Kansas City has been a b-list tour stop for years. Thankfully three major interstates cross in KC, and its geography breaks up what would otherwise be eight- or twelve-hour drives between a-list stops. As a result, our best shows come not from fiscal choices made by booking agents, but rather from the tactical decisions of bands making their way across the country. Well, that and folks like Kenneth Kupfer coercing his friends to come party in the city of fountains.
The night began with Kupfer's lovable miscreants Wayne Pain & The Shit Stains. He started the set warning everyone that his voice was going. The day before he couldn't talk at all. On this night his voice was harsh and ragged. So not much different than normal. Maybe there was a bit less banter. The new line up is really gelling – especially after playing just a few nights earlier. Maybe "tight" is overselling any garage rock act, but the band now featuring bassist Isaac Ah-loe and drummer Tyler James was not the ramshackle rhythm section seen months ago, or even heard on Kupfer's lo-fi recordings. But as much as the tighter rhythm section elevates the band, the real joy is Kupfer. There's a lot to like, but on this night I was enthralled by his Back to the Future guitar solos. Let me explain. Remember during the Enchantment Under the Sea dance when Marty McFly starts off playing R&B-born rock 'n' roll but soon progresses to a solo full of hammered and bent strings? It's like that. Kupfer isn't a shredder, but he has leads. After playing a couple songs, Kupfer grumbled, "I'm dying up here," before taking a big swig of (healing) Hamm's. His pain resulted in only one skipped song, leaving the setlist at a round ten songs delivered over 25 minutes.
During Wayne Pain's set there was a single dancer moving side to side across the pit. Only a dozen other fans watched the set. Tuesday nights are rough.
The night continued with Lothario. This is the punk & roll project of Annaliese Redlich from Melbourne, Australia. She's a DJ, a podcast producer, and now, a rock 'n' roll vixen. While she played all the instruments on her recent debut 7", on this night she was focused entirely on vocals, allowing guitarist Josh Paisant, bassist Matt Leary, and drummer Rob Craig to back her up. During a short twenty-minute set Redlich paced the area in front of the stage, holding her microphone, and shouting her vocals. They cut through the band well, though Redlich had trouble hearing herself. I had trouble hearing the high and tinny guitar with my earplugs in. Maybe Leary did too as the duo was often out of sync, or maybe it was just too early in the tour for this ad hoc assemblage to have gelled. Craig seemed not to be affected, as he manned simple drums providing the primitive beat for the band. So simple, in fact, that moved the borrowed floor tom out of the way, repurposing it as a stand for his beer. He was fun to watch, but no one really paid much attention to Craig, not when Redlich paroled the crowd barely wearing a leather bra matched with plenty of PVC. And let's not forget about those black Bettie Page bangs. But let's be clear, during her sojourns into the audience, she was more confrontational than coquettish, occasionally getting in the faces of fans in an attempt to generate some energy. Unfortunately it mostly didn't work. Despite ripping through nine songs of raw punk and supercharged rock 'n' roll, the audience never boiled over. Tuesday nights are rough.
The stage required few changes for the next act, though its players required a bit of a break. Redlich and her backing band would need to retake the stage as New Buck Biloxi. A half hour seemed to do the trick.
New Buck Biloxi is the latest incarnation of garage impresario Rob Craig. While the "New" prefix was supposed to afford Craig a clean break from his previous Buck Biloxi material, there have been recent relapses. For this set the previous foursome reconfigured itself with Craig and his guitar up front, with support from Redlich on rhythm guitar, Paisant on drums, and with Leary reprising his role on bass. The band let loose through a 25-minute set of shifting power chords that recalled early ‘80s hardcore punk – sometimes perilously close, as was the case with Buck Biloxi (version 1.0) tune "I Would Rather Die" that found its way into the middle of the set. The song's fantastic hook is provided by the chorus. The riff was provided by Gregg Ginn 40 years ago. As with the earlier preceding set, the players weren't always entirely sure where they were going. There were several false starts that required conferences before the band could continue. Craig explained to the crowd that the band definitely knew the songs but were just showing the audience what band practices of a real DIY act looks like. That got a good laugh from the small crowd, and his banter was similarly witty all night, and he may have been a little wasted. Tuesday night was starting to liven up.
Kool 100s were tasked with headlining the night. The local band read the room, saw that the opening acts weren't even around, and decided to tear through a banter-less nine song/fifteen-minute set. Most of the songs were fast and chaotic punk, with a few slowing down enough (and just enough) to reveal the cowpunk underpinnings to the band's sound. John Larsen's vocals were lost behind the loud band for the first few songs, but after moving from the pit up onto the stage, the sound improved dramatically. His knotty guitar work was never compromised. Sam Leimer played with the same bass rig that had been shared all night. There were both plenty loud. Isaac Ah-Loe returned to the stage, now playing the same tiny communal drum kit. I'd guess it didn't impress him, based on his attempts to tune the kit between songs. And that was after he had already replaced the kick pedal with one that he favored. But none of that matters to Kool 100s. What matters is the band delivering smart songs at 100 miles an hour to an audience that enjoys the challenge of holding on for dear life. Both did their job. Even on a Tuesday night. Even in an b-list tour stop like Kansas City.