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Friday March 29th, 2024 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
Doubledrag, Siilk, & Wire Twins

Album release shows are special nights. They're planned and stressed over. And rightly so. The album is a culmination of years spent refining songs. And the dollars and hours spent recording, pressing, and presenting those songs is almost unfathomable. And for what? In the streaming market today, an album is new for a week or two, and then it's time for listeners to move onto something new. That kills me, and I'm not even in a band. The release show is a chance for a victory lap. A chance to have your friends show you that they believe in the art you make. That validation is crucial to facing an industry that is indifferent to musicians at best. In the UK they call them launch parties. Yes, let's make it a party. Here we go.

Wire Twins is a hardcore band. I didn't know that before the show. Maybe I should have, but I know now because vocalist Lauren Arensberg made sure everyone knew it. Her vocals are screamed. Scratchy throaty screams. She has a point of view and demands to be heard. She orates long diatribes and introductions between songs. Hardcore requires it. Guitarist Nik Godbout moved about the stage like a hardcore kid, dancing with a guitar that barely stayed tethered to him. But

his guitar didn't chug or crunch like hardcore, it added anthemic rock & roll power. In the middle of the show I jotted down "Songs powerful like whatever band I liked." The band I was thinking of was Runaway Sons. I didn't realize that Godbout was also in that band. So, it's safe to say he's added his stamp on this act too. There's whirring guitar from rhythm guitarist Ben Childs. It creates tension and danger. Bassist Gus Cobb and drummer Sam Hall catapult the band forward. Hall pounded the drums, often with simultaneous snare and floor tom brutality. Together the band drove through a short 25-minute set of short songs filled with big undulating shifts and pointed accents. After an impassioned introduction extolling the value of sex workers Arensberg shouted, "This one is for the whores!" thus launching the band into its finale (and only released song) "All My Friends Are Whores." A pit erupted for the first time in the night.

Siilk is not a hardcore band. Except for the times that they kinda are. When I first heard Siilk I didn't care for them – it's the nu metal elements, they bothers me. Aaron Rhodes was shocked I didn't like the band. That puzzled me, so I made a point to see the act live. Meh. So then I saw them again. And again. And again. Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. Or maybe I've just come to appreciate the energy of the quartet. The way guitarist Joe Bennett slips their leads alongside the roar of Jordan Tyler's own guitar. Bennett's also fun to watch. They started the show charging across the stage. They ended it on the floor in front of their amplifier sculpting a feedback finale. They ensure the band has both. Or maybe it's the way bassist Damian Escobar's screams simultaneously cut through the rounded vocals of Tyler. Again, it's both. Maybe it's something simpler, like the way drummer Brady Matthews always seems thrilled to be on stage. I've never seen anyone so happy to be playing music that doesn't sound happy at all. The band has "yes and"-ed its way into my heart. Its half-hour set had the audience jumping with Escobar. Again, there was a pit, but only for the finale. Kansas City likes to save its energy until the end for some reason.

Between bands the best music played. Quantifiably the best. So much Descendents and Minor Threat and Misfits. Scientifically proven to be top notch.

Despite the PA's preferences this wasn't 1984 – this was 2024 and this was Doubledrag's night. A night to celebrate its new album, Alone with Everyone. The show had been hyped for months. Its lineup was well-chosen and ensured a packed room. The stage was packed too. Extra lights were stationed at both the front and the stage. Fog machines were on standby. Off stage a guitar tech in a black robe kept one finger on the tuner just in case. A special guest was brought in to play bass. And now it was time. Nothing could stop this train.

Just before 10pm the house lights dropped and everything went black, pre-show music filled the room, and a dense fog suffocated the stage. This allowed the band to enter, pick up their instruments, and let feedback howl before the audience knew what hit it. That feedback soon morphed into album's opener, "Run," and although still hidden from view, the show had officially begun. I waited for the shock and awe of the lights, but it never came. Soon it was obviously something was wrong. The band paused to investigate. Eventually the lights would pulse as rehearsed. But then they'd die again. And then return. It was always a mystery to the band. Frontman Ian Dobyns apologized, muttered something about things never working out as planned, and then the band resumed, burying the room in the thickest shoegaze ever made.

The band's take on shoegaze pushes the limits of the genre. It's slower and heavier than the genre usually allows. There are moments of shimmer and sparkle, but this is a long way from dream pop. It's built by three guitarists – Dobyns and the twin brothers of Shaun and Mark Penechar who flank him on the stage. They play long lines dripping with effects designed to rattle bones. All three also provide vocals to some extent, though it's Dobyns' languid lines that last a measure or more that carry the most weight. Behind that trio was drummer McQuiston Bowes. He likes his cymbals. I can't imagine how he'd cut through the roiling din without them. And then there was the guest bassist, Matt Nagy (of The Devil Wears Prada), who was brought in to bring the album from the studio to the stage. Rumor is the band have more dates planned with him. He's got the stank face of a professional bass player. Maybe the others do too. There's no way to tell as they let their long hair cover their faces through most of the set. That and Shaun Penechar spent much of the set with his back to the audience, molding the feedback with his amplifier.

True to the nature of the night, the set replicated the running order of Alone with Everyone, as well as featuring pre-album single "Again." Even with the technical difficulties, the set was only 50-minutes long. While the band's compositions stretch and breathe, ideas are seldom repeated, and its songs seldom last longer than four minutes. After playing closer with "Call," thumping outro music immediately played. There were a few unheeded calls for an encore, but the performances were complete. I slipped out shortly afterwards, but most stuck around. This was a party after all, it was a Friday night, and Doubledrag and its fans had reason to celebrate.