With repeated stops at The Zombie Shop and The Other Basement already under our belts, it looks like 2012 is going to be the year of The Spin trying not to look like winded geezers at punk shows. Spoiler alert: We're not doing a great job at it. In any case, that trend continued Saturday night with Superdrag's John Davis giving his best Ian MacKaye impression as local hardcore punks Epic Ditch dropped their latest EP at ... The Basement? Really? Well, all right.
Thanks to Predators traffic and too much time spent drinking room-temperature wine out of Dixie cups at the art crawl, we only caught the back half of Century Club’s set. Born from the ashes of The Carter Administration, Century Club has got the same angular, power-pop tone as its predecessor — which stands to reason, seeing as how the band is just the Carters minus bassist Andy Willhite.
Not quite as jangly as The Only Ones but not quite as drunk as The Replacements, Century Club occupies a space somewhere in the middle of that garage-rock spectrum. It’s music that gets taken for granted in town, which is a shame, since guys like Ryan Ervin and Todd Kemp pull it off well. Century Club is poised to re-assume the Carters’ position as patron saints of East Nashville rock 'n' roll. We just hope that the déjà vu doesn’t translate into never quite making it out of The 5 Spot.
If Century Club was straightforward and familiar, Hurts to Laugh is like their spaz cousin with ADHD. We knew we were in for some shit when drummer/singer Erik Dail started setting up his kit on the floor, surrounded by a handful of bemused 30-somethings. In the span of maybe half an hour, Dail and his better half, guitarist Toby Penner, thrashed through a set of absurdist alterna-rock songs that — in terms of spectacle — brought it in a way we haven’t seen since the last Party Cannon show.
Three songs in, Dail moved his drums into the front room, singing into a megaphone, held by a volunteer from the audience, while Penner climbed over chairs and railings. The merch table blockade lasted for exactly one song before moving back into the main room for a sloppy cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” The hi jinks coalesced on “Na Na Na,” an ode to nihilism straight outta 1993. The song descended into total madness as John Davis jumped in on drums while the crowd (who were given blank protest signs) chanted “What do we want? Nothing! When do we want it? Never!” Then, Dail threw his floor tom at the set and the show was over. Yowza. We later learned from a friend that the last time she saw them, they lit the drums on fire. Thank God they didn’t do that — The Basement is nothing but wood and paper, we’d all be dead in minutes.
Then came Epic Ditch. A hardcore punk band. Playing in The Basement.
The trouble with punk shows at The Basement is that they’re punk shows at The Basement. Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of things to love about The Basement. Grimey and the rest have done an excellent job of cultivating an atmosphere for respectful (read: older) music fans who tend to listen to bands thoughtfully — which is more or less why The Basement doesn’t work so well for punk bands.
We cut our teeth on going to hardcore punk shows in some of Nashville's scummiest venues. We’re used to hearing 48-second ragers and having an internal monologue something similar to “Let’s start a circle pit! Let’s shotgun a PBR and punch out a skinhead! Let’s tear the fire extinguisher off the wall and turn the dance floor into one big Slip N’ Slide! Let’s fuck shit up!”
But, at The Basement, it was a bit more like “Let’s sit down! Let’s have a glass of wine! Let’s obey the rules, go to bed at a reasonable hour and hug a cop!” Maybe that’s a little (fine, a lot) unfair, but everything feels wrong about a punk show no moshing — regardless of how badly we don’t want to be moshing. And don't get us started on the presence of tables at the front of the stage.
That’s a huge bummer, because Epic Ditch hits every single one of our hardcore-punk sweet spots. John Davis, Stewart Pack and Nick Slack sound like time travelers from 1980s Huntington Beach, ripping through blink-and-it’s-over tunes like they were led by Keith Morris. In fact, the band’s 36-Hour EP ranks right up there with Off!’s First Four EPs in terms of tight, concise, contemporary “skate or die” statements. They take themselves seriously enough to write well-crafted tunes but not seriously enough that they sink themselves with punk elitism. That plus a strong Stiff Little Fingers influence has Epic Ditch rocketing straight to the center of our mohawked teenage hearts.
We could tell there were a few like-minded souls in the crowd, but none of us knew what to do about our instinctual urge to get rowdy. This is why we need the kids in the Nashville's Dead crowd to lose their collective shit at a show. We sincerely believe that's exactly what would happen if this show had been transplanted to Glenn Danzig's House (RIP). Maybe, one day, we’ll see an Epic Ditch show with Cy Barkley and Diarrhea Planet that will tear this town a new one. God, we hope so.