I am still criminally behind when it comes to recapping my live music adventures this month - but I have to admit I've been enjoying a brief lull in the concert calendar for the past week. The April concert tally is up to twenty-four different performances and in this edition I'm going to talk about one of the highlights - Spoon @ City Hall. That was only two weeks ago but it feels like it has been two months. Pictures and stories after the jump:
Ratatat, 120 Days and Despot @ Mercy Lounge, April 9. This was a show that actually really, really surprised me, which hasn't occurred that often this month so it was a pretty pleasant sensation. I wasn't even planning on going to see this show, but I was fortunate enough to get on the list to check out 120 Days, so I found myself at Mercy Lounge on a Monday night, watching a diminutive white rapper who looked like my hometown next-door neighbor as he waved and pointed a red "Ratatat" foam finger for the duration of his set. Hip hop isn't my scene, but Despot was fun to watch and he definitely impressed my friend John with his affiliation with Def Jux Records. 120 Days took the stage next, a Norwegian four-piece who I'd heard about through various PR emails, which detailed their visa troubles (I think the first US tour was postponed) and included hard-to-forget pictures of the four band members sitting nekkid on a dock. So I wasn't surprised to see the lead singer strip off his shirt halfway through the set, but I was pleasantly surprised by the set itself - room-filling indie-electro that sounded great live and proved to be more danceable than I expected after hearing bits and pieces off of their self-titled debut. The band even seemed excited to be playing Nashville, and if I remember correctly (this was more than two weeks ago), my favorite song of the evening was a new one they debuted that night. Definitely a band I would check out again.
Ratatat headlined, and although I've listened to their most recent release, Classics, a few times, I got bored with the lack of lyrics quickly and never enjoyed it as much as I think a lot of my friends did. Once again though, a surprise - the band was anything but boring in person. I expected it to be a dance party - and it was - but instead of straight-up clubbish dancing, this was more of a jump-up-and-down fist-pumping rock-out kind of a dance party. Absolutely enjoyable, and absolutely recommended if they're coming to a town near you.
Spoon @ City Hall, April 12. Of course the highlight of that particular week (and of the month so far, although Elvis Perkins and Harlem Shakes were some tough contenders - more on that later) was always going to be Spoon at City Hall - a show I've been dreaming and daydreaming and generally just thinking about since the moment I heard they'd be playing a "private Jack Daniels" party here in Nashville. I've been in love with the band since I first headed to 12th and Porter by myself to see them back in 2004 - admittedly late to the game compared to everyone who had been all over them for years, but at the end of that show I was head-over-heels and at the merch table buying every CD they had available. The City Hall gig made this my fourth time seeing Spoon - I've managed to catch them at two ACLFests since that first stop in Nashville - and they definitely put on a great show despite a weird atmosphere that has led to a few mixed reviews. I think a lot of people were put off by the fact that it was absolutely a corporate promotion - JD banners and logos bombarded you from every angle, and the sponsoring beverage proved to be the only thing flowing at the bars that night. The crowd was a strange mix too - part Spoon fans who, like me, probably stalked people to get tickets, part general fans of free stuff, and part JD contest winners who had been flown in from Europe for the weekend to be liquored up in Lynchburg and carted around Middle Tennessee in humongous buses. I imagine someone standing in the back of the room might not have felt very engaged by the band, but up in front it was shoulder-to-shoulder Spoon fans singing along to every song, with a few drunken frat boys thrown in to annoy us and entertain Britt Daniel. The band played a fantastic set drawn for the most part from the last three albums, and included a handful of new songs that will have me dreaming, daydreaming and generally just thinking about the new album for the next two months. Britt did a good job interacting with those of us up front - lots of eye contact and pointing and smiles, and he even talked a bit about working on the album here in Nashville, and praised our fair town for its cinnamon squirrels and Mrs. Winners. He seemed to think the last show he played here was at a place called something along the lines of the "Drunken Poorhouse," but we'll forgive him and Spoon if they make sure they come back to play before another three years goes by. I will definitely be keeping an eye on their tour dates.
Willy Mason @ Grimey's, April 13. After Spoon, I was ready for a night off - but not until after I caught Willy Mason's in-store at Grimey's immediately after work. It was one of the better-attended in-stores I've seen at the shop lately, and for very good reason - like I said in my preview of the show, Mason's music lends itself to intimate shows and this was the perfect place to see him play. It was a little disorienting listening to that gravelly, world-worn voice while watching a boy who clearly looked a few years younger than me, but it was a fantastic (and rather long) set that did a great job showcasing the young singer's talent, and a bit of his personality as well. Happy hour was in full effect and Mason was briefly flustered when his PBR-sipping in between songs led to a song-interrupting burp, but he soldiered on after laughing and apologizing, and then barely blinked when he broke a string a few songs later. Another artist I would recommend seeing, and an excellent end to a busy week.