It was a night of big shows - Sebadoh at The Bottleneck, Man or Astroman? at the Hurricane, and Chamberlain at Davey's Uptown. If I didn't have a history with Chamberlain I probably wouldn't have gone to the show as they are really not my bag any longer. However I was at the first Chamberlain show (when they were Split Lip) and traveled every weekend for a year to see them so it was just second nature that I'd check out my hometown heroes when they came through Kansas City to support their new album, The Moon My Saddle.
I called the club and they told me three bands were playing and it would start around 10:30 with Chamberlain at 12:30. I hadn't been to Davey's Uptown but from what everyone had told me it wasn't really something that I wanted to do. You know kind of dirty and drunken and sleazy? Turns out my friends were half right but just a little too whitebread for their own good.
The club is at 34th and Main in midtown KCMO and is placed in a strip of buildings that probably date from the early 1900s. The first room contains the bar and a a dozen or so tables with an opening into the second room which has the small two tiered stage, more tables and a smaller, utility type bar in back. I quickly surveyed the place looking for anyone I knew but I couldn't find a soul so I walked up front and sat down on the floor next to the stage to watch Scott Easterday who had just begun his set.
Davey's seemed to be a very real club with real community. Lots of folks
there new each other and it was a nice mix of burn-outs, slackers, and
party goers that if KC were a college town, would be referred to snubbingly
as "townies" by the Bottleneck crowd. Scott seemed to be a member of the
clique and everyone enjoyed his solo acoustic set starting off the night.
His songs were a little country, others more AAA. His voice was solid and
his playing was excellent blending together a classical solo style with
more traditional acoustic strum.
Rex Hobart was up next. Last time I saw Rex he was with backing band The Misery Boys. I wasn't sure exactly how serious they were. Sure there were cowboy hats and cowboy shirts, steel guitar and even some cowboy boots, but there were also Converse all-stars. I found out later that Rex Hobart is Scott Hobart of Giant's Chair fame. That fueled my thoughts that Rex Hobart was really more of an irony than anything else. Tonight though I was put back in doubt if not completely deciding he's serious.
First off Rex has an incredible voice. He must have studied every
great country musician between 1930-1960 to perfect that warble. His
lyrics are nearly as good as his voice, and there is no reason that
Rex shouldn't be all over CMT. His playing is fairly unique with a
strong rhythmic quality rather than a nice open strum like you'd expect.
For the last two songs of the set he was joined by Misery Boy J.B. and
his clean Fender guitar. Rex's music has a different quality with J.B.
playing but both are equally good. Hard to imagine it gets better than
Up next was The Malachy Papers. Turns out tonight was their CD
release party even though they weren't headlining the show. They're a
free jazz quartet consisting of a drummer, upright bass, tenor sax
and a second percussionist that played vibes and assorted drums. The
band played 5 songs and it lasted for nearly 2 hours. There were more
traditional free jazz elements (is that possible?) that worked very well.
There were more experimental elements and forays into loose Dead-like
jams that didn't work for me. The songs were a mix of prepared themes
that the band would come back to, fully improvised pieces, one fully
scored piece, and even an attempt of a cover of a Eugene Chadbourne
song. When the band started their set the front of the 100+ crowd were
all wimmin, but by the time they finished the front rows were all men.
I don't know what it means but it is an interesting point to ponder I
suppose. Response was great from the crowd and it looks like they sold
a tonnage of CDs.
The Malachy Papers ended their set a little after 1am (earlier they taunted the crowd with "We're going to do it New Orleans style and play until 6am!"). The crowd grabbed their coats and disappeared quickly after the end of the set leaving only 20 or so folks in the club by the time Chamberlain started their set.
Chamberlain played about 7 songs all from the new album or last EP to a crowd that had consisted of about 12 people sitting in the back of the club talking amongst themselves. I seemed to be the only person there to see the band actually. Where were all the old school kids? Was it just me?
Their sound has changed since I saw them last year and has become more roots rock and less AAA. They sounded terminally Indiana with John Mellancamp and Jimmy Ryser both coming to mind. Most of the songs were slow, though the two quicker numbers were my favourites. The big change in the band in the last year or so has been in the line-up. After the album was recorded Curtis T and Clay were kicked out of the band. Tonight Seth Greathouse of Showermast was on bass but I understand he is the second bass player they've had since Curtis. Clay was replaced by a another guitarist, Stoll Vaughan, but he quit after only a couple of weeks leaving second guitar duties to Dave. Seth is a finger player that plays more in-line with the new sound of the band though he really had no on-stage personality. Dave played a hollow-body electric and has gotten much better in the last year or so but still the sound could have been fuller, especially when Adam went off to play leads.
Because the crowd was so small and it was so late, I think the band
decided to cut it off early. As they were tearing down they apologized
for the show. I don't think they were into it and they knew it just
wasn't a good show for them. Not having anything to compare it to, I
thought they were engaging performers who put on a good show. My only
complaint is in the songs themselves. They have gotten more predictable
with songs that all end the same way and designated place-solo-here
portions of the song.
I offered to let the band crash at my house but they had already checked into a hotel somewhere so I just split for a short drive home a little before 2:30am.