When you go to see Kansas City's premiere party band, there are certain allowances that you should be prepared to make. You can assume the band won't be sober, won't be well-rehearsed, won't keep it PG (or even tasteful), and it definitely won't start on time.
At 9:30, the pie-eyed pipers of Drugs & Attics led a score of friends from the downstairs bar up into the club. Both bands and fans were jolly, and the trio started the night with a rollicking cover of "Teenage Kicks" that it got almost right. From there, the set was mostly new material bolstered by a few digital-only singles, a smattering of tracks from 2019's Clean Their Room, a couple from the first EP ("I Gotta Bong" was played by request), and two or three John Prine covers held over from the band's recent tribute show appearance. The newest material recalled the same '50s rock & roll and '60s garage that the band has mined during its eight-year career, but also adding a bit more of a solemn, "morning after" alt-country vibe that suggests the come down isn't so far away for the trio. Frontman Willie Jordan is 28 years old now, his bassist Andrew Paluga and drummer Brett Livingston are older, and eventually the party life will catch up with the gravel-voiced singer, but it wouldn't on this night. On this night the trio played a long forty-five-minute opening set (including a two-song encore!) where Jordan jumped around the stage with more energy than I'd ever seen, and then its members disappeared back to the downstairs bar taking the brigade of revelers with them.
While Drugs & Attics resumed the party downstairs, the show upstairs soldiered on with locals Various Blonde. For thirteen years, the band has been led by Josh Allen with support from a rotating cast of players that bring his slick electro-pop vision to life. On this night the players included long-standing drummer Mark Lomas, bassist Jason Nash, and most notably lead guitarist Bryson Thomas – a configuration I had never seen before, and one that I whole-heartedly approve of. Not only was Thomas mesmerizing on stage, offering sizzling guitar leads that darted this way and that, but this fuller band allowed Allen to focus on the things he does best – his funky guitar and those smooth, sexy vocals. Still, even with the larger band, backing tracks provided a lot of support – not just sweeping synths, but bone rattling bass, and auxiliary percussion as well. Halfway through the set Allen addressed this by dropping his guitar altogether to focus on live synths and a bit of vocoder work that really added punch to "All Bases Covered." This section was preceded with a warning, "It's all dance party from here on out." And it was. But whether explicitly dance music, or just danceable twitchy post-punk it sounded very good.
At 11:35 the party had returned, and Nashville's Nordista Freeze was ready to begin. Nordista Freeze is both the band, and the adopted pseudonym of its enigmatic frontman. As a band, Nordista Freeze is breezy psych-pop that owes both debts to The Beach Boys and to the same classic rock & roll as Drugs & Attics referenced earlier in the night. The touring incarnation of the band features top-notch players in bassist Trevor Ault, drummer S. Grant Parker, and guitarists Guetts Guetterman and Sam Hearn – the latter an absolutely ripper. All five members of the band have microphones and know how to use them, with multi-part harmonies popping up in places large and small. If Freeze hadn't been nursing a sore throat that left him croaking a bit like Willie Jordan, I wonder if those harmonies might have taken a more prominent role. As it were, Freeze could only drink warm lemon water and renegotiate the set list with his bandmates in real time. With no knowledge of the band's catalog, I can make no claims as to songs that were actually played, what albums the modified setlist may have favored, or even the title of my favorite song of the night.
As a performer, Freeze is a dynamo under a mop of blond curls. He danced, he jumped, he dropped to his knees then sprung back up without missing a beat, he made incursions into the audience, and he literally bounced off the walls. By the end of the night. he was shirtless. Freeze's banter put his affable personality on full display, and it spoke to a man who plays the small stages and loves every minute of it. The comradery with his touring band was solid, and much fun was had with the auto-tuned microphone that Freeze used judiciously to striking psychedelic effect.
The band's nearly hour-long set flew by, and for once I was a little sad there was no encore. But with the state of Freeze's vocal cords, it was probably for the best. Especially since the band has a show the next night, and the next night, and every night after that for as long as there are venues who will have him. Nordista Freeze may have just figured out how to keep the party going forever.