So, the annual Nobody's Vault but Mine shows aren't officially sanctioned Third Man Records events, but rather fan-hosted soirees that bring together TMR junkies of all stripes for performances from Third Man-affiliated artists. (Some of the affiliations are more tenuous than others, but still.) Anyway, these things typically bring in out-of-towners. And those out-of-towners present for the second of Nobody's Vault's two nights at The Basement got a pretty standard dose of New Nashville's rock 'n' roll scene: yet another Ke$ha sighting (she's popping up more and more these days), Ultras S/C frontwoman and former Be Your Own Pet member Jemina Pearl's generally boisterous antics, and some phenomenally loud rock music.
And it was Miss Pearl's familiar, angsty howl that spilled out into The Basement's parking lot, guiding us toward what just happened to be our third Ultras S/C set in as many weeks. The place was already rather bustling just before 9 p.m., the crowd split about evenly between local rock regs and unfamiliar-looking fans as Jemina and co-frontperson Chet Weiss' onslaught of feedback-saturated power chords and obscenity-laden vocals careened around the room. Drummer and official Third Man Records sergeant-at-arms Ben Swank fortified the whole thing with lurching, sweat-soaked, imprecise bashing, punishing his crash cymbal at the end of each measure. We've described the Ultras as an "eardrum-bursting, slacker ethos-embracing, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion-on-a-bath-salts-binge, hard-boozin' rock 'n' roll outfit" in the past, and while The Spin stands by that, we'd like to add "sloppy, grungy, Rust Belt blues rock coated in Southern indifference" to that list of modifiers.
Ohio's blistering psych-blues vets Boogaloosa Prayer opened with a rendition of "Bald Headed Woman," and it was significantly more mean and throbbing than either The Who's or The Kinks' version — though frontman Dooley Wilson assured the audience that he himself is not personally averse to bald-headed women. Through the rest of the set, drummer Todd A. Swalla proceeded to beat the absolute goddamn tar out of The Basement's house kit — seriously, Grimey & Co., you guys may want to tune up those drum heads sometime soon, considering how much abuse they endured on Sunday night — while the rest of BP laid down Animals-like drawling grooves behind wailing solos and slide guitar.
Shortly after Boogaloosa's fellow Ohioan Swank returned to the stage to contribute some maraca-shakin' on a number, The Spin spent a brief stretch making conversation on the smoking porch. We caught a little bit of hot goss regarding the forthcoming venue The Stone Fox — not too much that we can repeat, but suffice it to say that the place is coming along nicely and on track for their July 12 opening show. Sweet!
Then it was a set from former Greenhorne Brian Olive, whose material is certainly not unlike that of The Greenhornes. Olive's tunes put a pop-minded spin on the familiar garage-rock thing — he's something of a dispassionate performer, maybe, but there was plenty of soul-inflected prowess, and we dig the organ parts. Also, how many frontmen these days play sax? Past Olive (and Mikal Cronin, now that we think of it), we'd say not enough. In fact, the jazzy, saxy freak-out at set's end was probably the most impressive bit. It was something like Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks score, but a bit more reefer-fueled, ya dig?
The official bill ended with a stellar set from Spin faves PUJOL, whose three-piece lineup is clearly streamlined and primed in preparation for their record release show on June 5. They delivered explosive little boiled-down versions of the new and retooled tunes on the forthcoming record, United States of Being, and even though the crowd had thinned a bit, the remaining TMR fans enthusiastically responded to the whip-smart, epically existential "Black Rabbit" — thanks primarily to the Jack White-produced Third Man Records 7-inch version, no doubt.
We spent a couple minutes chatting with an associate about how the passion and smarts on display in frontman Daniel Pujol's material set him apart from everyone else in town. "Who else could write a song called 'Psychic Pain' and get away with it?" he implored. Totally. And that's why he's among our favorite contemporary songwriters, local or otherwise. To close out the night, there was a raffle and a brief reunion set from The Soledad Brothers — Ben Swank's former outfit with a couple of his old Ohio cronies. That was all well and good, but we hadn't eaten in about 12 hours, and Burger King was calling our name. Not a brilliant decision, maybe, but The Spin doesn't make a lot of brilliant decisions after midnight.