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Tuesday April 16th, 2024 at Hillsiders in Kansas City, KS
Moron's Morons, Wayne Pain & The Shit Stains, & Jackoffs

I've always attended shows with a sense of duty. I came of age in a city known for a car race not a punk scene, so when a show was announced, I felt obliged to show up. Every time. Coming early and staying through every band. No matter what. I could never afford merch, so I tried to help the bands by writing about the show and taking photographs for zines. It's been nearly 40 years since my first concert, and those duties are hardwired into my DNA now. I'm going to show up. I'm going to write about the gig. And I'm going to take pictures. And if it's a band touring from Eastern (according to my cold war brain) Europe, then I'm going to get off my couch and drive to Kansas even if it's a Tuesday night.

The gig began with Jackoffs from the less exotic Lawrence, Kansas. The band lines up as Jack Goodrich (guitar/vocals), Jack LaGue (bass), & Jacob Smith (drums). Has it been around a year? Three? I dunno. I just know that every time I see the trio play, I'm sure they're keeping secrets from me. The band's sets are short blasts of punk rock. There's a bit of garage. A bit of hardcore abandon. And yet there's something bouncy and mod lurking just under all that. Maybe it's the fingered bass of LaGue, or the riffs Goodrich plays when he's goofing around. But I'm sure that there's more to the band than meets the eye. This set was maybe seven songs all decided on the spot. Maybe fifteen minutes in total. Most of the songs were new – the band is due for an album but there was no talk of that. Actually, there wasn't much talk at all other than Goodrich thanking the audience for coming early to see "the humble Jackoffs." Humble they may be, but the cover they did of "Suffragette City" proves that the band knows more than it shows.

Wayne Pain & The Shit Stains hit next. The name tells you all you need to know about this Kenneth Kupfer project. That's enviable. And handy. The band has been a trio for a while now, with Isaac Ah-loe and Tyler James providing bass and drums respectively. This rhythm section is capable of star turns (Ah-loe's walking basslines are played impressively fast), but mostly it holds down the fort to make room for Kupfer's proto-punk riffs, delightfully aggressive rock & roll solos, and neolithic howls. It's a dangerous concoction scraped from the grimiest garage floors and guaranteed to infect your ears on contact. On this night Kupfer's vocals were buried in reverb. The cause was an inline guitar effects pedal dangling between the microphone and the house PA. It must've been turned up to The Kingsmen setting because while no one in the room had any idea what he was saying, it sounded good, and everyone knew it was depraved. During the band's half-hour show, Kupfer played fast and loose with the set list, ignoring his prepared selections and instead picking and choosing what felt right. It was Ah-loe, however, that called the closer, an energetic cover of "The Girl Can't Dance" originally recorded in 1963 by shouter Bunker Hill. The band spends a lot of time reveling in rock & roll's darkest corners.

The main course was Warsaw Poland's Moron's Morons. If the band can cross the Atlantic to play Kansas City, the least I could do is cross the Kaw. The band is led by vocalist "Philo Phuckphace." He's a wild man with wild hair, wild eyes, wild make up, and wild shredded vocals. He ventured into the crowd as far as the limited microphone cable allowed. His vocals were fortified by great leads from guitarist "John Paulie Shore II," big round and bouncy bass from "Matthew Moronski" that did more than just follow John Paulie around, and the no-nonsense drumming of "Turd Awesome." The latter may have been the most talented of the lot, capable of chewing gum and drumming at different intervals. Those are the sort of polyrhythms that I aspire to. The band's half-hour set featured songs equally messy and catchy, bringing both power pop and garage revival elements into its '77 punk base. While Philo was dramatic (and a bit unnerving in those "Uncle Ernie" rubber gloves), Moron's Morons performance was relatively subdued – no one was sent careening into the table lamp that remained next to the bass cabinet, nor did anyone attempt to hang from the Hillsiders' tasteful chandelier. Instead, the thirty or so fans that had come out on a Tuesday night got what they came for – loud guitars, brash vocals, and a that same old back beat rhythm that really really drives 'em wild.

After the set I peered at the band's enormous merch table. There must have been a dozen releases there. Many of them coming from top notch international labels like No Front Teeth, Slovenly, and Wanda. I still can't afford merch, but I know I did my part by coming out, writing about the show, and snapping a few photographs. I promise to never take gigs like these for granted.