Mercy Lounge Anniversary Night Two Feat. Cherub, Machines Are People Too, Natural Child and More, 1/12/13



In the past 10 years, Cannery Row has become like a second home for The Spin, so much so that the anniversary showcase felt like the biggest house show we’ve ever seen. Though every act on the second night's bill might not be our personal cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot), they sure as hell didn’t book any slouches.

Helping ensure that we didn’t hurl behind the couch at this one, COIN kicked off night two right on schedule: Though they had the disadvantage of playing to an 8:30 crowd, they served up their synth-dazzled danceable pop with the enthusiasm of seasoned arena headliners. It didn’t hurt that their set was in Cannery Ballroom, whose backwards-L-Tetris-piece shape lets the artist play to what feels like a full house, even if only the third of the room directly in front of the stage is full of bopping fans. Bop they did, and we could feel our rusty old joints loosening up, too — though we weren’t quite as loose as COIN’s drummer, who looked like he might break his neck if he wasn’t careful.

Keeping an eye on the clock, we hustled upstairs to The High Watt for some Mystery Twins, who were blasting out their signature blend of sweet Everly harmonies and gnarly Who tones. Fists pumped as we sang along with familiar favorites, like their version of Petula Clark’s “Heart,” and we noted the latest addition to their ever-expanding light show: a controller to animate their Castle Frankenstein-style bulbs. We would honestly be comfortable chilling up here all night, with the fare consisting mostly of new twists on old-school rock, but we decided to be brave and step into the sort-of unknown.

We’ve seen the slip-n-slidin’, pop-top-poppin’ ways that Sol Cat spends their days off, but we'd yet to peep them in person. Their stoned groove, with some funk and West Coast R&B at the foundation, put us right in the mood for a beach party. The tight-packed crowd seemed to agree, and it took some effort to avoid colliding with swaying bodies on our way downstairs for Brandon Jazz and His Armed Forces.

It took a couple of numbers for the crowd to follow Jazz’s lead into the realm of Prince-y space pop — at first, folks seemed to have trouble telling whether he was cracking wise or being a prima donna — but by the end of “Vultures,” funny bones were tickled and fits of unnatural body movement broke out. His set featured the same eight-piece synth-pop powerhouse that accompanied his opening slot at the Ryman with The B-52s last August: Jerry Pentecost, Ryan Truso, Dave Paulson and everyone from Hanzelle.

Back at The High Watt, we thought we were catching D. Watusi’s set in the middle, but came to find it was the finale. Though their run was short and sweet, Christina Norwood reminded us how well a piano suits good ol’ rock 'n' roll; the sound taps into an old, deep well, bringing out a touch of Little Richard and Fats Domino that rock sometimes loses when guitars get wailing.

Not long after, we found ourselves awash in Ravello’s mouthwatering guitar tones at Mercy. Despite their curious name-sharing with the Italian restaurant in the Opryland Hotel, they continued the trend of everyone in the house bringing their A-game, holding down the ‘70s arena-rock angle with aplomb. These dudes may spend a little bit too much time on their hair for our taste, but for those who like a little more sheen on their rock, you could do worse.

Before Birdcloud began, The High Watt re-attained its sardine-can level of occupancy. The blue comediennes were in fine caterwaul Saturday night: Lots of road-doggin’ and wood-sheddin’ in the past few months have polished the edges on their entire act, down to the siren wail in “Fuck You, Cop.” They beat away at their instruments with a renewed gusto, too; Jasmin Kaset broke a string, and lacking a replacement, borrowed an electric guitar from Natural Child’s Seth Murray. Our hopes for an “Iron Man”-style rendition of “Saving Myself for Jesus” were dashed, however, when Murray returned with the re-strung acoustic.

Machines Are People Too let loose a steady stream of four-on-the-floor grooves, bathed in neon synth licks, that seem to be a universal call to shake some hips these days. This was pure heaven for folks who get down with Yeasayer and Phoenix on the reg. The earnest, guitar-less pop was pleasing to the ear, but we decided to wait for Cherub to really get our groove on.

Having heard a full range of conflicting reports, we determined to approach Five Knives’ set with an open mind. From the quartet’s matching outfits and the post-apocalyptic blast emanating from their racks of top-flight gear, we thought we’d walked into a club scene from a remake of The Road Warrior, cast in an unearthly glow by the group’s branded battery-operated light sticks. While Anna Worstell and crew pulled out all the stops in performing and spared no expense in making it look and sound great, they just didn’t do it for us: We’ve mellowed out since the Evanescence and Korn phase of our development, preferring our electronica to drip glow-in-the-dark honey and our metal to have something to do with witches.

As Natural Child got revved up, we dug the inclusion of Luke Schneider on steel, bringing out the country and Western in their rock 'n’ roll stew — these guys could definitely hold their own at Bob’s Country Bunker. However, showcasing his ability to fit in with just about everyone, Schneider eased back on the bent twang usually associated with his instrument and went into rock-lead mode à la Ron Wood, dueling it out with Seth Murray on numbers old and new. Their contributions to carrying on blues in rock, as showcased in the Canned Heat tribute “Blind Owl Speaks,” set plenty of booties to waggling, and we almost lost a tooth in the dance melee.

The body heat amassed by the Cherub crowd made Cannery feel about 10 degrees warmer than usual, and we took a second to catch our breath and watch the dancer with the LED-filled hula hoop before wading in. In the next number, Jason Huber and Jordan Kelley suggested we put our bodies against some other bodies, and their falsetto-coated funky grooves made us excited to do so, not that we had much of a choice. Most of our memories of this set dissolved in a haze of glow sticks, sequins and sunglasses at night, but one that stands out is the group’s enthusiasm for this crowd: Nashville can be a tough audience to get dancing, but whether for JEFF’s stoner rock or Cherub’s clubber roll, they kept it kinetic this weekend.

As closing time drew near, we ventured upstairs one last time for The Weeks. We’ll never know whether Kings of Leon were singing “I wish that I knew what I know now” when they signed The Weeks to Serpents and Snakes, but the younger group, who came of age with KOL as a dominant sound in mainstream pop, certainly bears marks of the Followills’ influence. Their concoction of post-War U2 riffing and Southern soul rhythms was certainly music to the mostly collegiate crowd’s ears, and even engendered a little moshing and stage diving during “The House We Grew up In.”

Pausing to reflect, it struck us that in spite of all the attention we’re getting, our local indie musicians continue to deliver good times to audiences across the spectrum, and there was no better place to see that on display than here this weekend. Out way past our bedtime, we decided to ride out on those good vibes. Happy birthday, Cannery Row — and many more!

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