Wednesday September 25th, 2002 at The Hurricane in Kasas City, MO
The Litigators & Replicator

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I wasn’t sure who The Litigators where when I saw the line up posted on The Hurricane’s website, or why a DJ was listed on the line-up with bands (and separate from the other DJs). I also wasn’t sure how San Francisco's Replicator got this bill or why they wanted to play The Hurricane or who would show up on a Thursday night. Afterwards, several of those questions were answered, but none of the important ones…

I’m told, as a general rule, that bands with leopard print, or Muppet fur, or anything cutesy covering their amps, should be avoided. You can choose to follow that guideline or read on about The Litigators.

The Litigators are six-month old rock & roll four piece constructed in the most usual way. They create rock in the usual way with guitar solos and verses and choruses and all that you’ve come to expect in rock. The Hurricane audience, in its usually way, seemed not to care no matter how much singer Jeremiah Kidwell jumped, bent or called out to his captive audience of ten (nearly half of which could have been girlfriends or wives). Other than bouncers outnumbering patrons, not much was extraordinary at all.

Each member of The Litigators looks familiar -- are they rockers from garage bands past? Have I just seen them nestled up to the bar at Davey’s Uptown working through their paychecks? I recognized the quaffed Matt Erickson from Big Iron although I’m told other members have done time in Blow, Formaldehyde Five, & Glitterpuss.

I suppose The Litigators are musical mutts much like rock itself. Although their no-frills approach is reminiscent of trends du jour, their music mixes in much deeper elements of American roots. Their music encompasses the dark and dirty musical corners that well-bred suburban kids playing in garage bands don’t know about. While these esoteric elements of country twang and southern soul give the band critical credibility, an undercurrent of 70s metal (think Foghat or even Kiss) works to blow it all to hell. So what gives?

Where The Litigators are going and what sound will ultimately win the battle of influences I can’t tell you. Truth be known, I’m really not that interested to find out.

While my spirits were already pretty low, Replicator were up to the challenge of dropping them further. Before the band played a note I was grimacing and sending telepathic instructions to the band: “Abort! Abort!” It was no use though, the band tried to engage the audience, mocked the small turn out (which The Litigators were also guilty of), plugged their CD that they’d be selling after the show, made everyone sit through a long movie sample, and then began their first song. What kinda band would have that sort of gal? Replicator.

Bass/keyboards/sampler player Ben Adrian and I go way back. URININE Records’ first release was a 7” from a band named sohcahtoa that Adrian played in. Sohcahoa were noisy, unwieldy, cleared rooms, and insisted their in jokes were funny. Replicator may include entirely different players, but the spirit lives on.

With songs named for video games (“Warrior Needs Food Badly”) and references too esoteric for Dennis Miller to catch, the band dragged the audience through thirty minutes of painful, yet precise math rock. With a keen eye towards exaggeration, the band created winding compositions that stretched everything to twice its breaking point and expected the audience to beg for more. At another venue (say The Brick), with a different local’s crowd (say Trusty Defiant’s), the audience might have played along. At that hypothetical show, the audience would have insisted on an encore.

The band set up three wide across the stage with Adrian to stage right, drummer Chris Bolig in the center, and guitarist Conan Neutron on their left. Songs were percussive and rhythmic more than melodic, and thus defined by the frantic pounding of Bolig. Despite his reserved and introspective persona, Bolig was maniacal and most impressive. Diametrically opposed was Neutron’s guitar; it was almost delicate, or at least it seemed so in comparison. Guitar lines never held melody but rather provided crashes and accents, never stealing the listener’s focus. When more complete lines were played, they were grating. If they didn’t serve to mask Neutron’s shouted vocals, they might have been unbearable. Despite the untraditional roles carried by other instruments, the bass general just held ground, or vanished while Adrian provided sonic depth on keyboards. Occasionally it might skip back and forth in large intervals to assist in a particularly lurching part, or switch to simple chords while the band built to false or unfulfilling crescendos, but generally, it was just the bass.

The band completed their set, thanked the audience (which had further shrunk), and stepped to the side of the stage. And just like in ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, a miracle happened right before my eyes. Before the band could even ponder what had (and hadn’t) happened on stage, they were approached by a little Cindy-Lu rocker (who must have had a fake id to get in). Cindy-Lu and her friends purchased armloads of CDs and shirts in what appeared to be some sort of McCartney/Jackson shill. The band wasn’t despised? Even Erickson stepped up to talk to the band, sharing his story of a Brianiac show and a tornado and a ten-minute version of “Go Freaks Go.” You mean the pompadoured rocker in the western-wear shirt got what Replicator was doing? Maybe there is hope for Kansas City yet.