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Tuesday March 21st, 2023 at BLVD Nights in Kansas City, MO
Clan of Xymox, The Bellwether Syndicate, & Monta

We're way behind, but it's important to get a few notes out about this excellent show. So, apologies to the bands slighted, I hope to catch you all again. Additionally, while all three bands were lovely, the real star of the show might have been BLVD Nights – a usually-Latino night club that (through the effort of Dallas Gutschenritter from the Riot Room) is now hosting occasional goth and extreme metal events. Its amenities and stage also deserve paragraphs that neither will get here.

The night began at 8pm with Monta. The band is a five-piece led by Dedric Moore (keyboards and vocals) with help from Matthew Heinrich (drums), Krystof Nemeth (guitar), Lucas Behrens (guitar), and Mikal Shapiro (vocals). The quintet builds synthpop too bright for darkwave, too dour for new wave, and proudly revisits production techniques that peaked in the mid and late ‘80s with acts like Animotion or Dead or Alive. You can dance to it, but in lieu of the hi-NRG pulsing beats employed by those acts, the band favors rich textures. The band's long 40-minute opening set was cohesive but never punched.

During the long pause between acts, I snagged Moore to ask him about the band's name change from "Monta at Odds" to simply "Monta." He explained the rebranding was prompted by the new line up (co-founder Delaney Moore has largely stepped aside) and his new focus toward tighter compositions and melody (sidelining the space rock and krautrock elements prevalent in early works.) The band always seems to refining its mission.

The Bellwether Syndicate followed. It is the project of William Faith and wife Sara Rose Faith. Both have long (don't ask how long) pedigrees in the goth scene. Both play guitar. Both offer vocals with William Faith taking the lead in that department. The live band was completed by "Corey Gorey" on bass, "Philly Peroxide" on keyboards, and Stevyn Grey on drums – each of which has their own impressive CV. The Chicago band is goth rock, or maybe death rock – genre purists will argue the definition of each until the Manic Panic fades – with just a hint of new romanticism. There was plenty of energy from the band (especially from Philly), the Faiths have a great look and stage presence, and the club turned the lights and fog up to 11 accenting a lovely 30-minute set that I wish I had time to write more about.

Again, there was a long pause between acts, so I walked the club where I ran into a dozen local musicians. Some were expected, like Brandon Phillips of Mensa Deathsquad or Jorge Arana of New Obsessions. Others were delightful surprises, like Thomas Lane of Tenant. When I teased him about being a secret goth, he assured me it was no secret. I guess Merciful Fate is a gateway drug.

Clan of Xymox has a long history that we just don't have time to cover. In one inadequate sentence, the band emerged in the Netherlands in 1981 with a sound that placed them alongside The Cure and other originators of icy, atmospheric, and danceable post-punk. Vocalist and guitarist Ronny Moorings is the only remaining member from those days. Today his live band consists of Sean Goebel on keyboards, Mario Usai on bass, and Daniel Hoffmann who controls the effects and sequencer that provided percussion and much of the atmospherics. The set covered a lot of the band's history. I'll admit that I was only familiar with the earliest 4AD-released records, but I found myself excited by songs recorded well past what critics deemed the band's relevant era. I suspect my interest was held because the band's sound has retained some of its dangerous punk elements. Generally, those sharp edges have been eroded away when a darkwave band faces its 20th or 30th (or 40th!) anniversary. Finally, my delight was partially due to Moorings himself. He was a charming frontman, able to walk the line between performance and informality exceptionally well. Of course, on a stage pulsing with strobe lights, covered in roving search lights, and beseeched by green and purple lasers, a kid having a tea party with their teddy bear would look damn exciting. All those lights meant the room was unexpectedly well lit. The lack of shadows may have kept the most self-conscious from dancing, but there were still pockets of the crowd that moved – some decked out in impressive high goth fashion, towering boots, and impressive makeup. Decked out or not, everyone in the crowd looked as ecstatic as I felt, and if the band was disappointed to be playing for only 250 patrons in an industrial area of Kansas City on a Tuesday night, it never let the audience know it.