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My main question before this show was whether Those Darlins, who I’d just seen opening for Best Coast at the much larger Union Transfer back in July (review here), would sound better and more in their element at Johnny Brenda’s, where they’ve played numerous times before. As it was only my 2nd time seeing them and since unlike the last time I saw them, I am now familiar with both of their full-length Lps and numerous singles, I had high hopes. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed. Though the set started off kind of slowly, it got better as it went along and the highlights were many. They included an incredible version of the first album’s “Red Light Love”, Nikki Darlin‘s lead vocal on their great version of Rockpile‘s “Pet You and Hold You” (the B-side of their recent-ish 7” “Mystic Mind”) and rip-roaring versions of “Fatty Needs a Fix” (from last year’s fantastic Screws Get Loose) and “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy”. If there was one minor disappointment, though, it was that the title track of Screws Get Loose sounded buried in the mix, thus making it nowhere near as powerful as the incredible version (their high-water mark so far, I think) that opens that record. Still, this was a more powerful, looser Those Darlins, fully in command and indeed in their element.
If Those Darlins were good (really good in fact), then it still must be said that opener and tour-mates Heavy Cream were not just flat-out great, but astonishing and one of the best bands I’ve seen all year. Frankly, it was one of those sets that make going to see live rock and roll worthwhile. Though singer Jessica McFarland is a dead ringer for Cherie Curie in The Runaways with her blond hair, leather jacket, tights (and not much else) and guitarist Mimi Galbierz has a clear resemblance to Lita Ford circa The Runaways, they sound less like that iconic all-girl band than a collision of The Ramones, the earliest records by The Damned (I thought their first song was gonna be a cover of “Neat Neat Neat” or “New Rose”) and perhaps even Motörhead. This is full-tilt rock and roll, the mix was absolutely perfect and as bassist Olivia Scibelli held a bass that looked bigger than she is but made Lemmy-like notes come out of it, I was in awe. I took out my earplugs so I could hear their set in all of its glory and turned to a friend afterwards and said “wow”. If they come anywhere near you and you have a chance to go, don’t miss them (and this tour in general)!
Local guitar and drums power duo Slutever opened the show and pleased me greatly at one point of their set by covering “Big Mouth” by The Muffs. I only caught a small part of their set and it was my first time seeing them, but any band with such good taste is OK with me!
It should be noted that this was another underattended show, as a plethora of events in town that night (including most notably Dinosaur Jr at Union Transfer) probably hurt ticket sales. However, it made the show have almost a house party or otherwise intimate vibe that just doesn’t exist at super-packed shows at this venue. I like it either way, though I’m sure the bands would’ve preferred that more people show up. However, with bands this good, I’d like to think that it’s only a matter of time before more people start getting the memo about these great Nashville bands.
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