Too Much Rock
Pics+Video Podcasts Singles About
Wednesday November 30th, 2022 at Minibar in Kansas City, MO
Rosegarden Funeral Party, Violator, & Redder Moon

Sometimes the world crashes in around you and you have to put down your computer for a week and self-medicate by watching 1940s murder mysteries on TCM. Sadly, by the time you poke your head back up, the details of a show you saw in a dive bar in the before times are pretty hazy. So let's see what I remember.

A dozen or so patrons were milling around the darkened Minibar when I arrived. Soon, Jeremiah James Gonzales whispered something to the soundman and all the lights went out save for a single bulb glowing behind the bar. Now it was impossibly dark. Another ten minutes passed before Gonzales and the other two members of opening band took the stage, each flicking on a red light at their station that served as a sort of personal spotlight.

Redder Moon is the project of Gonzales. He plays a Fender VI – a six-string bass usually tuned as a guitar but down an octave. Its fat strings aren't meant to be strummed, but they do allow Gonzales to set out haunting and droning melodies and leads. His instrument doesn't, however, serve as the anchoring bottom end to the band's songs – that job often fell to the left hand of keyboardist Brody Lowe. Lowe's right hand provided the moody synthesized atmospheres that complemented the reverb-heavy drum machine-laden backing track. Jill McKeever provides low and rounded vocals. During the set she explained that her vocal effect presets had somehow disappeared, and apologizing for the bad sound, but most of the audience had no idea what it was missing, and no one felt slighted. Earlier incarnations of the band toyed with multiple genres from new wave to shoegaze to a sort of shiny 1980s electronic new age – Gonzales even sang in some incarnations – but this current turn is darker than all that. The new wave bounce is tempered, the pace slowed, the lush production tamed, and the darkwave experience heightened. It's much closer to Christian Death or Bauhaus than Vangelis these days, and I'm here for it.

Between bands a disparate clientele wandered the room. I spied rockers in tight leather pants, metalheads in patched battle vests, and goths in corsets. I learned that I need to at least buy some black denim if I want to keep coming to shows like this.

At the stroke of ten, Violator (often stylized as Vio\ator) took the stage bathed in unfortunate green lighting. The act is the solo project of Tyler King from Oakland. He's a theatrical performer, offering emotive vocals and Broadway-big gesticulations over a backing track of chaotic percussion, shifting synths, and Simon Gallup-esque bass. For most songs he added chiming guitar to the mix. The resulting stew is grandly post-punk, drawing from the genre's earliest twitchy, witchy, and clanking industrial moments that all flourished before public tastes coalesced around new wave. His lyrics are raw and fragile, countering the cold detachment that the genre generally offers. They're usually dark, often lonely, and rife with stories of abandonment and disappointment. "A Body, I Pray" was particularly wrenching as King staggered about the stage clutching the microphone, holding his free hand aloft to the heavens, crashing to the stage on his knees, and calling out "I've a problem in my pocket that keeps calling out my name / Nobody else can hear it and they're calling me insane." He's working through a lot, so thank goodness for art. As he spoke to the crowd between songs, he continued to bare his sensitive soul. He spoke openly about the emotional toll certain songs have on him, made dedications to friends, and was elated when he was able to bring up Rosegarden Funeral Party's Leah Lane to join him on "The End of Everything." For the final song, he set down his guitar and slipped into the audience with his microphone. King gave a lot, and the intensity was almost too much to take in real time, but I'll be ready for it next time Violator rolls through town.

At 10:45, Leah Lane stood on stage running the soundman through his paces. Unlike the dry vocals of Violator, Lane wanted a "tasteful amount of reverb" and "138 milliseconds of slapback." I rolled my eyes at the specificity. Then Lane added the 138 was an homage to The Misfits. Well, that's a horse of a different color. And speaking of color, Lane instructed the soundman to use dim red stage lights. Not ideal for photos, but at least they weren't sickly green.

Lane fronts the Dallas-based Rosegarden Funeral Party. I'd like to write 2000 words about the band, its history, and its influences, but I don’t suppose too many of you would like to read it. Comparisons are lazy but effective so just think of The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Bauhaus. Sure goth, but with firm pop underpinnings. Danceable, not dour. The trio's set was full of disco-punk percussion, sparkling guitar that almost always played leads, shimmering synth, and vocals that warbled enough to really hammer home that Siouxsie Sioux comparison. The band's songs are good. Lane's stage presence was better.

Leah Lane was in a good mood and happy to play a smaller club where she felt the intimacy of a vocal and playful crowd, rather than the staid capital-G goth crowds that Lane explained the band often plays to. As a result, she was chatty. She introduced a track as one written when she was sixteen, largely for the audience of her cat, Rocco. Now, of course, the audience needed to know more about Rocco. Later when she confessed that she was a smoker, the audience gasped, and Lane was taken back. This nearly became an intervention, with one audience member confiding, "We just don’t want you to lose your voice." For a moment, Lane seemed to contemplate her habit. Later she shared shopping tips with an audience member who wanted to know where the singer's chained belts and black bustier came from. Etsy is always the answer.

While the small affair lacked a fourth wall, it didn't lack for performance or entertainment. Good songs, good people, and good beats all combined to create a night that I guess was pleasantly memorable – even after two weeks and 10 installments of The Falcon.