Photo Credit: Kerry Jones
When a musician thanks me and my fellow audience members for being “guinea pigs,” a mixture of reactions abound. The comment could seem condescending, as though the audience isn't deserving of a musician’s best material. Conversely, it could feel terribly exciting to be among the first to ever hear new material performed live.
As with anything, it’s all in the delivery. When Jack Tatum thanked his ample Caledonia audience on Monday night for serving as test subjects before Wild Nothing set out on a nationwide tour, I must admit, I felt nothing but privileged.
I am not, however, a true Athens audience member. I live in Brooklyn now, and have since leaving Athens in 2008. Being privy to this last-minute and relatively unpublicized show in my old stomping grounds simply because I happened to be in town for AthFest was exceptional luck.
I have been in love with Wild Nothing since first hearing them on a blissful weekend ski jaunt to Vermont, and Gemini has been on repeat in my store, car and headphones for the last year and a half. I couldn’t figure out why Athens was the chosen destination for this precursor show to a major tour, until Tatum outed guitarist Nathan Goodman as an Athens resident to explosive applause. Tatum also admitted proudly that this was the first night the group had been completed by this particular keyboardist and drummer in a live environment.
As a quintet, they exuded a confidence buttressed by an authentic excitement and elation for playing together. These guys love what they’re doing, and are doing it well.
Upon approaching Wild Nothing’s merch table, I was struck by a stunning tote bag, replete with imagery of the waxing and waning moon, as well as a spin-art-y, psychedelic wave print. I looked on as the guy directly in front of me, grinning with pride, purchased the first of these tote bags ever sold. I was jealous. But having a tote bag before everyone else in Brooklyn would be the least of my bragging rights; I had gained admission to an incredibly relevant, much crushed-on band, at my favorite venue of all time, for three dollars. From this week on, massive crowds will gather to observe Wild Nothing (as well as ethereal pop marvels Beach House, for part of the tour). The free Wild Nothing and Grimes show at Pier 84 in Manhattan has been written in fluorescent pink pen in my date book for weeks now, but that show will undoubtedly pale in comparison to this intimate and inexpensive affair.
The only (slight) bummer the evening presented was the omission of my favorite jam, “The Witching Hour.” However, with the inclusion of four or five new songs never before heard live, and me being close enough to have frequent eye contact with the boyishly handsome Tatum, I trust I could not have had a better first experience watching Wild Nothing perform live than the Caledonia allowed.
Those who witnessed this show? We were the lucky ones.