The Shins come to Nashville (Part I: Third Man Records)

This past weekend, October 5-7th, Nashville had the opportunity to host one of alternative rock’s flagship members, The Shins. Spanning the course of Saturday and Sunday, James Mercer and his newly-reformed outfit performed at the Ryman Auditorium, played a sold-out show at Third Man Records’ newly-renovated venue space and even recorded a live album. We had the opportunity to check out the group in two entirely different settings, so here is the first installment in our two-part review of The Shins’ October weekend in Nashville, TN.

The Saturday night performance at TMR was announced a mere four days prior to doors opening. Tickets sold out instantly as fans clamored to see The Shins as well as be part of the grand re-opening of TMR’s iconic Blue Room venue. Waiting in line was like standing at the gates of an audiophile’s Wonka Factory – not the craziest simile considering Third Man is known for its meticulous attention to aesthetic detail, unprecedented secrecy and Jack White’s uncanny similarity to Johnny Depp’s reprisal of the iconic character. We were farmed up a narrow corridor lit by dim, red lighting that led into an open-ceiling area that housed the venue entrance as well as bathrooms, a much needed addition to the space.

For those out there concerned about logistics, here’s how the show worked: after Low Cut Connie’s performance (detailed below), The Shins’ set was mixed and mastered live, then pressed directly to vinyl. Using the lathe that once occupied Cincinnati’s King Records (James Brown, Charlie Feathers, etc.), patrons were able to watch the process live via flat screen television mounted to the wall. Controlled by an ambiguous torso in a white lab coat, the record covers roughly two-thirds of the show.

Low Cut Connie warmed up the crowd with an ecstatic performance that was equal parts Jerry Lee Lewis modernization, humorous banter and dry-humping anything in sight. The group worked in a round-robin format, trading instruments and vocal duties at almost every track’s end. Adam Weiner, the ringleader and most common singer of the bunch, pushed the outfit along with an immaculate diminished rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “It’s A Lonesome Old Town” and a slew of risque gestures and comments. While certain aspects had potential to rub crowd members the wrong way – not everyone appreciates anti-semitic farce and mental images of their own mothers sporting low cut dresses – the crowd was more than willing to enjoy the obscurity.

Anyone who follows the saga of The Shins knows that the only original member remaining is frontman James Mercer. Their newest record, Port of Morrow, features the newly-created group comprised of touring heavy-hitters Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), Jessica Dobson (Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Spoon) and other musicians with equally impressive histories. Just as initial hesitation on the first spin of Port of Morrow was resolved with relief, the TMR show proved that The Shins are just as relevant as ever. The new Shins are a team of well-seasoned musicians, and it shows.

The show spanned all four releases from the Portland rockers, featuring earlier cuts from Oh, Inverterd World’s “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang” to Chutes Too Narrow’s “Saint Simon” and “Kissing the Lipless.” Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned tracks were included on the live-record-to-be, which was more centered around the best of Port of Morrow including “Bait and Switch” and “No Way Down.” However, a couple tracks from previous records snuck their way onto the pressing, which are detailed in the setlist.

There was an electric excitement about the show that was embodied best in the musicians. Performers and patrons alike seemed excited about the recording, and Mercer took time during the lathe-operator’s preparation for the B-side to chat with the fans in the 200-ish capacity room. He appeared humbled to be a part of the experience and was soft-spoken while telling stories about his hometown of Albuquerque and touring.

The last three songs of the night served as a mini-after-party celebration for the recording portion. The band was now able to kick back and wrap up with a track from each of their past three releases. Without being under the pressure of a one-take tracking, the night ended with the same strength and energy as it started. Mercer signed off with a plug for the next night’s show at The Ryman and a big thanks to both the crowd and TMR for hosting the event. And with that, the three hour night was solidified as an intimate experience that attendees, ourselves included, will be hard-pressed (pun intended) to forget.

Check back later this week for Part II of The Shins come to Nashville with a look at The Ryman performance with White Rabbits.


Kissing the Lipless
Caring is Creepy
Simple Song*
Bait and Switch*
Pam Berry*
Phantom Limb*
So Says I*
The Rifle’s Spiral*
No Way Down*
Port of Morrow*
Saint Simon
New Slang
Sleeping Lessons

* Included on the live record

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