The crowd that gathered for Feist's show last Tuesday night at The Ryman appeared to be mostly populated by well-dressed 20-somethings and bookish young ladies with Rapunzel-esque locks, all of whom seemed to be aging gracefully from adolescent-librarian types into adult-librarian types. A smarter-than-average crowd, for sure, and one that seemed to appreciate — or at least, civilly tolerate — openers Timber Timbre.
We'd say we're fans of Creep on Creepin' on, the latest LP from openers TT, with its spooky, tortured turns and moody take on modern folk. Live, the material is even more sparse and slow-burning, with just fiddle, a bit of lap steel and a frontman on guitar, kick drum and vocals. Though we missed the BGVs and full drums, Timber was still mostly transfixing, in that Black Heart Procession sort of way. Really, Timber Timbre was supremely Canadian in their patient and polite delivery, but it got a bit samey after the first handful of songs: the same ominous, unchanging red lighting; the same ominous, thumping kick drum on each quarter note; the same ominous, throaty howl on each song. For their last tune, Timber Timbre brought out vocal trio Mountain Man, who backed Feist at her Third Man Records appearance back in November, and would do the same again Tuesday night. Their contributions were pretty. And ominous.
Despite a couple of mildly nerve-wracking moments before Feist took the stage — our photog told us the singer was restricting photo access on the floor — Feist led off with "Graveyard," and we relaxed with the promise that we were about to see some well-performed indie-folk crooning. And yes, there were the three mismatched-looking ladies of Mountain Man once more, gathered around a mic, with their disparate heights and stage presences. The little one on the left bobbed and swayed, vying for Feist's spotlight with her energy. The tall one on the right seemed to hardly ever move. And the one in the middle was ... well, in the middle. Still, some fine, crystalline harmonizing. The set list featured reworked versions of "Mushaboom" and some others, plus a new tune that Feist claimed she penned while staring at a big, quiet moon on a camping trip — how Canadian! She even did a pretty neat little crowd-interaction thing where she split us into segments to sing a chord. When you sing onstage at The Ryman, claimed Feist, "The Ryman sings back at you." Literally in this instance.
Anyway, Feist's voice is so, so milky and creamy. It pours over you sleepily, a bit like being coated in Half & Half while someone rubs your tummy. Very somnolent ... and blanket-like ... and ... eyes are slowly closing ... and ... Yipes! We needed a quick smoke break to keep our eyes open. After overhearing a lady in the smoking area refer to Feist's auxiliary guy's horn as a "Cornish" — the word she was trying to think of is "cornet," but we'd still like to see someone try to play a small chicken — we returned for the tail end of the set.
Our eternally astute photog pointed out that Feist's older tunes sounded more like a Feist tribute act covering songs from Let It Die and The Reminder than like a performance from the sometime Broken Social Scenester herself. It's probably just because she assembled this band primarily to play Metals, but our conspiracy-theorist side is intrigued by the possibility that we were watching an impostor, à la "Paul is dead." Toward the end of her set, the singer (whoever she was) gave Mountain Man the spotlight for a pair of madrigal-type tunes: a bucolic sort of siren song about bright morning stars, and a sillier, hoedown-friendly cover of The Mills Brothers' "How'm I Doin', Hey, Hey." With a couple glasses of wine and these sleepy arrangements — well-played as they may have been — lulling us into dream land, we were all too happy to call it a night. Even if, just like at her Third Man show, she never played her hit, "1234." Just as well.
Knowing just how prone elder statesmen of indie rock are to playing early shows in their middle age, The Spin hauled ass to Exit/In's sold-out affair Friday night, walking past a desperately hopeful line of Johnny-come-latelys begging for tickets and into the opening burst of NYC post-hardcore pioneers Unsane, backed by The Melvins' Dale Crover on drums. Die-hards of these cult noise-metal trailblazers were easily visible, as they identified themselves by throwing both fists in the air whilst screaming along. Angular, frenetic and faintly melodic, Unsane occasionally broke out a harmonica or slide guitar to remind us why they've never been your average hardcore act.
Shoulder to shoulder, nuts to butts, we found ourselves encased midshow within a wall of pure man muscle and black cotton tees. In fact, when we closed our eyes for about 10 seconds, the sheer amount of testosterone in the air made us feel almost as if we were at a hockey game. No surprise, mind you, given that these bands have carved their niche into the more aggro end of the punk spectrum.
To the theme of Blazing Saddles, sludgy godfathers The Melvins took the stage, Crover still covered in Unsane's sweat, and singer-guitarist Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne's white, frizzy mane of corkscrew curls being just the first sign that we were in for a magnificent beating. Dressed in a long, black robe with a technicolor collar, Osborne looked every bit the menacing elder wizard of doom metal.
Kicking off with "Dog Island" from 2008's Nude With Boots, the set twisted, shouted, ebbed and flowed through roughly a baker's dozen of standouts culled mostly from their career's latter half, the oldest cut by far being the title track to 1992's Lysol. Swooping up and down through maniacally motorized burners like the theatrically Queen-esque call-and-responder "Water Glass" — and lending their more traditional, lumbering low frequencies to a cover of The Wipers' "Youth of America" — The Melvins razzle and dazzle more along the lines of a Vegas spectacular than a metal show — yet another page no doubt taken from their often-cited idols KISS.
Where there would normally come a few seconds of downtime for tuning and banter, there was instead a unique kinetic, polyrhythmic dual drum solo routine between every song, creating segues, merges and complex intros and outros to each tune. Additional backup vocals from Crover, co-drummer Cody Willis and bassist Jared Warren brought a warm and guttural accompaniment to Buzzo's epic groan.
Admittedly, it'd have been nice to hear "Night Goat," "Hooch" or anything from Bullhead, but if we learned anything, it's that these guys have plenty of stuff hot off the grill — we're just not quite as endeared to it yet. But that doesn't make it not awesome.