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Thursday July 13th, 2023 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
Junkyard Royalty, These Few Weeks, Tidal.wav, & Parry

Go to shows. Go to a lot of shows. Make a point to see band's that you love. But mostly make sure you see bands that you've never heard before. That's how you find bands to love. On a Thursday night, four young bands played at the Record Bar. None of them were used to big stages. They usually play on DIY basement floors and in small clubs where the six-inch stages are tucked away in a corner. On Thursday, these bands filled the Record Bar. I've written before about the pipeline that moves bands up to bigger rooms, and I love seeing it in action. For those who aren't comfortable in strangers' dusty basements christened with names like "The Toilet Bowl" or "The Green House," pay special attention to these all-ages shows at traditional venues. It's the future of music.

The night started with Parry. The band is fronted by Emma Baker. It's her vocals. Her lyrics. Her rhythm guitar. She's joined by Jacob Fail (lead guitar), Carly Beck (bass), and Jeremiah Trahern (drums). The band makes dreamy alternative pop recalling the gossamer work of The Sundays. Songs are slow. Only a few songs in the band's half-hour set had any bounce to them, but many carried hints of landlocked surf. Beck's bass runs are played high on the neck. Fail's lyrical leads are played while staring intently at his fingers. Trahern's drums are soft and devoid of fills. Baker's voice doesn't do much. It's not pushed high or low. Not pushed to be loud or to whisper. It stays in a sweet spot, and it sounds heavenly. Her strummed rhythm work is clean and bright. And just a little unnerving. She is left-handed, playing a right-handed guitar – one that has NOT been restrung, meaning every chord is upside down. Based on the substantive tuning between songs, there's likely other shenanigans at play too. The audience was interested but not engaged. No one stood; instead tables were populated by younger kids and older relatives. I fell in love during the first song and bought the band's (sadly digital-only) release on Bandcamp that night.

Sharing gear allowed Tidal.wav (pronounced "tidal wave" naturally) to begin after only a ten-minute pause between acts. I love that. There were a lot of similarities to the opening act, and some key differences. The band lines up as Alex Smith (vocals, rhythm guitar), Alex Lewis (lead guitar), Josh Gomez (bass), and AJ Ruizdechavez (drums). Smith's voice is deep. Sometimes Calvin Johnson deep. He's a crooner, casting a lounge-y hue over the quartet. Both guitars were bright. Lewis' didn't look up from his instrument as he offered jazzy leads and some solos. Sometimes he played single note runs, sometimes filling chords, and in "The Man Who Knew Too Much," he effectively imitated keyboards. Gomez offered a little funk and a lot of energy, dancing with his instrument. Ruizdechavez (aka Rue) must be a jazz drummer. He played with a comical stank face enjoying his vibe. His infrequent fills were quick and tight. Mostly he played that snare and hi-hat, and also every other cymbal on the kit. It all came together in some form of indie pop--one curiously adjacent to lite jazz. Although I spent the band's 30-minute set trying to wrap my head around the combination, the audience had already come forward and were shouting vociferous praise between songs. The band has an audience despite not yet releasing any recordings.

The night hurried along, and it was only fifteen minutes before These Few Weeks took the stage. This band has a bigger audience. And a bigger family. It was the sort of early gig at a respectable venue that draws out supportive family members. Also, it was the sort of all-ages gig that brings out the kids. That explains the bell curve I noted earlier. The foursome is fronted by Jack Weidner. He sings and plays rhythm guitar, continuing the night's curious trend. His voice is warm, and something about the cadence reminds me of Morrissey. No one is going to support that assertion, but I'll make it anyway. Dylan Pugh plays lead guitar. Either might deliver solos, but Pugh's bluesy solo in current single "Dawson" was noteworthy. He also played it without staring at his fretboard. Both boys tossed their hair and good looks around. Spencer Jewell provided bass. He had a job to do, and he did it. Trevor Rodgers played drums. He's a busy drummer. They were all busy during the extended shoegaze-esque finale of "Velvet." Blues you say? Shoegaze? What sort of band is this? Well, neither of those. Indie rock I suppose. Quicker pacing than the earlier acts. Louder and bolder too. Like I said, indie rock, not pop. The audience loved the seven-song, half-hour set. They whooped and hollered during songs and erupted in applause between them. This support is the product of the band's biased family as well as genuine fans earned at DIY gigs and in smaller clubs. The band has three songs on Spotify ready for your streaming.

The night hit its climax with Junkyard Royalty. It's a band I'm familiar with although frontwoman Richie Rich always offers something new. Rich provides vocals, and in some songs, rhythm guitar. Her voice is all over the place – sometimes frail and fragile, sometimes towering and commanding. When she's not playing guitar, her stage presence is always stuck in the "on" position. On this night, she danced and twirled and hopped as she would any other venue. She griddied the Record Bar stage. She requested the audience shout the refrain to de facto theme song "Bottles" and got their full voices in return. Early in the set, she stood at the stage's edge, studied the crowd, then confessed that she didn't "know the vibe" of Record Bar but thought the audience should dance. And the band offered some fast songs with loads of energy that made that feel right. Near the end of the set, the band would cover Wolf Alice's "Play the Greatest Hits." For that one, she insisted the audience open up the pit and demanded they move when the beat hit. They did. And like an odd level of Super Mario, when bodies collided, gold tokens flew everywhere. When it was over, she thanked the audience for its participation, and I puzzled at the coins lying on the floor.

The band's 35-minute set had a bit of everything. Explosions of punk energy, careful ballads, indie rock textures, and countless moments that genre has never commented on. The band's mercurial three-year existence is based on Rich's bedroom recordings, and some of those songs persist in the setlist today. Newer songs have been written with the help of friends. That shifting assemblage included guitarists Nate Morley and "Garret." Garret is often the band's bassist, but he had no problem ripping off an amazing solo in his new role. Sydney Aldridge (of Dunes Day, et al.) contributed bass and plenty of bouncing energy. Caden Smith plays keyboards and trumpet. The trumpet's brassy tones cut through wonderfully, elevating every song into rock & roll revue. Luca Morpurgo played drums, tasked with keeping everyone on track, and providing the kickdrum that was often Rich's perch.

The band has been teasing an official release for years, but today there are only a few demos on a Soundcloud page. Like the previous two acts, the band doesn't seem to have much of a use for social media other than sporadic posts to Instagram. Maybe things in Rich's life are too nebulous and evolving to allow anything to be permanently written. So, while the band will not sing its own praises, I will. Junkyard Royalty's nine-song set was full of everything that makes music exciting. It was full of ideas that were born in bedrooms without concern of markets or clicks, and honed in basements where fans pay what they can to share the experience. It's rare that bands like these graduate to clubs where their songs can be shared with wider audiences, so don't miss out on these moments – they never last long.