Too Much Rock
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Wednesday August 3rd, 2022 at Farewell in Kansas City, MO
Horse Jumper of Love, Babehoven, Flooding, & Nightosphere
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A quick peek at the Too Much Rock website revels that I’ve been spending a lot of time at Farewell. Do the best bands play at Farewell? Does the ramshackle club just have the right vibe? Is the energy of the kids who stream through its door addictive? Probably all three. And probably more, because every time I find myself with a free night, I end up at the little roadhouse in the long-forgotten Leeds neighborhood. On this night I wasn’t alone – it’d be a sell-out crowd drawn for a headlining band that I’d never heard of. Those always make for the most interesting nights.

The evening started with Nightosphere. The band is new, but progressing rapidly thanks to frequent shows (at Farewell and other even-more DIY spaces). Next week the band leaves for tour. Nightosphere is a trio consisting of Dakota “Hop” Trogdon, Brittany Sawtelle, and Claire Delaney. The first focuses on drums from soft plodding mallets to ferocious pounding sticks. The final two alternate roles. Sometimes guitar/vocal, sometimes bass. Each gets her turn. Each vocalist is different. And similarly, each brings a different skill to guitar or bass. Neither are interested in audience banter. The project is genre-fluid with post-rock structures, 4AD-styled goth atmospheres, shoegaze richness, emo twinkle, and moments of post hardcore urgency. The percentages of each slide up and down depending on the song. Six long songs were played during the band’s half hour set. Two of them are available now on Bandcamp and streaming sites. One of them made its debut. Most were quiet. A few are punctuated by loud intensity. I’ve written about them recently, so maybe I shouldn’t rehash everything. I’ll will that say the trio gets better with each show, and I’ll fight you if you pretend there is a better new band in Kansas City.

The transition from Nightosphere to Flooding was a smooth one. Both bands are trios that straddle genres. Both write expansive compositions. Both revel in moments of quiet beauty. And both explode with loud passages. Flooding is particularly skilled in the latter, unleashing raw and ragged rage unrivaled by bands of any genre. Rose Brown fronts this threesome. She delivers quiet vocals (until they’re demonstratively not). Quietly picked electric guitar (until a pedal is detonated releasing roars). Cole Billings plays bass. He played with his back to the crowd, facing drummer Zach Cunningham. That rhythm section is firm, but not flashy. Of course, it explodes nicely when summoned (which is often), but it never leads the way. The band played for only 25 minutes. That was four songs – the first two “old,” the final two brand new. After the first two songs, Brown quipped, “And we will never play those songs again.” It was away from the microphone. Quietly. To an unknown audience. We’re told the new songs better represent where Brown is now as a songwriter. There are no drastic changes. In fact, the new songs are just more. More texture. More intensity. More anger. She dedicated the last song to everyone who loves military stepdads. That song had a lot of screaming in it.

Then came the touring acts. First Babehoven. This is the project of Maya Bon (voice/acoustic guitar), expanded to include Ryan Albert (electric guitar), and, on this tour, Carolina Chauffe (bass/harmonies). In interviews, Bon cites Elliott Smith and all of the indie songwriters who laid it bare as influences. Bon does the same. Her first song was a long one. Confessional and narrative. The audience talked through it. Afterwards Bon chided the crowd, asking them to take their conversations outside. The set continued with quiet songs. Some finger picked. Some played with a pick. Bon had trouble hearing herself at first, leaving her vocals pitchy. Between songs she asked for a specific adjustment to the EQ, and suddenly she had command of her instrument. There’s a slight twang in her voice. And a nice vulnerability that recalled early Sinead O’Connor. Or maybe I’ve just been listening to “Black Boys on Mopeds” too much lately. Albert’s guitar provided color and heft. Elevating the band past coffee house frailty. But it was Chauffe’s vocals that were curiously integral. Particularly so in closer “June Phoenix” from the band’s forthcoming album Light Moving Time. The glorious harmonies created a false history where Bon and Chauffe are sisters that have been singing together their whole lives (see Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit). For some at Farewell the band’s six-song, 30-minute set was an introduction, for others, this was a second taste, as Babehoven had already made its Farewell debut last April alongside local ingenues Rachel Cion and Flora. Sounds like Bon also has a thing for Farewell.

Tour partners Horse Jumper of Love followed. I’d not heard of them. The audience certainly had. By now Farewell was sold out. One in, one out. Those inside packed the area in front of the stage. I was pinned in. Soon I realized that my position was suboptimal, not only due to proximity to others during a pandemic, or because I wouldn’t be able to move for additional camera views, but because the threesome behind me (and thus only three feet from the stage) talked incessantly. After the first song the band asked the talkers to stop. The talkers must not have heard. Later, audience members would take it into their own hands. The confrontation didn’t erupt into a brawl, but there was more than enough tension. Farewell was 0-2 with the touring bands tonight. Not a good look.

Horse Jumper of Love is a quartet led by Dimitri Giannopoulos. It’s his vocals and his lead guitar. Bassist John Margaris and drummer Jamie Vadala-Doran make up the rhythm section. Touring guitarist Tony Tibbetts rounded out the foursome adding atmosphere (often) with an EBow and slide. I’ve decided that the band is indie rock. There’s texture and lots of effects pedals but the band never surrenders to the heft of shoegaze. Maybe it’s the song lengths. Songs are short. Many barely eclipse the two-minute mark. But they’re also rife with hooks. That’s the perfect combination. In the band’s short 30-minute set, the audience got ten of those short, hook-filled songs – six of them pulled from the band’s new album Natural Part just released the month prior, and four more from 2019’s self-titled release.

While the band were cordial on stage, they never seemed comfortable. Maybe it was the distracting talkers. Or maybe it was the heat. From my spot I watched sweat drip down the face of Tibbetts, landing in drops on his guitar while he played. Or maybe it was the venue. Looking at the band’s past tours, they’ve played most of the big rooms in the big cities. Maybe the shabby Farewell isn’t up to snuff. Nah, that couldn’t be it. Farewell and its patrons are delightful in their roguishness. Universally adored. I bet the band are just aloof. Yep. I that must be it.