Too Much Rock
Pics+Video Podcasts Singles About
Saturday July 16th, 2022 at Velo Garage in North Kansas City, MO
Nan + The One Nite Stands, & Chase The Horseman

Other Views:
email me your links!

I’ve spent a lot of time on Too Much Rock admiring Velo Garage. It’s easy to fall in love with the rocky little courtyard when the sound is good, the weather is perfect, and the audience is all your friends. But what happens when you only get two of the three? Let’s find out.

I arrived just before 9pm – missing the sunset but in time to appreciate the soft blue glow that remained. As I reclined in one of the Adirondack chairs in the gravel yard, I watched the sky grow darker. With each breath I relaxed a little deeper into the chair. A small front had just moved in, providing a temporary reprieve from the 100-degree days that came before, and would follow. In short, the weather was pleasant, so check that one off the list.

Chase the Horseman took the stage with twelve-string guitar in hand. The jangle felt right. The first few songs had a looseness and ring to them that recalled Billy Bragg’s sessions with John Peel. Curiously, Horseman wasn’t happy with the sound and swapped the guitar for a standard six-string for the next few numbers. Their voice sounded amazing. All the strength and vulnerability you could want. The lyrics solid and sincere. The fourth song (I’ve no titles) was a treat. In the best possible way I’ll say this portion of the set reminded me of a late ‘80s and early ‘90s alt rock act. Maybe Tears for Fears if you stripped out all that pointless production. Really though, there was just enough polish to let you know this cat is for real, and just enough comfort to make the performance feel organic. Despite Horseman’s reactionary swap, everything sounded delightful. Check that box too.

So was the problem the audience? Yes, it was the audience. Chase the Horseman isn’t exactly coffee shop fare, but their music isn’t the sort that will drown out a table of eight bachelorettes kicking off a Saturday night of light mischief. Their fun was enough to send patrons from one side of the patio to the other. When one of the revelers hollered up “Love Shack,” Horseman seemed taken aback. “You want me to play ‘Love Shack’?” he asked incredulously. The group returned to their own conversation, seemingly unaware that their intrusion had reached the stage. “We can hear you,” Horseman added before returning to their set. But soon the octet chose to take their party elsewhere, and the night returned to the performers and their fans.

Horseman ended the night with three songs performed on Rhodes piano. The sparse nature of the earlier songs was suddenly transformed as melody and rhythm both poured from the electric piano. Twinkling and crashing in equal measures before both would give way to quiet reverberations that made room for Horseman’s almost whispered vocals. The richness and sophisticated melodies of these final songs skewed far from the earlier comparisons, and now recalled Harry Nilsson. Chase the Horseman has no musical limits.

Between acts I chatted with friends. Maybe there were only twenty patrons. Maybe I knew most of them. Sometimes Kansas City is the best city in the world. I snapped out of my conversation when the back gate swung open, and the members of headlining act walked in. They had been in the venue’s green room (aka the alley) rehearsing musical cues and dance steps. The raccoons got quite a preview.

Nan + The One Nite Stands is the project of Nan Turner (half of the venerable Schwervon). It’s a confusing and endearing project that is both goofy and heartwarming. Brilliant and naïve. Turner took the stage alone. After selecting a backing track from her phone, she removed her striking green glasses, and kicked off a heavily choreographed rapped number. Afterwards, Turner panted heavily and pondered her decision to open her set with such an intense cardio workout. For the next two songs, Turner invited Tracy Flowers (of Deco Auto) onto the stage to provide backing vocals as well as some synchronized dance moves. Turner sang and played guitar. These songs land somewhere between indie and punk and folk, recalling Kimya Dawson and others from the same New York anti-folk scene that Turner was a part of before moving to Kansas. Her vocals are fine. Her guitar playing is fine. But she is a treasure.

For the final four songs of the set, Turner called up Breaka Dawn (of The Bad Ideas). While there are occasionally other dancers in Nan + The One Nite Stands, this trio has been the Kansas City core for as long as I can remember. These songs were part of an always in-progress musical that Turner is writing about the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. Specifically, about the figure skating competition. While I’ve no exact titles, the four songs were sung by the character Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul, and Scott Hamilton. Each song sung by Turner. Each in a different voice. Each stylistically different. Each with fully choreographed dance moves from the entire trio. The final involving a balding wig and sportscoat to allow Turner to become the figure skater turned commentator. Pre-recorded beats (and sometimes guitars, and sometimes backing vocals) accompanied the performance. The characters she’s developed for each skater are amazing, slanderous, and ridiculous. You know the A Taste for Love Dracula musical written by Jason Segal that he teased in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Did you fall in love with it? Then Nan + The One Nite Stands have a treat for you.

Between songs Turner was conversational and meandering. She spent lots of time catching her breath and reminding the audience to breathe, time reminding herself and the audience to drink water, and plenty of time praising Chase Horseman for all their assistance in the production of Nan + The One Nite Stands’ backing tracks. During the final portion of the set, she drew out her between-song banter, giving the audience background about the setting and characters, about where the song falls in the musical, and about the action taking place to precipitate the song. And it was satisfying. Preposterous and wonderful and utterly without guile.

After the final number, Turner raised the hands of her cohorts high into the air to take several deep Broadway bows. The small audience cheered. Someone should have brought her a bouquet of roses. Afterwards I tried to tease an estimated date of completion for the musical out of Turner, but that was no use. So instead, I went the opposite direction, asking if the plan was to perform the musical on ice. Her eyes lit up. It is something she’s considered. And she took figure skating lessons as a youth. Of course she did. Nan Turner has no theatrical limits.

While the evening started with only two of the three swoon-inducing ingredients, by the time the night finished, the third had been achieved. And once again, I was in love with Velo Garage.