by The Spin
There was no dearth of good local action on tap Saturday night: The EDM-loving party kids had Cherub at Cannery Ballroom, and the punks and rock 'n' rollers had Richie's album release with Bully and Blank Range at The End, both of which were very well attended. But seeing as how it’s been a year since The East Room began operating as one of East Nashville’s bigger regularly operating event spaces, we figured we'd help them blow out the candles. Despite hosting several sold-out editions of the seasonal East Nashville Underground fest as well as a packed-out show featuring comic Tig Notaro back in August, most mentions of the venue’s name inspire blank stares from the average Nashvillian. That is to say, it isn’t yet a household name. Then again, it’s only been a year, right?
Saturday night's festivities kicked off a bit earlier than the typical rock o'clock witching hour of 9 p.m. (or thereabouts), and thus we walked in having just missed surf-poppy husband-and-wife-and-friend trio Repeat Repeat. But we were greeted by Babe City, formerly known as Hannah Barbarians, a band featuring East Room owner Ben Jones on drums and local man-about-town Jeremy McAnulty (brother of Phantom Farmer/By Lightning/De Novo Dahl singer-songwriter Joel “J. Dahl” McAnulty) on vocals. The Spin caught Hannah Barbarians on several occasions back in the Aughts, but our recollections of their charmingly sloppy dance punk are hazy at best. We can definitely say that the current incarnation of Babe City sports strategically spastic vocal disharmonies and a fuzzy, loose delivery that falls somewhere between the eccentric pop of Animal Collective and the psych rock influences of Butthole Surfers.
As far as headliners The Features, The Spin would wager them to rank fairly high in the Top 10 Most Spun Bands in Scene history, if not right at the top. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen them in nearly every size venue imaginable — mind you, we haven’t seen them play a room this small since the Cream's birthday party at Third Man Records a couple years back, or for a crowd this small since Murfreesboro circa 2001. While we weren’t expecting such a meager turnout, the rest was completely predictable, in that tried-and-true-Features sense. Singer-guitarist Matt Pelham & Co. were a tightly wound, well-tuned rock 'n' roll machine with a rhythm section by which one could set a watch and songs as solid as only true power-pop masterminds with their experience could craft. Comprised almost entirely of jams from last year's taut, New Wavy The Features, the set featured very few old-school deep cuts (one of The Spin's greatest pleasures is singing along to pre-Exhibit A fan favorites). Then again, it's hard to justify crowd pleasures/fan faves when there isn't much of a crowd there in the first place.
Did we mention seeing The Features play mid-set on a local bill was also maybe a first? Maybe it was. Afterward, Terry Price (formerly of Oblio) and his Photo Ops took more than a few minutes to set up. Anyway, The Spin is always game for a dreamy power-pop band sporting a set of catchy tunes with a sensitive core, especially when given such a smooth and tuneful delivery.
Two-piece garage-revivalist outfit and late additions Mystery Twins rounded out the five-band bill, but The Spin had since hit the bricks, because we're lazy fucks who like to annoy our editor*. A recent chat with Twins frontman Doug Lehmann revealed that despite frequent comparisons to '60s psych rock and R&B acts (from Mickey and Sylvia to The Seeds and The Animals), both Mystery Twins and the duo's previous band, The Clutters, really pull more influence from '90s grunge and indie-rock acts than anything from the Vietnam era. Also, we like their Edison bulb thingie.
Anyhow, Alfred Hitchcock once said the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder. Granted, access to beer throws that analogy out the window, but there’s still something to be said about a five-band bill and the endurance of the human attention span. Or at least The Spin's.
* Editor's note.