Friday October 23rd, 1998 at Webstirs in Kansas City, KS

The August Project & Matt Hollensbe

I suppose for this account I need to take you all the way back to work about a week ago when I got noticed intracompany mail envelope in my mailbox. Generally that doesn't happen unless someone is giving me work to do that they should have done themselves, but this time it was a flyer. A flyer? Yeah well the guitarist for The August Project heads up the mail room at the company i work. Not only does he control the xerox machines but the mail too. Damn I'd be on a power trip.

So at 8:00 I hopped on my bike and headed over to Webstirs, a little coffee shop that used to be a church near 39th and Rainbow. It's almost all up hill from my house which is what truly sucks about riding a bike or skating in Kansas City. I never knew how good I had it in Indianapolis. I bet it's real cool in Illinois. Anyway, I ducked in the back door, locked my bike to a bannister and head upstairs to the main room.

Being the responsible sort, I headed up to the front counter to pay the $2 cover listed on the flyers. The coffee jockey had no idea what I was talking about though, so I purchased a 16oz hot cider with my $2 instead. Golly gee I just love fall. A few of the August Projecters recognized me so I sat down a their table to watch the opening act.

Sitting in the back of the room on a stool with an acoustic guitar and a microphone was Matt Hollensbe, a long-hair bohemian type and guitarist of The Juice Looseners, performing a 50/50 mix of originals and covers. He seemed to be a pretty good guitarist but strained hard to hit some of the higher vocal parts with recognition but without apology. That's great, do your thing and fuck 'em if they want some polished AAA bullshit.

Among the covers you're likely to have recognized a Beatles' song, a Phish song, and if you were listening closely, you might have recognized "Little Earthquakes" by Tori Amos. The small crowd (less than 20) were made up of friends of the band and a few strays that were trying to study. Folks seemed appreciative of Matt's very real performance and it was a loose, casual affair. Later between the August Project sets, Matt would come up for another short set, but after breaking a string on his acoustic, he would be forced to go electric. On electric the dynamics were then a bit stronger and he had folks clapping long at points so it was no loss.

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Around 8:30 The August Project packed themselves onto the tiny stage and worked through a few sound checks to try and get the bass, drums, guitar, vocals/guitar & vocals/keyboard just right. Unfortunately it wasn't just right so I had to hop on my bike and head back to the house so I could return with an amp. Because of this I missed the first half of the first set. According to the band I didn't miss much due to the sound, but once things were set up right the band sounded good to me.

Musically the band is impossible to pigeon hole. They're jazzy at times and each instrument winds its own way through its own song in hopes they will all meet up at another time. Unfortunately this doesn't always happen, particularly on the newer songs. Both vocalist have completely different styles and sounds with one vocalist having a very full bluesy voice (a white grrl that can very nearly pull off Aretha!) and the other having a lighter and more haunting tone somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Siouxsie Sioux. Add in a blues guitar, strong keys (with an emphasis on attack), a winding bass, a second guitar for colour and drums to bind it all together, and you somehow end up with The August Project. I'm sure glad they're still not an 18 piece, that's just a reviewer's nightmare!

Who does it sound like? One audience member seemed to think "The Doors" which can occasionally be true, but only in that some AP songs song like some Door songs. Because of the difference between the two vocalist the set is often fairly schizophrenic with more tight R&B type numbers mixed in with long jamming psychedelic ones. I'm not sure the band knows where they are heading, but when they do watch out.

The audience (largely friends and still numbering about 20) enjoyed both types of numbers equally it seemed, although it's easier to move and clap along to the R&B influenced numbers than the others. The sound in the room is tough and varies greatly from one seat to another (I moved around quite a bit) but the band sounded good and full voiced.

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At 10pm the owners gave a "one more" signal to the band and reminded us to tip the bands as the shop doesn't pay them. Following their perfectly executed finale, the band politely thanked the audience and owners and stepped off the 8" stage. After moving their gear to the back of the stage in preparation for tomorrow night's repeat performance, they headed back to the drummer's house with most of the audience for a bit of post show celebration. Nothing pretentious about the band. Just another night for a group of friends who just like to play their music.