Monday January 17th, 2000 at The Grand Emporium in Kansas City, MO
Electrophonic Foundation, Q, & Starsky

Electrophonic Foundation Electrophonic Foundation Q Starsky [more]

A mix up between promoter and soundman led to a reversed band order, and brought Starsky to the stage a little before 10pm. Despite an announced name change only two nights earlier, vocalist/guitarist Zach Popejoy reluctantly greeted the audience with "We're Starsky... for tonight," and then launched the three piece into Supergirl. Although the song is straight forward and nearly pop-punk, it sounded rough and had little energy -- call it a soundcheck.

After tweaking a few knobs and being joined by new guitarist, Russell Brehends, the band began their set in earnest with energy and drive. Although Starsky's lineup, sound and shows have all been a bit unpredictable over the last year, the current version seems to click. With Russell on guitar, the songs have more interest, and actual notes, it has also allowed Zach to concentrate on his vocals and his duties as a frontman and entertainer. Bassist Trevor Bundy provides a solid bass with an occasional welcomed frill (such as a most infectious bass intro on Anakin). Drummer Tyler French is solid though severely under utilized, especially on their older material.

Although each guitarist complained about amp problems, the band had the sense to keep rolling even if it did leave Trevor's tone a little more fuzzed out than he would have liked, and caused volume problems with Russell, . The current set is a bit predictable with Zach beginning nearly half the songs by ripping away at power chords before the band joins in, and every song seemed to be a verse, bridge and two choruses too long. Somehow their songs still have an urgency to them as they walk the line between the power-pop element of the scene (realized Ultimate Fakebook) and the "think indie" element (see Reflector). Surprisingly they do justice to both.

While Starsky mix fairly safe genres, the night's next band, Q, are a little more haphazard in realizing their influences. The band's style of heavy, yet melodic music might be a post-grunge Pearl Jam meets Helmet or even an understated Rush it's tricky, powerful and emotional.

Singer Brendon Glad holds the microphone tightly with both hands and pulls it close into his body when he sings. He stomps and lurches around the stage, but not constantly, only when the big musical shifts happen. It's great to see him feel the music so much, even if he does dance a bit like Elaine from Seinfield. Although Mark Cuthbertson's hollow-body Epiphone was buried in the mix initially, when it did get turned up, the songs seemed much smarter. His guitar adds the elements of intellect and originality to their music. And by virtue of the selfless, no-frills drumming of Mark Axmann, five-string bassist Cody Brown is able to provide occasional counterpoint to Mark's guitar as well as the foundation rhythm.

The set was shifted dramatically for the last three songs Mark traded his guitar for the bass and Cody picked up a solid body guitar of some metal sort. The bass shook the rest of its supporting role and the guitar was now the reliable force commanding the songs. If for no other reason than the guitar was now louder in the mix, the songs seemed to have more focus and structure which pleased the audience.

The final band of the evening have quickly made a name for themselves by pleasing audiences with flashy high-energy stage shows, frenzied fans and balls-out rock and roll. And although they hadn't paid the scene dues to earn the headlining spot were presented with, Electrophonic Foundation had it, and performed like they owned the club.

Tall, lean and bald singer/guitarist Scott Chaffin began by asking the audience to come forward. I scoffed to the person next to me (a veteran of the KC music scene) and we both grinned knowing that that NEVER works. But with a lot of persistence, and a few trips out into the audience, Scott did manage to bring a crowd of friends up to the stage. Happy with the rabble, the band roared into a loose and bluesy eponymous song lead by Scott's dynamic yawling and the raw, driving guitar of Seann McAnally.

Instantly I was reminded of Jon Spencer although others I spoke to presented different comparisons. The key to correlation in this case isn't that Electrophonic Foundation sound like any other current band, it is that Electrophonic Foundation and other current bands borrow from the same raw sound created by the fusing of dirty country and dirtier blues years ago.

If you haven't seen the band before, its sound is defined mostly by its separate members. Primarily by Scott's (forced) soulful screams to the audience in an ever-excited state. There is always some way the audience needs to participate more, or something that Electrophonic Foundation can do for you, and he sells that masterfully. Powerhouse drummer Ryan Ashmore pounds his kit propelling the dirty rock and roll directly to your crotch, and your head if you'll let it. Donny Sawyer's bass work is usually made up of repetitive and simple runs which support the other players. In contrast to the showoffmanship of the rest of the band, Donny was silent, relatively stationary and went about his job coolly ignoring the spectacle on the stage to his left. Seann's guitar is coarse and manly but his vocal are contributions more relaxed. During their hectic performance he managed to actually sing a note or two (many of them quite well).

After warmed up and primed with liquor, the mostly female audience were dancing and grinding to the band's rhythm and blues slink. A cover of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love impressed the devoted crowd, but the band's exuberance failed to replace the power of Plant's vocals or nerve of Page's guitar. It seemed that as the fans up front enjoyed themselves more, the rest of the club headed for the exits. During the last song the dozen or so remaining audience members joined the band on stage in a free-for-all finale that involved Scott rolling around on the floor and Seann jumping from his guitar stack and narrowly missing landing on a fan. If that isn't excitement, I'm not sure what is.