Had the lovely opportunity to kick it with Andy and Kyle of Penny & Sparrow last month before they took the stage at Rockwood Music Hall. For their soft and tender sound, they were surprisingly energetic and hilarious off stage; some of the most genuine and down to earth guys you'll meet. Their banter carried on stage, in between tear-tinged songs taking hard looks at the opposite end of the spectrum. Here are a few of my favorites from that night:
When I studied music business at Belmont in Nashville, my first internship was for a small music management/distribution/marketing company called Thirty Tigers, squared away right above Grimey's; the best record store in the city, and one of the best in the country. I found them at my college's internship fair, lined up among the countless cliche's of Nashville's music biz. The corporate, the stale, the endless country music related anything; nothing was sticking out to me until I saw a few stickers. Katie helmed the Thirty Tigers booth and looked like someone of common taste, in the giant sea of un-relatable. Avett Brothers stickers caught my eye first, but I saw Those Darlins had a few on there as well. Based on just those two bands, I knew I wanted to intern with these people.
The story of how I even knew about Those Darlins in early 2008, before their first album I would learn was due out later that year, is as traditional of a music discovery as was their original music roots. Over winter break in 2007, back home in Cincinnati, I went across the river to what used to be one the best music venues for several states, the original Southgate House. I went to see Nashville's Will Hoge in the main ballroom. In between the opener and his set, I wandered out to the bar area to follow the three voices echoing out into the hallway. And there was the original lineup of Those Darlins, all three in a row, Jessie, Nikki and Kelley, tapping on wooden sheets for percussion and strumming mostly inspired by or straight up traditional country songs.
I liked them right away and I couldn't even fully grasp why. They were playing mostly traditional music but they had something else; hints of this rockabilly, and this kinda punk attitude or energy, and they were just flat out entertaining. I wanted to see them again. That's a pretty instinctual sign that there's something there.
Unfortunately when I took the internship, I was a total midwest, wound up, straight-edge-minus-the-vegan, music nerd who thought he knew everything that was "good" already. JT, Those Darlins manager, then through now, was my boss at the internship. I remember going to the interview in khaki pants, button down shirt and my favorite orange tie. That was me trying to be professional but tone it down a notch, hence the go-to khakis. His mind was blown when I didn't really know what Patsy Cline's music sounded like (this came up when he came in with a black shirt of her's on, with bright pink lettering). I realized pretty quickly, he had every right to have his mind blown. I fucking love Patsy Cline now. There were others, I'm sure just as "embarrassing". I learned, eventually.
Anyway, this was a hell of a time to have seen Those Darlins months prior, in a different state, and take said internship of their hometown. This was when Pitchfork was at its height of influence. Myspace was the predominant form of social media and the Darlins had made friendly with NYC folk like the producer of Vampire Weekend's debut record, whom they started to work on their debut album with while I was interning. JT didn't let me hear any of it but I remember him monstrously rocking out to it whenever he'd get a new track. He was stoked. I was stoked, but he was definitely more stoked. They were his baby, and he had started his record label, OH WOW DANG, that the album would be released on. He also took daily siestas, and was dead serious about them; I'll never forget that.
I didn't do much there, mostly putting ads for upcoming shows and the like on as many Myspace pages as possible. But I still felt apart of it in some way. I was there for the beginning. And I really liked the hell out of the band. The record came out a few months after my internship was done. I felt proud of it, like it was mine too. And I think that's why, 8 years later, at Those Darlins official last show 3/17/2016, in NYC, I felt strangely emotional about it all. I hadn't seen them live in years, and definitely not in (one of) their updated lineups. I hadn't kept up with anyone at Thirty Tigers or related to Those Darlins at all besides other friends I told to intern with them (and one did). But, when I walked into the green room at Baby's All Right for their last show, and just talked to everyone, it kind of sunk it. It was weird. I had essentially seen their beginning and now was very literally seeing their end.
A closer friend of theirs wrote this, and a lot of it struck a chord with me. I was happy to have made it to the last one, seen them go from three girls tapping traditional country to a full on rock n roll force, with so many influences flowing out, and still sounding like Those Darlins. They were nice enough to let me document the last show before, during and after. I'm gonna miss them/it but I'm really grateful that Those Darlins happened at all, and I was a small part of it then and now.
A few favorites from BTS: