Sunday November 5th, 2000 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Impossibles, The Appleseed Cast, & The Syndicate
I parked the car absently then turned around to hunt the backseat for my camera. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a long line of jittering kids waiting outside of The Bottleneck as the area was experiencing its first hint of winter. As I limped across the street dodging the cold rain I felt it sting my face in an way I only vaguely remembered. Every year its the same story; in the summer I forget the winter exists and all summer I can't imagine a day will come when I will be able to wear a sweater. After 29 years in this climate you'd think I'd have gotten the hang of it.
The Syndicate opened the show with a 20 minute blast of hardcore. Not the new metal tinged hardcore the kids love and not exactly old school. More of a crusty influenced political hardcore flavour that only gained acceptance in basements, garages and the occasional VFW hall in the mid 90s. Both drummer Curt Lane and bassist Tyler Galloway played together in [all things] State Fair and there are definite similarities between the bands: quick stops, strong syncopation, brash basslines, and rapid drumming. The differences come from Tyler's vocals which are grunted more than screamed or sung and bother Dane Galloway's punk guitar work. This results are rather loose compositions that seem to be only the skeleton of a complete work. Although the band have been together for nearly a year, this is only their fourth or fifth show, and their acceptance in the KC scene is still undecided.
The Appleseed Cast is a local band who has found their following both locally and regionally (if not nationally). Their warm and encompassing sound combines both emo and a more tradtional rock sound that resonates well with both crowds. The Appleseed Cast's music is engaging and nearly requires you to loose yourself in their textures and swells. To passive listeners, their sets seem long, indulgent and homogenous to a fault. The band's shimmering picked guitar lines, for example, appear in all of their songs, and it's often hard to find the familiar song elements in their music. If taken however as one long song it's lovely and on this night their set was only a half hour which seemed to be just the right length to fully appreciate that song.
As The Appleseed Cast were clearing the stage (and as my cue and I beat Ryan for the second time that evening), the area in front of the stage was filled by a host of young, clean-cut pop punk kids. Although I had not heard of The Impossibles, it seemed as though I might have been the only one. Evidentially this Austin foursome play at neighboring (and opposing) school Kansas State frequently and had drawn a host of fans over from that campus as well.
Although a fan prepped me to expect ska-tinged punk, by the fourth song it was obvious the band has effectively removed that once key element from their songs. This of course was disturbing to me and I spent most of their set wondering at which point I should shout "Pick it up". Although the band were a little polished (if not plastic) for my taste, the audience seemed to really enjoy them. The pit bounced and sung along to every song and the band responded by jumping, sweating and giving every they could.
Although the band's musical vision seemed to vary from anthemic hardcore (ala Avail) to sugar coated power-pop (ala Weezer) the audience followed it every power-chord step of the way. On the side of the stage I saw Nick Colby from Ultimate Fakebook bouncing along, hand raised in a devilish two-finger salute. This is good-time music, written with big hooks, and performed with bigger energy, but I just think there's gotta be something else in there for me.
The night's headliners were that something else. I first saw this revolutionary (in a Ché sense) quartet of black-haired mods in their home country of Sweden and was immediately smitten. Many in the audience only knew The (International) Noise Conspiracy as Dennis from The Refused's new band, and that was enough to bring them out, some had come on recommendations from hip friends, while others had no idea what they had stumbled in for. What everyone got was the biggest rock n' roll show to ever take a stage.
The show began the moment the members of the band walked out on stage, each wearing matched brown pinstriped suits replete with mod jackets (lots of buttons, tab collar, you know) and ties. As vocalist Dennis Lyxzén told the audience later in the evening, sometimes fashion has to take precedence over function. Ah a situationalist! The band just looked like a band and the show looked like a show. For the critics who complain Kurt Cobain's jeans, t-shirts and torn sweaters ruined the rock show, I give you a return to glam(our).
Every member of the band were always in motion, always performing, always directly interacting with the crowd. However, Dennis Lyxzén was truly the frontman. This tall slender man worked the audience and microphone stand like Mick Jagger and swung and tossed his microphone like Roger Daltry. Each moment Lyxzén could step away from the microphone, was an opportunity to dance. Several times in the evening Dennis would spin, fall to his knees and then pop up James Brown-style just in time to catch the tambourine he threw to begin the whole sequence. Lyxzén is certainly a student of classic rock and roll showmanship and with The (International) Noise Conspiracy he has created the perfect vehicle for its presentation.
With The Conspiracy he kicked out rock 'n roll as if it were still new and dangerous. The band's music has enough urgency and message and passion and power to blow right through you, hit the back wall and come back at you again. While in many respects the band's musical ethos has taken a page from earlier resurgents The Nation of Ulysses, their unique Swedish vision of social politics add the necessary twist of originality. However even if you weren't impressed by the pulsing organ, buzzing guitar or driving rhythm section, even if you were totally deaf, it was still a bigger rock show than most bands could even dream of.
It's a dangerous affair for a band to cater to the audience so directly, but The (International) Noise Conspiracy did it without any hesitation or fault. This is a band that connects with the audience on stage, while their music connects directly to the soul of an America which will always be nostalgic for the days when insurgent rock n' roll was still the topic of town hall meetings and admonishing sermons.