Sunday January 6th, 2003 at The Replay in Lawrence, KS
John Wilkes Booze, The Impossible Shapes, & The Clockwork

John Wilkes Booze John Wilkes Booze The Impossible Shapes The Clockwork [more]

(Note: Somehow I lost the pictures from the middle of the set. I don't know how. Sorry to The Impossible Shapes.)

When Dana and I set out for Lawrence, we knew in all likelihood that this would be our last trip out on K10. Funny how you can be nostalgic about the oddest things, and funnier when you find yourself wondering what things you’ll miss the most. With these last few weeks in Kansas City I’ve tried to take it all in – by both cherishing the things that have made Kansas City home, and filling in the gaps I neglected in the last 65 months. The worst scenario has already been played out however: Dunkin’ Donuts closed up shop silently one night and I never had a chance to say goodbye. It’s of little condolence that I’m moving to a city that has a Dunkin’ Donuts on every block – it’s the Dunkin’ Donuts in Lawrence Kansas, right there on 23rd street, which sustained me out here on the plains. And I never got a chance to say goodbye. So this show account is dedicated to the fine Indian gentleman behind the counter on the overnight shift. Thank you sir, I owe you everything.

A little before 11:00 Lawrence’s Clockwork began playing. At 11:00 I showed up somewhere in the middle of the band’s third song. The club was pretty full, and if it weren’t for the recent remodeling, the bar would have been unbearably so. The front window was lined with tipsy, fashion-core kids who shouted the players’ names out whenever a single instrument was highlighted, and screamed ever more fervidly after each song. Keyboardist/Vocalist Patrick Roberts later confessed these were former coworkers (from Arizona Trading Company) and their applause may have been biased. Either way, he said he preferred the predisposed enthusiasm to none at all.

Enthusiasm, after all, is something Clockwork shouldn’t count on. With a penchant for slowly meandering prog-rock, the band is far from the roguishly under-produced testosterone guitar fare that is driving the kids crazy today. In fact, the trio has no guitar at all – only drums, bass, and electric piano. Their songs are generally sparse and unapologetically serious – one couldn’t find music less likely to insight a party. However, by ignoring the trends, the band has created a unique dreamscape reminiscent of Yes, ELP, or even Kansas’ most dreamy moments. This may be music to play Dungeons and Dragons to, but its also ripe with brilliant arrangements, excellent use of dual vocals (which blended and harmonized perfectly thanks to the Replay’s new monitors), and more than its share of compelling, and dynamic compositions. I’ll drink from the goblet of the Orc King to that!

However all may not be written about Clockworks’ music… The band has indicated vocalist/bassist Hugh Naughtin will soon be contributing the vast majority of the band’s new material. How will this condense the band’s sound? No telling though it’s sure to pale in comparison to the changes Bloomington Indiana’s The Impossible Shapes have undergone.

Three years ago I caught The Impossible Shapes at a small bar in Indianapolis and was impressed by their psychedelic pop charm. Their craft seemed to owe as much to Syd Barrett as it did to the Elephant 6 bands, and as a result there was depth behind the frivolity. Today, The Impossible Shapes is a different sort of band altogether. With only the slightest hint of pychedelia remaining in their set, the band instead presented a half hour of rootsy rock & roll. Is this the curse of Indiana? Will every band that stays in the Hoosier state suffer this fate? How many bands will suffer Split Lip Syndrome before a cure is found?

Although the band has shifted to an entirely different throwback demographic, they seem to have done it with some success. Even though the packed crowd thinned out to barely a dozen by the time The Impossible Shapes’ set took form, those remaining seemed to enjoy the wholesome appeal of organic guitar solos and button up western shirts. Although the set began with two guitarists (really allowing Jason Groth to shine), they soon shifted allowing Aaron Deer to provide fulltime keyboards.

Although their set interested me less than I was sure it would before they began playing, there was one noteworthy item: The band covered a song originally recorded by The Flying Burrito Brothers. I imagine this is the first time TFBB have been mentioned in reference to The Replay, and nearly certain this is the only time they’ve been covered in this venue known for dirty, post-rock. The band pulled it off well… even if there wasn’t an audience for it.

Once the foursome from Indiana had completed their set, they slipped off somewhere to change into terribly (un)fashionable brown suits accented by a variety of ill-matching black dress shoes. After gathering two additional members, the now sextet returned to the “stage” as John Wilkes Booze and engaged the audience. Vocalist Seth Mahern began with an impassioned (but possibly premature as no context had been set) sermon to entice the audience into some spiritual groove experience while the band found an appropriately funky underpinning. Before long Mahern was stamping about, waving his arms wildly, and dancing like a Shaker dropped into a brothel. It was at this point that it all went a bit fuzzy… guitars, drums, keyboards, squawking saxophone, bass, didn’t mean a thing. A rockin' R&B explosion happened but it all seemed completely immaterial to the performance – Mahern danced and shook and jumped and hit the ground hard, bringing audience members down with him. He jumped over the bar, accosting the few still sitting with their backs to the band – those few who had been at the bar since before the $2 cover was instituted hours ago, and who would be there until last call.

Having won the heart of the audience, the band zeroed in on the audience’s ass. Despite the self-conscious visibility created by only a dozen fans, but overridden by the immense amounts of alcohol consumed, the audience was easily persuaded to “dance” and “sing” along. Although the microphone was easily obtainable to all, several inebriated Sinatras dominated the microphones for the majority of the night. And why not, Mahern didn’t seem to want to keep it in his hands; he was more interested in tying himself and others up with the cord, or simply tossing it for affect.

By the end of the band’s set they had spawned a host of new drunken rock stars covered in filth from the dampened, dirty floor they all rolled around on. Our singers’ smiles were visible even through their wobbly haze, and the band seemed terribly satisfied with their transformations.