In case you haven’t noticed, Kings of Leon Padawans The Weeks have quite possibly become the new Biggest Band in Nashville. The fresh-faced, ragtag quintet made that clear Saturday night when, despite a driving rain storm and flood warnings that would’ve normally kept Nashvillians away from the city’s roundabouts, a capacity crowd filled the Cannery for what had to have been the band’s biggest local headlining gig to date. And giving an even more impassioned response than Serpents and Snakes labelmates The Features got the previous night, that audience — with famous faces including those of Nashville's Hayden Panettiere and KOL's Jared Followill in the mix — gave The Weeks full rock-star treatment, feverishly eating up the band’s KOL-inspired brand of rock ’n’ roll. There was a dedicated front row of X-sharpied hands, which were attached to kids singing along and a slew of crowd surfers tumbling over their heads and over the stage barricade. “This is wonderful,” scraggly, bespectacled lead singer Cyle Barnes bantered a few songs into the set.
Although that’s a pretty atypical scene for a local rock show, it’s certainly an increasingly familiar sight for The Weeks, as the band is hot off the heals of European tour opening for their fellow fraternally endowed label heads on a European/U.K. arena tour. Whether you love the band as much as the teenagers crowding the stage Saturday, or you’re eager to jump on the naysayers’ bandwagon that follows any suddenly popular local band, you must admit, The Weeks are working hard to harvest and define the raw potential that got them a deal a year and a half ago, and every six months we check in on the band to see how the leaps and bounds they grow by, we walk away impressed.
We'd begun our night by strolling into the Cannery mega-plex just before the rainstorm began. But the downpour didn't stop Cannery Ballroom from filling up early, as openers Sol Cat delivered their thumping, dancy indie rock. "Fishin' With John" from their eponymous debut is undeniably catchy, and the dudes were tight and practiced. But in talking to our colleague, The Spin agreed that we'd like to see the youngsters take their synthesis of indie rock and revivalist post-punk a step further — they can channel their influences effectively, so why not take it a step in their own direction?
It’s been barely two weeks since The Spin last caught Graham Fitzpenn’s O.G. psych-rock revue Majestico, so we figured this one would write itself. At least, that's what we thought before the band threw us a few curve balls in The High Watt. Sporting a new backing band and a whole new batch of songs, Majestico opened the set with a ballad — a move we haven’t yet heard from the band. As if the new tunes weren’t already a bit more mature than the bratty acid pop we’ve come to expect, Maj dropped a cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” for maximum bliss.
The Kingston Springs are now supplementing their bouncy, grooving indie rock with an organist — not to mention a touch of trumpet here and there from co-frontman James Guidry. The Springs are always good for big sounds and rubbery bass lines, which they delivered as the Ballroom grew rapidly stickier with humidity. We'll admit, we're prone to calling The Kingston Springs "shape-shifters," and here's why: They dip into bluesy, psychy Nuggets zone, dusty Western folk zone, and bobbing, catchy indie rock zone. That makes it hard for The Spin to pin down their identity, but they certainly know how to write and play, even is sound isn't always cohesive.
The rain and the early time slot weren't doing Kyle Andrews any favors, but the small crowd gathered for his set in Mercy boasted enthusiastic supporters — vocal enough that it took several songs to realize Andrews' mic was dead. The amiable indie-pop pro responded in kind, meeting fans' urge to dance the night away with old favorites like "Sushi" and "You Always Make Me Smile," along with cuts from his new album, Brighter Than the Sun (though due out the July 23, copies were on hand at the merch table). Capitalizing on his success in the licensing arena, Andrews & Co. put on a technically sophisticated show, complete with tempo-synced lights and computer animation. More impressive, however, was the group's skill at making a set tied to backing tracks flow organically; if we hadn't seen the laptop, we'd never have guessed that the whole thing wasn't live.
With attached buzzwords like "indie," "Brooklyn," "Bob Dylan" and, we must sheepishly admit, "Nashville," the first impression might be that recent Brooklyn transplants Clear Plastic Masks belong in that hipster bear trap along with the American Spirits and PBR. But whatever hype may follow them around, the live show consistently bears it out. Saturday in The High Watt was a fine specimen, as the quartet balanced tension against no-holds-barred release, sending foamy beers flying and stirring up the sizable crowd. If the reverb-soaked new jam that closed the set is any indication, the follow-up to last year's "Working Girl" 7-inch currently underway at Nashville's Bomb Shelter will bring the same carefully-bottled chaos and garage-soul strut we've come to know and quite seriously enjoy.
Local songstress Tristen’s evolution from darling folk rocker to sultry post-pop diva has been an interesting one to observe. We’ve seen lineup changes come (but mostly go) as she at one point boiled it down to little more than a vintage drum machine and husband/guitarist Buddy Hughen for backup. Since, she’s built the band’s latest lineup into easily its greatest. Both acoustic and electronic beats are handled with precision and finesse thanks to Hanzelle’s Jeremi Morris. It’s also unlikely Tristen could have found more muscle for the band’s low end than Kink Ador bassist/singer Sharon Koltick. Along with Hughen, Tristen’s post-modern indie-pop sounds more cohesive than ever, with songs from her forthcoming Caves igniting the bubbling Mercy Lounge crowd.
How long has it been since How I Became the Bomb last played a show in Nashville? A year? Two? Regardless, it's been a solid minute since we've been graced by the presence of The Bomb's synth-pop spectacle, but you wouldn't know if from their phoenix-like reemergence in Mercy. Armed with a handful of new tunes alongside old faves like “Killing Machine” and “Secret Identity,” How I Became the Bomb is still expertly peddling the kind of funky future-pop that Daft Punk only recently adopted for their new record. For those of us not sucked into the crowd-surfing vortex of The Weeks downstairs, The Bomb provided a dance party that has been sorely missed.
And The Weeks had a tough act to follow in Saturday night’s other long-haired Cannery headliners The Whigs. The newly Nashville (via Athens, Ga.) veteran neo-grunge-meets-garage-rock-rival trio also handily whipped the wall-to-wall crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy. Denim-clad, sweat-drenched singer-guitarist Parker Gispert dropped to his knees, attacking his guitar during an ear-splitting psych-rock finale freak-out near set’s end.
Despite all of the happenings at Jeffrey Drag Records, Bad Cop's Adam Moult & Co. were anything but distracted during their headlining set in The High Watt. The sea of sweaty partiers had diminished somewhat, but every head was nodding as we pushed through. The five-piece displayed a singular focus on nervy aggression, brewing up a satisfying, cathartic stew of all things punk and rock, from The Stooges' primal grit to Television's puff of ozone, into post-punk, and beyond, leaving us primed and ready for the release of their new Light On EP this week.