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Friday August 25th, 2023 at The Warwick in Kansas City, MO
The Creepy Jingles, Killer City, Thick and the Foolish, & The Fur and the Fang

The Warwick isn't a place for rock concerts. At least it hasn't been. In 1914 it was a thousand-seat movie theatre. Since 1953, it's been everything but. Today it's owned by Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre who uses the 18,000 square foot room for live theatre and special events. And since this summer, the group has chosen to add two or three live rock concerts each month. It was August before I finally poked my head in for a four-band Friday night bill. $10. 7:00 doors. Show time? Well, that was the question. When I showed up at 7:50 I was told by the doorperson that I had missed the first few songs.

After making my way through the decorated lobby, I passed through the heavy red velvet curtains into the large open space that once housed the theatre. A duo version of The Fur and the Fang were on stage – or rather on the large ornate carpet that served as the stage. On three sides of the band there were tiered risers mostly consisting of repurposed church pews, padded, but with torn seat covers. Twenty fans watched the twosome consisting of Zach Hodson and Valerie Schurman. Both sing, with Hodson also contributing acoustic guitar and Schurman adding a host of accent instruments like rain sticks, recorder, and accordion. Hodson was friendly with the crowd, explaining the band is a collective that often performs as a seven-piece, but nearly any number between two and seven was possible. I listened as the duo's songs drifted between coffee shop sincerity and spooky folk – a sound the band describes as campfire acoustic singalong. But the audience was quiet, leaving only Hodson and Schurman to do the singing. Sometimes it was just one or the other, sometimes they blended voices, and sometimes sang in sweet harmony. Songs could have come from anywhere, though a few were pulled from the two digital EPs the band has released this year. I made a mental note to give them a listen when I got home.

The Fur and the Fang were last minute substitutes. Seventh Sunrise were supposed to play but were forced to cancel. Maybe it was COVID. Everyone seems to have that again. As I understand it, the band is a sort of Southern, rootsy rock band colored with some psych. The Fur and the Fang's campfire acoustic singalong brought some of that vibe, so it was probably a fair trade. Between acts I went looking for a water. It was hot in the theatre. Its air conditioning has been either busted or underpowered all summer. There wasn't a jug or pitcher, but bottled water could be purchased at the bar in the lobby for $3.

At 8:30 the next band in the all-local bill began. Thick and the Foolish is the project of stalwart singer/guitarist Tim Mohn and keyboardist/vocalist Matt Kosinski with bassist Gavin Mac and drummer Verlan Deemy completing the current lineup. Previous versions of the band have been playing (occasionally) since 2012. The band has assimilated its influences into a dark and vaguely psych rock. I don't know if the band would fault me if I said I heard hints of everyone from The Doors to INXS to Pink Floyd in its sound. If I were a band, and someone said that about us, I'd probably be insulted – at least until I thought about the loose and druggy spaces each left for atmosphere. Mohn's electric guitar was loaded with effects, and when Kosinski shifted to guitar, he matched the tonal wizardry. Mohn's voice was big and raspy. Professional and assured. The sort that knows what it does well, and then does precisely that thing. Kosinski's auxiliary vocals were more insistent, yet still worked well when overlapping with Mohn's. The funky bass work of Mac added a bit more impulse, keeping the band's songs from spinning off on a peyote trip. I'm not sure if the band has ever released anything, but I understand the set was a mix of new songs and older songs reworked for the current direction. The sprawling final number was an old one, reapportioned with a big hook. Maybe now, eleven years past its debut, is the right time for the band to immortalize its art.

Only ten minutes passed between acts as there wasn't much fiddling with sound. While there was a PA, instruments were mic'd, and there were monitors, the set up was more geared to live theatre than live music. I didn't mind. A show where I don’t need earplugs is a delight. Others, however, wished for more volume. They're evidently not as old as I am. A dozen lights shone down on the band from high in the rafters – all fill lights, again designed for live theatre. Initially warm and white, they were shifted to red during the middle of the second act and didn't change again throughout the night.

Killer City played third, beginning its ten-song set just before 9:30. The band is led by Drew Black. For years he fronted Dirty Electric, but by 2019 that band dissolved and Killer City became his new focus. Since then, Killer City has had fits of activity followed by lulls, but it's still strange I hadn't seen them until now. Oh well, that mistake is righted now.

Black sings and plays guitar in Killer City. He's got help, too. Alex Yoffie plays lead guitar, and together they give the band's alt rock-cum-garage a muscular foundation. Wendy Wray provides vocals. She's got a strong, clean rock voice that contrasts the forceful and ragged delivery of Black. When they sing together it creates a warm and buzzy after-midnight wooziness. Drummer Zach Hodson (pulling double duty) shifted his playing from tight, headphone-assisted precision to free-wheeling swing as each song needed. Bassist Terra Skaggs, however, was always fueled by vibes, shaking her head furiously and her ass even more as she danced, marched, and stomped through the 35-minute set. Black matched her energy, hitting the floor a number of times, playing from his knees, and eventually just tossing his glasses to the side when it was obvious that they wouldn't stay on. A third EP is planned for December release, so if you've been sleeping on the band too, get caught up before the next drop.

The night was capped by The Creepy Jingles. If you've not seen the band in a while, there have been changes and you're in for a treat. As always, the band is led by Jocelyn Nixon. It's her songs and her vocals. Half the set she plays guitar, and the other half piano. In the previous incarnation of the band, when it leaned heavily on a psychedelic swirl, I preferred the piano songs as they added a clear guitar pop statement to the quartet's sound. But the current version of the band, and the new set it plays, always highlights that honesty no matter what instrument Nixon is behind. Ask any songwriter, it's the simple songs that are the hardest to write. The Creepy Jingles have leveled up.

I suspect a lot of that growth just comes from Nixon's continued development, but the addition of guitarist and backing vocalist Wills Van Doorn certainly has helped. His leads are more concise, still big, but organic not flashy. He's got a breezy power pop feel to his playing. I suspect we'll hear more of that on his solo album due this fall. Along with rhythm section Andrew Woody and drummer Nick Robertson, the band's rock now feels easy – sometimes even rootsy – and less deliberately psychedelic. It's brilliant stuff.

Just before 11:00, the night ended as it began – with twenty spectators seated on shabby pews watching a band perform on the floor under unchanging lights, amplified by a PA that didn't rattle the bones of concertgoers like they've come to expect. The Warwick is an interesting space, and a needed one, but it's not a place for rock concerts. At least not yet.