Wednesday September 8th, 1999 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
The Muffs & The Gadjits
Sometimes national acts start things early at The Bottleneck so I was happy to find the club quiet when I arrived at 10:15. There was a pretty small crowd actually but I wasn't disappointed - I hate the 'neck when it's crowded. When I was asked for the $10 cover I realized why so few folks were there. While I wandered around the club looking for friends and waiting for The Gadjits to set up, I saw a note sitting next to the sound man - "9:30 Buck 10:30 Gadjits 11:30 Muffs". Buck?! None of the flyers said anything about Buck! Missing Lisa's (ex-Cub) new band was a hella bummer.
Although I've been in Kansas City for almost 2 years going to like 3 shows a week, I had only seen The Gadjits once before. I'd guess their label (Hellcat) has had the band on the road non-stop since the CD came out because the band seemed like real performers. They were entertaining to watch and made a real connection to the audience. The 30 folks up front danced and jerked with about 9 people doing some heads down robotic skanking. It's an interesting thing to watch as people bend and rise, swinging their arms all together, almost hypnotic.
The band itself were fairly tight with the bass really keeping everything together. Nothing too flashy but certainly interesting. The guitar played standard upstroke chords at times though when needed the guy could really play. The keys were very simple but very effective. At times they didn't differ much from song to song but honestly it didn't matter as they were really filling a fundamental need in the songs. The drumming was well, drumming.
The band played the few requests from the crowd which seemed to be older and more punk than their current material. You can't really pigeon hole the band into wave 1, 2 or 3 as they combine elements from all of three with poppy ska songs with a real drive. Even music fans like myself that don't generally like ska can appreciate a band like that.
The Muffs spread out on the big stage with their drummer in the back corner on the seldom-used drum riser, Ronnie to the far left and Kim to the far right. During the night there were only 4 or 5 times that both Ronnie and Kim were in my field of vision at the same time which seems pretty odd.
The Muffs are a band that I really worshipped in the early 90s though they continued to loose favour as time went on. To some extent my tastes changed and the simple predictable pop-punk started appealing to me less and less (I also used to love The Queers, Screeching Weasel and Shonen Knife). But I also think each of the band's albums following their Reprise debut were a little less interesting than the previous until the new one on Honest Don's that I haven't even heard. Anyway it was odd to see Kim standing there a few feet from me when for so many years I had marveled at her voice and her ability to switch from a gravelly shriek to one so sweet and smooth . Looking at her I noted how incredibly thin she was, I wondered if maybe I should have brought a sandwich for her.
The band started with a newer number but circled back around to catch an older one pretty quick. During the night I heard 4 or so songs from the first album which made me happy and even a cover of Stupid Jerk by The Angry Samoans mixed in with material from the last few albums that I didn't usually recognize. Everyone sung along to the "hits" (with many Fruitopia jokes being made by the audience but unaddressed by the band) and local Kim-worshipper Grant actually joined the band on stage doing a few warble lines in Big Mouth. At various points in the night I looked over and noted Adrianne from The Anniversary singing along to even the songs I couldn't remember hearing before.
The Muffs' songs are pretty basic, with simple power chord guitar parts forming the base of every song, but I was surprised how nimble Kim's fingers were during her solos or how dirty some of the feedback on her Gretsch got. Ronnie was an impressive bass player all around as well.
However I didn't think the band played well to the crowd. I guess Kim has gotten more than her share of sexist comments over time so she was quick to retort to any comment with a I'm-just-as-rude-as-you-are remark. It's understandable, but dysfunction is never very comfortable. Overall the band played a solid set but the band was stiff and the audience remained passive throughout the set. There was nothing engaging, gripping or magical about their performance.
The small crowd got a single encore, Kim posed for pictures at the request of the goth fairies [three no-fuss goth girls, one of which was wearing fairy wings] and that was the end of it.