Ah, what a time. The first hints of spring hang in the air. The ground isn't quaking violently beneath our feet. And the clubs are beginning to fill with the sounds of real live touring bands from other cities, even other countries. Oh my. That makes for a busy Gnome, as was the case last week when your creaky correspondent spent more time in Belltown than a condo-hunting dot-couple. The Crocodile started up Monday night with Girls Against Boys, those mid-'90s hotties who were supposed to blow up big but never did—and who've apparently stopped attracting a legion of female fans. From the looks of the crowd, the band's name shoulda been Boys Against Boys. Then came Spoon on Tuesday, where post-emo outfit the Good Life stole the show from Britt Daniel and his Texas troopers. Spoon's usually piercing songs and punchy stage presence felt unusually flat this time out. Daniel said the band's van had quit on them, and sure enough, the haggard-looking band were spotted walking around downtown the following night by a Gnome Gnotifier, still awaiting transportation to another town. Wednesday brought a change of venue: the Showbox. There, Acetone reappeared like a mirage, finally kicking back into gear after a three-year layoff from the road. The L.A. band sounded tight, and Jeff Martin still wields one of the most velvety voices in rock. How odd, though, that they were mere openers for the North Mississippi All-Stars, a ravaging rootsy blues band with enough chops to put up a fight against Jackie Chan.
Friday brought the real action with buzzing N.Y.C. band the Strokes teaming with fast-rising Britpop group Doves at—where else?—the Croc. The Strokes met the hype head on and didn't blink. Sure, they look and somehow sound like a musical octopus, with one tentacle in each year of the 1976-1983 New York punk and art-rock eras. But when retro goes down this smooth, everybody's drinkin'. Doves came into town riding the success of their ultracatchy "Catch the Sun," a recent add to The End's playlist. The Brits performed with trippy film footage flashing behind them and their psychedelic pop sounded slick, but the Gnome decided to check out the second set of Mike Mussberger's last gig as the Fastbacks drummer over at Sit & Spin. Doves should've come along; they could've learned something about passion. Kurt Bloch played his guitar like a mannequin driving a new Lexus into a brick wall, and Mussberger offered some midrhythm stick twirls and even a few tosses. Wacked-out Presidents frontman Chris Ballew couldn't resist the urge to jump onstage for an extended cameo, and Kim Warnick looked like she was either gonna pat him on the back or kick his ass. By the long night's end, they'd changed the meaning of the term TGIF. It's now Thank God It's the Fastbacks! You betcha.