L. Maloney was already working the ones and twos, playing some deep disco cuts and primo party jams. Local rock 'n' roller Evan P. Donohue kicked things off around 9, filling the room with his upbeat, antsy post-punk tunes while backed by four other players. Donohue's coming along as a band leader — each time we see him, he's more and more like a junior-sized Costello — and tunes from his Rhythm and Amplitude were ideal party starters. He even had the balls to deliver an amped-up cover of Nirvana's "All Apologies," and he closed out his set with a version of The Replacements' classic sing-along "Waitress in the Sky." Covers from latter-day classics In Utero and Tim?! The kid's got moxie!
The Spin kicked around in Third Man's swanky backstage area for just a little while, oohing and ahhing at the next-level decor — a giant hippo skull makes for a hell of a conversation piece. But our true place was out among the sold-out crowd. Tristen was decked out in an '80s-style green top with epic shoulder pads that made us think of a Robert Palmer video or Max Headroom or something. Pretty apropos, really, because some of her newer numbers — "Dark Matter" and "Catalyst," most notably — had a New Wavy, synth-pop vibe, thanks especially to flourishes from keyboard player Matt "Mr. Jimmy" Rowland. The whole band (known as The Ringers and rounded out by Buddy Hughen on guitar, Jordan Caress on bass, Doni Schroeder on drums and occasional backing vocals from Beth Cameron) was quite possibly sounding the best we've ever heard them, and "Avalanche" is an absolutely undeniable tune. Tristen even set down the guitar and sang a couple of numbers while rocking the mic like a total champ.
While The Spin typically prefers to sulk about in the shadows with our notepad and a sizable serving of booze, at this point we fulfilled our obligation to make some announcements and introduce The Features — though it's mostly a blur, as we'd been given a few hearty gulps of liquid courage by Buddy Hughen before mounting the stage. Just as well, because even if we made complete asses of ourselves (likely), it was all forgotten as soon as The Features ripped into tunes from their brand-new Wilderness, which happens to be one of our favorite releases (local or otherwise) of 2011 thus far. Front-of-house sound was incredible thanks to sound guy Brent Rawlings, who's also known for his work with Kings of Leon and a bunch of bands from now-defunct Murfreesboro label Spongebath Records.
Anyway, The Features' set was stellar — surprise! — and their reverse-chronological triple-whammy encore of "Lions," "Exorcising Demons" and "Thursday" proved that their tunes have been rock-solid for over a decade. No matter how far back you go in The Features' catalog, there are — to recycle an adjective here — undeniable gems. It was a night of undeniability, and we're pleased and honored we got to celebrate our birthday with some of the coolest folks and finest bands in the city. We drifted back over to Mercy Lounge to end the night with some from DJ Pat Mahoney (of LCD Soundsystem). Not bad, but he's no DJ Sean L. Maloney.