Wednesday June 2nd, 1999 at The Westport Coffee House in Kansas City, MO.
Cup 388, Sault Ste. Marie & The Hillary Step

For some reason I thought this show was at the Broadway Coffee House so I was a little miffed. I mean they don't do shows there so what's up? I called Broadway and they confirmed their showless status so I hit the The Hillary Step webpage and found out it was at Westport Coffee House's theatre. Oh cool, that makes sense.

I called the WCH to find out what time the show started and the person there said they didn't know about any show that night but to try back in an hour to talk to the manager. An hour later the manager told me they weren't aware of anything happening. PANIC TIME! I called Brad but got Danny and explained what happened. He called Brad and evidently Brad was going to take care of it. Just for good measure I had MNO call the coffee shop around 5:15 and ask about the show. They told him 6pm. 6pm??!?! At least they knew a show was happening.

I showed up about 6pm and poked my head downstairs to see if I could find anyone. The mics were set up on stage but other than that the place was empty. I ran into Brad a few minutes later and we hung out while he smoked a cigarette in the 90+ degree heat. The manager of the shop showed up a few minutes later, provided me with a hand stamp and a bowl to collect tickets and offered to handle selling the tickets up front. Everything's taken care of, now if only anyone would show up.

The rest of The Hillary Step showed up about 6:30 or so and brought in their gear. I puttered around and adjusted the stage lighting and played a CD through the house PA. It was pretty much just all of us hanging out in the nice air conditioned theatre asking over and over again about the flyering, whether the other bands knew where the club was, if friends knew when show was etc...

The fact remained that by 7:45 no one had shown up and the band had to decide if they were going to play for a friend, a grrlfriend, a manager and a label rep or if they were just going to go home. I suggested the deciding factor should be money. If the club owner would let Brad out of the contract if no one played then it was pointless to pay to play for friends. If he was stuck paying the $100 anyway they might as well make some noise.

I had already talked to the owner and he seemed fairly down on the manager for not doing better promotion so I thought we may have an in there. Brad went backstage to talk to the owner and came back telling everyone to pack up and head to his house to just play there. I wrote a note for Cup 388 and Sault Ste. Marie telling them what happened should they show up and left it at the front counter.

The rest of the band had pulled out of the lot and I was following Brad out when I saw two vans pull into the lot with Wisconsin plates. I flashed my lights at Brad and then pulled over to talk with the guys. Seems they got stuck in two major traffic jams on I-70 - one caused by a hail storm, the other by a nasty multiple car pile-up. Since only two folks (friends of THS) had shown up for the gig anyway, and we had already told the club the show was off we decided just to head to Brad's house and the bands would play there. [Later we found out a few dozen folks showed up after nine looking for the show.]

Now Brad mentioned it was a 20 minute drive to his house but most folks think that means you live on another side of town. Brad doesn't live on another side of town, he lives in no town at all. The 30 minute drive down to his house in West Belton, MO took us on winding country roads, through corn fields and even on dirt roads before we were dumped in a post WWII pre-fab working class neighborhood much like the one I grew up in.

The Hillary Step loaded their gear into the practice room which was a small family room that had been covered from ceiling to floor in thick sound dampening carpet. They played a surprisingly energetic set to the 8 of us packed in the room around them. This was the first time I had seen them live and I was so impressed. While the demo is very deliberate and intellectual and planned, the live set was explosive, emotional and hectic. It's seldom that a band can do both things so well.

Cup 388 were floored by THS and said they didn't feel like playing after that, and that they didn't actually want to hear any more music that night. I think they were just tired and worried about fitting the five of them into the small room but it was nice just the same. Sault Ste. Marie was split on the decision to play but ultimately Michael won out and they played a short set to the four of us in the room, and the remaining four in the living room.

I didn't know what to expect from SSM but had some preconceived notions about a indie rock guitar and drums only band. Actually it wasn't too different from the indie rock norm. They are a mid-paced post-punk with quirky bits and varied guitar work in songs that seem personal and emotional. The mood was kept light as they played songs they wouldn't normally play live and after about 15 minutes called it quits.

At this point it was 10:15 and I was supposed to pick Michael up from work at 11 so I got the easy directions back to Kansas City and headed out into the dark for a 45 minute drive back downtown,