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Tuesday November 7th, 2017 at Rollerdog in Kansas City, MO
Burnt, Shellshag, & The Bad Ideas

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New venue. Same punk rock punctuality.

At 9:30 a harried Bad Ideas secured its drum kit, pushed a microphone stand as far forward as it would go, and began debating which songs it would need to cut from its set. Soon it launched into a short set of short punk rock songs punctuated by long discussions of what can be skipped, and what songs are favorites of which band members. Frontwoman Breaka Dawn shouted her lyrical frustrations into the faces of horseshoe of fans that edged the band. Soon that front would dissolve and engulf the band, as pushing, dancing, and shoving (all in equal and indistinguishable measures) took over. Guitarist Britt Adair stood back, focused on her ripping guitar, tethered by a microphone stand, and corralled by the various cables and cords tangled at her feet. Bassist Matt Roberts picked up the slack, bounding back and forth in a virtual box whose walls only he could see. Drummer Jay Willis drove the band with surprisingly nuanced percussion. After a final debate on how many songs should be played (Was it one? Was it three? I can't even remember now.), punk rock resumed, energy was expended, and spirits were lifted. The Bad Ideas are always a good time.

In a rather pessimistic move, Shellshag were tapped to play second. Of course, no such shenanigans were necessary, as the crowd of three dozen were definitely there to see the long-running New York duo. After the screaming and occasionally blistering set from The Bad Ideas, Shellshag's set felt extra subdued. The couple kept to mid-tempo (at best) songs built around guitarist John "Shellhead" Driver's melodic, sawn chords, fat with distortion, and the tribal rhythms of standing drummer Jennifer Shagawat. Both provided vocals, each taking lead, backing, or tandem roles throughout the set. In the faster songs the audience pogoed, during their favorites the audience sang along. The band's unique set up — facing each other, positioned around the band's lit-like-a-Christmas-tree proprietary "Pyramid of Sound" — encouraged encroachment from the audience, and soon there was a ring around the entire band. This proximity came in handy when Driver decided to climb an external amp in preparation for a leaping conclusion to "1984," but instead a miscalculation sent his guitar crashing to the floor. While one patron held the distressed and still ringing guitar, another was able to fetch a replacement, righting all wrongs.

Nominal headliner Burnt must have drawn the short straw. Playing after Shellshag is tough ask for any band, but for a band playing only its second show, well, that's rough. I know little about Burnt, and despite my query, the band wasn't forthcoming with information. I presume the band is local, but I don't recognize any of the players from other bands (though I must confess I'm very bad at that game). The standard three-piece is led by a twenty-something frontman with considerable grievances, many seemingly caused by employment, underemployment, and unemployment. In a curiously long set filled with screamed expletives and vinegar, the audience got to know his trials, and based on audience reaction, his experiences are not unique. Though I suspect relatable lyrics weren't the reason the crowd spent the set careening back and forth, crashing into work benches, and occasionally ending up in a dogpile on the floor — blame the band's disjointed punk rock for that. Burnt's songs were simultaneously sloppy, stumbling, and avant-garde in a way that recalled Flipper, but with hints of doom and other more metallic notes. On several occasions instrumentals went down long, winding paths, ultimately arriving nowhere, something I suspect will be culled as the band matures. The bright spot came in the middle of the band's set during a burner that I'll call "Get A Fuckin' Hat." Our protagonist was once again faced with an unfair system and underemployed, but his irritations were our gains as his guitar wended its way around the rhythm section in delightful ways, always stepping aside just enough to allow the shouted refrain the impact it needed. It was enough, but just to hedge its bets, the band ended the night with a cover of The Wipers' "Window Shop For Love" in a bid to guarantee everyone left its gig with a sing-a-long smile. It worked.