Saturday night’s SXSW Send Off Show was an absolute barn burner. Ten bands, two stages, enough Third Shift Amber Lager to bring peace to waring countries, the wafting aroma of donuts, and all the friends that we ever could imagine. We can’t thank you guys enough for braving the cold and the long lines. We also need to give a shout out to the bands that brought their all to this special event, as well as, the nearly overwhelmed staff at Mercy Lounge and High Watt. Shout out to all the hard work of Electric Western, Elevent, & East Nashville Underground to help pull this whole thing together. High fives to the media judges who roamed the Mercy Lounge stage before ultimately anointing The Protomen the evening’s winner by the slimmest of margins over Luella & The Sun. While we weren’t judging, we are still some opinionated fools, and you can check out some of our highlights below. You can also check out the photos taken by the insanely talented Andrea Behrends. Thanks again everyone, and stay tuned for more events TBA.
Luella & The Sun
Matt here… I’ve seen bits and pieces of Luella sets over the past year or so in Nashville, but I’ve never seen anything like their performance on Saturday. Luella played one of their most inspired sets in front of an absolute capacity crowd in Mercy Lounge, and the energy in the room was electric. The SXSW & Hangout Fest bound band had the normally sedate Nashville crowds grooving and jumping, and brought a spark to fire the venue up for the rest of the night. You know it’s a moving performance when ENU co-founder Jared Corder runs up to you with a 10-inch Luella vinyl in his hand and an ear to ear smile about his new purchase. Bravo Luella, we’ll see you in Austin!
Jessika was also blown away by the band’s set, peering for a better view, teetering ever-so-precariously on the ledge just outside the demarcation for the Generation Domination Photobooth – a Third Shift in one hand, an iPhone attempting to snap Tweet-worthy pics in the other. Looking out over the crowd, it was obvious that Nashville was taking note of a band destined to soon became a major player on the local scene. Between Luella’s fierce howl and the backing band’s bluesy grooves, there’s a sweet spot where the sadness in the songs’ stories can hurt so good the pain transcends and is released into something near spiritual. Sometimes dark, and often ecstatic, Luella and the Sun brought something sexy into the air early in the night that brought a steamy anticipation for following act, Wild Cub.
Matt again… Wandering up to The High Watt after Luella’s set, and Jacob Jones was in full freaking swing in the still packed to capacity smaller venue. I’ve seen Jacob and his band perform a couple of times now, and they were definitely on point on Saturday night. I was talking with backup vocalist and tambourine prodigy Samantha Frances afterwards who described the set as the best that band had played together. I guess they could feel the excitement in the room, as was evidenced by the bruise on Samantha’s palm from beating herself with the tambourine.
Wild Cub seem to be popping up everywhere — that’s definitely Keegan DeWitt in that JC Penny ad, y’all — and for good reason. Their shamelessly danceable sound brings even the hipsters and the hopelessly uncoordinated to the floor to shimmy with the glimmery 80s-inspired outfit. Jessika has caught the band a few times and been impressed by their ever-growing and increasingly loyal following, but she was shocked to find her friends waiting over an hour in line outside the building for a chance to get in and party with the pack again. In light of that dedication, once said friends had made it into the building, she high-tailed it back upstairs to the Mercy Lounge for a little ill-advised attempts at dancing with the masses before trying to get a spot at the High Watt for Alanna Royale. Alas, High Watt was at capacity and she stood sadly by the mini donut table, pouting to the coat check girl, and climbing the stairs again to grab another beer and lament her misfortune. Luckily, Wild Cub was still doing their thing, and there was still time to embarrass herself by doing that awkward “I’m going to dance through the crowd to get to where I’m trying to go” move. Priceless.
When you reach a certain point of notoriety in Nashville, you get to say certain things. I feel that Alanna Royale has reached that pinnacle, and we’re all big fans of hers (at least all of us here at NC), so let’s get a couple things straight: Her name is pronounced Uh-lawn-nuh (Alanna). Any other pronunciation will elicit a rolling-eyes or what-the-fuck? response from the front-woman with the same name. And Alanna Royale is the name of the band. Royale is not her last name. We clear? Cool. I’m just reiterating what she said on stage, but I felt that I could utilize our blog to help her pass the word long.
Ok so, Alanna Royale did rock it at the High Watt Stage. It was worth waiting 5 minutes in line to get into The High Watt, as they were already at capacity. Alanna was her normal super-charismatic self and even invited an audience member to get on stage and dance with her for one song. The horn section was more spritely than I had seen before. I enjoyed this, and it felt like everyone was moving in unison on stage to the rhythm of the music. The audience was constantly dancing, even during Alanna Royale’s cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”, which normally has a dark and grungy tone to it. But Alanna Royale spiced it up with some upbeat spark and horn-section pizazz.
As a relatively new Nashvillian, Philip hadn’t yet witnessed a Protomen show before Saturday (the band keeps their local appearances somewhat selective), and man was it an experience. By the time the group took the stage, the crowd had thinned a bit (a 10-band night and free beer will do that), but those who remained in the still mostly-packed room more than made up for it in enthusiasm. The Protomen are, at this point, effectively seasoned pros at what they do and it shows. Sure, they perform in character, their songs are focused and stylized, and they’ve got old crowd-favorite, epic singalong tunes. At their core, however, The Protomen are simply an incredible band. Their delivery and energy are unparalleled, their stage presence makes a small room feel like a major arena, and their commitment to the band image they’ve spent years shaping is unwavering.
It’s no surprise that The Protomen were crowned our winners, because they put on a hell of a rock show. Their set was surprisingly light on Queen (to be fair, they did a whole show dedicated to Queen the last time they played Nashville), but their ridiculously awesome “Bohemian Rhapsody” finish was spot-on enough that Freddie Mercury himself would have given it a round of applause if he were still with. If we had given an award for most enthusiastic fans of the night, The Protomen probably would have nabbed that one as well. We’re incredibly honored to have had the guys finish out our very first event, and we’re proud that Nashville gets to claim such a fantastic band!
The follow up… the show was a lot of work for us, and, you don’t always get to relax and enjoy when you are helping to put on events like these. So, we didn’t get to spend much time with The Howlin’ Brothers who a local radio personality told me were a serendipitous discovery; Magnolia Sons, who a visiting friend told me was the best act of the night; Patrick Sweany who was listed on more than one of the judges ballots, Los Colognes, or The Jag. Regardless, the little bits we did see hinted that no one left anything in the tank on Saturday night, and that is all that we, as promoters and fans, could ever ask for.
Thanks again to everyone who came out, and to all of the bands that participated in the event.