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Wednesday March 9th, 2022 at miniBar in Kansas City, MO
Pears, Red Kate, Sidewalk Celebrity, & Arson Class

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I will have no kids of my own, so let me pass this advice to you my dear readers. When your girlfriend is moody, and cancels plans, just go to a punk show. The puddles of spilled beer, the ringing in your ear, the knocks in the pit, and a PA that sounds like shit. Now that's amore.

At exactly 8:30 the sound guy walked over to the white leather couches and told Arson Class frontman Chris Kinsley it was time to go on. You need to run a tight ship when you've got a four-band midweek bill. In turn Kinsley motioned to his drummer (and brother) Phil Kinsley and bassist Marc Bollinger (who has recently returned to the band after an absence that left the band rudderless for a couple of years) and the trio jumped right into its set with new cut "My Girl." Arson Class are blue collar punk & roll. A sort of "born to lose" vibe, but it's a shop-steward-is-letting-the-bosses-screw-you-out-of-overtime kind of born to lose, not the waking-up-in-a-gutter-with-a-needle-in-your-arm kind. There is a raw edge and aggression to the band generally, but the sound at the miniBar was off. It neutered everything, rounded everything, and left the searing guitar solos buried in the mix. That last part is the biggest sin, as Kinsleys fingers are fast, and the solos punch quickly in a get-in-get-out power-pop sort of way. Still the band's eight-song, 30-minute set was solid. Featured a lot of new material. And included a great run through of fan favorite ripper "Brand New City" with its Euroboy-grade guitar riff, bouncing fingered bass solo, and propulsive drumming. If the opener is tasked with warming up the crowd, and making me forget my troubles, it went two for two.

At 9:15 the stage was turned over to KC's Sidewalk Celebrity. These clowned princes of KC punk were built to open for Fat Wreck bands. Despite a number of new songs, the band's set played out the way it has each time I've caught them: banter that is both earnest and goofy, speedy punk songs with pop-punk coloring that recall NoFX and Propaghandi (especially the ones sung by guitarist Dave Barnes), songs about skateboarding, and a vibe so relaxed that when the trio messed up new song "Mongo" they decided to write a half-time ska part on the spot before finding their way back (mostly) to the original song. After having attended several intense and violent hardcore punk shows in the last week, it was nice to cleanse the palate with something stupid and fun. Besides pop-punk is the official genre of oh-pity-me girlfriend drama, right?

The local parade continued as Red Kate marched onto the stage. The quartet opened its nine-song set with "Iraqi Girl" from its 2018 7" single, though, as with the previous bands, the majority of the set was built from unreleased material – in this case, six songs from a forthcoming album stuck somewhere in the vinyl supply chain. That's sad as I'm anxious to hear it. After several membership changes (most recently replacing founding member Desmond Poirier with Chris Kinsley) the band seems to be drifting from its initial pub-rock roots to more cerebral songs with post-punk nuance. This was particularly evident in new subdued number "No Solution," where Drunkard's gruff and yelped vocals calmed to a spoken delivery akin to that of Mark E. Smith and Shawn Hamontree's guitar was given room to experiment with sculpted feedback and dissonant chords. The track has an eerie desert vibe to it and I'm on board. As the band's set neared its finale I moved to the back of the room and pulled out my earplugs in hopes of finding a better mix. Unfortunately, the same issues that plagued the earlier bands continued to haunt the sound leaving everything murky and even the most vibrant leads laconic. I glanced at my phone. No word, but I was having a good night anyway.

The night culminated with New Orleans' Pears. Bluntly I had never heard of them, but when everyone I know is excited about a band coming to town, I've learned to jump off the cliff with them. During my plunge I fell through clouds of hardcore, of punk, of pop punk, and even thin wispy cirrus clouds of emo, but the descent was so quick that I didn't really have a chance to make sense of it all. I recall hammy frontman Zach Quinn working the microphone stand like a pro, leaping like a frog, and mugging for the photographers – even the very drunk shirtless one who repeatedly stood on the stage taking selfies. I remember the band being tight with rapid-fire fills, quick solos, quicker tempo changes, and perfectly placed backing vocals. I think I saw the band drinking only water and then asking who was living a drug-free, alcohol-free, sex-free life before playing a cover of "Straightedge." Wait, did that really happen? And did the band cover "Smooth" attributing the song to good friend "Bobby Tommy." Surely that was a side effect of my downward acceleration, right? And, near the end of the set, when a string broke, did Quinn actually pimp out bassist Erich Goodyear as a master impressionist to fill time? Why would the Kansas City audience ask for impressions of Arsenio Hall, Scooby Doo, and William Howard Taft? Of Taft? And somewhere, before I landed, I must have blacked because I'd swear that Pears played a hardcore jingle they'd written for Hormel Chili. In that same hallucinatory sequence, someone from the audience was handed the microphone and she sang the ad for Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center. That couldn’t be right, could it?

The band finished its final song at 11:40, allowing me to settle down to earth unscathed but confused. There were a few calls for an encore, but the band disappeared to the merch booth quickly, and the house music came up just as fast. There was no reason to rush home, so I packed my gear slowly and talked with bands and friends about the gig and my strange journey. Then my pocket vibrated. Somehow not only had the punk show put me in a better state, but it at also changed the mood of my girl who was now looking to make plans anew. I'm telling you, just go to a punk show. It'll make everything better.