The mighty Quin
Ah, Saturday night — the champion of nights, the king of evenings. The Spin doesn't know what in the hell was up with March, but it seems like we did a lot of work and shit — shit that wasn't just going to shows and hanging out with the badass folks who populate this city of ours. That ain't The Spin's style. But there was no work to be done on Saturday, unless you count downing beers and watching puppet shows at Third Man Records as work. Which we don't. An evening spent with New Orleans' Quintron and Miss Pussycat is the very opposite of work. Thank the Maker.
So when we arrived at Third Man rocking a seriously hoppy buzz — we might have missed the East Nashville Beer Fest, but that doesn't mean we missed out on all the day drinking — we were struck by how much Jack White's clubhouse felt even more like Pee-wee's Playhouse than usual — we think that taxidermied elephant head on the wall may have been talking to us. We're pretty sure that TMR didn't have a tiny pterodactyl last time we were there, and we're pretty sure we saw Miss Yvonne talking to the kids from Nashville's Dead over in the DJ booth. Or, y'know, the very Miss Yvonne-esque Miss Pussycat had her own puppet show set up onstage. But we swear to God the damn elephant was winking at us.
And about that puppet show — that sure was one heaping helping of WTF-hilarity, right? There was this snake, and these drops, and maybe there was a moral to the story? Something about furry alligator creatures and rain clouds and ... yeah, we were bemused and confused, and that was the perfect way to set the mood for some serious rump shaking. We of The Spin are simple folk, and really all we need out of life is some organ and a strong backbeat, which — puppet shows aside — are about all you're going to get from a Quintron and Miss Pussycat concert. Unless of course the legendary Oblivians — hands-down one of the greatest garage-rock bands of all time — just happen to show up and sit in on what sounds like a rocked-out rendition of the popular NOLA-centric zydeco song "Call the Police."
Which happened. Which, holy fuckin' fuck, totally happened! The Oblivians have been in town recording at the, um, other studio owned by a member of an internationally famous garage-rock duo, but they took time out from layin' it down with Dan A. to party at Jack's house. Which, of course, makes sense, as the last LP The Oblivians made was with Quintron back in '97. And now we get to cross "see The Oblivians" off our bucket list. You know it's a good day when you've got a buzz before sundown and you get to unexpectedly accomplish long-held life goals without even trying. And then to go back into the rump-shaking swamp-rock of Quintron and his Drum Buddy — the crazy contraption he invented that makes beats using a light bulb and a canister with patterns cut in it and a series of tubes that we don't understand — as if this is the sort of thing that happens on the regular? Well, that was pretty awesome. An incredible evening of wacky high jinks, dirty grooves and childhood dreams come true. Fuck yeah Saturday!
United States of Jesco
The Spin made it to the Exit/In in time to catch the acts that opened for legendary West Virginia dancer and vocalist Jesco White, and the evening turned into something far more interesting than any admirer of White's art could have predicted. Being the civilized sort that we are, we had long ago internalized the goofy and oddly inoffensive offensiveness that Jesco has brought to the world in the name of Southern culture. What Sunday night's marathon celebration of bad whiskey, warm beer and cut-off blue jeans made clear is how cunningly the cult of Jesco has come to symbolize unapologetically raucous American behavior.
Nashville band Slim Chance and the Can't Hardly Playboys put on a show that combined rockabilly with badass guitar and fiddle. The Spin always enjoys songs about such neglected subjects as food stamps and shooting domestic partners who don't do right, and singer Jake Cox lived up to his mohawk-meets-overalls fashion sense. The power trio Beitthemeans boogied with slide guitar, while Pick up the Snake also rocked hard. Country songwriter Roger Alan Wade sang about butt-ugly sluts and other wonders of nature, and he was accompanied by a saxophonist whose playing reminded The Spin of Boots Randolph in the throes of a four-day bender — that's a compliment.
Jesco came out, bedecked in pants that featured a whiskey bottle and sporting a biker headband with a feather in it. For most of his set, he simply danced around in that inimitable way familiar to everyone who has seen the 1991 Dancing Outlaw documentary and the more recent The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Jesco was self-possessed, lip-syncing — sans microphone — to a live rendering of "Rocky Top," and finally singing a few lines into the mic along with Hank Williams Jr.'s recording of "Family Tradition."
Looking nobly ravaged, and coyly pulling a strand of hair over his eyes in teasing fashion, Jesco danced as video of his life played in the background. The Spin approves of this high-concept, post-modern stuff, and when he reappeared onstage after a break, he sang and played harmonica to the inspired sludge-rock backing of Pick up the Snake. His mostly indecipherable vocals and crazed harmonica proved that White — known for his imitations of such figures as Elvis Presley — is a rocker of weird power. The late-'60s Frank Zappa protégé Wild Man Fischer has nothing on Jesco.
In fact, The Spin was put in mind of Fischer, Zappa, Alice Cooper and The GTOs, who represented the Los Angeles underground music scene of the '60s in the same way Jesco and his rabid followers exemplify Nashville's tradition of outlaw country. The performers were devoted to rude and funny explorations of what it means to be a nonconformist in a part of the country whose wild energy has undeniable roots in conservatism, and Jesco is a symbol of that energy. Toward the end of his part of the show, Jesco mumbled a few lines from John Fogerty's "Proud Mary" — a strangely intimate moment. The show was about music and the uncontrollable way it can affect its audience, and Jesco may even be aware of just how revolutionary that concept is.