Daze of Our Lives
We're closing in on the dog days of summer, but that didn't stop The Spin and a few hundred others from wandering out to the Rock Block's July 6 festivities — a pair of shows at The End and Exit/In billed as "Summerdaze." The heat hits some harder than others, it would seem, and as we rolled up to Exit right around 9 p.m., we spotted three squad cars, lights ablaze. Turns out one distraught individual, we were later told, had made a scene, gotten needlessly physically aggressive, mouthed off to the cops and subsequently been arrested. Some cool tunes and cool vibes, we thought, might have done the guy some good.
Promised Land Sound, aka The Artists Who Will Forever Be Known as Just "Promised Land," geared up at Exit/In. The whole set — which featured material from last fall's Stoned Eagle EP, their upcoming self-titled LP via Paradise of Bachelors and fresh tunes whose ink was barely dry — wore like a favorite pair of jeans. Even pared back to a trio, Promised Land Sound rang the rafters with lean and rough-edged country rock, the brothers Scala locking into the groove like Mr. Spock in a mind-meld behind Sean Thompson's sprightly silverface chicken pickin', with Thompson and bassman Joey Scala on perfectly ragged Parsons-Hillman harmonies.
Oh, sweet psychedelia. What is there not to love? With but three chords to embrace and the dark shimmer of a vintage organ riding atop, it is a drug in and of itself, which has taken Nashville by storm in the past couple of years, thanks to more local bands than we care to list. That said, Majestico — who was kicking off festivities over at The End — was doing it well before most of them bought their first amp. Backed as usual these days by sister act Fly Golden Eagle, frontman Graham Fitzpenn echoes that familiar, foggy stomp intrinsic to the genre, though his is far more crisp and precise than most of his whipper-snapping contemporaries.
Back at Exit, mighty morphin' comediennes Birdcloud appeared in new costumes: We thought Jasmin Kaset might be cheering for the Russian national hockey team circa 1980, and a buddy pointed out that Makenzie Green would fit in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. Singing and playing remained big steps up from the boozy shamble we've known and loved, which makes lines like "Sang CCR after huffin' gasoline / Threw up potatah salad on the kar-ay-oak machine" even funnier, and warnings that "your songs all suck" more pointed. Kicking off with the anthem "Saving Myself for Jesus," the duo focused on newer material with a darker tinge, including a perfect country-ballad parody about "learning life's lessons the hard way," complete with sing-along chorus and hand claps. The duo did, unfortunately, experience some technical difficulties, with Kaset's guitar cutting in and out throughout the set. A borrowed quarter-inch courtesy of Kingston Springs bassist Alex Geddes seemed to correct the problem, but not before a couple of frustrating pauses and false starts — but the gals took it in stride.
Across the street, the youngsters of What Up English were bringing a singable take on dance punk (à la, say, The Rapture or, to be generous, Gang of Four) to what was now shaping up to be a room as packed (to scale, mind you) as its counterpart on the other side of Elliston. Complete with frenzied bass lines, hi-hat-powered disco beats and plinking guitar licks, English keeps the chops choppy and the melodies smooth — not to mention keeping the audience, however young they appeared to be this evening, moving. It is refreshing to see an audience enjoying a dance-rock band via the purpose for which they were intended (dancin', y'all).
At the bigger club, The Kingston Springs rocketed out of the gate with "Sweet Susie," playing to the biggest crowd yet, in which exchange students with electronic cigarettes mingled cheerfully with joint-sparking noodle dancers. The Springs have been taking it one step at a time, and that persistence and patience has been paying dividends: Three years of diligent regional touring went into last fall's debut full-length and new single "Secret Game," and have yielded Daytrotter sessions and slots at Hangout and Beale St. Music Festival. The group's method of adding contemporary indie-rock flourishes to surf- and country-infused garage went down smooth, but the highlight was undoubtedly The Guess Who's "These Eyes," in which frontman Ian Ferguson channeled Burton Cummings with joy and sincere ferocity.
At first it seemed as though there were as many members of Sol Cat on The End's stage as there were crowd members. Like What Up English, Sol Cat also has an affinity for the more kinetic roots of indie rock — though the thump of their grooves runs at a considerably slower tempo, and their melodies seem transmitted via The Strokes on a tropical vacation.
Turbo Fruits' last full-length, Butter, is solid work, but songs like "Ain't the Only One" just have more bite when delivered from a smoke-shrouded stage, complete with tossed beers, jump kicks and crowd surfing. Exit/In's audience dwindled by midnight, but those who bailed missed out on a generous portion of the group we love, who had the mosh pit rolling and tumbling from the first song. In addition to favorites like "Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain" and "Volcano," several new or rarely played numbers — perhaps being considered for the next record — made an appearance; a couple of them had a Cars-esque bent, and we were certainly pleased with that. The best of these closed out the night, with head Fruit Jonas Stein ditching his American-flag-bedecked SG for a keyboard, kicking it in the style of Deep Purple's Jon Lord on "In My Head."
End headliners Fly Golden Eagle are always a treat, even if it isn't a rare one. Their fusion of raw psychedelia and Caucasian soul has congealed considerably — no doubt a result of relentless gigging — and their familiar tunes have made a habit of coming unhinged from their intended structures to swirl about the room or wallow a bit in quiet atmospherics before getting back on track. A good way — and a cool one — to end a hot night.