Hymns and her
Not even warm summer rain, coupled with lightning flashes that lit up The Gulch's looming condo skeletons like million-dollar X-rays, could dampen the enthusiasm of the folks lined up last night outside the Mercy Lounge. "I want her to be my wife," mooned the tall, bookish, bespectacled fellow up the line. His companions must've looked puzzled, so he helpfully added, "She plays the ukelele, you know." "She" would be Zooey Deschanel, the petite, porcelain-skinned goddess-next-door of Elf and Mumford and All the Real Girls, now embarked on a second career as a folk-pop thrush as part of the duo She & Him. While every lovestruck male in the sold-out sweatbox room was mentally casting himself as "him," the role was more than ably filled by indie-folk guitar hero M. Ward, her collaborator on the Volume One CD. Backed by a small, supple band capable of pulling off a Pet Sounds mini-symphonic swell or a gospel rave-up on cue, the two gave off the sweetly awkward charm of officemates afraid of tipping off everyone to their mutual crush. At first, tambourine clutched in fist like a life preserver, Deschanel seemed as remote a presence onstage as she is immediate on film. But she loosened up as the show progressed. Her conversational singing, delivered in a smoky-sweet, matter-of-fact voice pitched somewhere between Feist and Billie Holiday, suits not only the postwar-pop reverie of her songs (which evoke everything from The Carter Family to The Lennon Sisters) but also the sympathetic settings Ward cooks up for them. Never noodly, always surprising, Ward's rhythmic, densely clustered solos staved off the threat of twee, adding a welcome white-light-white-heat flourish to "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" that only made its sugary bear hug that much harder to resist. After the tent-revival close of "Sweet Darlin'," with Deschanel pogoing in open-mouthed glee, the encores were somehow even better: a gorgeous four-part-harmony version of the mournful "Tennessee Waltz" (joined by Karen Elson, Jack White's wife) followed by a romp with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings through Ward's "Magic Trick" and The Carter Family's "Hello Stranger." Opening act Charlie Louvin may have drawn some WTF stares from the crowd at first, but the 81-year-old country legend had the room clapping along to the Louvin Brothers classic "Cash on the Barrelhead" by the end of his 45-minute set. (Yes, for once The Spin arrived for the opening act. We promise not to make a habit of it.) "I'm not in great voice," admitted Louvin, but his good humor, old-pro polish and heavy-duty catalog carried the day. The most punk thing all night was the blood-freezing Louvins standard "Knoxville Girl," a pitiless murder ballad dating back to the 1740s. Chalk one up for old age.
Fist-pumping folk freak-outs
Thursday's "welcome back" show for Brooklyn post-folk quartet Grizzly Bear—their first in Nashville since a walk-in-only performance three years ago at The 5 Spot—had latecomers overflowing into the $3 lot and listening to the first notes of recent Nashville convert David Vandervelde from the Mercy Lounge front steps. As it was a week before his latest album, Waiting for the Sunrise, would hit the streets, Vandervelde's set was mostly new material that an unfamiliar audience could only tap their foot along to. Grizzly Bear, on the other hand, having just come off several weeks in the studio, and primed to experiment with a handful of new tunes, didn't have so tepid a reception. Though they premiered the song on Letterman late last month, their first-ever club performance of "Two Weeks" set the bar high for the night, and gave momentum to a floor-shaking take on "Little Brother (Electric)" from last year's Friend EP. Even those songs more familiar to Grizzly fans had been retooled—such as a punchy, off-beat "Colorado" and an entirely renovated rendition of Horn of Plenty's "Fix It"—so that the entire set felt fresh. Not many bands can pull off instrumental freak-outs with looped flute and clarinet, or gentle zither strums set to jazzy, snare-popping drum rolls, and still have people pumping their fists in the air with every note. Grizzly Bear are a rare talent, indeed, and this show was every bit proof of it.
If you listen very closely, you can hear all our cool points swirling down the shitter
You know that old saying about how the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray, especially when you've spent all week preparing yourself to shit on an over-produced poodle-rock revival band? Well, we proved that adage this week at the Sommet Center by thoroughly enjoying the awesomeness that is a live Def Leppard show. We were totally ready to make jokes about acid-washed jeans and middle-aged women with egregiously teased hair, but frankly we were having too much fun to really get our bile going. Mind you, this wasn't enjoyment for the sake of hipster cred, as in, "Ya, I, like, looove the '80s. It's so, like, ironic. How do my sidebangs look?" This was, "Holy shit, a band is trying really hard to keep us entertained!" We spend so much time listening to young'ns whining about how difficult it is to have a college degree and an Internet connection that we forget how awesome the whole arena-rock spectacle of unbridled silliness can be. Guitar solos through giant stacks of amps are really fucking rad—who cares if the dude holding the ax is old enough to be our illegitimate father? We also think that younger bands might want to rethink the "thesaurus and a lit degree" approach—there is something incurably enjoyable about songs with hooks and choruses played at enormous volumes with thousands of people singing along.
Not many dynamos
The sun was still out when we showed up at Wolfcastle for the second annual Diorama-rama, and yet we had missed the festivities of field day, for shame. Maybe things got started a little early, being that about two hours were spent hanging around getting sloshed before people really started showing up. Not a bad thing. So Many Dynamos either cancelled or didn't show up, leading us to believe that they had heard a little more than they'd like to know about Murfreesboro. Chickens. 'Round about 9 p.m., Missouri's Target Market took the floor. Considering they were playing a one-off date, they had a seriously short set of really good Dismemberment Plan-esque indie-pop. Meemaw were up next and they freaking tore it down. This is how house shows are supposed to be: sweaty-dancing, beer-slinging, streamer-rippin' unadulterated fun. They ended it with a rad version of The Stooges' "TV Eye." Oh yeah, they had dioramas too. The theme this year was puberty, and that led to a wealth of strange and hilarious ideas. "Dreamcatcher" was basically just a sock glued up—yeah, you know what that's about. Best in Show went to "My First Menstruation," which was WOW. It was basically a plastic-wrap mannequin with a fountain hooked up to give the illusion of a heavy flow kinda day, and an audio loop of a hysterical girl who sounded as though she was birthing an alien.
No, we will not print your dick jokes. Send all dick jokes to email@example.com.