by The Spin
As The Spin, we have been to more obligatory record release shows than you could possibly imagine. Considering the uneven spectrum of the success rates of these things, they pretty frequently seem a little sad and pointless — one more slab of plastic floating on a garbage-covered sea of already unwanted tuneage, celebrated by one more listing on an over-cluttered calendar. Oh, but then you have release shows like the one Friday night at Exit/In, where Turbo Fruits celebrated their latest, the Serpents and Snakes Records-released Butter — which can accurately be described as “long-awaited” and already “critically acclaimed” — and where it was safe to check our cynicism at the door.
The obligatory pre-game beer at Gold Rush cost us a performance from youngsters Fox Fun. We’re sure it was every bit as endearing as post-modern Southern jangle-pop can be. We've enjoyed the Foxes on many occasions in the past, and the "Squawk" single they recently released via Turbo Fruits' Turbo Time Records is pretty enjoyable. Anyway, what we did catch was somewhere around the beginning of King Karl. Hulking and hirsute frontman Cy Barkley could easily be dismissed as a one-trick horse of a single color if you’ve only seen him with his purist punk hardcore ensemble the Way Outsiders. But hearing him share the spotlight with bassist/singer/culinary “it” girl (she's a local caterer) Bridget Russell reveals a more tender, melodic and intricate side as they rip through the darker realms of power-pop.
Next up, we did the time warp again. After an extended hiatus, drummer Tanner Lunn was back on the skins serving up the rumble behind local psych revivalists Ranch Ghost. The Ghost's reverb-drenched garage stomp has seen a noticeable expansion in terms of fan base, demonstrated pretty noticeably by both the size and seismic activity of the kids going various degrees of apeshit throughout their set. As a friend of The Spin pointed out, Ranch Ghost is an awful lot like The Black Lips — that is, if The Black Lips were much more chilled-out and didn't spit on one another and everything.
Before their set, Turbo Fruits unfurled a white sheet/screen against the venue’s balcony, on which they premiered their new Michael Carter-shot video for the song “Harley Dollar Bill$." The video — which will be available to the masses soon — features shots of the band amid a swingin’ party thrown by local motorcycle club Best of Both Worlds. Appropriately enough, it's all loose times and more two-wheeled gymnastics than one could shake a stick at. Many of the BOBW members/video stars were present on Friday night, having lined their hogs up outside the venue just before the video's debut — and they all toasted and cheered, naturally. Many of the BOBWers stuck around for the duration, as did Turbo Fruits' new label daddies (and 50 percent of Kings of Leon), Caleb and Jared Followill.
After dedicating their set to dearly departed End sound guy Brad Baker, Turbo Fruits immediately began providing what can best be understated as “predictability." That is, predictable in that we all knew what kind of a well-oiled, revved-up, newly familiar roller coaster of a set we’d signed up for — frontman Jonas Stein's midair splits, Dave McCowen mugging and grinning as he plows through his lithe bass lines, and tight renditions of new ones like "Ain't the Only One Havin' Fun" and familiar crowd-pleasers like "Mama's Mad 'Cos I Fried My Brain." The Fruits are long past the days when Stein was simply moonlighting from his day gig as Be Your Own Pet’s guitarist — hell, that was two lineups and hundreds of gigs ago. The band's untamed and rambunctious riffs haven’t gone anywhere, but they've definitely been fused with dynamic and melodic maturity, taking their music from "simply fun" to "downright engaging." Go Butter.
At the end of Turbo Fruits' set, the bottom dropped out over Elliston Place, bombarding the Rock Block with a torrential downpour. Trapped with a couple dozen other patrons, we waited for both the storm and the ringing in our ears to subside, watching as KOL frontman Caleb Followill mounted the stage to bang out a few beats on Fruits drummer Matt Hearn's kit. But the sound guy put a stop to that pretty quickly.