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Monday January 29th, 2018 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
Belle Game, Spirit is the Spirit, & Jake Wells

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Sorry, just no time for a full accounting. Here's what I can tell you though: sometimes you go to a show because you like the bands playing, and sometimes you go because you're just curious. It was latter that brought me into recordBar on a Monday night.

Opening was Jake Wells. He's an earnest frontman unafraid of belting out a pop song at full voice from behind his keyboard. Backed by a trio (guitar, bass, drums), his radio-friendly tunes were colored with hints of jazz, blues (especially notable in the guitar solos), and gospel, however it was a handful of honest acoustic tracks at the end of the set that packed the biggest punch. The ten or so fans that stood up front thought so too.

Direct support was provided by locals Spirit is the Spirit. The band's set was built on progressive rock, with both psychedelic and even a pure jam band vibe surfacing at selected moments. The five players swap instruments quite a bit in their pursuit of the perfect high, but the two-guitar configuration featuring Danny Bowersox and Austen Malone was both boldest and best. And whoever lifted that angry synth sound straight from 1976 Alan Parsons Project, God bless you.

Headlining was Vancouver BC's Belle Game. This is where curiosity comes in. The band's new album (Fear/Nothing, Arts & Crafts, 2017) is a puzzling combination of daring and chill. Does it work? Mostly. Would it work live? I wanted to find out. Singer Andrea Lo passed the first gate, proving her vocals were just as commanding live, and were not merely studio wizardry. The second gate was cleared when the trio of musicians rebuilt the album's relaxed, lush compositions, via a preponderance of synth washes, sculpted guitar tones, and beats from triggers and drums (both electronic and acoustic). The modern EDM sheen was still there, transforming the dozens of fans at the front of the stage into dancers, but there was also a pleasing raggedness to the live version of the band that impressed rocker me. Pile on a solid performance from the animated Lo, and honest banter from keyboardist Katrina Jones, and my question was answered. It definitely works live — even better than the album in fact. Curiosity rewarded.