I stood in the corner reading a borrowed copy of Slice Harvester as the room made its transition from Fountain City Tattoo to after-hours club. Slowly the space filled with college kids, college dropouts, and those that recently graduated but have either chosen not to put their degrees to use, or chosen their degrees poorly. If flyers and Facebook posts are to be believed, the show was scheduled to start at 8pm, but it was 9:39 when Jasper Adkins stood in the center of a mini-pipe and announced that his band was ready to begin.
Jasper Adkins is probably 20 years younger than me, but looking at him reminded me of my father and all of my parents' friends in the mid '70s. They were a rowdy bunch of long-haired hippies with beards, motorcycles, guitars, pockets full of weed and psychotropic mushrooms, and odd theories on the power a pyramid could exert over a hardboiled egg. I don't know Adkins' stance on pyramid power, but I suspect the others line up pretty well. Thankfully Adkins' musical inspiration doesn't come from the southern fried rock my parents favored in that era, but instead from the music they came of age with. It's here in the garage band era that Leisure Boys have cast their lot.
Simplicity takes center stage in Leisure Boys' songs: simple drumming, simple bass, and (often) simple guitar work. Its songs recall the mid-tempo, R&B-powered rock & roll that you might have heard on a Nuggets compilation or played by The Yardbirds in 1962. Obviously the band's not blazing new territory with this approach, but it's done well – mostly because it adheres to the same influences that were picked up by that original era of musicians. Blues made its weight felt throughout the set, and took the spotlight entirely during one song. Elements of psychedelic rock a la Pink Floyd's "Interstellar overdrive" creep in, and guitar freak-outs were sprinkled in effectively through the set. Vintage guitar tones completed the picture, as the band gave the audience a very solid 30-minute set.
Between bands, the shop emptied as the kids went outside to smoke in the cold. The guys wore beanies over long, greasy hair to keep warm, while most of the women just bore the cold. Aside from one kid wearing track gear who might just have been a casual, the guys were generally shaggy, disheveled, and even a little dirty. The women in contrast were mostly fresh, with coifed hair and make up just right. I suppose opposites attract. I watched earlier in the night as one such gal popped a pill into her mouth during Leisure Boys set; it only seemed appropriate. However, during the break, I overheard telling her friend how bad her allergies were, and explaining she had resorted to taking medication. So much for my drug den narrative.
My voyeurism was cut short when Drugs & Attics stepped onto the ramp-as-stage at 10:30 to begin its set, returning my camera and I back into action. For a band that I have no strong feelings about, I seem to catch this Kansas City trio a lot. Fortunately, all of this experience has allowed me keep tabs the young band as it has progressed, and I've enjoyed the band a bit more with each show. Drugs & Attics is a lo-fi Burger Records sort of punk band with strong garage leanings and a penchant for 1950s rock & roll. I'd not noticed the thrash-y side of the band being so prominent in past shows, and it was during these FIDLAR-esque punk screamers that the audience (or rather the boys in the audience) erupted into a game of pushy-shovey that thrilled those involved, and irked the remainder of the already too-close-for-comfort audience. Even frontman Willie Jordan seemed surprised by the exuberant crowd. While I (sadly) found nothing curious about this resurgence of out-of-control concertgoers, I did scratch my head when Drugs & Attics played a complicated, almost indie rock track in the middle of its set. I hope to hear that one again next time I accidently catch the band.
Rising stars and mod-revivalists The Conquerors headlined the night. The band completed its transformation from meandering psych-rock band to tight R&B outfit nearly a year ago, and since then, frontman Rory Cameron has written a set of irresistible songs that would shine in any era and cast upon any genre. With Cameron's mop top haircut and black turtleneck sweater, I can understand the Beatles comparisons, though if one is reaching for a cheap touch point, one needn't look any further than The Who. This is music with energy, with testosterone, and it's made for dancing. Although the audience didn't exactly oblige that last point, they did pack all around the band, including standing several deep outside in the light rain to watch the band through the parlor's open garage door at the side of the makeshift stage. In return for their dedication, the audience got Cameron's great pop structures, big hooks, tight arrangements, the band's nice backing vocals, and the sincere, enthusiastic (albeit not flashy) delivery of the focused quintet. The Conquerors ended its too-short set without an encore, despite calls from the crowd.
As soon as I realized that there would be no encore, I began packing my camera and plotting my escape – I had already spent more time away from home than I had anticipated. However, the rest of the attendees seemed content to stick around, visit with friends, and attempt to finish off the beer that seemed to flow without stop from somewhere in the back of the tattoo parlor. I left them to their work, and walked out into the cool, wet night.