Flashback to Friday: Charlie Hardin, The Summer Country, James Austin Johnson @ The 5 Spot

After a long weekend, I consider the act of trying to remember Friday a difficult flashback, not just because of the tasty, mind-numbing beverages, but also because I purposefully compounded my schedule with weekend social engagements. Hey, I like to stay busy. I started out Friday night engaged in an interesting conversation about the semantics of body language with my roommate and our mutual friend at 12 South Tap Room. That conversation was a logical follow-up after discussing how ancient Egyptians could construct pyramids without extraterrestrial aid. I kid, but it happened.

I arrived at the 5 Spot to catch the show, and walked in to see the big-grin and mouth-wide-open body language of The Summer Country‘s drummer Josh Jackson as he rattled off drum fills and held down the time signature. It may seem subtle, but in a full band context, the energy of the drummer makes a difference to me, and Jackson excelled.  Lead singer and guitarist Isaiah Kallman has that honest pop-rock sensibility about him, though he sometimes recalls heyday 70s punk with his powerfully gritty vocal delivery. The Summer Country chose to take the audience to a different decade mid-set with their cover of The Psychedelic Furs“The Ghost In You,” off the ’84 release Mirror Moves. And I was happy they closed with my personal favorite, “Joy On The Corner.” It’s been some time since I enjoyed straight-ahead, positivity-beaming rock in Nashville, so The Summer Country was certainly a breath of fresh air.  I look forward to more shows.

Comedian James Austin Johnson is right about helicopters: they’re far superior to airplanes. Every joke has a little truth to it, right? I wait for the day when we can fly 200 people internationally via a giant commercial helicopter. We’ll see……  His Scottish accent was spot-on funny, although I couldn’t get Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me out of my head when he was singing, or yelling out rather, the lyrics to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with a Scottish accent. Having a comedian perform between rock sets is certainly an interesting idea. It took some time for Johnson to build his jokes, but the audience did seem receptive by the time the best punchlines were thrown their way. It’ll be interesting to see the venue location for Johnson‘s next gig and it whether or not it involves live music. To wet your comedy whistle for the time being, here’s a video I just discovered of Johnson doing comedy at Zanies back in 2010.

Most of the crowd was waiting for Charlie Hardin‘s rise from musical hibernation, and he was smart to open and close his set with crowd-pleasing covers. Hardin and his band, The Commitment Bells, started with Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” and their rendition did accurately portray the happy-go-lucky party, pop-rock energy of that song. Hardin did successfully reach his Kickstarter fundraising benchmark, so his set consisted of songs that would be featured on the new album that he’s in the process of recording, as far as I could tell. My personal favorite was “Double Secret Agent,” which featured the insanely cool bluesy lead guitar bend that suitably transitions from verse to verse.  But I would say the highlight was the encore song, a holiday-appropriate cover of “Oh Holy Night,” which had the audience quickly scrambling to draw their cell phones out of their pockets to record video and/or take pictures. I hope that even if Hardin goes back into hibernation for the winter, he makes a New Year’s resolution to quickly release his record and grace us with more live performances.

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