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Saturday December 2nd, 2023 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
Black Light Animals, Gemini Parks, & Heat Seger

Have you seen Heat Seger yet? You really should. They've been around since March so you've had your chances. It's a pop band. Actually, a power pop band in a laidback late '70s – and especially early '80s – way. Lead vocals come from either "Pete" (who remains a man without a last name) or Joe Montanaro (a name with many names). When their voices combine, it’s magic. Pete plays the rhythm guitar parts, Montanaro the leads. Brian Klein plays bass. He's a guileless bassist who stays in sync with drummer McKayla Brady. Her cymbal-less drums are open and simple yet avoid falling into that garage clobbering. Extra percussion comes from Jake Cardwell who adds tambourines, all manner of shakers, and an additional floor tom. There's not much show to the band. No one leaves their microphone to dance. No one jumps. The seated Cardwell might move the most, shaking a maraca or two high above his head before sending them crashing down onto his makeshift kit. Montanaro handles most of the banter. Really he's just stalling for time, like when the band realized they had three distinct setlists on the stage. The foursome covered Marshall Crenshaw's "My Favorite Waste of Time." Everyone has covered it – Bette Midler, Ronnie Spector, Freedy Johnston, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – but the combination of simple pounding percussion and rattling tambourine seems perfect for Heat Seger. And when a band covers a Marshall Crenshaw song, and it's not the best-written song in the set, you know they're onto something. All I want for Christmas is a Heat Seger album.

By now you've seen Gemini Parks, right? It's the latest project from Josh Berwanger. This time it's pop. Or maybe it's hyper pop. Or maybe it's just funk. I don't know, but you can and should dance to it. Berwanger provides vocals, moving around the stage in leather pants, holding a golden microphone, colored by the abstract projections that paint the whole stage. Occasionally he picks up a guitar and plays a chicka chicka rhythmic hook. Melodies, however, come from synthesized backing tracks. It's sexy--slinky bassist Josh Hartranft makes sure of that. Hartranft also provides backing vocals. He abused his microphone to announce to the audience that he definitely was not sober, so it's a good thing that drummer Mitch Hewlett is there to keep the beat. Hewlett plays acoustic drums, utilizes a few electronic pads for booming bass, and runs the backing tracks that include even more percussion, those melodic synth lines, and some canned backing vocals. It's not rock & roll but I like it. So did the crowd. They came out of the shadows and away from their tables to dance. The "hits" from this year's Mom, Why Is Everybody A Hoe? album came near the end of the set. They're not really hits, but they could be. They're as catchy as they come. Later Berwanger confided in me that the band hadn't practiced in a while. I guess that muscle memory is kicking in then, as the band's half-hour set had never sounded or looked better.

The night ended with Black Light Animals. Or at least it did for me. I dunno what other people did afterwards. The band has been around in various incarnations for years so even if you're not a fan of their yacht-rocked soul, you've likely run into them. The quintet is led by Colby Bales. He sings, he plays piano, and he plays guitar. Beside him stands lead guitarist Cody Calhoun. His conspicuous leads and solos are bent and hammered to the forefront of the band's songs – songs that lean harder toward the B on the R&B continuum. Bassist Branden Moser occasionally adds funky basslines to the songs to entice dancers. Drummer Alex Hartmann and keyboardist Nate Hubert merely play their supporting roles. The musicians are talented, and their performances are slick and rehearsed. Every gig I've seen has the same banter and the same calls for audience participation. That consistency only fortified its fans who happily sang the requested refrain of "Like De Niro in '76, let me be your taxi driver" as they wiggled about the dance floor. There are not many bands in KC doing what Black Light Animals do. It's up to you to decide if that's a good or bad thing.