At the end of the day, it comes down to this: I never regret the shows I go to, only the ones I miss. So, at 7:30 I willed myself off the couch, and drove to a house venue near Rockhurst that calls itself Pussy Palace for an all-ages punk show.
Finding the house, parking, and the side door entrance to the basement was easy enough. The show must have started at 8:00 sharp as I heard a loose percussive cover of Crass' "Do They Owe Us a Living?" coming from the already packed basement when I arrived. After the song was over, I squirmed my way to a small spot in the back next to the washer, and behind a step ladder that holds up the furnace's sagging air return duct. This is a basement basement. While not close enough for photos, between the bobbing heads I could see our unnamed performer (billed on the flyers as "Untitled Artist") playing drums and singing. Short songs. Sparse and rhythmic. Raw. With a fixation on death. It was over nearly as quickly as it started.
In the short break between acts, I found my way toward the "stage" claiming a spot next to the chair that held the single PA speaker, and under one of the three LED lights that barely illuminated the basement. Piss Kinks began almost immediately. This new band is making fans, and they were all at this show. It's hardcore punk, with screamed vocals, and the nastiest bass tone I've ever heard. But it also adds crowd-pleasing metal core breakdowns. Singer Reece [the band provides no last names] began the set with a big push into the front-line defenses of the crowd. There'd be lots of pushing. And lots of falling. And lots of rolling about on the cracked cement floor. The band had good energy and the audience fed it back. Reece's wild-eyed screams into the faces of the (mostly unmasked) punks were feral fun. And I enjoyed the sort of midair crunches provided by bassist Judah whose frequent jumps were always combined with prescient ducks to avoid an unfortunate meeting with the low rafters. There were no tuning breaks, no pedal boards, and at the end of the set the shared drumkit was kicked into the pit where it was brutalized by both band and fans.
While waiting for the next act I watched waves of dust and cigarette smoke pass by the rays of light cast from the overhead lamps. COVID notwithstanding, wearing a mask at Pussy Palace is advisable. Even with mine on, I was still blowing black foulness out of my nose the next morning. It was already hot in the basement. I shuddered imagining how horrible it will be in July. Watching the next band set up distracted me from that dystopian future.
On one hand it's natural for Silicone Prairie to make its live debut at a space like Pussy Palace — the band is the project of Ian Teeple who has been a fixture of such basement shows for years. This is his ancestral home. But Silicone Prairie is a different sort of band from Warm Bodies, and the live version of Silicone Prairie is radically different from the kitschy one-man project that it was born as. As such the Pussy Palace basement left the quartet struggling to shoehorn in their gear into the space, to find proper amplification for the synthesizer and saxophone, to tame the bass tone on the shared equipment, and, later, to play the songs with the raucous crowd careening into the band, sending microphones stands and effects pedals skidding across the floor. But like I said, this is Teeple's element, and for the next 30 minutes, he was in it.
The live realization of Silicone Prairie finds Ian Teeple joined by bassist Cassandra Gillig, drummer-about-town Kyle Rausch, and utility player Leslie Butsch who handles both synthesizer and saxophone. This larger palette serves the band's songs well, adding fuller arrangements to compositions that are often undeveloped on the album. Teeple's wiry post-punk guitar remains front and center — and it is glorious — but there are also both new wave elements and jabs of no wave manifested by Butsch. The rhythm section was lively and focused, adding straightforward, skinny-tie power pop to the mix during several songs. I couldn't have been happier bopping along to the songs from my vantage point in the wings. Most of the young punk audience seemed to be on board as well, but a disaffected few decided that this was still a punk show in the basement of the Pussy Palace, and consequently spent a good portion of the set bowling into everyone and everything. Maybe it's just the old talking, but floor punches seemed entirely unnecessary during this amiable set.
Between acts I again held my position. I watched as kids hunted with iPhone flashlights for items lost in the earlier melee. I suffered for the girl upset that her boyfriend is hanging out with his ex. I got queasy as a trio described the instances of vomit discovered in the basement. And I was accosted by a young kid in a starter mustache who asked bluntly "Who are you?" How does one answer that question? "Why I'm your new dad Chip. Your mom asked me to keep an eye on you to make sure you didn't get up to any trouble. Be careful when you mosh dance Champ, you don't want to mess up those teeth after your mother spent all that money getting you braces."
The night culminated with Foil. Although I hadn't seen the act before, I was aware of its "zero fucks" reputation earned over the last two years through DIY shows and cassette releases. As the foursome (the band has recently added guitarist Brady Linn) let loose a squall of feedback, I braced myself for flying hands and elbows. They came quickly. Singer Jame Mendenhall started it with a bellicose incursion into the front of the crowd, and then continued the boil by crashing into us in the wings. I stayed in my foxhole against the wall, meaning composed photography was out of the question. While it was hard to be sure, I think a tiny gal spent a good portion of the set protecting me from the collapsing waves of dancers. Is this an AARP benefit I didn't see in the brochure?
Foil's set shared a number of similarities with Piss Kinks — both traded in hardcore punk, both were fronted by guys in trendy-again '90s dresses, and both triggered knock-down, drag-out pits that intrepid photographers and videographers were anxious to capture. But where Piss Kinks introduced some stylistic innovations, Foil's punk vision remained pure — simply delivering more intense hardcore with bigger screams and more aggression than their earlier counterparts. Simultaneously (and beyond my understanding) Mendenhall also urged the audience to quit with the "macho shit," and stated that "[Kansas City] is a femme-presenting town." The band's short set ended with an energetic cover of Agent Orange's "Bloodstains." The pit became a pile as faces crowded around the microphone shouting the refrain of "I've lost my sense, I've lost control, I've lost my mind!"
After the dust settled (quite literally) I packed up my thankfully vomit-free camera bag and tip-toed out of the basement into the night. It was 11pm on a Monday and the middle-class neighborhood was asleep. As I walked the block back to my car, I worried the ringing in my ears (despite wearing earplugs all night) was going to wake up the neighborhood. Neighbors' complaints will shut Pussy Palace down one day — these basement venues never last too long — but for selfish reasons I didn't want to hasten that demise. I need Pussy Palace and nights like these. I've needed them for 35 years. And I've not regretted one show in all that time no matter how comfortably my couch is or how grimy the venue might be.