Friday May 5th, 2000 at Davey's Uptown Rambler in Kansas City,
Aberdeen, The Hillary Step, Save The Freak & AtomBombPocketKnife
Some people like diverse show bills, and although I am some people, I'd like the definition of diverse to be fleshed out a bit before I'm willing to sign on. For example, K Records has a variegated roster, but all of its bands could play together in a six day onslaught of drum & bass, hip-hop, punk rock, funk & low-fi pop that would work flawlessly. Granted all of K's releases are spun through the Calvin Johnson filter which imposes some common style to every band and genre represented, but there is also a unity between bands in their background, approach and aim. The key to a successful diverse bill is those commonalties the type of music played is really secondary.
However now that we've defined a template of what will work, we can apply that to the Cinco de Mayo (or Drinko de Mayo as the signs in the bar encouraged) celebration at Davey's Uptown Ramber. If grading on a pass/fail basis we'd have to ask them to repeat the class, but in hopes of partial credit let's look at the show:
First up (and playing to the largest audience of the night) were Chicago's AtomBombPocketKnife. Although the band was added to the bill at the last minute, the buzz had already started to spread and I found myself describing the band's sound to countless friends looking for the low-down before the show. Because of the late minute entry, they were saddled with the generally abhorred opening slot, however due to their minor celebrity status (recording for Southern Records) the sound man opted to start the show off at 11pm. Four bands and an 11pm start time is THE STUPIDIST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD, and the members of ABPK agreed. In fact they seemed embarrassed to be sitting in a booth in the front room, knowing that there were three other bands waiting to play afterwards, so at 10:45 they jumped the gun a bit and walked up on stage.
ABPK is a traditional three piece that spin interesting indie rock tales with strained and hurried vocals, repetitive (if not mind numbing) guitar chords, a bass that runs all around the song but seldom supports the rhythm or provides melody, and drums that push everything along. The band's complete disregard for consistent time signatures, pop song structures and melody made them a bit of a difficult listen, but if you listen for what is there, instead of what isn't, the band is very enjoyable and even catchy.
A good audience of 20 or so stood and crowded the stage while another 30 watched from the tables on the wings or in back. The band's 35 minute set ended things nicely and I'm sure encouraged sells of the band's newest CD.
At 11:25 Save the Freak were provided the stage and began a long set-up process. Even after loading the guitarist's 4X12" cabinet connected to two Marshall amplifiers, the bassist's 8X10" Ampeg cabinet, and the drummer's amazing Technicolor drumkit (with each snare, tom, and kick being a different colour that seemed to be chosen from last fall's Martha Stewart Living) nothing seemed to be happening.
Most members of the audience drifted off to other parts of the club, some went home and others stood around with me analyzing the guitarists black painted finger nails, his two Gibson Les Pauls, and baggy leather pants that appeared to come from The Gap.
I believe this show must have originally been booked with STF as the headliner, because the band certainly played the part. The exact timing escapes me at this point but without exaggeration, they had have played for two hours... two very long hours of hard rock and guitar machismo. Not surprisingly this didn't work for me, although the band wasn't without fans. A decidedly blue collar crowd in their late thirties swayed, drank, danced and drank while the band worked their evil magic. I drifted off to play pool.
With a lot of help from impatient and tiring friends, The Hillary Step set up quickly and began a short set. Per the norm, the band's tricky and heady indie rock quickly cleared Save the Freak's fans from the dance floor and replaced them with swaying and nodding members of the other bands. Singer/guitarist Brad Hodgson gave an impassioned performance despite the small crowd and the once-late-now-approaching-early hour. Although the rest of the band were tight, they seemed to want to be elsewhere (bed?) and played only to get by.
A half hour after their set began, and a little after 2am, the band were hurrying off the stage and loading their gear directly from stage to truck. I checked around the club and discovered two key facts. First, Aberdeen didn't seem to be in any hurry to get to the stage, and second everyone I knew had already left or were preparing to leave. This second fact is vital as Vanessa had dropped me off at the show (about five hours ago) and I was going to have to hunt down a ride from someone. Keanon was going my way but it meant that I would miss Aberdeen. Although I was assured that I wasn't missing much, it still bothered me to leave a band to play to an empty room... just not enough to make me want to walk home 40 blocks after 2am on a chilly night. Sorry guys.