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Tuesday November 14th, 2023 at The Rino in North Kansas City, MO
Perfume USA, Taking Meds, Public Opinion, & Squint

You shouldn't let life get in the way of the rock & roll, but sometimes it's okay if gets in the way of writing about it. I made it to the show, I just didn't get around to sharing my thoughts in any timely manner. That's going to have to be good enough. So, with only minimal guilt, here's some quick thoughts on a good gig that not nearly enough people were at.

Squint opened the night. The band is from Saint Louis. However often they come to Kansas City, I've decided it's not enough. Singer Brennen Wilkinson paced the stage, bearing down on his microphone, screaming, flexing his hardcore muscle, and jumping occasionally. Two guitarists. One turning out leads, while the other focused on the churning rhythm. By now I don't remember which was David Shanle and which was Ian O'Leary. But I was there, I promise. Bassist Jake Lindsay and drummer Wil McCarthy were always leaning forward, pulling the rest of the band with them during a short eighteen-minute set. Lindsay wore a Militarie Gun shirt. That's a good analog. Modern hardcore that's frantic when it needs to be, coy and melodic and smart when it wants. The band is on tour, and as such they've lots of merch that I should have bought. Especially that 12" that collects the band's two cassette EPs. And who doesn't love a flexi disc?

Denver's Public Opinion are cut from a similar cloth. Less hardcore. More rock. Just as shouty but also sometimes a little talky. Talky. Look it up. Vocalist Kevin Hart is the only constant member of the band, allowing the rest of the quintet to ebb and flow as makes sense. Guitarists Kevin J and Brent [no last name given for either] fit in well. One adds in vocals that seem integral to the songs. Both add the driving guitar parts that make this band work. Bassist Sebastian Stanley and drummer Devan Bentley are hard hitters. Everything about the band is a punch. Songs were bridged together, making the short set seem even shorter. Was it five songs? Seven songs? I don't remember now. The band comes through KC a lot, where they are usually rewarded with a good crowd. The city failed the band this time around – let's not make a habit of it or Hart may take his tunes to Wichita instead. Wichita!

Taking Meds from Rochester, NY brought the small crowd toward the stage. I hadn't heard of the band before, but it was obvious that they have fans. The band's a foursome built around Skylar Sarkis (vocals/guitar) with Ben Kotin (lead guitar/backing vocals), James Palko (bass), and Noah Linn (drums) rounding things out. The band's 25-minute set was a shift toward melodic punk. The simplest songs bounced like late-period Green Day while the more complicated compositions edged indie rock. The latter was most apparent when Kotin's leads roiled under the melody or when Linn's interesting patterns stole the focus. Since Sarkis was often tethered to his microphone, Palko took it upon himself to continue the animated trend set by the first two acts. He was always in motion. Always feeling it. It was a good show. Who knows when they’ll be back, so I hope y’all made it out.

The night culminated with Perfume USA. They’re local. Maybe local heroes? When the foursome began their set, fans materialized from nowhere. All the other musicians found their way toward the stage too. Vocalist Jamie Woodward is a man of few words. On this night he joked with the audience early, but soon cut himself off, announcing that he would stop making an ass of himself. He was doing no such thing. And in fact, with only a few exceptions, those moments of banter were the only time we hear Woodward's voice. The rest of the time it was buried behind dense waves of impossibly loud guitars. His guitar and that of Anthony Keagan, with the bass of Tyler Snow not shrinking away either. Drummer Travis Boaz somehow make his percussion heard, delivering noteworthy lines throughout the band's set. Thick doesn't begin to describe the band, but I just said it anyway.

I've seen Perfume USA a half dozen times now, and each time I waver when describing its sound. I've always found the obvious bits of post-hardcore and nu metal, but the stated shoegaze elements often eluded me. I'm beginning to think that I was just looking in the wrong place. Maybe the band is influenced by the way Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones, and Catherine Wheel moved the genre more than how Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine built it. Maybe. More research is needed as the band's sound is complicated and only grows fuller with each new song, and it was the new songs that dominated the short six-song set. Other than "Smile" from this year's Kiss it All Goodbye EP, everything was unreleased. Those are the sort of gifts you get when you head out to a show, so no excuses next time – just get to the gig.