It's a bit odd to finding out about shows via intra-company mail but it's oddly effective, I guess Chris knows how to get my attention. After giving me weekly updates about line-up changes and shifting focal points, Chris asked me if I would stop by their next show and offer my opinions on it. How can you resist an invitation like that? After calling the coffee shop and finding out the band had a start time of 10 minutes ago I jumped in my car and sped off to KCK.
I slipped into the club during their first song and sheepishly took a spot up front. The band has shed their 2nd guitarist/2nd vocalist and their bass player to become a more focused trio since playing out last. Chris asked me later that evening "How many bass players does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, the keyboard player can do it with her left hand."
The players break down like as such: Ron's drums are soft and jazzy and generally played with the half brush sticks. Laura is playing a new keyboard which largely serves as an electric piano though at times she brings in other non-traditional sounds for more ambient and experimental compositions. Her fingers alternately climb around the keyboard and thrust in it. Her vocals are unique. There is an otherworldliness about her vocal tone that brings to mind both Souixsie Souix (think The Banister) and Stevie Nicks (though at 19 years young, Laura is not throaty or rough at all). When all is at its best, her voice is hypnotic. In time it will be commanding. Chris's guitar work is superb particularly when he is allowed to stretch out into long whiney blues-based solos bending and hammering. He's (obviously) not as smooth as Clapton or other masters of the genre but his note choices are less conservative adding interest to a style that many feel we've already seen peak. It was telling that he wore a Blind Lemon Jefferson T-shirt tonight.
The songs themselves are in a state of flux. After loosing (quite by choice I'm told) half of the band and going through a host of temporary bass players that haven't worked out, they have yet to really define and prune their sound. Gone are the very ballsy blues numbers (which always sounded too chaotic) but there are still songs where Chris's guitar and Laura's piano seem to be battling for control. Her quick chord repetitions fighting with his wah pedal create a bit of unintentional chaos that will need to be worked out. The good news is the better tracks from the last incarnation as still around and when the balance is right, shape up quite nicely. Though the first set had more of the former and less of the latter, "Clarity" did find its way into the set and drew a very positive response from the 40 people (largely relatives and friends) who came to see the band. Laura's sister Paula's came forward to read a poem written by Ron while the band provided a spacey backdrop. She alternated between laughable performance art seriousness and out right laughing which in some ways was painful to watch, in other ways it was precisely what the open and embracing band is all about.
The second set was more focused and flowed better than the first. The two exceptions being a misplayed, and possibly mis-thunk, cover of Pink Floyd's psychedelic side note "Biding my Time" with Chris on vocals, and a long repetitive instrumental closer that seemed to be only half formed. A favourite from past shows, "Psychotic Circus", appeared during this set though the mix really negated much of the swirling nature of the keyboard and guitar interaction which I believe makes this their strongest song. Chris finished the set with his daughter perched on his guitar and clinging to his chest while gooey eyed family members took snapshots (there were at least four other cameras present!). I'd seem him do this before, but she's grown since then. Luckily his wife is pregnant again so the tradition can continue.