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G-Side, Future, Openmic and Chancellor Warhol at The End, Natural Child, Ranch Ghost and Electric Dollhouse Groovebuggy at Mt. Swag

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Ain't nothing but a G thing

That was a totally different act. The Spin had seen G-Side before they appeared at The End last Wednesday night, but this was a totally different band. Yes, it was the same artists playing the same songs, but in the 15 months since we last saw them, they transformed into a preternatural performance unit — a group so comfortable, so excited and so fluid that we're going to say that we saw a totally different act. Not that G-Side wasn't one of the better hip-hop acts we've seen live even before — they were — but after seeing what they've become, there's no competition. This is hands-down one of the best acts in hip-hop today. The Huntsville, Ala., duo, flanked by two backup singers and a DJ, put on the sort of high-energy, head-bobbin', fist-pumping show that made us fall in love with hip-hop in the first place.

We should probably mention that we were in no mood to be at a hip-hop show when we arrived on Elliston Place. For some reason, the unseasonably warm weather that afternoon set off our allergies something serious — our sinuses were pounding, our head was thumping, and all we really wanted was to chug a bottle of Tussin and pass out. We were also afraid that the crowd would be the same as G-Side's 2010 appearance — y'know, basically nonexistent. But when we arrived and there were more people standing in line to get into the show than had even attended the last gig, we knew we had made the right decision in leaving the house, no matter how much it felt like the Hulk had been let loose in our sinus cavities.

We think the big difference between this year and last is that Nashville has itself a real, honest-to-God hip-hop scene now. Not just pockets of artists doing their own thing, but an actual network of people down to, well, get down. About half of the folks we talked to hadn't even heard G-Side before, but came out on the assumption that with guys like Future, Openmic and Chancellor Warhol on the bill it was bound to be good. And not a single one of them was left unimpressed. Yeah, it helps out the headliners when all their openers throw down super-hard — it was the first time we'd caught Future since his hiatus, Openmic and Ducko dropped a bunch of tracks off their new Molotov album, and Chance was as on-point as ever — but it's huge for the headliners when people are just glad to be there. Good vibes mean great performances, and that's what we got from beginning to end.

One of our favorite things about G-Side is that their albums are like audiophile playgrounds with layers of gorgeous, intricate sounds swirling around the huge kick drums and booming beats. The fact that they managed to bring that clarity and precision into the live arena almost made us lose our wig dome. Honestly one of the best sounding hip-hop shows we've heard in ages — dialed in perfectly to the room, to the crowd — G-Side's set had the crowd moving, grooving and smiling like they had just found a suitcase full of cash. With a set that leaned heavily on their critically lauded latest album Island and was sprinkled with classic cuts from what is now a rather extensive back catalog, the Rocket City crew laid down one of the best shows we've seen all year. Let's hope it doesn't take so long for them to come back next time.

Grand ol' Swag

If you haven't noticed, we at The Spin go to a lot of shows. In fact, doesn't it seem like we're basically always at shows, like, every single freaking week? Well, we are — and the usual loop of venues starts weighing on the side of predictable, week in, week out. En route to the Moon Duo show at The End, a last-minute detour ensued, and we found ourselves deep in the industrial district of Berry Hill at a party house, residential venue and home to half the local band Bad Cop — aptly titled Mt. Swag.

Shoulders bumped shoulders from one wall to the other. Hands grabbed hungrily at a bucket of complimentary premium beer while bottles of mystery booze concealed by paper bags were passed about with no concern for hygiene. Compared to the thought of The End's Bruce Fitzpatrick slingin' us $2 PBR cans in a half-empty room, we'd clearly made a wise decision.

Surely we've Spun openers Denny and the Jets' recent and seemingly endless stream of gigs enough to spare our readers any serious disappointment by having missed their set on Saturday. However, learning the next act's Louisiana origins had us slightly concerned. Seems post-Katrina, The Big Easy and its surrounding communities have turned out hot loads of shitty jam bands that are apparently like cockroaches and will survive the brunt of even the most epic natural disasters. And the name Electric Dollhouse Groovebuggy didn't ease our fears much, either.

But if there's anything The Spin can do well, it's judge the covers of books and act all surprised when our assumptions prove erroneous. These guys rocked a swampy, garage-flavored breed of rock 'n' roll complete with a tiny lady on saxophone that, in its more audible moments (it was goddamn loud in that piece), tickled our fancy just fine.

If you've heard us drop the name of Ranch Ghost a couple dozen times lately, it's with good reason. It's mostly due to the bewilderment that stems from how a crop of dudes barely old enough to buy a beer can churn out authentic, purist, Nuggets-era psychedelic soul that rivals the very legends they're aping.

By the time headliners and now-veteran living-room staples Natural Child started bumping their own retro-seasoned, fried-green psychedelia, every body in this crib was now packed as close to the makeshift stage as possible. Not only has Natty Child's catalog been simmering among the masses long enough to be instantly recognizable, it's also well worth the praise and beckons repeated listening. Hence, sing-alongs and dancetastic reactions were inevitable and all too appropriate.

Unlike your typical venue gig, we weren't shooed out after the bands stopped rockin'. Though the complimentary libations had run dry hours ago, the booze was still flowing like wine — mostly because it was actually wine. Who brings wine to a house show? Mt. Swag does, that's who.

Email thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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