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Next Big Nashville

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Next Big Jazzola
We started our Next Big Nashville '09 on Wednesday night at Grimey's for The Southern Girls Rock 'n' Roll Camp Showcase. Smack Talk (all 14-ish) were first, and their camcorder-wielding moms were right up front. They did two covers, a Nashville-appropriate "Steady, As She Goes" and the one we had to Google because we're old, "Into the Night" by Santana and Chad Kroeger. We much preferred the Raconteurs song—good bass playing, a charming gum-chewing guitarist and a girl who is obviously has a voice for pop music singing a rock song equal fun times.

How Cozy! were the second band up, and damn. We had been chatting with their mentor, who said they were "really, really good," but we figured she was just doing her job. This shit is for real. With their synth player out sick, the drums-and-guitar two-piece was louder, faster and older than we were expecting. They played all original songs, switched instruments (!), and even busted out a purple accordion (!) for one number. Though still a little loose around the edges, How Cozy! already has one huge advantage over a great many local bands we've seen: With no taste for wankish digression, they know how to properly end a song.

Phosphorescent may be a naturally mellow act in the studio, but the Brooklyn outfit showed us a whole new angle on their unique brand of psychedelic country at The End. Normally languid songs like "Wolves" and "A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise" had been retooled into, oddly enough, Southern rock anthems full of woozy guitar solos and angst-ridden swells. While the transformation felt a little misleading for those familiar with the odd beauty of their albums, Phosphorescent caught their stride during the second half of their set with a handful of Willie Nelson covers from their recent homage To Willie.

Taking up longneck odes such as "The Party's Over" and "Reasons to Quit" (sadly, "I Gotta Get Drunk" was absent from the set list), the six-piece gave us a needed boost of artless raucousness. What's more, the band offered a sneak peek at a couple of fresh tracks that hadn't even seen the studio yet—ones they had apparently vowed not to play live. Needless to say, it was a welcome breach of protocol. These guys are welcome back anytime.

Thursdays ("Little Fridays") can be rough nights to navigate for music lovers, and doubly so during a festival. You want fun, entertainment, rock 'n' roll and good times, but you have to work tomorrow! What is one to do? Fuck it, that's what.

By the time we got to Cannery Row on Thursday we were well on our way to wasted after an excellent VIP party featuring free booze, mind-blowing ribs from Jimmy Carl's Lunch Box and the smooth soul sounds of local up-and-comer William Davenport. It was a seriously boss party, even if they were sorta skimpin' on the vodka.

We walked into The Cannery Ballroom to find The Billy Goats' MC Iller dry humping a mic stand for an audience of 10, maybe 15, onlookers—hey, 8 o'clock at the Cannery is a tough spot, so you can't blame a guy for trying to keep himself entertained. The tracks from their newly minted album There's No U in Team sounded hella dope over the big sound system, and the handful of people there were obviously having a ball. Biscuits and Gravy were up next and dropped a heavy set of big-beat funk that has us convinced their drummer can destroy any other drummer in town.

We ducked out to 12th & Porter to catch an awesome solo set from B and G frontman Future, and by the time we got back to Cannery it was pretty evident that the free Citizen Cope show had siphoned off all of the douche-tards that would usually be all up on Lord T and Eloise like flies on shitty music.

Upstairs at Mercy Lounge, the indie-schmindy upbeat throwback-pop night was in full effect, and we were quite pleased that the crowd trickled in as consistently as it did. Though the lineups at this year's festival were more genre-specific, we were worried the all-town rocking would split the difference. The show itself? The night comes back in flashes.

We see a Mercy Lounge uneasily occupied by the early-night, still-sober crowd. We see Bad Cop play songs, but we do not remember them. We speak to King of Australia Dean Shortland, who was enthusiastic about Elle Macho. We see Tristen wearing a dress and recall singing along to "Matchstick Murder." We remember discussing with a friend that Jordan Caress was tearin' it up on bass. Did Eric Lehning mix his musical metaphors and wear Elton John sunglasses while singing into a Frank Sinatra microphone? No one will ever know. And oh, How I Became the Bomb: You always make us dance. Drunkenly dance away our Thursday malaise.

We kicked off Friday night with NBN's boldest experiment yet: The Honky Tonk Takeover. Four venues on Lower Broadway typically relegated strictly to acts of the country variety reluctantly opened their stages to some of Music City's finest rock 'n' roll bands. We started things off at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Downstairs, the place looked like any other night of the year: a house full of tourists, baby boomers and regulars enjoying a set of standards by the house bands. Upstairs, however, Black Diamond Heavies were rocking a fierce and filthy rumble they've described themselves as the "punk-ass blues."

There was a healthy turnout, not surprising since despite being a local act, a Nashville performance is rare for this duo. We caught a few minutes of The Clutters' roof-rattling garage flavor before heading across the street to Paradise Park to catch Dixie Whiskey and the Branded Sons. Dixie's outlaw swagger didn't seem too out of place in the kitschy club. Regular patrons seemed to nod along with ease as the small flock of friends and family the band brought out shouted, heckled and cheered, and offered Branded Sons' countrified rock 'n' roll the same courtesy.

