One of the original, breakout rock acts of Nashville’s early ’00s scene, before the city’s current boom in population and broader genre interest, garage rock and power pop trio The Pink Spiders saw a spectacular rise and untimely fall, at one point to positioned to the the next big thing. After almost a decade of relative dormancy, the band sprung back to life in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their best-known LP, Teenage Graffiti, in 2016, prompting a full-on return which resulted in last year’s ambitious, inspired, and mature comeback album, Mutations. Moving beyond nostalgia with an eye on the future, the Spiders have stayed steadily active in recent years, and are set to play their latest hometown show tonight, July 29, headlining The High Watt with local party punks Sexx and buzzy indie rockers Smart Objects. For a quality sampling of the best of the local rock scene, this lineup is tough to beat, and tickets are still available right here! Read on for more about the show.
THE PINK SPIDERS
Before Nashville was the “it” city, The Pink Spiders flirted with being Nashville’s “it” band. They were buzzing when you still had to slink way down Dickerson for hot chicken, without an iPhone with GPS to give you directions. It’s been a tumultuous road for the Spiders to say the least, but, it was a gold paved road to success for the band in the early ’00s. Back in 2003, local, and still present-day scenesters, Matt Friction (guitar, vocals), Bob Ferrari (drums), and Jon Decious (bass) came together with the idea for a power pop band, and left the other projects they were working on to create The Pink Spiders. Within only a few months, they self-released their debut EP, The Pink Spiders Are Taking Over, and immediately began to catch ears with their almost tongue in cheek, over the top power pop. However, unlike many local bands that work their way up from basements, they leveraged local booking connections to reach further and higher on their tours, and quickly became a bigger name outside of Nashville than within a much different Music City scene at that time. While touring, they caught the ear of an independent label (C.I. Records in Lancaster, PA), which released their debut full-length, Hot Pink, in 2005. And, keeping their thumb firmly on the nitro button, they landed a private major label showcase that same year at LA’s famed Viper Room, where they were overwhelmed with an unbelievable 11 record deal offers, and ultimately chose Geffen.
With the glare of impending success in their eyes, the group left Nashville for Los Angeles, but were soon shuttled off to NY to work on their major label debut LP Teenage Graffiti, with former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek at Electric Lady Studios, whose production credits include Weezer, No Doubt, Nada Surf, and Bad Religion. However, high-profile celebrity encounters aside, things started to go wrong. The group lost control of their sound, and were shunned in decisions on the record. They went from their power pop trademark sound to a brand of pop punk that just didn’t fit into the band’s ethos, which ultimately left them straddling the two genres like a boat slipping away from a dock. It was clear that relationships were already straining, and a challenging summer on Warped Tour and a delayed album release seemed to doom the “can’t miss” band before they even truly got their start. The turmoil that followed ultimately led to the Spiders’ untimely demise.
Geffen, still desperate for a winner after lackluster (by major label standards) sales of the debut, pushed lead songwriter Friction hard to pen songs on the followup which remained on their contract, but ended up pulling the plug before its release. Friction decided to self-release Sweat It Out, and toured with what he referred to as a “Pink Spiders cover band,” before ultimately taking a hiatus in 2009. In the intervening few years, the band poked their head above water a few times with a smattering of singles and a handful of shows under various lineups, with the original members remaining friends and moving beyond past disagreements. The original trio sprung back to life for a local show in 2016, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Teenage Graffiti, and shortly after, announced a proper return with their first LP in a decade, last year’s Mutations, which sees a new rhythm section of JoCo (bass) and Joey B-Side (drums) replace Ferrari and Decious going forward. Despite other professional obligations, the group have ramped up activity, with new videos, singles, and tour dates, once again attracting broader attention while remaining one of Nashville’s buzziest (and most important) contemporary rock acts. Don’t miss out on their latest hometown outing!
With how quickly the sound and trends of the local indie music landscape tend to change, it can sometimes feel like an eternity since a group who are, for all intents and purposes, still fairly new, first sprung onto the scene. Such is the case for local party punks Sexx, who captivated us in 2012 with an insanely good, self-titled EP, and became a frequent local live fixture in the subsequent few years, appearing on stage at countless memorable shows, and releasing a few more tunes, though, apparently not since late 2014. Though we haven’t seen their name as much recently, the group have continued to pop up here and there, playing club and DIY shows, local fests like Spew Fest, and even bigger events like Muddy Roots and Florida’s The Fest, consistently remaining an integral, if not as visible, part of Nashville’s musical underground. Like the Spiders, we hope new music and a ramping up of activity lies in Sexx’s future, and this show serves as a great reminder that they’re a local punk act that deserves your attention!
After capturing acclaim over the past few years fronting local retro soul/rock outfit Magnolia Sons (and, before that, The Comfies, for you O.G. Nashville music fans), Benjamin A. Harper stepped out with his first solo release, Get Thee Behind Me, back in 2015. Adopting a sun-soaked, ’60s-inspried, experimental, and layered flavor of indie pop, that musical direction would set the template for the natural progression towards Harper’s latest endeavor as Smart Objects, which first spring to life two years ago. Made up of members of local fixtures The Future, Gardening, Not Architecture, and Luthi, Smart Objects began as Ben’s backing band, but have since evolved into a full-fledged project, forging a sound that mixes retro rock grandiosity with a thoroughly modern, pop accessible, quirky, and smart indie rock sound. Name-checking influences from Bowie to Beck, we’d expect no less from a seasoned local fixture like Harper, and, over a series of great singles- “The Autumn Man,” “Run Your Own Way,” and “Devastator”- the group have cemented themselves as one of the best and most interesting new bands in Nashville, with each subsequent tune flexing their earnest, indie sound and impressive range, while growing to become a regular live fixture in the local scene, and amassing lots of positive press. They’re one of our favorite new local bands, and we encourage you to show up early to catch their opening set!
The Pink Spiders, Sexx, and Smart Objects will perform tonight, July 29 at The High Watt. The show is 18+, begins at 9 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.), and tickets are available to purchase for $15.