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Saturday September 24th, 2022 at Farewell in Kansas City, MO
Nightosphere, Ferris Wheel Regulars, Ripped Genes, & Genre
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You’re right, I have been going to a lot of shows lately. I’m doing okay. Thanks for asking.

Genre was added to the bill at the last minute. I don’t know how or why it happened, I know nothing about the band, and the band doesn’t have any social media to provide clues. I suspect its members like the mystery. Actually, I suspect they sow chaos. The band opted to play outside, utilizing the bed of a pickup truck parked on the Farewell patio as a stage. A single light clamped to the drum hardware and the moon would provide illumination. My photos would struggle. The quartet is fronted by Diyana [the band offered no last names]. They play guitar and do most of the singing. Beau plays a small synth and sings along. Waxeka plays bass and sings even less. Aoife drums. Together the foursome dwelled in a genre-free [oh the irony] void bounded by art punk, new-wave, and even indie pop. Diyana’s clean guitar tone reminded me of all the early and mid ‘90s bands on K Records. Not quite jangly, but it was bouncy and bright on occasion. But generally, it was more jagged. In those moments, it combined with the tight insisting synth lines of Beau to deliver a new-wave experience. As the band prepared for its final song, Diyana ran to their amp, and made a swap that added gain. Something that had unintentionally been left off the entire set. So much for my suspicions about DIY pop influences. The new-wave tag at least bore fruit when the band closed with a cover of “We’ve Got the Beat” sung by Waxeka and the two-dozen people gathered in the courtyard. Like most of the twenty-minute set, the song was loose and occasionally discombobulated with just enough deconstruction to make it interesting.

I sat outside editing photos between acts. Someone recounted episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Married with Children” to the gal that often works for the door. I know both by sight, but I couldn’t tell you either of their names. Is that odd? Should I ask? Luckily the next band started making noise before my brain began cataloging all of my awkward failings.

Ripped Genes is the long-running project of Columbia Missouri’s Jon Hadusek. Sometimes he’s solo, sometimes not. This tour he was joined by regulars Jim Atchley on drums and Ben Severns on bass. That’s the same trio that played on the band’s new cassette A Day Late and a Dollar Short. The band is quiet with plodding tempos and confessional lyrics. The set made me think of Bright Eyes and Red House Painters. Ripped Genes sounds nothing like either of those bands, but I think the mood is right. Occasionally the trio built to crescendos that echoed nicely in the room, but in truth the rhythm section was only there to hold the course as Hadusek revealed his songs. His breathy voice, weary and ragged around the edges, was the first step. Slowly picked guitar leads (rather than chords) provided the second. And for one song, near the end of the set, an amazingly expressive David Gilmour-esque solo stole the spotlight. The final song of the long forty-minute set was a cover of the 1953 hit “All for the Love of a Girl,” originally recorded by country crooner Johnny Horton. Ripped Genes luxuriated in the song, stretching it from its original two-minute ballad into a four-minute meditation. After the show, I went home and listened to the band’s studio version of the song a dozen times.

For decades, I haven’t given much thought to Wichita. I’ve only opted to make the three-hour drive down once in 25 years, but change is in the air. National tours are hitting Wichita and not Kansas City, Wichita bands are coming up to play KC shows, and increasing numbers of KC bands are making the trek down. The recent ICT Fest cemented this resurgence. But while I’m still plotting my weekend in “the doo-dah city,” it continues to send up scouting parties. The latest invaders are a quartet called Ferris Wheel Regulars who travelled up to make their Kansas City debut.

Ferris Wheel Regulars trade in indie rock, emo, and post hardcore. It’s a tried and true formula that defined the late ‘90s for me, and the band delivered everything I’ve loved about the sound. In the studio, the proportions of each represented genre are shifted to provide more space and texture, delivering something akin to Hum or Shiner. But the live band provides more urgency and energy. I was happy to hear this version of the band’s songs. The foursome is co-fronted by Paul and Jack DiGiovanni. Both play guitar, both provide vocals, both offered earnest (if taciturn) banter. Paul DiGiovanni carries most of the guitar leads. His lines are smart and interesting despite his bevy of effects pedals which often attempt to bury them. The rhythm section lines up as Luke Goter on bass and Brandon Labarge on drums. The bass is propulsive, pushing the tempo. The drums are active with lots of cymbal work. Together they moved the band from quiet and beautiful to expansive and epic divinely. The vocals tried to keep up with Jack DiGiovanni’s rock voice managing this task better than the softer tones provided by cohort Paul DiGiovanni. The band’s thirty-minute set sounded good in the room, and while they only played to the dozen fans who came forward, I expect that number will grow by their next weekend jaunt. Or maybe I’ll see them in the ICT before that.

Kansas City seen a preponderance of four-band bills lately that have either underestimated the draw of a touring act or overestimated the draw of a local. In many cases the touring act was placed third. The rational is that everyone is there to see the local, so put them on last to ensure an audience for the touring act. The risk is that everyone was actually there to see the touring band, and then leave afterwards already satisfied by a three-band bill. The disheartened local headliner then plays to an empty room. This is especially true when the final act plays regularly. Nightosphere do play regularly. The die was cast.

Nightosphere is a trio realized in an odd way. Namely, vocals are always provided by the guitarist, yet sometimes that guitarist is Claire Delaney and sometimes it’s Brittany Sawtelle. The odd woman out shoulders the bass, and the two trade positions on stage several times throughout the set. The duo is simpatico – so much so that I’ve not yet identified any clear differences in their songs. Neither favors sparse over climatic. Neither writes tension over tranquility. Instead, each incorporates elements from those broad palettes into Nightosphere’s post rock. Dakota Trogdon ("Hop”) provides drums. His playing is broad and integral to the heart of the band, but the songs aren’t his. On this night, Sawtelle fought with the microphone and skirmished with a pedal board. She smiled through the turmoil and wondered aloud at the absurdity. This was the most banter I had heard from her. The travails resulted in a set that was a little looser than maybe the band would have liked, but authenticity on stage is always better than perfection. The audience agreed and packed into the room for the headlining set. There would be no let down tonight – the promoter got it right. The band rewarded the crowd’s dedication with several new songs, including one with moments that were uncharacteristically structural. Not a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus affair, but sturdier than the atmosphere-heavy songs generally favored by the band. I was impressed at how seamlessly the band integrated in this diversion. Every time I see this still-new band, they provide more to marvel at.

There was no encore at the end of the band’s thirty-minute set, so I packed my gear, waved my goodbyes to the people whose names I didn’t know, and then headed back home expecting that I’d return the next night for another four-band bill. What else am I going do?