From there, we arrived at The Cannery Ballroom a little bit late because we were sequestered at Paradise park by one of Dixie Whiskey's moms, who was none too enthused with our repeated requests for songs by Alabama. After double-digit tequila drinks and a pitcher of Natty Ice we wanted to hear "Tennessee River"—you know, like, when in Rome and shit, but whatevs. We caught the tail-end of Amy LaVere—which made us wish we hadn't pissed off Ma Dukes, 'cause it sounded real good—but we did get a tour of the Cannery's new underground bunker/green room, which is pretty fucking swank. We bro'd down for a bit with former Murfreesboroan and current Lucero steel player Todd Beene before the Memphis Mayhem crew hit the stage with a killer set of true blue Bluff City rock 'n' roll. Lucero plus horns equals awesome, just so you know.

We discovered that all of Exit/In's proceedings had been delayed 45 minutes because of a mix-up regarding the venue's published "door" time versus their announced "bands start" time. It certainly worked out in Bear in Heaven's favor, though, because there was a relatively sizable crowd gathered for the Brooklyn-facial-hair-sporting four-piece, whose sound was something like a less compelling Yeasayer.

Cortney Tidwell was up next with that impossibly immaculate backing band of hers—sans the typically ubiquitous William Tyler, who's currently touring as a solo act. The pair of pumped-up little buddies whooping it up and clapping off-time throughout Tidwell's set—which ended with our jam, "17 Horses"—were something of a breath of fresh air. Hey, their earnest, fuck-studyin', just-smoked-a-big-ole-joint fist pumping was a welcomed break from the notorious arms-folded Nashville pose.

We briefly considered slipping out with our beer concealed, but instead opted to be good little NBN attendees and skull it quickly before slipping across the street to The End for Twin Tigers. As we anticipated, they turned out to be kind of a mini-U2 with their reverb-y post-punk. Then it was back to Exit/In, where the Rock Block had officially just become the Drone Zone, as Disappears kept the fuzzy psychedelia flowing. They're from Chicago and they fucking sound like it. Back at The End, Kindergarten Circus' set was more sparsely attended than we cared to see, but the badass little crew of garage-punkers tore it up per usual, possibly playing the loudest set we saw all night.

The Exit/In was packed to the back the moment Austin's kings (and queen) of super-psych drone and festival headliners The Black Angels commenced. We especially enjoyed selections from 2006's Passover, which came with all the fuzzy darkness you'd expect. But six songs were all we could take in Exit/In's sweltering, elbow-to-elbow crowd. We hustled through the rain to The End to close out the night with a set from Eureka Gold, who broke out a couple of brand-new and very satisfying folk numbers. We witnessed seven strong sets and somehow weren't plowed into by the NBN shuttle in all of our gratuitous show-hopping. Sounds like a good night to us.

Saturday night, we walked into The End in time to catch the debut of art-punk trio Wright's Jambuliyea Fest dealing out a badass rendition of Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge." Following were short, sweet, fast and fun punk rock sets by CY and then The Cannonmen. The high evening's highlight was easily Natural Child, who play quirky punk jams executed with an open-chord jangle underneath scream-sung melodies—which sounds like the standard formula for most Infinity Cat bands, only this time it's all a little hazier, lazier and more calculated. Closing with a precisely sloppy rendition of The Who's "Baba O'Riley," they gave us exactly what our week had been missing: a rousing, drunken sing-a-long.

We jaunted across Elliston so as not to miss former Pink Spider Matt Friction and his Cheap Shots—a decidedly more mature continuation of the Spiders with tunes that'd easily feel at home on Stiff Records in the late '70s. We were also lucky enough to catch the homecoming gig/near train-wreck of Nashville-born former Be Your Own Pet singer Jemina Pearl, who has since set out on a solo venture. It's no secret Pearl has a reputation for sass and ill humor, and it only took a few technical difficulties to bring her trademark vexation to the surface. In all fairness, her mic kept going out and the mix was less than perfect to say the least. However, after the sound guy caught a verbal beat-down from Pearl's mother and tour manager, her demeanor improved radically and she delivered the rest of her surfy pop and punk tunes with a smile and minimal snark.

We rolled up to The 5 Spot at 8:45. That's earlier than anyone not in Stopgap—or there to gawk at members of Pavement—have ever shown up to the East Side haunt in the history of peeps haunting the East Side. Still, we managed to miss openers Bows and Arrows. We'll just assume that—because they named their band after a Walkmen record—their set was great. Luckily we did manage to catch Hands Down Eugene, who are still hands down the best stoner Americana band in town. By the time indie-fatigable rock 'n' roll "animals" And the Relatives hit the stage the Spot was pretty packed. Still, this just felt like your garden-variety 5 Spot show, but with laminates. ATR brought the crowd to their knees with a tour de force combination of awesome, totally rad and fucking badass.

Not that it should have come as a surprise, but the band that really banged us in the jazzola was Bad Friend. We've always had an affinity for this band, but tonight they were on fire with all sorts of Sub-Pop-circa-'93 slacker fury as they treated us to material from their forthcoming full-length. Band members would neither confirm nor deny rumors of an impending breakup, so we can only hope they remain Bad Friends and the record doesn't end up becoming a posthumous release. Closing out the night—and ultimately the festival for this chapter of The Spin—were Chris Crofton and the Alcohol Stuntband, who had festival-goers throwing their VIP passes at the stage while the band serenaded us with sordid tales of cocaine abuse, insane girlfriends, getting lost in bad neighborhoods and bloody wrestling matches—pretty much all the things Next Big Nashville is about.

Has anyone seen Seth Graves? Last we heard, he was [redacted] with his [redacted] in the [redacted] of a [redacted]. Please email thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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