Rites of Spring at Vanderbilt and Record Store Day at Third Man Records, Grimey's and The Groove, 4/15/2011 & 4/16/2011


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Public Enemy

Tennessee weather really has a way of pissing in The Spin’s Cheerios from time to time. Between Record Store Day, Rites of Spring, Jerry Lee Lewis and all the other marvelous goings-on in Music City over the weekend, we couldn’t have been more excited about kicking things off with a little bit of Public Enemy and a little bit of The National at Vanderbilt on Friday night. But as we watched red splotches roll across the Doppler — and as we watched Rites of Spring’s official Twitter account announce delays and, ultimately, cancellations — we wondered if Zeus was ever going to let up for a damn minute and allow us to enjoy ourselves.

Word finally came at 10:20 p.m. that Vanderbilt’s Alumni Lawn was opening its gates, though only headliners Sara Bareilles, Public Enemy and The National would play. The absolute cut-off point was to be 1:30 a.m., so each act would only deliver an abridged set. We filed onto the damp lawn as, slowly but surely, ecstatic young students came streaming in, arm in arm and singing along with Bareilles’ lyrics. She played Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You,” that Mumford and Sons song with the “I really fucked it up this time” lyric in it (“Little Lion Man”) and her tune from all the commercials. (It’s called “Love Song,” appropriately enough, and the Vandy crowd really seemed to love it.) The whole set, brief as it was, felt very iTunes commercial-y, but Bareilles was a sport about the whole shitty weather thing — plus, seeing her T-shirts next to Public Enemy’s in the merch tent made for an entertaining juxtaposition.

Despite the conditions, hoards of folks eventually showed up, and we loved seeing the youngsters defy Zeus by paying homage to eternally on-point OGs Public Enemy amid intermittent bursts of rain — even though they cheered wildly for Flavor Flav and seemed to have no idea who Chuck D is. With founding member Professor Griff back among their ranks, P.E. killed it, though sound during the first song was akin to watching one of those “Shreds” YouTube videos — instruments and vocals sliding around all over the place, one at a time, until a solid mix was sorted out. Nevertheless, even with limited time, Chuck D doled out pearls of wisdom, urging us not to be robots and to support emerging hip-hop. Quality, quality stuff.

Now, The Spin are big fans of The National. Seriously. But on a damp, cold night with a lot of college kids who wanted to drink and rock, tunes from their top-notch records High Violet and Alligator made for a strangely austere soundtrack. Regardless, they played well, and frontman Matt Berninger asked the crowd if anyone knew why Ted Danson was on his flight to Nashville. (We know why! Danson’s wife, Mary Steenburgen, has been hanging around in Nashville ever since she shot the pilot for an upcoming TV show called Outlaw Country here.) Anyhow, in most anticlimactic fashion, sound was cut off completely at 1:25 a.m. — right in the middle of The National’s last song. Bummer, but we still got to hear way more tunes than we thought we would.

Mayor Karl Dean presents the Music City Ambassador Award to Jack White
No time to nurse our hangovers on Saturday morning, however, as we rolled out of bed and headed straight to a mysterious mayoral press conference at Third Man Records. (Yes, that means we missed out on all of the special Record Store Day releases, which mostly sold out at Grimey’s and The Groove. No, we’re not happy about missing that boat.) With word that Mayor Karl Dean was going to present his inaugural Music City Ambassador Award to a noted musician — hmmm … whoever was it going to be? — we waited beneath gray skies for Third Man’s daffodil-colored Garage Door of Mystique to roll up. Inevitably it did, and Mayor Dean delivered a few words about (guess who!) Jack White’s contributions to Music City’s … well, musical image. He also spoke about the importance of arts education in public schools — a huge deal to us, obviously — before bringing out White and presenting him with a plaque. Despite the fact that it probably wasn’t White’s first plaque-reception rodeo, he seemed genuinely humbled by the gesture — he said little, but expressed gratitude to both the mayor and to the citizens of Nashville. (By the way, contributor Adam Gold got some face time with Mayor Dean, and he’ll have a report on that later.)

The next time The Garage Door of Mystique rolled up, it was for an unfortunate announcement from TMR rep Ben Swank: Due to concerns over the weather and a desire to record a quality live album, Jerry Lee Lewis’ concert would be delayed until the following day at 1 p.m. (It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as Sunday’s weather was stunning.) Swank ended his PSA with the words “Swank out!” before disappearing back behind his yellow partition — though we totally saw him use a normal, unceremonious door just a couple of minutes later. After leaving, we discovered that Lewis still performed an indoor set for friends, family and inner-circle types, but we’re not livid about it or anything. As you’ll see from our coverage of Sunday, we still got our opportunity to watch The Killer kill.

The rest of our Record Store Day was spent bouncing mainly between The Groove and Grimey’s — both of which were well attended. At The Groove, we watched New Wave co-eds Nite Nite bring their nocturnal nuances out in the daylight (think second-generation The Cure or Joy Division for the modern barfly set) and up-and-coming Spin fave Evan P. Donohue (think Elvis Costello and Buddy Holly tunes from a capable, record-collecting college student) rock as much as anyone can in 50-degree weather. We also saw a song and a bit of material from frequent Spin accomplice Chris Crofton, who kept it mostly clean — likely on account of the little ones in attendance — and played a delightful tune about the perils of dating someone who’s obsessed with astrology.

Over at Grimey’s, we mostly thumbed through racks of old vinyl and shot the shit with our fellow audiophiles. We even bumped into the folks who made Better Than Something: Jay Reatard, which was screening to a full house downstairs in The Basement. We missed Chuck D’s appearance, but Matt & Kim were around, and we heard tunes from Gabe Dixon as well as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. MVP award, however, goes to Jonas Stein of Turbo Fruits, who we saw at Third Man, The Groove and Grimey’s, peddlin’ releases from his label, Turbo Time Records. That night, the Spin soldiers split up, opting for the garage-rock sounds of Hunx and His Punx with Shannon and the Clams at The End and/or The Greenhornes with Hacienda at Mercy Lounge over Kid Cudi et al. at the second installment of Rites of Spring. And, despite mind-numbingly inopportune weather and missing out on all of the special RSD releases, we still went home with a smattering of good ol’ non-RSD-only vinyl and the promise of The Killer on the horizon.


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