Too Much Rock
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Saturday June 11th, 2016 at Replay Lounge in Lawrence, KS
Dressy Bessy, Leggy, & Arc Flash
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I need to see a band a few times before I really have any idea what it's about. I've seen Lawrence's Arc Flash twice now, but I don't expect I'll know much about the duo until I've seen them a few more times. This says a lot about the type of music and noise and sounds that the duo is able to make. It's (relatively) easy for a guitar and drum duo to bang out blues-influenced rock and roll that ripples with power and swagger, but Arc Flash are something else entirely. Still banging away with punk intensity, but instead of standard blues progressions, the band finds inspiration in bits of kraut rock repetition, prog rock complexity, and shoegaze texture. Arc Flash is genre-less which mean the twosome is as likely to appeal to everyone as it does no one. Based on the engrossed crowd who encircled the opening band, the former seems to be the case. Over the course of the band's 35-minute set there were musical bits for each dancing reveler in the audience, and still plenty of moments held in reserve for just guitarist/vocalist James Thomblison and drummer Mark Osman. With eye contact alone, the two shirtless musicians shifted tempos and opened spaces for the other to perform. Not space for jazzy solos, but rather space for psychedelic wanderings. Again, it takes a couple of listens before you can wrap your head around a band, and in the case of Arc Flash, it'll take even a few more.

Leggy is a Cincinnati band on an amazing trajectory. As I've written in the past, the region has embraced the trio like few other bands. As such it's easy to imagine Leggy playing local festival slots where KC perennial favorites such as The Joy Formidable continue to shine, or in the national spotlight beside Speedy Ortiz or similar musical compatriots. However maybe those arena aspirations are mine, not the band's, as Leggy seem quite content within the confines of the friendly Replay packed with familiar faces. As has been the case lately, the duo of vocalist/guitarist Veronique Allaer and bassist Kerstin Bladh arrived in the city without regular drummer Christopher Campbell, instead opting to play with local Mark Osman (of Arc Flash above). While having a local in your band is always good for attendance, the band's real draw is its heady alternative rock built from classic distortion, clanging chords, surf leads, and plenty of rhythmic propulsion. Although Allaer's attention was noticeably divided between her bandmates and the audience, she couldn't be faulted for being transfixed by Bladh's fuzzy bass solos – we all were.

Although Cincinnati's Pop Empire dropped off the show at the last minute, I wasn't terribly disappointed. Not because I was familiar with the band, or because I was unfamiliar with them, but because it was nearly Midnight when Leggy completed its set, and I need all the beauty sleep I can get.

So that takes us to headliner Dressy Bessy from Denver. While the band has been around for nearly twenty years – the same twenty years that Too Much Rock has been around – I had never seen the band perform. After I was forced to miss the band's stop in Lawrence earlier this year, I was resigned that our relationship would always be built on 1999 Kindercore albums, and never consummated live. Luckily the band has to drive through Kansas City to get back to Denver, and this time I was ready, camera in hand.

If one had been waiting for decades to see Dressy Bessy, then watching a seventeen-song set list get placed at the front of the stage is akin to Christmas. A quick scan revealed that most of the set would be drawn from the band's excellent reunion album Kingsized (2016, Yep Roc Records), with a smattering of songs from a subset of the band's early albums. Although the set managed to skip all of my favorite songs, it did succeed in proving to the young audience that the band is relevant in 2016. In fact, it demonstrated that its unapologetically female-fronted, impossibly upbeat pop songs pushed over the edge with driven punk and rife with guitar leads are even more fashionable today than during the height of the band's popularity at the turn of the millennium. Frontwoman Tammy Ealom led the foursome (including three original members) through a delightful 45-minute set that ranged from coy and twee to powerful and noisy. Ealom was all smiles as she chatted with the audience, while husband John Hill only stepped into the spotlight to deliver muscular guitar solos that never stole focus. Original drummer Craig Gilbert's playing and backing vocals were similarly melded into a professional performance that was both personable and a worthy spectacle.

As the night grew later, it was obvious that both band and fans were enjoying the show in equal amounts. And once the final notes of "Side 2" (from 2005's Electrified on Transdeamer Records) rang out at 1am, the line between the two was erased entirely, as photos and beers were shared all around. Although I'm certain I don't need to see Dressy Bessy again to understand what it's about, I should probably see the band a few more times just to be sure.

Too Much Rock / 4027 Locust Street / KCMO 64110