I thought this past weekend was going to be a quiet one (and in the grand scheme of things it probably was) but I actually ended up going to three different shows on Saturday, only one of which was on the original agenda. Here's a rundown of what I saw:
Friday night I went to the Basement and caught Fionn Regan's early show at 7 p.m. It was way more packed than I expected it to be that early on a Friday, but after noting the white plastic bands on 90% of the wrists in the room, I deduced that the crowd mostly consisted of peeps from Fionn's Nashville-based US label Lost Highway. Kinda weird, plus it was weird to see roadies setting up at the minuscule Basement. No matter - it was still a nice show, and I'm glad I got to check it out. Fionn played a lovely and relatively subdued set of tunes from The End of History, with his acoustic guitar nicely complemented by a drummer and a female back-up vocalist. I would recommend checking him out on one of his upcoming dates. This was my favorite tune in the set, hearing it in person made me realize how beautiful it really is:
Fionn Regan - "
On Saturday afternoon after the radio show I scooted over to Grimey's to see Liars play an in-store at the record shop. The band played a short, super-intense set to an absolutely packed house - in fact I didn't even see that lead singer Angus Andrew was wearing shorts until my friend John Brassil sent the pic above (check out another great one below), because I was wedged into the back of the second room. I could still see Angus pogo-ing around his tiny performance space though, flailing around and generally creating "a ruckus," which he apologized for late in the set when he broke a light fixture during a pretty enthusiastic rendition of "Plaster Casts Of Everything." The band drew pretty heavily from the new album for the in-store; the gritty, more straightforward rock songs on Liars were more than appropriate for the setting and they just generally rocked out.
Liars - "
Plaster Casts of Everything"
Then a few hours later I found myself seeing Liars yet again, in a completely different setting - and I have to say they almost felt like a completely different band. On stage at the Ryman, the group decided to take complete advantage of the huge stage and cavernous acoustics of the room and definitely drew from the artier, crazier, more challenging parts of their catalog (admittedly, the parts that kept me away from Liars until the newest album came out). This time around Angus had ditched the shorts and visor in favor of a white three-piece suit, which accentuated both his height and his dance moves, and that in combination with the layered, echo-ey and slightly droning songs that started the set kinda brought Deerhunter to mind. It was a completely different experience than at Grimey's - a completely different energy, all industrial buzzing and wailing with chest-shuddering drum explosions and dizzying amounts of reverb. Even when they shifted to new stuff from Liars - they played a handful of the same songs from the in-store - things still felt and sounded different, like the ruckus-creating, gritty band from that afternoon had plugged into this massive towering machine that chugged and growled and amplified every drumbeat and guitar lick. It was weird - I kinda liked it and it kinda gave me a headache, but here I sit listening to Drum's Not Dead for the first time since I heard and dismissed the album, so I guess the show did its job. The drums are certainly giving me goosebumps, like I can still feel them in my solar plexus. (You should check Liars out for yourself - they're on tour with Interpol for a while and should be doing a smaller, headlining thing toward the end of this year/beginning of next.)
Liars - "
Drum and the Uncomfortable Can"
So Interpol were the main act of the night, and forgive me for after all that Liars rambling, but I enjoyed it - just don't have much to say about it. The band played a pretty good set - it sounded great in the Ryman, of course, and the lights and projected backdrop were pretty impressive, but I guess it didn't do much to get me more excited about the band (and this was my first time seeing Interpol). I think that by spending all my time in little clubs around town, I've been spoiled by the intimacy and interaction with the crowd that smaller venues afford, and by the endearing dose of messiness that comes with new-ish bands who are trying a little harder to keep you from putting down your PBR and walking out the door. To me Interpol's performance came off as being kind of sterile - granted they have a polished sound and the dark introspective moodiness that doesn't really lead to chatting in between songs or dicking around on stage, but still it was too polished, too perfect, and as my friend Michael said after the show, a little uninspired. Michael also pointed out that things probably could have been different had the crowd been able to dance (doesn't really work in the Ryman) and I think I agree - when a band like Interpol plays I think all the energy needs to come from the audience. And it's hard to drum up too much excitement in a room full of wooden pews. Let it be said that I felt pretty much the exact same way after I saw Oasis at the Ryman last year - so it may have had more to do with the setting and the crowd than the band.
Interpol - "
The Heinrich Maneuver"
I actually bailed on Interpol during the second song of the encore to beat the crowd, and scooted on over to the Basement to see Pico vs Island Trees. I wasn't able to catch the band at Next Big Nashville after I ran an interview with them here on the site, so I didn't want to miss the opportunity to check them out at the Basement. And I'm certainly glad that I did - the band is phenomenal live. The whole thing brought to mind a quote from the interview, where the band said "going to a show should be fun, and we definitely keep that in mind when we play." It was certainly fun - the kind of fun that keeps you grinning and gets the audience dancing and then in the middle of all the fun you realize, damn, this band sounds amazing too. I loved absolutely every song they played (and can't wait to hear recorded versions) and they even were a blast to watch - lead singer Bryan Carter is like a cross between Nate Ruess from The Format and Jon Rogers from Hotpipes - when he's not playing guitar he bounces frenetically around the stage with an energy that's contagious. The band capped off the evening with a legitimate encore and treated us to a cover of "Rock the Casbah" - after warning us that they're still learning the tune, but since they didn't expect an encore we get a basement rehearsal version (it is the Basement, after all). And while Bryan implored me not to blog about it, I loved every second of the cover - the band nailed it and Bryan only consulted his hand-written lyrics sheet for one verse, while making up for his crib sheet with microphone-tipping enthusiasm. Who actually knows all the words to that song anyway?
Pico vs Island Trees has a pair of upcoming out-of-town dates - I will absolutely let you know when they play in Nashville again.
Pico vs Island Trees - "
(photos by John Brassil)