As Nashville enters the dog days of summer, it seems as if the only escape from the sweltering heat is an unexpected torrential downpour. While both of these unpleasant weather sensations occurred outside of the Cannery Complex on Friday and Saturday, patrons of Nashville Cream’s Sounds Like Summer 7th birthday bash were protected from the elements and serenaded by 27 local bands and DJs at all three venues. While the Cannery Ballroom provided a stage for veteran local bands like The Features and the Whigs, the High Watt offered performances from promising up and coming acts like What Up English and Majestico. While it was impossible to catch all of the bands playing this weekend, spontaneous venue hopping made for a frantic and exciting concert experience that could only happen in a city with a music scene as vibrant and exciting as Nashville.
Although they were added to the line-up a mere four hours before the doors opened, What Up, English were the perfect band to kick off night one of Sounds Like Summer. These dudes are constantly referred to as the youngsters of the Nashville music scene, which does them an incredible disservice. Their relentlessly upbeat and infectious dance rock is the result of honing their craft for years. Preston and Noah’s guitar work intertwined with each other seamlessly and effortlessly while Rob and Jamie laid it down on the bass and drums with machine like precision. Southern drawl and old school country influences may be the new “it factor” for Nashville bands, but What Up English have been kicking out dance grooves for longer than Nashville has been the “it city”.
After a quick sprint from the High Watt to the Mercy Lounge, Turbo Fruits were the first of 5 bands from the Serpents & Snakes label to play at Sounds Like Summer. These uncharacteristically well-dressed punks traded in their converse hi tops for oxford wing tips. Despite newly acquired formal attire, as soon as Jonas Stein struck the first chord of “Want Some Mo’” on his wonderfully gaudy red, white, and blue Gibson, it was clear that the Turbo Fruits hadn’t gone soft on us. The Turbo Fruits are undoubtedly the most upbeat and energetic band on the S&S label, and their live show is filled to the brim with country-fried blues punk served with three sides: stage dives, guitar solos, and unabashed patriotism. “I don’t know what the fork happened there” [Jonas Stein] perfectly described the finale to their set. The tentatively titled organ dirge turned paranoia anthem “In My Head” had Jonas trading in his axe for a keyboard. This new track took a darker direction than any of their previous material, which can only mean that the new album will rock twice as hard as the already hard hitting Echo Kid and Butter.
The main attraction of the night was a performance from one of the hardest working bands with one of the longest careers in Nashville to match. The Features took the stage at 11:30 and although it was difficult to see through the thick cloud of smoke in the room, it was easy to tell that their stage presence was as electrifying as ever. Their set drew songs from their extensive catalog that satisfied both long-term fans and those who recently discovered this gem of the underground scene. When The Features broke into their new single, “This Disorder”, the crowd went absolutely nuts. Their tremendous enthusiasm showed just how loyal Nashville fans are to their favorite local bands, regardless of how many times they have been around the block. Their two-hour set did seem a little daunting to some audience members; the room had cleared significantly by the time Matt Pelham and the gang passed the 1 am mark. But the die-hards were rewarded for their perseverance with deep cuts from Some Kind of Salvation such as “GMF” and “Concrete”. These dudes have paid their dues on the local and national circuit and it certainly shows.
After a long and eventful first night of Sounds Like Summer, no thunderstorm or hangover could keep the masses of people from showing up for round two of the rock powers that be. The night kicked off with a bang when the Kingston Springs plugged in and turned up on the Cannery Ballroom stage. Coming fresh off the release of their self-titled debut album, these relative newcomers to the scene have all the energy of a band that was raised on Nirvana with all the southern song writing finesse of John Fogerty. The highlight of their set was undoubtedly the up tempo, fuzzed out track “Sweet Suzie” which featured call and return style vocals between Ian and Alex and an infectious surf rock guitar hook. Like any good opener should, The Kingston Springs came out swinging and got the crowd all riled up and ready for a night of rocking and rolling.
By the time everyone’s clothes had dried and the second or third round of Heinekens had passed through their hands, the room was shaken like a vibration by none other than The Whigs. Dressed from head to toe in denim with a gnarly beard to match, Parker Gispert’s trademarked back-and-forth sway was timed perfectly to Julian Dorio’s notoriously aggressive drumbeats. Captivating is not a strong enough word to describe the control they had over the crowd. Flowing seamlessly from songs like “Waiting” into “Hot Bed” and “Staying Alive”, these honorary locals were reminiscent of a rejuvenated Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The Whigs don’t need cheap gimmicks or flashy guitar solos to command an audience. Nashville knows a good band when they see one, and with good reason they have embraced these Athens boys as their own.
For those who couldn’t handle the ruckus of the Whigs, Tristen serenaded the audience at the Mercy Lounge with her haunting vocals set to the backdrop of pounding drums and ever so slightly over driven guitars drenched in chorus and reverb. If there has ever been a human incarnation of the saying “good things come in small packages”, Tristen is that person. Although it has been a while since the release of 2011’s critically acclaimed Charlatans at the Garden Gate, she is by no means resting on her laurels. Many of the songs she performed were from the upcoming release Caves, which showcased Tristen’s welcomed transition from guitar to synthesizer.
If you ask anyone with their finger on the pulse of the music scene who the next big thing is going to be, they are dead wrong if their reply is anything other than “The Weeks”. These longhaired Mississippi heartthrobs owned the night. After the release of Dear Bo Jackson and a trip overseas supporting Kings of Leon, their set was more exhilarating than ever. Their heavy-hitting, soul influenced jams amplified the adrenaline level of the room to an all time high without sacrificing the skillful songwriting that earned them the success they deserve. Sam Williams is single handedly making the guitar solo cool again with his mastery of the fret board. On songs like “Brother in the Night” and “The House We Grew Up In” Cyle Barnes’ delivered his signature powering vocals with his eyes rolled up in the back of head, like a snake-handling preacher of the church of rock and roll.
Nashville Scene’s Sounds Like Summer celebration only further cemented the fact that there has never been a cooler time to live in Nashville. There is a reason that this town is becoming a musical mecca for acts all over the country: our bands kick ass. From the fresh faces to the hardened veterans, every band this weekend brought something fresh and different to the table. With so many bands showing such promise, it really can’t get much better than a stormy night at the Cannery Ballroom.
Written by Ford Garrard