Manor Records continues to move and shake Kansas City. The avenue may change, but the flame is never extinguished. Recently we've seen headman Shaun Crowley select Blip Roasters as the venue for many of his endeavors, including moving his weekly Songbird Sessions (now on Thursday nights) to the moto-themed coffeeshop earlier this year. It was also selected as the site for the launch of the non-profit label's latest cassette featuring three of the area's bravest and finest bands. Not only would Blip stay open four additional hours to accommodate the festivities, but Spicy Moon agreed to operate a small pop-up selling vegan foods, further elevating what was already a must-see gig. Despite the abnormally cold weather, it feels like Kansas City is beginning to wake up from its winter's nap.
The evening opened with Nightosphere. The three-piece sounded good on the dim Blip stage. The quiet songs that appeared early in the setlist sounded strong and unusually crisp. I'd later learn my location may have played a major factor in that assessment. Nevertheless, Claire Hannah's voice was more piercing than usual, and Brittany Sawtelle's more assured. Both voices soon moved from delicate whispers to cathartic screams. It seems everyone's screaming more than they used to. The crowd liked these explosions. I liked the indie rock guitar heroics from Sawtelle that came during the debut of a new song that served as the finale. Hannah introduced its theme, stressing healthcare should be a universal right. To be honest I never thought to wonder what Nightosphere's songs were about. Until that moment, I'd also never heard the band pause to explain such things. Previously the band had been reluctant to provide any banter. It was a special night.
I've seen each of the bands performing a half dozen times in the last year – mostly at other DIY venues. Looking around the crowd between acts, I saw a lot of familiar faces from Farewell. Other stans I suppose. Or maybe this was just a Friday night launching point. I saw a lot of people I follow on Instagram. People who share with me (and anyone curious enough to click) photos of their pets and vacations. Of their after-hours highs and their intimate lows. Is it odd not to be able to put names with familiar faces? I also saw the usual photographers. We're a predictable lot.
Flooding followed. Frontwoman Rose Brown is hard to mic. Her quiet moments are discreet. Her loud ones lurid. She works them both. After the first song, the audience asked for more vocals, sending Shaun Crowley scurrying to the small mixer at the back of the stage. He knew his appearance was performative, muttering under his breath, "We have one working speaker, just move in front of it if you wanna hear." Bassist Cole Billings was apologetic, admitting that the band simply plays too loud. Brown was more direct, telling the crowd if they wanted to hear her vocals, they could buy the new cassette. That earned laughs and applause. Luckily, I was in front of that working speaker, allowing me to hear not only Brown's boisterous screams, but her subtle moments, and her unusually loquacious banter too. Must've been something in the coffee. The trio's performance was solid and well-rehearsed. Bassist Cole Billings stood sideways to keep an eye on both his compatriots. He directs things. Or maybe he just adjusts as necessary. Drummer Zach Cunningham stared down at his kit most of the time. Often doubled over during the plodding slowcore that the band guides listeners through. He listens intently to the others. He's the engineer. The trio finished with the song from the new split release. It's called "This Will All Burn," and it's delightful. But I'm afraid to learn what it's about.
The sizable crowd that filled the big room for the opener thinned throughout the night. By the time the headliners went on, only 30 or so remained. It's a big room for 30 people, but it's a nice room. It seems unlikely the space will get the sound dampening nor lights it needs to take it to the next level (not to mention the PA), but the low stage was a pleasant surprise, so anything's possible. I sat on a vintage couch while the stage quickly turned over to the final act. A shared drumkit moved the show along nicely.
It was 10:20 when Abandoncy took the stage. Although a trio like the previous acts, quiet moments of introspection were rare in the headliner's set. Instead, chaotic songs of incredible intensity were the norm. The band sounded loud and punchy. Every time I see them, they're better than I remember. Damian Fisher leads the band. It's his (mostly unintelligible) vocals and his wiry and wounded guitar up front. Someone in the audience could have probably bought that guitar for a $1 as Fisher fought with it repeatedly throughout the night. He finally smashed it against the stage during the last song. It will definitely need a tune-up now. Morgan Greenwood is competitive drummer, playing lines that are not content to merely provide foundational support or even lyrical embellishment. Normally I see him tucked in a corner. Watching him with room to swing was enjoyable. Bassist Lincoln Peterson also had room to move. To stand back from the microphone and shout. To move forward for the delicate lines that they add to "Your Condition" – the night’s closer and not coincidently, the final track on the split release. Of the six or seven songs performed, most were brand new, hopefully a portent for an upcoming release.
During Abandoncy’s set the crowd woke up and many of the familiar faces from Farewell came forward for the fun. Matt Perrin rode on Max Popoff's shoulders, reaching up to the rafters. Later he did the worm across the pit. The young kids who had lined the stage jumped into the fray quickly, holding their own against a much larger tide. The photographers, however, scattered to the extreme edges. Kicks and punches may bruise my limbs, but lenses are damn expensive.
By 11pm the music was over, and a new flurry of activity began. The café staff, the pop-up chefs, the bands, and promoters all hurried into their closing tasks. Like the other photographers, I packed up my gear to hurry home knowing that I had several hours of video processing waiting for me. There are a lot of moving parts even in the most mundane of shows, but ones like this take a crew. Let's remember to thank Manor Records and Shaun Crowley for their continued work supporting our scene.