Another week and another trip to one of Kansas City's semi-secret DIY venues. But Green House is a basement show spot unlike any other. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Its entrance is a wide doorway without steps or tight turns. It's clean. It's lit with over a dozen LED cannons. It has hanging speakers with cable runs through the rafters back to a capable PA – yes, even instruments can be brought into the board here. It has mounted cameras that run back to a production area where multi-cam performances can be streamed live to the outside world. Simply put, it's the blue-ribbon winner of KC DIY basement venues. And I haven't even mentioned the taco pop up in the backyard that serviced the pre-gamers. Bands, you live in the golden age of KC DIY venues. You should be honored.
The night began more-or-less on-time with Collidesope. The band was formed in Iowa City by Madison Monroe and Hadiza Kubura Sa-Aadu, before relocating to KC at some point in the recent past. The project has since expanded, with this gig representing the band's first performance as a quintet. The duo dubbed itself "soulgaze" and that portmanteau felt right during the first track, but soon the band visited all sorts of unexpected territories. It was sometimes funky. There was vocal poetry. It got sparse at times. There was an urgent rock & roll song. I got a little lost. From her position on guitar Monroe communicated changes to the recent arrivals, and things held together well throughout the meandering forty-minute journey. Hadiza's vocals were also on the trip. They were sometimes a soulful coo, other times a violent death metal growl. Often, they were everywhere in between. She wasn't happy that there were no monitors. At a basement gig. Her lyrics didn't seem happy either. I wondered if one song with a biting chorus wasn't written on the spot for me, "Middle-aged white man in the middle of the venue / taking up so much space." Called out, I slumped to the back of the basement.
HXXS followed quickly afterward. This duo has scared me in the past. So much noise. So much chaos. This time I came prepared. This time I was a better listener. The band is the project of Gavin Neves and Jeannie Colleene. Live, Colleene provides vocals that she constantly manipulates and samples. On this night she was enamored with the sampled sound of her cough. She also triggers sounds harsh and glitchy. Neves plays guitar. But only in that he strangles it to make it howl and scream, samples it, and leaves it looping throughout. He also plays harsh and glitchy sounds. I watched as he smashed the keys on a small synth and beat on a handful effects pedals. On this night his microphoned died, but that didn't keep him from shouting the duets with Colleene. Through the din there are songs – maybe not verse-verse-chorus-verse affairs from Rodgers and Hart, but songs. While the band is renowned for its constant touring schedule, it has been forced off the road recently for a variety of reasons. This was duo's first show in a long time, and they were enjoying it. Although Colleene hid her face behind two masks and her long blonde tresses, Neves was all smiles as he chatted with the crowd. The duo built their short 25-minute set on the fly, ending with what Neves called an experiment – a cover of Britney Spears' "Gimme More." Curiously, the pop hit was only slightly deconstructed, and the mountains of extraneous noise never overpowered the song. Instead, it felt like the sort of remixes Butch Vig made for artists in the early-to-mid 90s. And it was good.
Ducks Ltd. were invited onto this show after several of their support gigs in bigger area venues were cancelled. While this was surely a monetary hit for the touring band to absorb, I was delighted as the Toronto band is one of my favorite new acts of the last few years. The four-piece kicked off the show with "Get Bleak," the A-side of its first 7" single released in 2019. Eight more songs followed drawn from both that EP (and its later expanded edition) and the band's debut 2021 album Modern Fiction. In this live basement setting the dreamy and ethereal elements of the band's jangle pop nearly vanished, and instead the audience got a more urgent and tough version of the band. I liked it. Vocalist Tom McGreevy spit out his vocals with a yelp while strumming his guitar at a frenetic pace. The leads from guitarist and co-founder Evan Lewis weren't soft chimes as heard on the records, but instead cut through the songs to reenforce the delightful melodies. The duo was joined by touring members Katie Ryan and Jonathan Pappo, both of which made a big impact: Ryan with her bounding bass lines played high up the neck of her short-scale bass, and Pappo with his amazing rapid-fire fills – not to mention a one-handed solo played to entertain the crowd while he finished a beer between songs. The quartet won over the audience, earning a number of dancers, before ending its too-short thirty-minute set with "Anhedonia." I guess one shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Los Angeles's Dummy aren't used to playing basements. How the band found themselves at the Green House must be a good story. And the recounting of the events at the Green House will certainly provide the band a good anecdote. It took a while for the five-piece to set up its gear – there were multiple keyboard rigs and an uncountable number of effects pedals. Initially the band asked for the lights to be turned out, but when its members found themselves standing in a dark Midwestern basement, they reconsidered. Once the room was awash with red and blue lights again, the show began.
Dummy are nominally a shoegaze band. It's gaze drifts between the sparse and dreamy and the intense and crushing. Sometimes it drifts into long instrumental passages of sculpted sound. But it's also an indie band with freewheeling and wild guitars. And it's also a kraut rock band with motorik beats and short synth lines that constantly shift and mutate. Is this breadth the result of broad influences, or merely the work of disparate song writers? I suspect both. Emma Maatman handled most of the vocal duties as well as most of the synth responsibilities. The live mix did her dirty and guitars swallowed her small voice for most of the night. Maybe Green House does need monitors? Other songs put keyboardist/guitarist Nathan O’Dell on lead vocals. His voice fared better against the crashing cymbals, but it was still a basement gig. Although the band was tightly packed into a corner, guitarist Joe Trainor was in constant motion, and made the most of his environment by using the furnace exhaust pipe as a noisy slide for his guitar. I can't pretend to know what made up the band's setlist, but I know the forty-or-so members of the audience enjoyed it. After the set, as the band packed up its gear, I overheard one member tell the other, "That was fun." In his voice I heard an inflection that said he wasn't sure it would be. The second member agreed, using the same suspicious tone. Welcome to the Midwestern basement scene. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
Midweek five-band bills are a lot, but all credit to local headliners Koney who took the "stage" in front of a crowd every bit as large as the earlier acts. The band is the project of Konner Ervin, backed by keyboardist Ross Brown, bassist Collin Rausch, and drummer Kyle Rausch. That same foursome could also perform as both The ACBs and as Shy Boy if a few roles were traded. That scene is incestuous in the same glorious way the Elephant 6 collective was – if you like one band, you're going to like them all. And there's plenty to like about Koney. His songs are breezy pop songs with an easy late '70s or early '80s AM Gold feel to them. But rather than the immediacy and bounce of some of that genre's sunshiny pop, Koney's songs are restrained and unfurl slowly. His songs are often quiet and simple, seemingly competing to out gentle Ervin high soft voice. Slow and soulful guitar leads played on a Stratocaster make declarative statements. The subdued affair suited the basement well; there were no crashing cymbals echoing in the walls to supplant the warm organ or the gentle bass grooves. I watched as the band's slow rocking put the audience into a swaying trance, and I felt my own swaying turn to listing and then my eyelids growing heavier. At that point I gave up, grabbed my camera bag, and slipped out of back.
As I packed up my bag, I noted the backyard was still dotted with people and their libations. Maybe there were still tacos. The cool night air temporarily revived me, and I got sucked into a quick conversation before remembering that I needed to go home and get some rest, and that my car was parked blocks away. That's the thing about Green House, never park on Lydia – we don't want to piss off the neighbors. We got a good thing going here.