No Kings Records Showcase at Richland Ballroom, 12/26/11

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Hanging out in a living room full of strangers watching videos of running water: That's how The Spin closed out our 2011 calendar year. After 12 months that found us at every arena-pop show from Lady Gaga to Katy Perry, at every festival for 100 miles, and sampling sounds from classic country to progressive hip-hop — basically all of the spectacle that pop music had to offer this year — it seemed only fitting that we'd end up at one of the most subdued and low-key events of the year to close out 2K11. Monday night's No Kings Records showcase at the house venue Richland Ballroom was just that: low fuckin' key. And that's exactly what we needed after a particularly chaotic holiday weekend.

When we arrived — intentionally tardy, because there is nothing worse than being at a stranger's house before the music starts — we found a single, solitary dude plugging in guitar pedals, and the music had yet to start. Awkward. We milled about for a minute, tacitly acknowledging the existence of the handful of people assembled in the kitchen/second performance space, trying not to make eye contact or say anything too inappropriate. It's a little game we like to play, even though we usually lose. It seemed like everybody else was into that game as well. Maybe everybody was just shell-shocked after a weekend of in-laws and relatives, but early on it felt like a wake for a particularly unloved uncle.

Eventually, right as we were about to start our comedy routine about the record collector and the jar of bacon fat, Geoffrey Sexton — the dude on the floor — began his set and proceeded to give us a half an hour of gorgeous, slightly discordant guitar drones set to experimental video projections. Sexton's prepared-guitar shimmered and screeched in arcs of otherworldly sounds as more and more people began to stroll through the door. By the time Sparkling Wide Pressure had started making drones in the back of the house — the music switched between rooms at the front and back — there were actually too many people for us to get a good view of what was going on, but based on the faces of the assembled multitude, it looked rather intense. And it sounded good from the kitchen.

By the time the crowd moved back into the living room for the evening's headliner, Georgia duo Quiet Evenings, there were enough people to actually make it feel like a show and not just another awkward family gathering. (Though, now that we mention it, maybe next time the in-laws are over we'll have an avant-garde performance in the living room. It couldn't make anything MORE awkward ... ) Quiet Evenings are kind of like a small-scale version of Tangerine Dream, peddling analog-esque synth tones at glacial paces, allowing each sound to bubble up and bubble away. It was a sublimely beautiful set and an incredible way to end our concert-going year. Also, it was a nice bit of calm before the amateur night shit-storm that will be New Year's Eve in Nashville.

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