Anticipatory excitement, dude-bro hugs and shots (lots of shots) were abounding as soon as we arrived at Mercy Lounge Saturday night. The Spin hadn’t been this psyched for a show since … well, maybe ever. And we weren’t the only ones, as reunited indie-rock legends Archers of Loaf were an hour away from playing their first Nashville show in almost a decade-and-a-half. For a few hundred of our old-school local indie-rock brethren — mostly mid-30s, thrift-store-chic beard-itchers, just as you’d expect — this was a momentous occasion. Spirits (and spirits) were uncharacteristically high on the club’s smoking deck, where revelers were drinking and laughing and lighting up, reminiscing just how hard Archers of Loaf rocked during the Clinton era.
Meanwhile, inside the club, it felt like a slackers’ cocktail hour as fans counted down the minutes to heavy icky mettle, accompanied by the breezy, jangly sounds of local openers Quichenight. Singer Brett Rosenberg and his musical henchmen’s sardonic, space-age bachelor pop pleasantly complimented an atmosphere of Christmas-morning-worthy joy. Rosenberg’s high-pitched croon and conversational, literate lyrics would ultimately prove quite a contrast to Archers singer Eric Bachmann’s gruff warble.
Soon the bedraggled headliners strolled casually to the stage and kicked off their set with a somewhat shaky take on the All the Nation’s Airports opening gem “Strangled by the Stereo Wire” — a selection it seemed was made to lure club goers to the front of the room as the band got its levels right. The brawling assault of volume, ear-piercing, interweaving angular guitar lines, guts-spewing vocals and crashing cymbals that followed during a perfectly note-imperfect “Audio Whore” made that song feel like the set’s true charging opener. The next 90 minutes were the happiest 90 minutes of The Spin’s summer thus far.
As the band busted out one top-shelf set-list selection after another — “Freezing Point,” “Form and File,” “You and Me,” “Might” and so on — we busted out our vocal chords shouting along, our lyrical accuracy diminishing with each dying, beer-squandered brain cell. Again, we weren’t the only excitable ones. To know Archers of Loaf is to love them. There are two kinds of music fans in this world: Those who celebrate the fuck out of the band’s catalog, and those who don’t really know it. This show didn’t sell out (a crowd of 300 is maybe a generous estimate), but almost all in attendance were packed against the stage, making mini stadium-rock moments out of anthems like “The Lowest Part Is Free” and the lighter-cuer of the night, “Greatest of All-Time.”
A few songs into the set, the band happily noted that this was actually the biggest turnout they’d ever had in Nashville. Returning the favor, Bachmann & Co. looked as happy to play their hits — and a few deep cuts (the surfy instrumental “Mark Price, P.I.” comes to mind) — as we were to lose our hearing while hearing them. Showing no signs of rust, ever-animated bassist Matt Gentling was aggressively charging across the stage, lunging at his microphone whenever it came time to sing a gang vocal. Matching Gentling’s enthusiasm, guitarist Eric Johnson was bouncing back and forth between his amp and the front of the stage, looking like a teenager living out fantasies of rehearsed-in-bedroom-mirror rock stardom, while Bachmann delivered his gravel-voiced commands with neck veins bulging. As for drummer Mark Price, he busted through his snare drum head before the set had even reached the halfway point.
When it came to reliving old times, Archers made nostalgia sound fresh as fuck, especially when they followed a hundreds-strong sing-along “Web in Front” with a rip-roarin’ “Nostalgia.” As an encore featuring a fever-pitch “Harnessed in Slums” and a gloriously contorted “Slow Worm” closed out the night, our only complaint was that the band left the stage without playing every other song they’d ever written.