Admittedly, Now/It's has taken it's sweet time wading into the deep end of Nashville's ever-burgeoning pop scene. While the onus is on Now/It's to actively seek out pop shows just as quickly as larger touring acts, it can be tough when the only pop acts local venues will most immediately host are just that - touring acts. Luckily, there are some among us that have taken the initiative to rectify such an unfortunate disparity.
Take Popsquad, for example - Nashville's unambiguous collective of groove generators and melody makers, setting out to carve a substantial space on both sides of the Cumberland in the name of pop music. And so, the local promotion group's most recent soiree happened to be on Nashville's East Side, a fitting point of rendezvous for the city's sharp sartorialists and syncopated synths, alike.
This particular iteration of "Popsquad presents" was a primarily celebratory affair for a number of reasons - Daniella Mason's newest release - but for the sake of this write-up (and our general interests), the night's most intriguing component was the evening's opener, Bantug. If you've kept up with most of Now/It's interview features, you'll know that Bantug's name has cropped up in something like four or five interviews, in half a year, alone. If ever there was an indication that someone was worth checking out, it would be hard to argue against a quintuple (mind you, glowing) endorsement.
And so, arriving at The Basement East, promptly at 8pm, Bantug took to the stage. It's hard to imagine the fact that Bantug is still very green as a group when it comes to performing live (apparently the Basement East show was only the trio's fourth live set), because every aspect seemed about as smooth as imaginable.
Running through the songs off their debut EP, Blue, Bantug brought out a uniformly robust pop sound that was almost immediately enviable. Songs like "Wine Beeline" and "Creatures," along with most of the set as a whole, sound equal parts outrun and electro sheen. Furthermore, considering the minimalist makeup of the band on stage, Bantug's delectable takes on Blue's recorded songs are nothing to scoff at. It's hard to imagine anything short of heavy concertedness and hyper focused practice that brought about the song's live equivalents. And to do it all with majority live instruments is something within itself to marvel and marinate in.
If there were one complaint about the set, it would be that it was simply too short. All in all, Bantug's set elicited a sense of wonder that was distinctly different from the other acts that evening - it's hard to fathom many other opening acts for Bantug in Nashville, largely due to the absolute prowess of their set. Expect many a headlining show in the near future, and plenty more to follow. If there's such thing as a pop music "champion's belt" in Nashville, Bantug almost certainly has it firmly within their grasp.