Thursday April 5th, 2001 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Avail, Not Waving But Drowning, & Olsen Terror

Avail Avail Not Waving But Drowning Olsen Terror [more]

Early all-ages show. Let’s think about this. All-ages generally means under 18. Early show means that I have to go straight from work. I will have no time to camouflage myself. Everyone will find out I’m a sad old man.

Or maybe it won’t be like that. It’s Avail right? I mean I first saw ‘em in 91 so the band has to be as old than me. Probably older. I can’t be the only one who has been a fan since the olden days. Yeah I’ll fit in fine and Avail should draw out all my normal Lawrence hardcore kid buddies. Yeah I’ll be great.

Or wait. The Klammie showcases are tonight in Kansas City. So that means no indie rockers in Lawrence. Yeah it’s gonna suck.

The drive over from KC to Lawrence was nice. Kinda cloudy but warm. The windows and sun roof open and loud music playing — first Daft Punk, then [SUB][HUM][ANS], then a local, Seven Mile Drive. Somewhere in the middle of the drive I hit the toll road and grabbed my ticket from a disembodied, outreached arm. It was a few miles later when I realized I had no money to pay the upcoming toll. Is there a way I can just make a run for it by driving off road? What is the ground clearance of a Taurus station wagon? Damn I knew I should have bought the Xterra.

With cruise control set to 74 I released my seatbelt and started hunting under the seat for change — it falls out all the time; it has to be there somewhere. By the time I got the tollbooth at the West Lawrence exit I had found $1.20, three fortuitous quarters, a few pieces of minor silver and a handful of nasty pennies that barely passed as such. The guy at the toll booth was nice enough about it, said normally he makes folks stand on the side of the road with a cup until they come up with the necessary change. I would have. I have no dignity. Well none that begging for money would compromise. If anyone does know what they would do if you didn’t have any money, drop me a line and let me know. Do they just bill you for it? It has to have happened to someone.

The trip was quicker than it should have been (maybe because I was driving quicker than I should have been) and I got to the club before it opened. I slipped in the side door to see if Sean Tillman was there yet. Sean has been forced into having a thing with unicorns. He says people bring them to him all the time. So when I found a bad mirror with a white frosted unicorn on it at an Indiana Goodwill over Christmas I picked it up. Today I was to deliver it to Sean. What the hell is someone going to do with a 12" x 10" mirror while on tour? Oh well, not my problem and at $1.99 I guess it doesn’t matter much either.

Having no money to pay the toll also means no money to get into the club. Rather than squatting, which is never too tough at The Bottleneck, I figured I’d just walk to the ATM around the corner. Nothing noble about that. I just had time to kill anyway. If I wouldn’t have been so nice I probably would have just hung out in the corner and played Backgammon on my Palm Pilot.

So anyway there is the matter of the show. Some of you read these things to find out about that stuff don’t you? How annoying is all this journal stuff then right?

Olsen Terror opened the show with screamy, involved hardcore. I had been clued in a few months ago, so I was prepared for the onslaught of one-minute songs that are complex and emotional with added random danger. More musical then Crimson Curse and that kind, and no one writhed on the ground that I can remember, but I’m sure the differences are in genus, not in species here.

Luke "One Concern" Stemmerman plays bass and his goal seems to be to find out how many times he can play the same note in secession. It isn’t that the bass parts are easy, it’s that every note is actually 6. The whole band moves that quickly. Justin Betterton’s vocals and look are strictly San Diego — although he’s too rough to be a style kitten. I think that’s what makes his tight brown slacks palatable. Curt Lane’s drumming is open yet rapid fire but largely he serves to let the band know when they’re going to be brutally, furious and when they’re going to twist like laundry in the wind.

It was, I’m ashamed to say, much better than I expected. And I was, also shamefully, jealous that I wasn’t in the band. Maybe they need a second guitar. Na, they don’t. It’s exactly what it should be, and in the band’s five minute set (yes really) the band had proved everything they needed to.

I had seen Not Waving But Drowning once before a few months back. Maybe opening for Earth Crisis or maybe it was opening for Kid Dynamite or maybe it was opening for Peter, Paul and Mary [just seeing if you were paying attention still]. Anyway they were a hardcore band, a lot of screaming, a little generic, a little young. So obviously I was pumped for the show… or not.

But in the last months, this hardcore band has become a metal band, and I whole-heartedly approve. Nearly every element of the band is impressive. First the guitar is smart – it stops and starts and repeats and mutates and buzzes and crunches in every way it should. The bass rattles free in a very pleasing old school hardcore style (think Name in Mind by Soul Side) and bassist Jeff Meyer is one hell of a dancer. He seemed a little cocky but anyone can be when Brett Ray is trying to be their friend while they’re trying to play their set. The vocals however are the high point; Todd Finoch has taken screamed hardcore vocals to a full out death metal growl. He apologized for his rough voice due to a throat ailment, but whatever was ailing him should keep doing so. He sounded tough and mean and evil and really, really good.

After the half-hearted moshing stopped, I slipped back into my booth to take inventory, get the Olsen Terror 3" CD and pop out the laptop to make notes. Not many people there. Not sure if we even got a hundred. Not one hundred for Avail. What do the kids listen to now a day? Must be that acoustic emo stuff. Yeah damn the Dashboard Confessional! Belle and Sebastian you ruin everything!

Avail were not a lot different than when I saw them ten years ago and that is a big part of their appeal. There were no egos and the band seemed just as excited to be doing this show (even if this was show #50 of the tour) as they were to be playing their first. And nearly every year since that show Avail has been accompanied by an entourage of friends seeking the thrill of the road and of course by Beau Beau (cheerleader) and David (road/stage manager deluxe) to make sure everyone has a good time — each in their own way of course.

Avail was Avail. There isn’t much to report. They are full of energy and put on a great show without ever letting on that there is stage show. There are no synchronized dance moves and no mechanical poses atop monitors, just pure energy and emotion and an undeniable connection to the audience who sang along to every song the band gave. Each song is an honest blend of hardcore, punk, rock and pop with big breakdowns and catchy choruses designed to inspire the participation they receive.

The band’s set list was heavily weighted towards tracks from the most recent albums and it was those songs to which the young audience seemed to approve of most. Before the band ended they gave the audience two bits of crucial information. First, this would be the last song. There would be no encore. Encores are for rock bands. Second, that there had been a startling lack of stage diving and at that time Beau Beau urged the audience to find out how many stage dives they could fit in 1:18. I lost count around 23 although the most memorable had to be the last one: after the band had left the stage and the audience had began clearing and the club lights turned on, a boy with a mission to prove ran up on stage, dove, and laid out for the hardwood floor. Ouch. Kids do some crazy things. Maybe being the old man isn’t so bad after all.