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Sunday January 8th, 2023 at Howdy in Kansas City, MO
Doldrums, Livid, Foil, & Petty

Howdy is the new frontier for Max Popoff and his loose posse that operate Farewell on Kansas City's east side. Located next to the main club, in the space that formerly housed Nightjar Gallery, the new space is intended as an all-ages arts incubator capable of highlighting small artists working in multiple mediums. While still in its infancy, the outpost is rapidly taking shape through the effort and financial investment from Popoff and others. With that crew's track record, this all-ages space could transform the scene. On this night it allowed an all-ages punk show to operate simultaneously with a different 21+ punk show next door. Is this the start of the Leeds entertainment district?

The night began promptly at 8:00 with Kansas City's Petty. The foursome is fronted by vocalist Alyssa Jo with Carlos Balmaceda II on guitar, Nate Hansen on bass, and Richard Coskey on drums. Alyssa paced the floor expectantly, staring at their feet while the band surged around them, only looking up – way up actually – to shout into a tightly gripped microphone when called upon. But, as would be the case during most of the night, the club's new PA, couldn't seem to elevate their vocals above the instruments. This promoted the band's dense, nominally grindcore foundation to center stage, and placed Balmaceda's guitar in the spotlight. His riffs shifted quickly between hardcore chugging and quick-fingered leads, while Coskey pounded relentless beats accented by a sick-sounding cymbal that urged the audience to stomp about. Although the young audience was surprisingly lifeless for the opener, Hansen couldn't be stopped. He even rocked himself out of his bass strap during the debut of "Party Like Chris Farley." Let's hope Petty's time is not as short as Farley's, as the band has just announced that it's taking a break from performing "for a number of reasons, some out of our hands."

Between bands the packed room cleared. Kids went outside to smoke, others went next door to get a drink at the bar, some stayed in and took selfies against the room's white gallery walls. But when the crowd noticed the next act readying itself through the venue's large glass bay windows, everyone came flooding back in.

Foil weren't the headliners, but kinda they were. The hardcore punk band has only been around for a year but have released (approximately) 437 cassettes through frontperson Jame Mendenhall's Dirtbag Distro label. Its ever-changing lineup is tethered by Mendenhall with live support from Jasper Gish (bass), Brady Linn (guitar), and new drummer Isaac XXXXXX. The band's hardcore is loose and meandering, with creative collapses in songs that recall the mid-1980s output of Black Flag – a relationship confirmed by the four bars tattooed on Mendenhall's arm.

Early in the set, Mendenhall asked for "more motion" and would later call "all the bozos" to the front, but there was no need. From the moment the band began, the pit was a constant sea of dancers – actual dancers. A dozen folks twisting and boogieing with partners while another dozen strutted and kicked and skulked side-to-side around them. And as for the bozos? There were plenty of kids adorned with touches of the de rigueur clown-core makeup in the pit. Mendenhall themself stumbled about the stage, contorting their slight frame, and occasionally collapsing onto the floor, all the while screaming into the microphone. Songs varied from growing experimental punk numbers that slowly established grooves, to instantaneous blasts of powerviolence. There was a Crucifucks cover. The rhythm section was all go, all the time, while Linn's guitar frequently found enough air to deliver interesting leads even in the fastest numbers. I'm not sure that I'll ever fully understand Foil, but damn if it's not wonderful to be at the band's gigs.

Touring act Livid from Kenosha, Wisconsin was up next. The band is a duo, and a loud one. As guitarist Jacob Smith placed one 4x12 cabinet on another, lifted his Peavey 5150 amp to the top of the full stack, and then removed his Jackson guitar from its case, I shook my head. I knew there was no way the PA could compete with that, and of course it couldn't. But maybe that didn't matter. Smith needed the volume to contend with drummer Jacob Michaud, as the two were locked in an unwinnable sonic arms race. Just after the duo removed their matching Alice in Chains hoodies, Michaud announced to the audience "I hope you like blast beats." And then that's what happened. Fifteen minutes of relentless, (effectively) instrumental powerviolence and grindcore. The duo not only competed on volume, but with intensity. There was little cooperation between the two – seldom did they establish any groove, and the duo only teamed to build a climax a handful of times. Instead, it was pure force and the crowd felt it. For this set, the dancers were sidelined, and instead a majority male demographic pushed and kicked and flailed – especially to the slower moments where Smith's guitar chugged heavily and unremittingly. If you like being punched in the face, Livid are happy to oblige.

Between acts, the PA seemed plenty loud as it blared Staind, Slipknot, Disturbed, System of a Down and others. Everyone under 35 seemed to be into it. Everyone over 50 (aka just me) had to Shazam every song to see what fresh hell was being inflicted upon us. Turns out if there's a generation gap between millennials and Generation Z, Korn is the unexpected bridge.

Headliners Doldrums seemed perfectly at home with the nu metal, in fact the band seems comfortable in just about any scene. The quartet is fronted by Jordan Taylor. He's tall, wiry, and moves about stages with animalistic intent, barking his vocals and stretching microphone cables. Like most shows, he spent a good portion of the gig pushed deep into the audience. He likes to feel the crowd on him. Dodi Wiemuth followed him into the fray several times, often resulting in his guitar cable becoming unplugged by the rowdy crew that pushed one another, careened into the bystanders, and occasionally coalesced as a circle pit. The broad audience loved it all – from the small Gen Z clowncore femmes to booted and beefy gym dudes.

Doldrums’ short nine-song set mirrored recent outings – more new songs than old, most blisteringly fast, yet still surprisingly structured and often melodic. It's sound is created by a one-two punch that starts with bassist Ian Andreasen and drummer Jacob Ziskind and ends with the pizzazz of Wiemuth. The former have been in bands together for years, and know how to lay down a foundation. The latter is a prototypical NYHC guitarist playing muted chugging chords, ringing open ones, and quick metallic leads. After seeing Wiemuth jump several times during the set, I began to fanaticize about the band forming a 1988-style youth crew side project. Hit me up, I'll pay for the studio time.

At 10:25 it was over. Plenty of time for the all-ages set to get home before curfew. Plenty of time for the organizers to sweep the space so it'd be ready for pay-what-you-can yoga in the morning, and maybe an art exhibit the next evening. Howdy might not usher in a new age for the one-time town of Leeds, but it’s making space for art to happen and people of all ages to connect. Its growth is our growth, and its successes are our successes. Support the scene.