Wednesday May 1st, 2002 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Frank Black, & Eileen Rose

Eileen Rose Eileen Rose Frank Black Frank Black [more]

If you live in Kansas City you have a couple of options. First is to call Ticketmaster and purchase the $12 advance tickets plus the $6 "convenience" fee. Second is to show up very early for the show and pay for the $14 day-of-show tickets and then wait for hours until the show starts. Finally you can choose to wing it and show up on time, and hope there are still tickets to spend your $14 on. I choose the middle option requiring Dana, Lee and me to slip out of Kansas City around 5:30 and head west on I-70 in mock rush-hour traffic.

It turns out that the early option really wasn't that big of a deal. First I had to stop by Love Garden to drop off another batch of The Capsules CDs, and then we stopped by and got our tickets, and then we went to The Mad Greek for some flaming cheese (among other edibles) and then we went to the show because it was kinda an early show anyway. See not so bad.

At 9:00 Eileen Rose took the stage bringing forward a few genuine fans as well as the curious types. I had never heard, or even heard of, Eileen Rose before this show was announced but when I checked the web there seemed to be some considerable press about the gal. Comparisons to Patti Smith always raise my eye yet the influences she listed were all classic rock. The photos painted her in a strong Lillith light and by the time that the I-should-be-doing-work feeling crept up on me I was both skeptical and excited about the show.

Surprisingly all the press about Rose was fairly accurate – she was all those things and some others too. When Rose (who plays guitar herself) was joined on stage by two other guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and yet another guitarist who alternated between electric guitar and pedal steel guitar, I think everyone was curious to see what came out. The results can be roughly tossed in three baskets: The first: bar rockers with a slight honky-tonk feel and plenty of noise; these were the least effective of the lot. The second: nearly straightforward country jam sessions; these were well played, high in energy, and compelling. Finally there were a few acoustic-based folk songs; these were direct, touching and most agreeable. But will the real Rose Eileen please stand up?

I spied the set times on the soundman's desk and noted that Frank Black was scheduled from 10:15 to 12:15. Surely the man won't play that long. However when the jolly gent himself walked out on stage at 10:15 (despite the fact that the assembled stage was ready for him nearly 15 minutes beforehand), I questioned my pessimisms. Maybe Mr. Black runs a tight ship and we can expect hours of rock for our $14 tickets.

Although I do count myself as a giant Pixies fan, Frank solo has always been a bit of a disappointment for me. Few artists have been able to go solo and impress me as much as they did when they were with their bands of note. Since the demise of The Pixies, Frank has been able to maintain his reputation as a quirky and intelligent songwriter but brilliance (short of his requesting a hovercraft for a video) seems to have eluded him. As Frank launched into his set joined by backers The Catholics, he began an evening representative of his solo career – each song solid, no song mind-blowing.

If I were a bigger fan I could tell you the mix of songs from various albums, or even detail what the obscure covers were. Was it all new? Was it all from his first solo album? You've got me there. In fact, I don't recall him announcing any of his songs, or really even addressing the crowd short of a single thank-you lobbed at the crowd when he returned for the scheduled encore he allowed the audience to go hoarse calling for. I know I did hear a handful of Pixies songs, and judging by the crowd's reactions, I wasn't the only one who would have preferred a night of sub-par Pixies covers to a night of authentic Frank Black solo endeavors. At Monkey Gone to Heaven I felt I had already gotten what I came for and started milling through the sold-out venue. ...I believe that was about the fifth song.

Throughout the night my attention would return to Frank for Where Is My Mind or a very rockin' version of Six-Sixty-Six however I spent most of my time searching for the best camera angles through a crowd that wasn't about to give way to a fat kid with a camera trying to wiggle his way up front to take pictures of the famous bald fat man on stage. While on this expedition I discovered pockets of unaffected fans around the edges of the club. You shouldn't confuse this group with the barflies who are found at every Bottleneck show. Barflies pay their cover, talk through the bands, and hope to meet that someone special (read someone who isn't wearing panties and wont mind walking home at 4am before the rest of the house wakes up); these disaffected ones were there solely for the show. It was just the Frank experience they were there for, making the Frank Black and the Catholics performance extremely secondary if not extraneous altogether. These were my kindred spirits.

In my world, $14 for a night of entertainment is an acceptable bill so simply getting out (and getting a chance to visit a Dunkin' Donuts) with friends would have satisfied me. A handful of Pixies songs, and the man who helped create them within arm's reach, just put the icing on the cake. I just wish it didn't take him nearly two hours to get the damn thing iced.