by The Spin
It's been a minute since The Spin paid a visit to the Springwater Supper Club and Lounge. Recently, the cozy and venerable dive has been swept into the limelight, hosting parties for ghost-lovin' glitter queens and music videos for unruly Ohioans. We were glad to find that all the attention hasn't changed anything: The ceiling tiles still sag, the beer is still cheap and plentiful, the walls are still coated with stickers commemorating bands of yesteryear, and the front half is still occupied by the same pool-playing, dart-throwing, sport-watching crowd of regulars who generally couldn't care less about what goes on in the dark and smoky back room. After a visit to the bar, we settled in on Friday night to see what action might unfold in front of the red tinsel curtain.
First up were Timmy and the Tumblers, who, as we were about to find out, take their identity quite seriously. We'd been doing our homework, so we knew the ragtag Athens, Ga., psych-pop ensemble was fronted by one Tim Schrieber, a fixture of the Athens scene for the better part of a decade. In the late '90s, Schrieber began his career as one-half of Ween-inspired duo Cornish in a Turtleneck, whose still-functioning Tripod page — abandoned not long after they released the aptly-named A Collection of 20 Songs About Booties — offers a glimpse at independent music marketing before social networking. Not to be stuck in the past, Timmy and the Tumblers now showcase their Elvis Costello-meets-Frankenstein-and-The Wolfman brand of power-pop via Facebook and Bandcamp, naturally.
The crowd on hand was pretty thin, but that didn't discourage Schrieber from trying to engage every last person in the building, taking cues from his time with legendary Athens psych band Dark Meat. He used every inch of his extra-long mic cable to explore the space, offering one verse as he reclined with his feet on the merch table, the next crooned on one knee to an unsuspecting patron, the next as he rolled around on the floor after doing a somersault from the lip of the four-inch-high stage. (Seems he didn't notice or care that this place has a different kind of five-second rule: If it's on the floor for more than five seconds, you might be better off burning it, whatever it is.) Straining against his tether, he even sang face-to-face with the regulars watching football. They smiled and nodded — yeah kid, that's nice. It takes a lot more than that to peak their weird-shit-o-meter.
Almost as soon as the Tumblers were packed up, Memphis' Hi Electric announced their presence with a blast of detuned alien guitar fuzz, which frontman Neil Bartlett melted quickly into a nimble minor-key lead like sugar into a glass of iced tea. Bartlett's vocals come across like Kurt Cobain with less vitriol and nicotine splashed on his vocal cords, and the group's sound has a distinct '90s throwback flavor, with moody riffs sometimes poking out at odd angles over unusual harmonies. Often, the less said about contemporary groups that follow that pattern the better — after all, the slippery slope to nu-metal is just a few staggering steps away.
However, Hi Electric differentiates itself by showcasing the Memphis history running through its members' veins. Bassist Alan Yee and drummer Henry Talbott bring a fair amount of soul to the table, loping along a backbeat rhythm during the quieter bits, which makes brute-force metal inflections even more powerful when they emerge to pump up the choruses. Their recording efforts have been aided and abetted by Steve Selvidge, formerly of folk/soul/hip-hop group Big Ass Truck, and whose father Sid was a cohort of Memphis legends Alex Chilton and Jim Dickinson. As the music of the '90s slowly circles back around, we'll be keeping an interested eye on these guys — even if the fashionista cohort who was accompanying us hopes Talbott abandons his backwards hat somewhere along the line.
Looking a little worn from the road, headliners Faux Ferocious nonetheless wasted no time in gathering the faithful to what was now a packed house. While founder Jonathan Phillips made sure the gear was in order, his co-frontman Terry Kane established the mood by taking the end of his microphone into his mouth and letting loose a hearty burp. Like a pissed-off Chuck Berry hopped up on trucker speed, the quartet burned through number after number, with Phillips and Kane shouting each line in unison over churning rhythms, not unlike also-local faves Natural Child. Their vintage American punk and New Wave sound and good-natured faux-bad-boy attitude were highly satisfying. The Faux boys' set clocked in at barely 30 minutes, and we were genuinely bummed when they declined calls for an encore.
Before packing up, they shouted out to everyone in the crowd — there was hardly anyone there whom they didn't know by name. This was quality fun — rough and tumble, genuine, but more carefully put together than some efforts in this field; definitely on a par with other locals like Ranch Ghost, D. Watusi or the aforementioned Natural Child. We never got the sense that it was a put-on, but also never got the sense that the performance was on the brink of falling apart. For some fans, that's where the fun lies in this kind of music: the thrill of tearing things up and not caring whether you can put them back together. Faux Ferocious trades some of that uncertainty for an opportunity to appeal to audiences who get off on musicianship more than showmanship, though working a crowd has not been ignored in their repertoire: Instead of everyone just standing around during a drum repair, Kane fired off an impromptu rendition of "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory." Faux Ferocious' relative dearth of shows on home turf is still somewhat of a mystery, but whatever the reason, we'll be watching the calendar for the next one.