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Friday Juy 21st, 2023 at The Rino in North Kansas City, MO
Almost Enemies, Curious Things, & Phase Distorter

Punk rock speedrun. 1-2-3-4!

Phase Distorter. Locals. A last-minute fill in for Deco Auto. A four piece but not tonight. Tonight, it's only three, with vocalist/guitarist Nick Rogers becoming vocalist/bassist Nick Rogers. James Levisee still played churning guitar chords. Jason Rabuck still pummelled drums using traditional grip. Usual bassist Duncan Parks decided to take the night off and watch the director's cut of Dirty Dancing with his grandparents. Awkward. This personnel shift set everything wonky so I'm not sure how much I know about the band even after its half-hour set. The band's bio says "dream punk," but with only Levisee's guitar, the band created more haze than gaze, so we'll have to try again another time. All was not lost though. Rogers was a witty behind the mic all night, ending the night announcing, "We have stickers and matches if you want to slap something or burn something." I suggest area stave churches should sleep with one eye open.

Curious Things from Denver. Kinda. The band is led by vocalist/guitarist Cameron Hawk who we still claim as a local after his time in literally (probably) a dozen bands like Dead Girls, Touchdowns, Podstar, and Stiff Middle Fingers. He's joined by Forrest Bartosh on drums. And, on this tour, Barry Swenson on bass. Definitely-local Swenson was conscripted for this short tour when the band's normal bassist had to stay back in Colorado because he couldn't miss another shift at the weed dispensary. And there's normally another guitarist. But he also had to stay home and work in Colorado's pot mines. He was replaced with a red inflatable tube man dubbed "Stan Standstill." Sure, that makes sense.

Despite the line-up shifts, Curious Things did sound like Curious Things. Roughly power pop, but leaning hard into that 1980s pop/rock. Some big pop hooks. Nothing too heavy. Cheery solos from Hawk while his tongue wagged. Clean vocals, big chords, and fast fills from the regulars. Expert bass from the gatecrasher – even with the tricky lines that sound like they were written by Husker Du's Greg Norton. Stan Standstill didn't disappoint either, expertly leaning against Hawk during the band's cover of The Police's "Truth Hits Everybody."

Then Almost Enemies from Saint Joe. Finally, a band that showed up with its own bassist. The quartet lines up as Jake Wright (vocals/guitar), Kyle Culp (lead guitar), Levi Sapp (bass), & Josh Davis (drums). The band is punk, but there are plenty of conflicting messages from other genres that kept me scratching my head the whole set. Strong vocals from Wright. The band's first EP featured that 2000s-styled snotty vocal style, but live they were clean. But also, maybe, tinted by metalcore cadences? Covers of "Blitzkrieg Pop" and Greenday's "Brain Stew" were modified to meet the band's needs. Sapp stole the show with constant pogoing, solid backing vocals – including a bit of screamo sideman action – voluminous hair, and by-the-book punk basslines. Culp also jumped about. And he marched around the stage too. And he crouched and pointed his Gibson SG at the crowd like it were a machine gun while he delivered solos. Not many folks were at the show all night, and fewer stuck around. Still Wright shouted, "Make some noise KC!!!" at us. When we did not make any extra noise, the band still delivered its 40-minute set with gratuitous vigor. Very magnanimous of them.