We were stoked to check out the third installment of the quarterly East Nashville Underground Festival as it kicked off on Friday. Pulling off a large, eclectic bill spanning two nights is no easy feat, but from the time we strolled into their new digs on Gallatin Pike (too late for Kim Logan’s set, unfortunately), it was clear promoters Jared and Kristyn Corder had put a lot of foresight into the event. To us, it looked and felt like a house show, but with everything you always wanted: There was a real PA, an open bar, Pizza Buds slices and hot dogs on the cheap, and no weird fabric softener/cat pee smell.
The bill had drawn about as big a cross-section of Nashville as we could hope for, from familiar local faces to GQ types in evening wear, and everyone in between. After a visit to the bar, we found The Joy of Painting taking the surprisingly roomy stage (bigger than in some bars we could mention). The five-piece laid down a solid half-hour of tight and singable rock 'n' roll, with hints of New Wave that reminded The Spin of longtime faves The Features. Garreth Thomson and his boys emphasized this connection by sliding in a rendition of Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" between a mix of cuts from their upcoming 7-inch and their 2011 EP, Asterisk.
As one might expect, Roots of a Rebellion brought the bandanna-and-hemp-necklace set bobbing to the front of the crowd. Though the plethora of truly awful suburban "something-infused reggae" bands has set the bar painfully low, Austin Smith & Co. did credit to their influences by not tripping on it. They may not be Toots and the Maytals, but they kept a feel-good groove without getting monotonous, helped along by two tasteful multi-instrumentalists who flavored the tunes with brass, percussion and keys.
Shortly thereafter, high-octane duo Blackfoot Gypsies unveiled both a new LP, On the Loose, and a painting by a fan, featuring the band staring in awe at a giant demon-goddess with a cow skull for a head. Looking and sounding like they just returned from opening for The Who in '71, the pair burned through a set of vintage riffage with infectious gusto. We had difficulty telling if it was the free booze or the band's Page-and-Bonzo stage antics that inspired folks to climb the speaker stacks. Either way, it felt appropriate for frontman Matthew Paige to end the set on the floor, pantomiming a fight for dear life against the power of his guitar.
By the time local rapper Chancellor Warhol’s mic was checked, the crowd was packed in tight, and when Chance commanded us to bounce, we complied as a unit. Fresh from his debut at Lollapalooza and following a six-month dry spell of shows in Nashville, Chance and his band were clearly happy to be on home turf. Their set featured fan favorites from last year’s The Silver Factory, as well as previews of their upcoming album, Paris Is Burning. Several cuts featured a cameo by Brad Shultz, guitar-slinger from Bowling Green’s purveyors of slick indie pop, Cage the Elephant.
The audience had thinned out considerably by 1 a.m., but The Sex Bombs’ leader Kane Stewart took no notice as he morphed into a human pinball. We momentarily feared for Stewart’s safety when he hit the floor so hard he bounced, but when he feigned being too dazed to get up, drummer Dave Miller chided, “Dude, don’t act like that shit wasn’t well thought-out.” Their Jesus Lizard-vs.-Jesus and Mary Chain-cage-match aesthetic had some appeal (so long as we made room for their slam-dance crew), but we were ready to call it a night.