Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom had a specific type of crowd on May 23rd. They wanted to dance. Maybe they were struggling against the Monday lull or remembered Bloc Party from electroclash club nights in the early 2000s. Either way, they weren’t sitting still.
Openers the Vaccines satiated their need. Two girls told security, “We came all the way from Atlanta just to see the Vaccines. We don’t even know who this other band is.” The Vaccines’ energetic performance warranted their devotion. Frontman Justin Young’s rubbery expressions, punk rock eyes, and convulsive dance moves are mesmerizing, perfectly suited to the Vaccines’ musical concoction of brit pop, grunge, and raw indie rock.
Bloc Party’s set wasn’t as consistent. They vacillated between the bouncy and the serene. Hymns, their first album in four years, was responsible for the latter. Their latest album is dreamy, more electronica than rock. Most everyone waited patiently and politely through these newer songs, save for the few who continually chanted the names of older hits. One guy who introduced himself as a street performer propositioned the band, saying he would perform “Helicopter.” Kele Okereke shut him down, telling him that he would do better and that the crowd wanted the band to perform—not him. When they closed their set with a four-song encore, they dedicated their final song to the “cheeky bastard up front” who had already left. You guessed it, it was “Helicopter.”
People wanted the old hits. When Bloc Party segued into “Banquet” the crowd exploded, turning the pit into a clump of strangers jumping in unison. Some were so satisfied when they played that song halfway into their set, they left.
This conundrum plagues every successful band. How do you balance the songs everyone loves from the past with your newest catalogue? Bloc Party kept it pretty even, rewarding the crowd with their favorite in the end. When the lights came on, after the band bowed and walked off stage, it was a mass of people shimmering in dance sweat.