After a relatively slow weekend — and even a cocaine binge on a Tilt-a-Whirl would seem slow after The Spin spent last weekend in Austin — Sunday provided some much-needed redemption via The End.
A decent crowd magically oozed from out of the shadows while locals D. Watusi manned the lonely instruments onstage. The Spin has dropped more than our share of ink on Watusi if for no other reasons than they're a solid band that seems to open practically every show we go to lately. Regardless, at their sweetly tempered, summery psych-pop start, we kinda longed for D's (aka Dillon Watson's) riffing and rollicking days in Kindergarten Circus. That is, until Watson shifted up a gear or two with each song until he was shredding like a madman through a series of extended instrumental psychotropic dirges.
Next was our first glimpse of OGG — a gangly quartet of awkward adolescents with a refreshing predilection for amped-up, Southern-style jangle pop. Though they've got more than enough angst to transcend their inelegance, these dudes haven't quite busted open their shell. Judging by the amount of time spent tuning their 12-string guitar between songs, these buds haven't quite flourished, but they're off to a better start than most.
Cy Barkley and the Way Outsiders too fall under the "more coverage than most" canopy. Again, not because their relentless onslaught doesn't deserve it. But we risk plagiarizing ourselves while finding new ways to describe hulking frontman Cy Barkley's purist approach to first-wave hardcore. Still, Barkley's one-two punch of brute force and anthemic tuneage is better than anything Tesco Vee is doing these days.
While this cavalcade of locals would seem more than enough to fill a proper bill, it was just a warm-up to make way for Austin's Mind Spiders. Featuring members of The Marked Men, Wax Museums and Bad Sports — among others — these dudes are a veritable garage-pop supergroup whose mastery of hooks and harmonies is so deft it's almost devious. What may seem like a decent enough power-pop jam suddenly sneaks in a recklessly catchy chorus before our brains have a chance to wander. Finding a fast and loose balance between Ramones-y pop and organ-fueled garage stomp, Mind Spiders capture the best of both in the least assuming way possible. Definitely rocket-fueled, but not in your face, these carefully crafted gems do occasionally erupt into controlled bursts of racket that lock directly back into their melodious groove — just to let you know, it's never safe to stop listening.
'Roo the day, part two
So the winners of Road to Bonnaroo 2012's second installment — and thus the latest addition to Bonnaroo's official lineup — were Wild Cub. Second place was Five Knives, and third place was Evan P. Donohue.
With that out of the way, why doesn't the company that owns the parking lot across the street from Mercy Lounge just build a multi-level garage? The Spin was directed to distant parking by no fewer than three attendants, who were all trying their best to corral confused drivers and yell warnings to oblivious pedestrians that maybe it is not such a hot idea to cut in front of that SUV. Garage. Entrance. Exit. It's too common-sense to work.
According to Drew Mischke, the night's MC, eventual third-place winner and first act up Evan P. Donohue wanted to enter the stage on a motorcycle, but he settled for using a special guest on his last song: Caitlin Rose. But Rose, for all her charms, is not a motorcycle, and we really think the exhaust fumes would have enhanced our appreciation for his breezy-but-loud pop rock (as, in this case, backed by The Weeks).
It was about this time we noticed that Mercy Lounge had pretty well filled up, and neo-funk outfit Marquee Mayfield ended up performing to a decent-sized crowd. The Spin loves a horn section as much as the next dork, and we get the impression that this sort of thing would go over very well at Bonnaroo. But the Jamiroquai-inspired band seemed to send too many folks to the smoking deck. Kind of a shame.
And now for something completely different. Five Knives (featuring folks from The Worsties and maybe a band that rhymes with "Moona J-Lo"), clad in what appeared to be Rorschach-style face masks, active-rocked their way through an incredibly loud set. Literally vibrating from toes to teeth, we had to move to the back of the room, but then the problem was too much bass and we couldn't understand shit. Not that there was much to understand. It was surprising to learn they ended up as the runners-up, because it seemed like there was minimal crowd reaction when they were done — it was awkward.
Winners Wild Cub were next, and don't ask how, but the Chris Martin-meets-"Bastards of Young" melody on the first of three new songs hit that elusive sweet spot of melody plus sing-along that every pop-based band should aim for. Deserving winners, no gimmicks. Unless you consider a prominent snare drum a gimmick.
Static Revival was "like .38 Special meets Incubus," said a nearby companion, whereas The Spin described them more along the lines of what you'd listen to if you're getting finger-banged next to a creek — 105.9 drive time. Southern rock, is what we're saying. You get it.
As soon as they were done, we realized it was about that time the commitment to being a fair observer becomes trying, not just for The Spin, but for the whole audience. People were slowly starting to drip out of the room, even for the ever-popular Tesla Rossa and The Running — bands that both fall into the "these are bands" category of bands. No huge surprises. Trad-country songstress and Scene fave Nikki Lane was the unlucky artist shafted with the last slot, playing to a room roughly half-full. Everyone was tired. It's not her fault. At long last, tabs were closed, votes were cast, and we finally managed to get the hell out of there, across a deserted parking lot back to our car that was somehow a block farther away than we remembered.