Stoop Kids, Pip The Pansy, and Thunder Lily presented a diverse, unique, and incredibly satisfying blend of styles and genres in a fantastic night at Nashville’s High Watt on Saturday. Ranging from house to new wave to funk, this weekend’s show offered something for everyone to enjoy. Despite their musical differences, all three acts shared a common theme of a little lightness and a lot of great music.
The Headliner: Stoop Kids
Stoop Kids saxophonist Thomas Eisenhood and singer Griffin Dean. (Photo credit: Charlie Gabriel)
My first exposure to Stoop Kids came courtesy of The Mids‘ keyboardist Andrew Fieler, who showed me their song “Better Left Unsaid” in the summer of 2018. The song blends modern hip hop sounds and autotune with driving guitars and tight harmonies, and it became a mainstay on one of my go-to Spotify playlists.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, when I started introducing myself to the rest of their music. I started with “Padiddle,” which comes from a completely different background. This casual, feel-good song sounds like the kind of smooth, slightly-washed springtime jam that fans of bands like Parrotfish, Surfaces, and Peach Pit would enjoy immediately. And then you move to a song like “Motions,” a more anthemic but equally upbeat track that feels like the lovechild of James Brown and The Revivalists. This New Orleans-born, Nashville-based outfit loves to blend styles that traditionally shouldn’t fit; Pigeons & Planes once praised their style as “a love letter to both doo-wop and classic hip-hop.”
In short, Stoop Kids is as exciting of an up-and-coming band as there is for me. I couldn’t wait to see how all of this translated to a live setting, and I was far from disappointed.
From the first note of their opener, “Tucked In,” their on-stage energy was palpable. Every single person on stage was having fun and getting into it, with lead singer/guitarist Griffin Dean wildly shaking his knees, bassist Sam Fruend shooting mock arrows at saxophonist Thomas Eisenhood, and one band member climbing the High Watt bar, bongo in hand, to take a percussion break midway through one of their songs. In between songs about a quarter of the way through their set, they even presented Eisenhood with a birthday cake onstage.
Griffin Dean of Stoop Kids (Photo Credit: Charlie Gabriel)
Musically, the energy never let up. Dean constantly displayed an unexpected — but astounding — falsetto throughout the show. He effortlessly and consistently hit notes that rivaled Paul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones — a band they’ve supported in past shows — in range if not in pure power. Meanwhile, Freund and drummer Joe Tontillo locked down tight grooves in the pocket the whole night.
Before performing “Better Left Unsaid,” Fruend announced that the song had just crossed the one-million-stream threshold on Spotify, a huge accomplishment for any band. I was extremely curious how the autotune-laden track would fit into what had been a funky, soulful rock set to that point, and while the band eschewed that particular effect in favor of a clean vocal performance, it sounded huge live and was a highlight of their set. Four songs later, the band concluded their show, which proved to be worth at least twice what they charged for admission.
Ultimately, Stoop Kids has the kind of energy that would make them a perfect tent band or early-afternoon stage slot at major music festivals nationwide, and I would be surprised if that isn’t in the cards in their near future. For more information on the band, their tour, and more, check out their Instagram here.
Opener 1: Thunder Lily
Steven Mullan of Thunder Lily (Photo Credit: Charlie Gabriel)
Kicking off their set sporting a lab coat and introducing the members of Thunder Lily with the assistance of a pre-recorded speech he mouthed along to, frontman Steven Mullan made it clear from the show’s outset that this was going to be unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He committed wholeheartedly to his glitching-robot, trippy brain scientist bit, making for a strong, fully thought out stage presentation. Musically, Mullan and friends hopped out of the DeLorean from the 1980s in a set rife with synth ballads and sax riffs. It’s weird, it’s random, and it’s completely unique. In their words, Thunder Lily is not a band, but a “place in the inner mind” from which they are messengers.
The first thing I said to my friends after they finished was “Can you imagine if we missed that?” In a sense, that’s the ultimate compliment for an opening act. Follow them on Instagram here.
Opener 2: Pip The Pansy
Pip the Pansy (Photo Credit: Charlie Gabriel, Edited by Hillary Gabriel)
Appearing to have come out of the most recent Uncharted video game, Pip the Pansy hit the stage dressed more like an explorer than a DJ. Wielding a flute in her holster, she frenetically bounced around the flower-draped High Watt stage between singing, playing flute, and mixing. Her energy was infectious, making multiple trips into the audience and even taking a stroll along the top of the bar. One member of the audience compared it to a much-less-aggressive Poppy, and I agree with the comparison. The artist formerly known as Wrenn displayed a wide variety of talents while maintaining an inviting, memorable show. Follow her on Instagram here.
(Photo Credit: Charlie Gabriel)