2017 has been a banner year for touring shows rolling through Nashville, then again, any given calendar year could be argued as such, especially in Nashville. It’s old hat to say, but the past five years have seen an influx in touring acts, as the city proves itself to be more than a one-note town capable of supporting more than one substantial indie stalwart, darling, staple, etc any given night. Granted, there are nights like September 29th, 2017 that would suggest the city isn’t quite at that point (don’t ask why I’ve chosen to immediately contradict my lede, I don’t have an answer), as The Head and the Heart, Dr. Dog, Whitney, Kings of Leon, Miley Cyrus, and a zillion other shows cannibalized the Nashville show-going market.
Now (It’s!?), if you’ve made it thus far in the recap, you’re likely weighing your options in terms of venturing any further into the depths of this superficial analysis of Nashville’s live music market trajectory (which is more than justified). Will the rambling ever end? Can we please just get into the Japandroids talk? Is there a massive callback that will benefit from this inanity? Who knows? All that needs to be known is that Nashville’s continual and steady growth as a premier music market proved its mettle at Japandroids’ early November Mercy Lounge stop.
Originally slated to play Nashville’s favorite L-shaped 1,000-cap venue, Cannery Ballroom, Vancouver’s finest live duo Japandroids moved their November 7th stop to Mercy Lounge. Was it due to laggardly ticket sales (directly undermining my two-paragraph rambling lede)? No one other than the Cannery compound powers-that-be can know, but what can be known is the fact that Japandroids’ move from Cannery to Mercy was a blessing in disguise (keeping with the new venue’s theological tones, albeit in name alone).
While Japandroids is not wholly a punk band, their shows operate as such, and could you imagine being caught in the back portion of the “L” in Cannery Ballroom during a punk-spirited show? It would be lame, to say the least. But with Japandroids laying claim to the much more accessible (and generally more visible) Mercy Lounge stage, the thrashing faithful were more than able to headbang directly in front of their British Columbian godheads of garage rock. Oh how they headbanged.
From Japandroids’ vantage point, it’s hard not to speculate that playing a smaller, more intimate venue would be an altogether more stimulating show. I mean, any fervent, frenzied fans in the front could reach out and touch Brian, who would be more than apt to return the touch with a swift kick in the face! That would actually seem somewhat fitting for a Japandroids show, at least in the frenetic sense. Brian and David hardly seem like the types to shower their fans with anything other than immense gratitude, which is exactly what the duo did.
In the early parts of the set, David took the initiative in terms of banter, everything from describing Brian’s intrepid decision to eat “hottest” hot chicken right before taking the stage, to shouting out a fan that had managed to make it to four stops on their tour, truly embodying the “North, East, South, West” spirit. Eventually, Brian came around to espouse his own warm sentiments, which almost served as a jarring juxtaposition to the scorched earth nature of the band’s scorched Earth approach to live performance. The highlight of his own banter - and the show as a whole - came during the aforementioned “North, South, East, West,” in which Brian informed the crowd that the Mercy Lounge stop would be the first time they’d been able to play the song that name drops “Tennessee” in Tennessee. Come the end of the second verse, the crowd was primed and ready to chime in along in time. Who knows when the next time Nashville will get the distinct pleasure of hosting Japandroids in town, but it’s not inconceivable to say that this stop was strong enough to sustain any sort of extended hiatus (please don’t let that be the case, though).