At 9pm miniBar was busy. Dan Jones was DJing grimy punk rock from Seattle. Cans of Hamm's were being lifted by guys with scraggly beards and long hair, all wearing coats over black hoodies. It was a real party... downstairs was anyway. Upstairs it was just three guys sitting in the dark, staring at their phones. I took a seat on one of the white leather couches and started the NYT Saturday puzzle. I know my place.
Ten minutes later the party relocated upstairs, allowing KC locals Canyons to kick off the night. I'd not seen the band before, but after sampling a few tracks in the days leading up to the show, I knew what to expect — Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, hardcore cadences, and dank riffs. The foursome delivered, even if the proportions weren't always right. Throughout the set singer Bobby Johnson paced the area in front of the stage, strangling the microphone that constantly crackled in and out. Occasionally he'd pace laterally, but generally he kept his back to the audience. This disdain for the crowd infected guitarist Morgan Mabrey as well. But even if he would have turned to face the crowd, he may have still been invisible on the dark miniBar stage with its many dead zones. As such only the bucking head banging of bassist Dylan Pyles offered much visually. Johnson's banter was informal and fun, announcing songs with quips like "This one is in no way recorded." and "This is another song" or "This is really one song, but we call it three." The band ended with that trio (or is it?) of songs, handing over the small stage for the touring act.
While I was able to discover all sorts of information about the opener before the gig, touring act Dug remained a bit of a mystery. I only knew to expect two dudes that play drums and guitar, with a fetish for experimental noises, long rests, and crushing distortion each in equal measure. Turns out that is all there is to know. The band played a heady seven-song set that included bouts of severe repetition, off kilter percussion, call and response instrumentation, infrequent vocals, and slow, body convulsing riffs. Guitarist Mike Baillie wore a Godflesh shirt. That's more than a tell. There wasn't any banter from the dark stage, and aside from the tension inherent in the band's compositions (e.g. when will Travis Kuhlman finally hit that booming floor tom again), there was no "show" to this show. Nevertheless, the 35 or so audience members packed the area around the stage, hyper-focused on every devastating downbeat, losing themselves in the pugilism of each judiciously struck power chord.
Damian Fisher addressed the audience before Abandoncy began its set. He explained that for this release show they'd play their new album (minus one song) and urged the audience to pick it up on cassette from the merch table afterward. Aside from an off-mic murmur from bassist Lincoln Peterson, there'd be no more banter — just a string of songs, chaotic and noisy, loud and louder. Fisher is a shouter. And he's twitchy. There's a lot of motion behind his mic stand as he bends, pulls, pushes, and throttles his guitar on tip toe producing strange noises and disjointed chords. He's in a battle against drummer Morgan Greenwood — essentially an octopus with ADHD. He hits hard, plays tight odd rhythms, eschews grooves, and adds fills so often there is no space left for them to fill. This means there is no rhythm to lock into, nor any melody to support, and thus Peterson gets a pass. Freed from responsibility, they jump all over the fretboard adding to the chaos and noise. Under it all there is some plan — at least listening to the new record you hear it — but live, a different energy dominates. Maybe this is why the band chose to skip the album's (relatively) subdued instrumental when playing through the album on stage, moving straight to the seven-plus minute scorched earth closer replete with a false ending that fools the audience every time. That one felt right and the crowd who loved Dug an hour earlier appreciated this finale.
The party was just revving back up as I packed my camera gear and headed for the door. Although I stopped to thank the bands, I slighted my friends and acquaintances — I was in a hurry to get home before the new Wordle dropped. Like I said, I know my place.