Sadly, there's just no time for a full accounting of this show. Here are some very quick thoughts on the night:
I walked in sometime after 10pm to hear Sons of Great Dane's Brent Windler covering "Jeepster." That's a good place to start. Soon he was joined by Son's other guitarist, and the two worked through a couple of new songs written for their full band, but power chords just don't sound the same when strummed on an acoustic guitar. I've noted Windler playing solo acoustic shows with some frequency, but this was the first time our paths crossed. Still, after only two-and-a-half songs, I've not formed much of an opinion, so I'll stop right here.
Kansas City's Berwanger followed shortly afterwards. The lineup was a somewhat slapdash assemblage that saw frontman Josh Berwanger backed by his usual bassist and drummer, but accompanied on guitar by Beautiful Bodies' Thomas Becker. Sadly, Becker's backing vocals were limited, and aside from a lovely second guitar part in "Spirit World," his impact was minimal. Even so, the band turned in a short 25-minute set (that's Berwanger's modus operandi until the album comes out this summer) that bristled with rough-edged power pop, and recalled the awesomeness of The Replacements a time or two – especially during a stand-out track that may or may not be titled "Baby Loses Her Butt."
At 11:30 Country Mice took the stage. The band is from Brooklyn, although frontman Jason Rueger grew up in a small Kansas town several hours away. Because of this, the audience was comprised almost entirely of friends and family celebrating the return of the prodigal son. Parents beamed while cousins, siblings, and friends sang along, danced, and pumped their fists as the band's extended jams bled into each other. While no one smoked in the club, the odour of pot clung to the flannel shirts worn by both the band and its audience. The band's new album (Hour of the Wolf, 2013, Lotion Records) is built on the same rootsy alternative rock that powered the mid-'90s, but live, the band dialled up the noise and Dinosaur Jr.-styled guitar freak-outs, slipping several solos into every meandering song, and downplaying the bright organ that anchors much of the album. After an hour set, the band left the stage for what amounted to a pause, before returning for the demanded encore.
However, before the band could begin its next set, Rueger's brother grabbed the microphone, called their father to the edge of the stage, and then proceeded to give a speech about how Rueger had grown up to be a fine man. He then asked the audience to drink to his brother. This was a wedding toast if I ever heard one, and those of us remaining (and not a part of Rueger's clan), exchanged awkward glances. Thankfully the band quickly launched into its one-song encore – an enjoyable cover of Uncle Tupelo's "Effigy" – ending my involvement in the night's festivities.