Concert review: A sometimes weird, sometimes wonderful night with Tristen, Local H and Rollercoaster Club at the Firebird, Saturday, January 19
After an inebriated fan hollered, “We love you, Tristen!” the Nashville, Tenn. resident deftly avoided being inundated with drunken proclamations of love by returning the fan’s adoration with, “All right, everybody hug their neighbor! C’mon!”
Tristen would proceed to have interactions like this throughout the night.
There was a pocket of legitimately drunk patrons situated stage front. They seemed to appear just before Tristen Gaspadarek walked on stage, thus missing opening band Rollercoaster Club‘s tepid set. The St. Louis natives sounded out of place in the Firebird‘s basement-like atmosphere. The FM-lite acoustic arrangements did little to pull patrons from their seats, and Adam Henrichs’ mellow stage demeanor caused his vocals to sound eked out. Their set would have been better suited for a coffeehouse open mic, somewhere patrons could sit Indian style, surrounded by cups of steaming black coffee, and await their turn to take a stab at spoken word.
Local H‘s Scott Lucas had an easier time corralling the audience. To be fair, he has been performing for over 25 years, ample time for him to feel comfortable enough that his onstage behavior would evoke the impulsiveness found when one is home alone. I must mention he wore a navy blue sweatshirt with a black and white French Bulldog illustration ironed to the chest. I was seized with sweater envy, and, more importantly, felt clued in to Lucas’ psyche. His first words were, “Hi. Hello. I’m Scott Lucas and I am very clever,” followed by a cover of “Last Caress” by the Misfits. He appeared a little deranged at that point. How many grown men wear sweaters with lapdogs emblazoned on the front and sing about killing babies?
During “All the Kids Are Right,” a Local H song/audience request, a girl walked in with some hair appliance attached to her cranium that gave her the look of a disco Predator. A dozen individual tubes of pastel shades of blue, green and phosphorescent white projected from her skull. As she bounced around the Firebird, her tendrils shook back and forth like organ-pipe coral in a sea storm.
After she appeared and disappeared into the Firebird’s tables near the bar, Lucas called out the couple sitting to my left. If you ever want to be scared for your life, cradle a notebook in your lap while conspicuously writing about everything within a 50-foot radius, then listen as the principal subject castigates a couple on the cusp of necking. I waited for him to call me out, and thankfully it never came. Instead, Lucas said twice to the lovers, “Hey. How are you? You. There. TO MY LEFT.” When they finally came to, he told them to enjoy the steak.
Tristen’s headlining set was permeated with appreciable flubs and charm. For every mistake she made — and I hesitate to call them “mistakes” as her reactions worked so well in her favor — she cursed audibly, shook her head at no one but herself and slunk towards her band while she rolled her shoulders forward under the weight of embarrassment.
Opening song “Red Lava Flows” was initially hampered by a forgotten vocal pedal. After taking up her guitar, she sang the first note with an off-key howl, hissed the word “Shit!” with a smile on her face and stomped out her mistake with one swift movement of her heel. She would later begin “Heart and Hope to Die” by singing into a mic-less stand.
On “Heart and Hope To Die” she demanded, “Show me how your mama and daddy made you,” Blithe and vulgar, she sang it accordingly. Her sweet rasp entered the voice in coo form, a suggestion, then morphed into persistent declaration, leaving her suitor with no choice. She abandoned both guitar and keyboard (which she played on “Frozen” and “Winter Night”) for “The Anti-Baby,” her set’s eighth song. The mid-tempo number had a troll-like momentum, with Tristen condemning codependency. It was the song Tristen was prepared to inhabit. She sounded detached in previous songs, even during “Frozen,” which buzzed with impulse and featured a drum pad and synthesizer; still, she never seemed to get into it.
While the song played, Tristen danced: She would keep her feet planted, slightly bent at the knees, but without moving her legs, and then do the running man with the upper half of her body. She moved like an elderly boxer, all the while with an enormous grin on her face and singing to her touring guitarist, drummer and bassist. Her guitarist danced with her and their movements appeared romantically, not platonically inspired. When she did move the lower half of her body, it was in a series of off-kilter pirouettes. She turned on her heels 180 degrees while making a waltz motion in the shape of a circle. When she finished the song, she exclaimed, “Music is fun!”
Her three-song encore would end with “Doomsday.” Having been alone for the first two songs, and after saying goodnight twice, she called her band up to the stage. The Firebird cut the overhead music. Tristen and company began “Doomsday” by playing the chorus to Young MC’s “Bust a Move.” Fun, indeed.