This could have been the show of the season, instead it turned out to be only the social event of the season with every name and no name in the local music scene making their appearance. The build up of a show announced months ahead of time, the momentous nature of Reflectors last show, the return of Kill Creek who built this local scene and all the rumoured collaborations between the bands had set my expectations way too high and left me wondering "What was all the fuss about?" when the club finally ushered us stranglers out at 1:55am.
I walked into The Bottleneck at 10:00 to hear Nathan Ellis, guitarist/vocalist from The Casket Lottery, ask "Are we soundchecking or are we just going to play?" now thats timing! The bands quick set combined their hardcore roots with an intricate and involved indie sound that speaks well to both the head and body. Normally their duel vocals drip with emotion and power but tonight the band seemed drained. Ellis later confided that although he was terribly pumped for the show earlier in the day, once he stood on stage there was an odd vibe and he just felt depleted. The whole set seemed to suffer from that lack of energy; even when the band were joined by Jerod Scholz of Reflector to perform Boat Dock from Reflectors Journal EP. Technically the band were perfect all night, but the important parts lacked heart.
The young crowd that stood up front for The Casket Lottery were quickly replayed by a new old crowd when the members of Kill Creek began setting up their gaggle of guitars. Most seemed to be in their mid twenties and all shared stories about how Kill Creek was their first show, or how a particular Kill Creek song was all they listened to in high school. It really has been that long since they played out.
The bands history is too long to insert into this show account, but they did spell out why they hold a place in [at least local] music history with their set. The bands thick guitar sound, unique arrangements, and their noisy pop songs that held a passing peerdom to The Replacements and The Pixies, were all hints at what the Kansas City sound would become. Progenitor status aside, the band also gave the audience a view into their new material which seemed to be immediately accepted by the old fans.
After all was sang and played, the band had dusted off four tracks from 1994s Stretch EP, four tracks from that years St. Valentines Garage, four songs from 1996s Proving Winter Cruel, and five songs that the band has been brewing for nearly three years for the now-abandoned Whimsy project, and now re-slated for Color of Home to be released this year on Second Nature. The audience however was most exited by Kellys Dead and Hang im High, both of which were written over seven years ago.
This night being an occasion more than a rock show, the audience was most concerned with getting to see Kill Creek perform live (either "after all these years" or "finally"), and it didnt matter to them that the band was stiff, over concerned with their playing and ignored the audience; it was Kill Creek, live! Some fans did seem to be a little disappointed that the band stuck (if not clung) to their setlist despite their requests for obscure favourites from long forgotten compilation cassettes, but frontman Scott Born was honest with the crowd, joking that the set list had been set in digital months ago. Guitarist Ron Hayes even confessed to tell several audience members that he didnt even know how to play some of their requests. After all however, the audience got what the wanted a Kill Creek show.
In contrast to the rather stiff nature of Kill Creek, the evenings headliners were loose but focused on entertaining the large group of friends assembled. Reflector has spent a few years as a mainstay on the local music scene growing from grunge-influenced high school kids, to a categorical emo band, to their final status as excellent post-punk song-writers and one of the most explosive live bands in the area. Now however, the old "creative differences" bug has bitten and the members are off to pursue their separate visions. As one last hurrah for the fans, the band stepped onto the stage at The Bottleneck. It wasnt a magical moment, there was no special atmosphere in the club, and no touching tributes were made. With only a few small exceptions, it was just another tight and energetic Reflector rock show.
To meet the occasion, Jerod explained to the audience that the band would be playing the longest set of their career (which still lasted less than an hour) and that theyd be dusting off a few songs that they normally dont play. I assumed that meant the songs from their 1998 Journal EP, which it did, however it also meant a song from their debut CD (undoubtedly financed by one of the then-teens parents), a release so far removed from the current vision of the band that they intentionally leave it off of their discography. The fans seemed as shocked as I did to hear them fess up to it.
Like Kill Creek, Reflector came with set list in hand, but it was soon demoted to a listing of songs to hit before the night (and the band) ended. After one song from the EP, Jerod asked the audience if theyd like to hear another. It seemed as though the first song had reminded him of the second, and he wanted to hear it. The audience cheered in support and Jerod concurred matter-of-factly "So would I." Even though drummer Jake Cardwell waved the song off initially, they did add the song in before they closed.
The set didnt end with smashed instruments, encores or even a long noisy instrumental frenzy; the final song ended the way it ends on their CD. The smiling band members then picked up bits of their gear and exited from the stage uneventfully.
I talked to Jake after the show to find out how he was holding up and if he felt the same odd vibe that Ellis reported, but he didnt. He said he just had fun playing, nothing odd. Maybe I was the only one making a big deal out of this show.