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Saturday May 5th, 2018 at miniBar in Kansas City, MO
The Heavy Figs, Chad Rex and the Old Chelsea, & The Big Iron

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I've really no time to write this up; however, each of these bands plays so infrequently, I figure I better recap their late-night soiree while I can. I hope you don't mind a quickie.

It was 10:15 when The Big Iron started. Gigs are few and far between for the decades-running band, meaning I attend every performance equipped with either misinformation or no memory at all. Without exception, I recall that the band is either hard rock or straightforward punk rock, and each time I'm wrong. I'm always wrong about vocalist Jeff Pendergraft. When he approaches the microphone, menacing and a bit intense, I wince, expecting to be shouted at, but I'm not — at least not exclusively. More often than not, he's nuanced and emotive. I'm wrong about guitarist Ricky Reyes who is never as blunt as I expect, but instead plays keenly skewed chords and leads that strike back to the discordant "Kansas City Sound" of the late '90s. Expansive final number "Trees Explode" even hints at progressive rock, thanks in part to the open, tumbling rhythms of drummer Jon Paul and bassist Mike Farren. At the very least the band leans into post-hardcore territory. Maybe I'll remember that for the next gig as the band has a few lined up to promote its just-released, self-titled, EP.

There was no hint of urgency as Chad Rex and the Old Chelsea set up in the corner of the Disaster Room that serves as the stage. That breezy, let-it-develop vibe also carried through the band's long set. The trio trade in power pop, but not gauzy early '70s affairs, the revved up punk rock variety, or the jagged skinny tie sort, but rather a distinctly 1980s, college-rock informed version that even leans country. Think Tommy Keene, but there's no jangle in Rex's Ibenez guitar. Rex's songs are endearing, warm, and familiar, and the tight rhythm section of drummer Matt Brahl and Jason Magierowski gave them the solid foundation necessary for each to shine. This project hasn’t released anything (I'd love to change that), so, unfortunately, I can't revisit the excellent "Next 1" cut that came near the end of the set. Rumor is the band will be heading to the studio with the intent to release a couple of 7"s soon. Until then, I'll just hope to catch the full trio at one of its blue-moon appearances.

I'm told that The Heavy Figs was once a regular at Coda, but when that venue vanished, the band basically followed suit. If that's accurate, then the trio chose to end its seclusion in the MiniBar's Disaster Room sometime after midnight. The set started with a loose cover of The Standells' garage rock classic "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White," indicating the audience should expect rowdy enthusiasm, not stoic professionalism. The gruff vocals of bassist John Culter took center stage for that track, providing all the fire one could ever want. When he'd later dropped the rasp, delivering another song in his strong, clear voice, it was a shock. The man has it all. Guitarist Chris Teasley also had several turns at lead vocals, particularly when tunes veered away from garage rock and toward the blues. However, Teasley's main focus was not vocals, but rather his guitar, and the impossibly technical solos that peppered most of the band's set. Although I was impressed by his note-y gymnastics, I was positively smitten with the emphatic crashing percussion of Sara Teasley. There simply isn't another drummer in Kansas City that has more fun behind their kit. The twenty fans left in the bar fed on that enthusiasm, returning hoots of approval throughout the band's set. The good times lasted until 1am when the band called it quits, leaving the impressed audience of musicians and scene veterans pleasantly stupefied.