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Better Than: An amber shower after a midnight run. Sounds filthy, right? That’s the point, but in a not too raunchy way. Nikki Darlin has a tendency to take a swig of beer, whiskey or any beverage within reach, down it and then spit it all over the eager fans in front of her at the height of “Night Jogger.” (At Glasslands, she didn’t, but that didn’t keep her from rocking the song any less.)
When I saw Those Darlins for the first time, it was a 45-minute flurry of torn black lace, red sequins, spit beer and a barrage of screeches in between A-chords on a makeshift stage in the backyard of a South Austin barbeque joint. That was in the middle of a Saturday afternoon at SXSW 2010, back when Those Darlins was a foursome (Jessi Darlin, Nikki Darlin, Kelley Darlin and Linwood Regensburg) and their set list solely consisted of “Wild One,” “DUI or Die,” “222” and the rest of the rockabilly anthems from their 2009 debut.
Between then and now, Those Darlins have shed a member and the baritone ukulele. They’ve also picked up a penchant for surf sounds, garage sensibilities and the solo chops that forced the band’s transformation from honky tonk entertainment to the kind of unapologetic, straightforward rock n’ roll that does Nashville right.
Friday night at Glasslands proved this in spades, as Those Darlins barreled through some new songs and a handful of tunes from the product of this shift in musical identity, last year’s Screws Get Loose. Manhandling an axe nearly as big as she is, Jessi Darlin played the crowd like a full deck throughout the course of the set, thrusting her guitar in the face of a seemingly enraptured fedora-clad dude while Nikki howled the call-and-response cries of “Pussy Party!” and the chorus to “Be Your Bro” alongside her. The delicate, tissue cloud-clad ceiling of Glasslands served as a paradoxically heavenly backdrop as things got gritty beneath it, with Jessi and Nikki writhing around on the floor at one point, picking the screaming strings one by one as beers got spilled and the room banged their collective head accordingly.
Though they’ve changed things up and shuttered aspects of their sound in the name of evolution, Those Darlins continue to put on a hell of a show complete with dirty words, tons of reverb and some whiskey in your hair if Nikki feels hawking some into the crowd.
Before heading out on this fall jaunt with Heavy Cream, fellow Tennesseans and their brother/sister band in lo-fi, Those Darlins recorded a split 7″ with them called Summer’s Dead, which they recently described to SPIN as their take on the “murder ballad.” Give it a go here, and keep tabs on the rockabilly-gone-rockers for new releases in the coming months.
Critical Bias: Though they’ve sharpened their skills and take their performances more seriously (seeing as they play more than party onstage now), Those Darlins are at their best when they marry their old and new selves onstage. They feed off the joy ebbing from the crowd as soon as the older songs pop up–namely “Don’t Break My Mama’s Heart” and “Red Light Love,” which many mouthed along with–and it’d be great to hear more of the old stuff earlier on in the night.
Overheard: “You guys are the only ones that’ve heard that!” — Nikki to crowd after a brand new song whose name wasn’t announced. (This was also the most inopportune moment to go to the bar ever, as I was failing at frantically Googling the lyrics to try to figure out which song it was while trying to get my hands on a Tequila Mockingbird. Yes, that’s a cocktail that exists.)
Random Notebook Dump: “Harry Dean Stanton dedication!” This happened, but again, I missed the song title. This time I blame furious dancing/putting my phone down for a second so that I could thrash about for a bit and revel in my Darlin-dom.