The Spin isn't often the first to admit to being slightly out of the loop on occasion. For example, we thought wearing a velour jacket to a metal show Friday night at Exit/In would be an ironic, hilarious statement of some sort. And perhaps it might have been if we'd gone to a metal show.
We walked through the doors at approximately 9:34 p.m. to find this program already in progress, and openers Radio Moscow midway through one of many high-speed bluesy jams. They were in front of a trippy backdrop we soon noticed was being operated manually by an actual dude with multicolored liquids and an overhead projector. That wasn't the only thing obviously old-school about Radio Moscow. Clearly channeling the glory days of the power trio (à la Blue Cheer, Cream and Hendrix), these three bump the energy and tempos up to match modern tastes and shred extensively on over-the-top, marathon bluesy freak-outs with first-class precision and a cohesion tighter than the lid on your granny's jar of pickled eggs. Though we were probably in no condition to notice if he was among the crowd, we later learned that local big man on campus and Black Key Dan Auerbach produced the band's first album.
Speaking of the crowd, this was a big one. Sold out by no means, but definitely packed enough to make the room feel what we like to call "cozy," this crowd was a tough one to pinpoint. The long-hairs, black denims and bushy beards we expected to rub elbows with were primarily onstage, facing a crowd of mostly North Face jackets and baseball caps.
Sweden's Graveyard was barely into their second song before we started wondering just why it is Swedish bands are always so freaking awesome. From Hellacopters to Dungen, Miike Snow, The Knife, Refused, Jens Lekman, The Hives, Robyn and ABBA — not to mention the endless list of black-metal acts for which the region is notorious — the causes behind this radically lopsided awesome-to-suck ratio are certainly worthy of scholastic investigation.
Regardless, we haven't seen the Swedes rock a crowd like this since Black Friday at Ikea. Tearing many of the same pages from the Big Book of Hard Rock History as Radio Moscow, Graveyard wanted a little more than to melt faces with a bloody-eared, noodly assault. Rather, it was the dynamics between their peaks and troughs that provided the nuances responsible for blowing our minds on this one. Shifting swiftly but subtly from full-throttle stoner blues to gently rollicking, jazzy, folky interludes felt more like an acid-fueled journey to the dark side and back than a prolonged psyched-out kick to the groin. Neither of which, we should note, would be a bad thing.
Friday night was the first night of Mercy Lounge's Ninth Anniversary Weekend Celebration, an annual free event right smack in the middle of winter, and an event that's as good an excuse as any to pull out of deep hibernation and drink with friends. Not that there was much winter weather to brave — the only unpleasant thing about the journey to Mercy Lounge was the music coming from Cannery Ballroom, some "Kids Today!" dubstep that The Spin honestly thought was construction noise for the new roundabout at Eighth and Lafayette. Anyway, it was either Caspa, Squake, Oreo or Paerbaer that we were hearing, and we hope the kids appreciated the new lack of sightline-blocking poles!
Ponychase's Jordan Caress serendipitously progressed The Spin's "hang out with friends" theme by playing a song called "Friends," which, she explained, "is about having really good friends." We've still only ever seen the synth-pop four-piece live and had heard they were currently recording. We planned to confirm that after their set — luckily, a friend who's into that sort of thing asked if we had heard their "secret demos" and declared them "phenomenal." This guy knows his secret demos and his synthpop, so this was indeed exciting news.
The upbeat feelings-rock of Kyle Andrews acquits itself well with swayings and sing-alongs, and the space between the audience and the stage disappeared quickly as his set began. At one point during Andrews' performance, The Spin landed in the restroom and was torn between trying to tell if he was using Auto-Tune and eavesdropping on fellow showgoers who had trouble finding the venue. To wit: "You could have told me 'hood landmarks, like Centerstage across the street!" No offense to Andrews or quick back-up vocalist Aaron Robinson, but we are glad we didn't miss that gem of a conversation.
"Give it to me straight," How I Became the Bomb's Jon Burr requested after their set. We informed him that their first song, one we had not heard before, bore a resemblance to Tom Jones' "She's a Lady," and we considered it a good thing. We also noted that "Killing Machine" continues to be great, and the beat-keeping claps confirm it.
The Spin never really had an opinion about Keegan DeWitt one way or another, but boy do we love Wild Cub, which is basically Keegan DeWitt. It was just the group's second show, but the intricate melodic pop even led one of Mercy Lounge's more discerning employees to announce his positive feelings for the band. Now we feel kind of bad for not forming a solid opinion on DeWitt, for whatever reason it was. Because seriously, Wild Cub, five of five stars, would listen again.
Cheer Up Charlie Daniels, unfortunately, had to compete with the majesty of nature — the night was unseasonably warm and the smoking porch quickly became crowded with people viewing the lightning storm in the distance and checking their phones for tornado warnings. The promised threat of a downpour (which eventually arrived) thinned out the remaining crowd, leaving only a few die-hard broto-funk fans to watch ReLapse and their wrongly worded cover of "Virtual Insanity," which was a good cue to wander home in the rain.