Friday July 20th, 2012 at The Brick in Kansas City, MO
Hidden Pictures, Fullbloods, & Shy Boys
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In an effort to be timely, please excuse my brevity. I've a busy schedule for the next few days, and hours are a valuable commodity.

It was 10:30 when Shy Boys began. There is some backstory to this trio involving a recent name change, a set of brothers, and a provenance that involves two members of The ACBs and one of Abracadabras. And while those tidbits make for interesting reading, a knowledge of scene trivia is not necessary to appreciate the band's sunny, multipart harmonies or clean surf-inspired tones. As seems to be all the rage with musical acts this year, Shy Boys are taking listeners to the beach. Although the band has yet to record, its not hard to imagine that its simple pop, built and performed admirably, won't be a hit with music fans.

Between acts I noticed that Shy Boys musical lineage served as a microcosm of the Brick itself. There were maybe 75 people in the club – some leftover from pub trivia, some enjoying the venue's substantial kitchen, some merely out for drinks, but a solid majority were there to see the bands. Of those patrons, I spotted members of nearly a dozen different local bands, and members of nearly every act on the Golden Sound Records roster. All scenes are like this to some degree, I suppose.

It was after 11:00 when the four members of Fullbloods began their set. I'd caught the band for the first time two weeks earlier, and left a bit perplexed by its incongruities. I hoped that this second set would clear a few things up for me. As I learned from my first experience with the band, Fullbloods' sound is cemented by the bright guitar of vocalist Ross Brown and peppy bass of Alex Chapman, revved by the choppy drums of Bill Pollock (who, I must say, looks like he's having a great time behind the kit), and bolstered by Brown's smart song craft and clear, ebullient vocals. But just as with my last listen, the lead guitar work of Glenn Shipps feels like a curious afterthought. While his countrified solos weren't highlighted in band's half-hour set, his deep, full guitar tones contrasted noticeably with the rest of his band. Maybe it was just my vantage point, or proximity to his amplifier, but the cohesiveness found on the band's album are no where to be found in the live setting. My investigation is ongoing.

The stage was a flurry of action as Fullbloods gave way to the six-piece headliners. Historically, Hidden Pictures has been defined by Richard Gintowt; the band is his vocals, his songs, his lyrics, his guitar, and his stage banter. While the backing vocals, harmonies, and glockenspiel of co-founder and muse Michelle Gaume Sanders shouldn't be understated, Gintowt will perform solo as Hidden Pictures when the situation requires it. With this in mind, the fact that Gintowt would celebrate the release of new album Rainbow Records by debuting a six-piece line up in Kansas City was a curious development, and a potentially troubling one for some ardent fans.

No one wants to read a capsule review of the band's new album tucked into this show account, but the two are inseparable. The addition of drummer Cameron Hawk (of The Dead Girls) late last year has revved up Hidden Pictures, pushing Gintowt's lilting indie pop toward the more aggressive power pop that dots the band's new album. These songs, in turn, require the bigger punch of a bigger band. Bigger band, bigger songs, bigger band, and the cycle repeats. Now Gintowt and Sanders find themselves surrounded by a quartet featuring Hawk, long-time keyboardist Nate Holt, bassist Corey Vitt, and second guitarist Thom Hoskins. The downside of such an ensemble was immediately felt as the band battled the small stage at the Brick and seemingly lost, leaving Holt hidden in a dark corner, barely visible. Luckily the band hadn't added the trumpet player that I kept hoping for.

It was after midnight when Hidden Pictures launched into its 13-song set with "Calling Christine" – the album's opening track. The band continued with four more songs from the new album, then excused Hoskins before dipping into its back catalog for a handful of favourites. Along with early gems like "Choosing Sides" and "Anne Apparently" (the latter of which may be wearing on its author), the band slipped in new number "Where Does The Story Go." This inclusion prompted Gintowt to tell the audience "If you liked that last song, don't buy our new album." Worst CD Release Party sales pitch ever? After recent EP track "Tangerine," Hoskins was recalled to the stage for three final songs from the latest album, including the brilliant "Solo Record Shop" which closed the band's 45-minute set.

Throughout the night, the current lineup was careful not to trounce the delightful nuances that fans have come to expect (vocal harmonies, glockenspiel accents, warm electric piano), and it even added a few new ones thanks to Hoskin's additional guitar. In fact, not much has changed: Gintowt remained a pleasantly sardonic frontman, Sander's backing vocals have never sounded better, and the band still balances Gintowt's precise pop songcraft with a breezy performances.

There were meek calls for an encore as the band finished its set, however this was a party held to celebrate with friends and peers – many of whom had already committed to seeing the band the following night anyway – and so the calls were shrugged off by Gintowt, who instead promised to stay put and drink all night with the revelers. I imagine that's exactly what happened, though I didn't stick around to find out. With some regret, I slipped out the front door without a goodbye, hopped on my scooter, and sped away for home. Like I said, I've got a full schedule.

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