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Sunday May 12th, 2024 at Minibar in Kansas City, MO
Reviser, & 90 Minute Cassette

Trends are cyclical. Fact. No need to dwell there. And today goth is having its moment. While the subculture and the music associated with it are expressed many ways, most of the lifestyle's fans are willing to assemble under a permissive tent. The monthly Gallow Dance night at Minibar is one such broad beacon. The event was manifested by a handful promoters, DJs, and area bands only a few months ago, however the attendance is already impressive. For May's edition two of the city's newest live musical acts were invited, so I put on a black T-shirt and headed up the stairway to The Minibar's Disaster Room. There I found dim lights slowly strobing, bass throbbing, and a dozen fans dancing. Another dozen stood in the shadows, unwilling to dance to Siouxsie and the Banshees before 9pm. That would be gauche. I joined their protest in solidarity. Or maybe I was just self-conscious. I'll never tell.

Soon a makeshift curtain obscuring the stage was pulled back revealing Chuck Whittington, Hillary Watts, and a modicum of necessary gear. The two are familiar faces in the local music scene, but their union as 90 Minute Cassette is new. Very new. This was only their second show, and the act's first recordings will not debut until the end of May. The band's name evokes an era (if not an entire identity). Maybe you were dubbing your friends' album collection and making mix tapes in the '80s and early '90s. Maybe you only imagine you would have. Either way, 90 Minute Cassette is aiming for a slot on Side A.

The duo describes itself as "new wave." While that taxonomy suggests to me the bleeps and bloops of quirky early 80s acts, the duo draws more from the mid and late 80s alternative rock acts. Specifically, from the bands that found fame on college radio, on John Hughes soundtracks, PostModern MTV, and later on Top 40 radio. Chuck Whittington plays guitar and sings. You know him from the folktronica Namelessnumberheadman. Some of that buoyant breeze carries over to the new project. Before each song he presses a button on a laptop cuing a track with percussion and bass. Hillary Watts (of the late Hillary Watts Riot) provides live keyboards. Sometimes leads, but most often foundational bedding. Her subdued backing vocals were mostly lost in the mix, only really becoming audible in closer "Turn it Down" where she traded vocal lines with Whittington in the song's bright chorus. It'll take a few more shows before the band gets the presentation right, but that's okay, it'll take me a few more shows before I can unravel the mysteries of the band's compositions. Stay tuned as we both figure it out.

Between bands there was more music. And there was dancing. And demons were summoned to this corporeal plane to enact vengeance on enemies. I'm not positive on the last one, but why else would two people cram into that tiny bathroom together if not for satanic rites? Just when I was about to follow an executive goth into that portal, the curtain opened again revealing the next performers. I opted to check out the band and hoped Belphegor would take a raincheck.

The next band was Reviser. And this was its first outing. Kinda. The trio is comprised of Krysztof Nemeth (vocals/baritone guitar), Dedric Moore (guitar/backing vocals), and Tommy Romero (synths). Again, these are familiar names. Particularly those first two who teamed up as the recently-folded duo Static Phantoms. And maybe there should be a lengthy post-mortem for that danceable, electronic, post-punk duo here, or maybe we should just say Static Phantoms are dead, long live Reviser. With only a few tweaks (and another member) Reviser delivers on some of Static Phantoms' post-punk promises, but in a much darker milieu. Sort of like the transition from Joy Division to New Order, but in reverse.

Reviser's seven-song set was solidly dark wave and often empirically goth rock. It's possible the band was made to order for Gallow Dance as Moore is one of its stewards. However, it's Nemeth who seems to drive this band. His processed vocals were elongated and echoed out into the room. They were strong – much stronger than they ever were in Static Phantoms. His baritone guitar managed most of the leads, thrumming melodies while the guitar of Moore colored in the shapes drawn by Nemeth. Romero's keys split the difference, providing both vital structure and dizzying art. Programmed percussion and bass from a laptop completed the sound, but never defined it. There was no militaristic cold wave snapping drum machine making demands on the band, instead it provided a heartbeat for the musicians to layer their compositions on. The trio has already released two digital singles and is well positioned to build on its members' previous successes. When there is a fan club, I'll join it.

After the performances I packed up my gear and started for the door. Late night dance parties belong to a different era of Sid. Then the DJ played "How Soon is Now?" and I waited to hear it. Then he followed it up with "Head On" and I stayed for that one too. The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain aren't goth but they're part of the broad umbrella that all but the most dour trad goths can appreciate. Anyway, it had the audience dancing and it very nearly got me out on the floor too. Maybe next month, when Gallow Dance returns on June 16th with DJ Rico and Steve Tulipana on the decks.