Wednesday June 23rd, 1999 at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Proudentall, The String and Return, Planetarium, & Saturn 138
raw photos

I guess it slipped my mind that 4 bands at The Bottleneck means a 10pm start time so Saturn 138s were about 15 minutes into their set when I arrived. The set was pretty mellow ambient indie rock similar to Duster or some such with an ample supply of noises and effects. In fact the guitarist/keyboardist/synth-jockey looks more like a conductor or an engineer than a musician up on stage; constantly fiddling with gear. The lack of guitar rock is balanced by the bass player who really slinks around the stage providing a lively and interesting rhythm track. The band has struck the perfect balance allowing the bass lines and snappy drums pull you through songs and the tones from guitar or elsewhere provide the pleasant scenery for the trip. They finished the set as last time with a friend joining them on stage to add some Cocteau-esque vocals that works very well. This was the best set I had seen them play.

The opposite end of the spectrum is Planetarium. As their name suggests they are a space rock outfit that is a very un-band band. You never see them during the set (this time they hid in the shadows behind television monitors, last time it was behind a sheet used as a projector screen) there are no "songs" or song structures, and no microphones to make announcements, thank the crowd, etc... Having never seen the band I can only guess there are two guitars and a couple of hella pedal banks. Sculpted feedback, echo, flange and phaser for 30 minutes with no real climaxes or melody is just too much for me, and from the folks I talked to, I wasn't in the minority. On CD this may be a great chill out/trip out adventure, in a live club it was tedious.

The String and Return were up next. Although they're locals, I hadn't seen 'em yet. They just don't play out much but I did hear they just signed to DNA Records (home to Kansas City ex-patriots Dirt Nap). They are a tough band to figure out. It's definitely indie rock and it does have a strong Kansas City feel to it. Very dense songs driven by guitar but never overdriven. Kansas City bands are so understated actually. Vocals are sparse and emotional. But it was the drumming which really stood out for me with songs that seemed to be written with drum lines and fills in mind. Although the band did so many things right I was happy when their long set came to a close. Maybe they'll grow on me.

A number of folks vacated the club after The String and Return's set which somewhat disappointed me but it was a week night and after 12:30 so I guess it's understandable. As everyone in Kansas City Sleep Resistance™ knows, sleep is for the weak so I stuck it out.

Proudentall started their set with a few new songs (played with ample warning from Matt) that didn't feature the 2nd guitarist. Usually I like the songs better that include him, but I think these must have been written without him so they worked well. They were all true to the Proudentall formula, quick bursts of energy, powerful full voiced vocals, hectic arrangements and then boom it's over. It's like getting beat up and not really knowing what happened but it's all over so there's really nothing to do but limp home. Oddly that's a good feeling.

The band had lots of frisky friends in the audience and they were rewarded with a set that went very well with no real delays (though a pedal chain cutting out in the last song convinced the band to play one more as to end the show on a high note). Again Proudentall pal Mike joined them on stage with his trombone for a few songs, and the songs with the 2nd guitarist are noisier, longer and more gripping. In case ya can't see 'em live, they have a 7" coming out soon on a local label and a CDep slated for release this fall on Sun, Sea, Sky out of Wisconsin.