The Privates: short, slanted and sharp-witted
The Privates’ set Friday night at The Sutler was a showcase for the angsty histrionics of frontman Dave Paulson, who, with his pageboy haircut and anguished vocals, milked it like a petulant teen throwing a smirking tantrum. With Ryan Norris of Character on guitar and keyboard, Keith Lowen of Verde on bass and Rollum Haas of The Features on drums, The Privates romped through a short set of left-of-center pop-rock that ranged from punchy and visceral to quiet and meditative, often in the same song. At times, it was evident that the band haven’t been together long: Whether it was Haas and his controlled chaos or Lowen and his overdriven bass, they seemed more at ease with their respective instruments than with each other. And they indulged in none of the between-song banter of more seasoned performers. “We’re The Privates,” Paulson blurted at one point. “Buy our CD.”
The crowd didn’t seem to mind this lack of polish, though. Eclipsing everything, even the smoky heat, was the gleeful abandon with which the band threw themselves into their set. They ended with the propulsive “Pocari Sweat,” its anthemic chorus recalling the wit and energy of a Crooked Rain-era Pavement show without drowning in it.
Sarah Siskind and fognode: sometimes less is more
Sarah Siskind and fognode faced a tough crowd at 12th & Porter’s Playroom last Friday night. The mostly male, buttoned-down audienceat one point I counted four North Face parkaswas there for the headliner, saxophonist Jeff Coffin. Siskind and fognode’s approach, which is dark and linear, couldn’t be more different from Coffin’s hyperactive-funk, and the audience seemed taken aback at first. But by the time they finished their opening song, “Times Square” (from Siskind’s CD, Covered), everyone was paying attention. Siskind gave an engaging performance, her Appalachian drone enhanced by a somber, vulnerable appearance; fognode alternated between a small drum kit and a live ambient rig that included samplers, a pedal steel guitar and his “fogmachine,” a custom-made effects processor. This pared-down setting was perfect for Siskind’s songs, which lose their haunting quality if exposed to too much musicianship and can seem overly similar in solo performance. There’s a lesson to be learned, too, from the way the pair underplayed the room: They took full advantage of 12th & Porter’s top-flight PA system and forced the audience to lean in and listen rather than kill time till the headliner appeared.
Kid Rock and the pleasures of Municipal Auditorium
Who better than Kid Rock to remind fans of the blue-collar pleasures of Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium? Rock’s Feb. 6 show proved what a friendlier, scrappier venue the old concrete hall is compared to its snootier middle-class cousin, Gaylord Entertainment Center. The in-your-face interaction between audience and stage, the we’re-all-in-this-together vibe of the performance and the response, along with the gritty feel of the packed space, gave the auditorium a party atmosphere alien to the Arena, where fans are separated from the performer and each other.
Rock’s shows are call-and-response rallies rather than watch-me spectacles. His talent isn’t in his voice, and it’s only occasionally in his songs; instead, it’s in his ability to push his crowd’s buttons, egging everyone to celebrate working-class themes of hell-raising, family, friends, pride and defiance while drawing on a shared history of hip-hop, Southern rock, country music and arena swagger.
The Municipal was more than up to the task. Once criticized as an out-of-date venue that’s too harsh and archaic for modern entertainment, it handled the crowd with down-home ease. Beer vendors kept up despite enormous demand, and the ticket-holder-to-toilet ratio was more accommodating than at other sold-out shows around town. Once endangered and almost torn down, the Municipal is thriving again, packed with a variety of community-directed bookings. Hopefully, shows like Rock’s will remind concert promoters of the venue’s special place in the city’s musical historyand in its future.