by The Spin
When it's possible and we can swing it (i.e., on the weeks in which we either have the dough or haven't pissed off too many publicists, bookers, door guys and venue owners), we of The Spin like to split our time between big-ticket blowouts and comfy local affairs. With the spectacle of Axl Rose and his Guns N' Roses at Bridgestone looming on our calendar for Sunday night, we opted to spend our Friday evening at The End for sets from North Carolina's garage punkers Last Year's Men and locals Ranch Ghost and Fly Golden Eagle.
The boys of Ranch Ghost commenced right after 10 p.m. to a crowd mostly consisting of little buddies who looked like they had climbed directly out of their booster seats and toddled down Elliston. All right, that's The Spin's inner ornery, growing-older-by-the-minute curmudgeon side talking, but the youngsters in question were so much more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than we're accustomed to or comfortable with. Ranch Ghost's tunes, however, didn't let us down. Their bobbing, feel-good, Nuggets-y psych rock called to mind fellow locals Natural Child — if, that is, Natural Child didn't reference getting high quite so often. We feel safe assuming that Ranch Ghost probably listens to a fair share of The Kinks, and the twangy, mildly country-punk lean of their lead guitar parts gave the tunes the sort of edge we were looking for. Because — and let's be honest here — the resurgence of retro garage and psych rock in recent months and years has been inescapable, so we always like when it's done uniquely or skillfully or ... hell, we like anything that doesn't just sound like the same band we heard the night before. And the night before that. And the night before that.
After Ranch Ghost's unusually brief set — which featured just one person attempting to crowd surf — Chapel Hill's Last Year's Men took the stage. The crowd was pretty sizable at this point, but their response was mildly lukewarm in comparison to the lavish love they'd just bestowed upon the locals. Last Year's Men have been known to open for Greg Cartwright's absolutely awesome and beloved garage-rock outfit Reigning Sound, and the affiliation certainly showed. We don't know whether it was their refreshing energy, the oft-poppy vocals or their bright and upbeat delivery, but something about Last Year's Men made us think of The Replacements. Also, a lot of tunes were reminiscent of The Strange Boys, but that's a bit more immediately apparent. Anyway, we'd heard that the Men tend to get a bit wild in their sets from time to time, but we didn't at all expect what came at the end of their final song. In a display that can only be described as "utterly apeshit," they ripped apart the drum kit, hurling cymbals across the stage and into the audience before tearing through the crowd, rolling around a bit on the floor, popping back up and bidding us farewell with a comically antithetical wave and "thank you."
While the placement of slick, soulful, synth-y dance-pop locals Fly Golden Eagle felt slightly incongruous on the bill, The Spin was also happy to have a break from all this garage rocking. We still think this year's full-length Swagger should have gotten far more attention than it did, and tunes like "Psyche's Dagger" are potent enough to get even Nashvillians dancing. For a mere four-piece, FGE filled up an enormous amount of space — primarily thanks to key player, PUJOL bassist, wacky-haircut sporter and generally versatile bro Mitch Jones. There were even some pretty Devo-y flourishes here and there. Yeah, the tunes get a little sweet from time to time, and yeah, the room had grown oppressively muggy by set's end, but the whole damn show was done by midnight. Say what you will about The Spin's punctuality and commitment, but we have it in us to stick it out for a paltry two hours of scatter-shot rock 'n' roll of both the local and regional varieties. We'll probably even have it in us to go out drinking on the East Side for a couple hours afterward.