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Friday March 11th, 2016 at The Brick in Kansas City, MO
Mime Game, The Travel Guide, & Via Luna

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Just enough time for a quickie here. Probably best, as it's never good to write about bands after seeing them only once, so excuse the brevity, and know it's in everyone's best interest.

Kansas City's Via Luna started promptly at 10pm; I know this as I showed up at 10:03 in the middle of the band's first song. The band lies in a singular middle ground rife with the math rock complexities and virtuosity, but tempered by elements of jazz, post rock, and effect-laden shoegaze. Melodious guitar leads come from both Greg Baker and Chris Gordon, with either just as likely to tap them out on the neck of their guitars as by any expected picking method. Bassist Blain Bridges has the largest pedal bank of the lot, allowing his five-string bass to play nearly any role in the band's music. Drummer Mike McDonough directs the odd time signatures and changes, but doesn't provide the flash you'd see in a straight math rock band like, say, Don Caballero or A Minor Forest (I'm showing my age here, aren't I?). The friendly crowd responded well to the band's long forty-minute set, and even to the odd "Woo spring break!" banter dropped by Gordon.

Wichita's quartet Travel Guide were up next. The band is lead by Thayne Coleman who provides vocals and an endless number of guitar solos. Seriously, nearly every song had two guitar solos, leading Coleman to sheepishly apologize to the audience for his addiction. So much delay pedal. So much noodling. Such long songs. So exhausting. But listen intently, and you'll discover the counter balance offered by the active bass work of Caleb Drummond, or admire the big downbeats from drummer Will Erickson that kept the crowd engaged (including two uber fans who sang along to the entire set), or simply lose yourself in the diverse guitar work of Kristyn Chapman. Chapman offered leads in some songs, noisy coloring in others, and supporting rhythm in others, all effectively dismissing the lead vs. rhythm distinction one would expect to result from Coleman's predilection to solo. The band is currently playing weekend gigs to support its new album (2015's self-released Trading a Dream), and expect a larger tour this summer (during break from school).

Headlining what (to my ears) seemed like an upside-down bill was Kansas City trio Mime Game. Once the solo project of songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Dillon DeVoe, the band has now been set with the addition of bassist Kevin Mears and drummer TJ Murphy. My first impressions were informed by the "dudeness" of the band: gauged ears, banter built almost entirely on cursing and rife with references to getting drunk, a drummer so young that he had a Beiber haircut, and a disoriented stage presence that left me wondering if DeVoe was stoned, drunk, or simply lost. Together the trio played a sort of post-grunge rock built on DeVoe's power chords and his anguished vocals delivered raw and wobbly in the Bright Eyes style. Near the end of the set the emotional DeVoe lost himself in the moment, sending his body not only stomping about The Brick's small stage, but sending first his guitar, and then himself, flinging down on the floor for a raucous and noisy finale. Obviously the band were not my thing, but ultimately I did find the sincerity in the band's music, and that's all it really takes to earn my respect.