There’s a place between the end of a major chapter in life and the right time to reflect on it. That’s where the members of Nashville’s decade-old garage-country-punk quartet Those Darlins now briefly live, after a wildly successful Murfreesboro experiment turned into Nashville’s petite powerhouse; the band played its final show Friday, Jan. 29, to a warm, sold-out room of approximately 350 in Nashville’s The Basement East on Woodland Street.
Beginning the evening, Nashville quartet Tristen took the stage to perform a nine-song set sounding as if it were arranged by the ol’ blindfolded-dart-tosses-at-a-timeline-of-Neko-Case’s-career method by frontlady/songwriter and namesake, Tristen Gaspadarek. Three dapper gentlemen on the standard rhythm instruments backed the slip of a woman as she switched between her electric guitar and electric organ, singing through Tristen’s crowd favorites such as, “Gold Star” and “Baby Drugs.” Nashville’s sweetheart Caitlin Rose and Those Darlins were invited to sing onstage throughout their set, too, and after finishing her sweet “Lonely Destroyer,” as a solid closer, Gaspadarek took a moment as the audience’s applause died down: “We’re all going to cry together after this, right? All the women? It’ll be all cramped and crampy?” she asked almost genuinely curiously into the microphone and walked off into the wing.
There, the room awaited the inevitable during a brief set change until four shadowy figures entered from stage left. The room erupted in applause.
Those Darlins walked out seemingly comfortable and content—at home, really—to a warm, welcoming fandom. And Those Darlins wasted no time with sentiments, just like throughout their career.
The four of them strapped in and headed straight for their cutthroat live punk version of “Hives,” taken from their second album, Screws Get Loose, as founding Darlins Jessi Zazu and Nikki Kvarnes faced the crowd and cut their nails into their Fenders. Linwood Regensburg, who became an official Darlin after touring on the ladies’ self-titled album tour in 2010–11, manned the bass. There was a sit-in, first show/last show drummer known only as Jordan on drums and things turned Darlin from there real quick.
“Hives” was that sucker punch of punk needed to grab and hold attention right off the bat before Jessi Darlin rechanneled her Joey Ramone demeanor into that of Iggy Pop and began creeping around the front of the stage, mesmerizing the first few rows of people with her wide-eyed gaze brought on by the dark “Mystic Mind.”
Next was their dead-on femme anthem “Be Your Bro,” from Screws Get Loose, which was followed by an ever-so-smooth walking bass line from Regensburg, who was sliding out on a cover of Divine’s “Female Trouble.” Then, after punching through the clanky punk-country song “Snaggle Tooth Mama,” from their 2009 debut album, they finally got to Nikki Darlin’s beloved Joan Jett outlet “In the Wilderness,” from their last album, Blur the Lines.
Honestly, they could’ve stopped there and let the first seven songs stand as their legacy. Individually, the songs are just markers signifying hits scattered along Those Darlins’ 10-year-long discography, but, collectively, they stand as a good representation of their decade gone by. A greatest hits, even, ranging from the original members’ befriending at MTSU’s Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp and building their audiences through timid performances at The Boro Bar and Grill and house parties around town, until they moved on to greener pastures in Nashville. There, Those Darlins had no problem finding studio time, which afforded them the chance to grow their existing, goofy Murfreesboro wit that folks were eating up and fine-tune their sound to a grungier alt-country rock fitting to their new home, where they were surrounded by musical peers such as Caitlin Rose and Tristen, who all ended up making a noticeable and pretty powerful girl-rock movement in the state’s capital during the previous decade.
Yes, they could’ve stopped with those seven songs, but that wouldn’t exactly be Those Darlins’ style, would it?
From there, it turned into a quaint parade onstage for another 10 songs and a few encores as fellow artists, managers and friends were called to grab a microphone. The Darlins belted their way through a few covers such as Nikki’s Dylan pick, “The Man in Me,” Jessi’s choice of The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” and a nod to the Rock and Roll Girls camp with “Shakin’ All Over,” most currently popularized by rockabilly godmother Wanda Jackson. The remaining Those Darlins originals include “Oh, God,” “Guitar World,” and an array of ladies taking back the stage for a final “That Man,” sang in harmony by Those Darlins, Caitlyn Rose, Aida Victoria and Tristen. That one stood as a proper curtain call for Those Darlins stepping out.
It was a pleasant full-circle success story that’s been interesting to watch, and even more so to hear. From their first days of them playing The Boro to touring the nation alongside huge names of their industry and contributing to the wellness, flourishing, and promotion of female musicians on a local and national scale, these guys pretty much nailed it in their 20s, and good on them for it.
After the show, Jessi stood next to the stage with her people, still wide-eyed and surrounded by overstimulating people but looking as if she’s taking care of business; Nikki, on the other hand, was making her way to the patio through photographers, half a bottle of wine in one hand, her jacket draped over her shoulder in the other, with red, rock star eyes. And Regensburg was on stage, in awe, helping break down the gear with a smile on his face.
“The Boro . . . [laughs],” Jessi said, slightly rolling her eyes and turning around to attend the next person. Behind that person was the front door looking out at East Nashville’s Main Street.
Just because Those Darlins disbanded doesn’t mean you can’t find Those Darlins’ full discography on the web at thosedarlins.com, along with merchandise, videos and links to other Those Darlins affiliated sites, such as their record label, Oh Wow Dang Records. Information about Tristen can be found on Facebook and Twitter, or at tristen.com. A schedule of events and booking information for the Basement East can be found on Facebook or at thebasementnashville.com.