Too Much Rock
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Friday September 22nd, 2023 at The Ship in Kansas City, MO
Gemini Parks, The Creepy Jingles, & Heat Seger

This was a very nice line up on a very nice night that deserves a very nice, insightful review. I’m afraid that’s too lofty a goal, so here are some observations in a quick recap for you instead.

Heat Seger opened the night. I’ve had plans to see this local band since their debut in March, but something always dashed my plans. Victory would be mine tonight! The band is fronted by “Pete” (no one seems to know his last name). He plays rhythm guitar and provides most of the vocals. Joe Montanaro (aka Joey Rubs) provides lead guitar, a few turns on lead vocals, and lots of backing vocals. Behind them is bassist Brian Klein, drummer McKayla Brady, and percussionist Jake Cardwell. Those are names familiar to TMR regulars. To be quick, the band is a laid-back ‘70s pop/rock band, one more interested in catchy Tin Pan Alley pop than R&B gusto. My first listen told me that the band is the power-pop neighborhood, and living a few streets closer to Shoes than Raspberries. Songs are short with immediate hooks that are crafty and never clumsy. Pete’s vocals are easy-going, while Montanaro’s push a bit harder. Montanaro’s guitar leads, however, are relaxed. The band is more vibe than sizzle. Brady’s drums are skeletal. She plays with either snapping sticks or fuzz-inducing maraca on a small kit devoid of any cymbals. Cardwell picks up the slack there with a host of noise makers, tambourines, and a floor tom. He played a similar (albeit more frenzied) role in the proto-Whiffs project The Conquerors. Is it premature to say I love this band? Yeah? Well, then I’ll play it cool and just count the days until the band’s next gig.

After the opener’s set, the room cleared out quite a bit, and by 11:20 when the second act went on, things were starting to look a little sparse. Not embarrassingly so, but it’s worth noting if you’re charting the ebbs and flows of Friday night concertgoers in the West Bottoms. I might be doing that.

Too Much Rock covers The Creepy Jingles a lot. That’s because I like the band a lot. It also means with each writeup, the band gets shorter and shorter shrift. Unavoidable, but also inexcusable. The Kansas City quartet swapped guitarists some months back, and this show proved the transformation is complete, so let’s make this the last mention of such things. Wills Van Doorn is now fully incorporated into the band – his strong leads bolster the band’s bouncing indie pop (both the new songs and the fan favorites that have recently returned to the setlist), and his backing vocals blend well with those of bassist Andrew Woody. Both voices joined frontwoman Jocelyn Nixon for a big singalong chorus on one new song that is going to delight audiences for years to come. On this night though, the song was too new, and so the audience swayed instead of singing. As usual, Nixon moved between guitar and keyboards during the set, delivering her witty lyrics around short, structured pop songs. Nothing surprising there, but Nixon did let some news slip – the band’s new album will be out in 2024. So, we’ve got that goin' for us, which is nice.

It was now after midnight and the crowd had significantly turned over. The live music crowd had mostly left along with the friends of the previous acts. The crowd was now dominated by a Friday night party crowd. Little did they know, but serendipity was on their side.

The final act of the night was Gemini Parks. The project is the latest musical endeavor from Josh Berwanger who readers will know from the 88 times I’ve written about his other bands on the site. [That’s a real number. I just ran a query.] Gemini Parks is a genre-bending modern pop band with elements of funk and hip-hop, that not coincidently, was celebrating the release of its new album Mom Why Is Everyones a Hoe? It’s an effort as playful as it is sincere. Songs have big (if not always complicated) vocal hooks that serve as irresistible earworms. Just try to get the “Stay up all night, ‘til the morning light / Is it fantasy, or reality / Rain or shine, watch the cars go by / All we need, is you and me” couplet from “Up All Night” out of your head, you can’t. Now add in rhythms funky enough to get listeners moving, and you’ve got something for that Friday night party crowd.

Live, Gemini Parks is recreated with help from Josh Hartranft on bass and backing vocals, drummer Mitch Hewlett, and some minimal backing tracks. Berwanger started the night pacing the stage with the microphone. This is the first project where he’s not tethered to a guitar full time, but he’s steadily becoming more comfortable moving about the stage unencumbered. Still, some time with Wade Robson and some frosted tips couldn’t hurt if Berwanger’s on his way to becoming a popstar. Banter, however, has always been easy for him. Well, that is as long as his aim is to make half the audience laugh and the other half unsure if what he said was a joke at all. If so, then, yeah, he does well. So well, that I’ve written about him 88 times and I often share stories of him delivering a schtick at CMJ so subversive that that it silenced the crowd. Oh right, brevity. Fine, Hewlett kept it tight, Hartranft played it sexy, Berwanger made it memorable, and the dancers moved until just after 1am.

After the set I picked up a copy of the new LP for $20, talked myself out of the badass skull t-shirt with the band’s name on it, and headed home to sleep. I’m definitely not one of the Friday night party crowd, but I’m always willing to fake it for a very nice night with a very nice line up.