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Friday November 25th, 2022 at Replay Lounge in Lawrence, KS
The Roseline, 95 Sweetbird, & Empty Moon

There's a little joy for everyone in the holidays. Maybe your thing is classic movies or cherished holiday cartoons, or copious amounts of baked goods, or maybe you just enjoy twinkling lights. Maybe you enjoy spending time with friends and family. Maybe you just like having a day off work. Maybe you're that one person who is excited to hear Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime" hourly. Whatever the case, I hope there's something for you this time of year. Here at Too Much Rock, I'm excited for who the holidays bring back to town. Every year there's a chance that some musician from our city's past will return to visit family, and on a whim, reunite a beloved band for a singular performance. Or maybe they'll just sit in with another band as a surprise guest. When club schedules are otherwise thin due to paused national tours or students leaving campus, that possibility only grows. It was with that hope that I drove to Replay Lounge on the day after Thanksgiving.

Matinees are the best. Patio shows are the best. Shows where I can sit at a table are the best. Shows where there are white photo-friendly lights shining down on bands are the best. The Replay is getting dangerously close to peak Too Much Rockness. Only the smell of cigarettes and weed hold us back from nirvana.

At 6:30, a three-member version of Empty Moon were ready to begin. While Empty Moon is normally the solo project of guitarist and vocalist Brendan Hangauer, on this night he was rejoined by his brothers Kelly (on keyboards) and Patrick (on bass). Together this trio once comprised the bulk of the much-adored band Fourth of July. That band called it quits in 2013 when its members scattered across the country. Brendan opened with "Dear Life" from his 2014 debut record and then continued through an eight-song set with two more from that album, two from the next, two that I didn't recognize, and lastly ended with "The Faint" from Fourth of July's 2007 debut album. Brendan's voice was steady through the set, his tone seldom shifting as he relayed his clever stories of relationships gone awry and nights done well. He strummed his guitar with his fingers, only occasionally picking melodies. Patrick's bass provided a solid foundation, following the chords, and playing the roots. Kelly's Fender Rhodes provided some warmth and just a bit of sparkle but was never asked to shine. Kelly also provided backing vocals that added richness to the compositions. The trio was loose and breezy, and Brendan matched that playfulness as he spoke to the audience between songs – or in the case of "500 Friends," in the middle of the song as he worked to remember the wordy tale's many bounding verses. He was similarly stymied trying to remember the name of the band that would follow next. There were several comical guesses that entertained Brendan more than the audience, causing him to quip, "You obviously have not been on my text thread with them, or you'd be cracking up." It was damn good to see the brothers performing together again.

With the students away for the holiday, the crowd skewed older – well, unless you count the children brought by their parents. If you do, then we're going to need to talk statistics and discuss medians, modes, and averages. And that's not very rock at all. So, let's just leave them out of the math, and let them do what they did best – draw on the concrete patio slab with sidewalk chalk and dance in that bouncy way children and middle-aged men have perfected.

Although Brendan Hangauer never got it right on stage, the band that followed was 95 Sweetbird. The quartet is a low-stakes project that brings together area musicians for a good time and nothing more. For this show, it lined up as Jeff Stolz (of Drakkar Sauna) on electric piano and occasional guitar, Heidi Gluck on bass, James Thomblison (of Arc Flash, Psychic Heat, Pale Tongue, etc.) on guitar, and Justin Parr on drums. Stolz provided most of the vocals with Gluck chiming in liberally. Stolz also provided most of the songs, with a few coming from Gluck, and a few borrowed from the likes of Fleetwood Mac ("Silver Springs") and The Kinks ("Mindless Child of Motherhood"). Songs wobbled around a bit, but the heart of the band rests somewhere within the easy-going Laurel Canyon scene of the late '60s and early '70s. Stolz's Wurlitzer piano sounded great, Gluck can blend and harmonize with anyone, and there was just enough jangle in the band's songs to get the audience dancing. Near the end of the set, Stolz announced that he liked the opening band so much, he was going to call one of them – "only the good one" – up to join the band. The "good one" turned out to be Kelly Hangauer, who had been in a short-lived project called The Hips with Stolz a decade earlier. The expanded band then played The Hips' "Mythical Beast." Such a delightful and unexpected reunion.

While the first two acts highlighted unexpected reunions, the final was all about the townies. With the students away for the holiday, this one was just for the locals.

The Roseline began fifteen years ago as the solo project of Colin Halliburton. Since then, there have been seven albums, multiple international tours, and dozens of collaborators. The current backing band consists of Bradley McKellip on guitar, Jim Piller on drums, Colin Jones on bass, and Heidi Gluck on keyboards and backing vocals. Each of the players owns their role, making it difficult to imagine how Halliburton's songs ever existed without them. McKellip's leads are clean and classic, and with the aid of an effects pedal, they can also mimic a pedal steel effectively. Gluck's harmonies add essential emotional depth, taking the stories that haunt Haliburton's songs to the next level. Halliburton sells the project as Americana, though the quintet is convincingly country rock to my ears. Fans of The Band will find much to like in The Roseline.

Colin Halliburton knew his audience and joked freely with them throughout the set. Midway through the evening he mocked the lengthy and involved "rig rundowns" of social media by doing his own. His version consisted of no more than an acoustic guitar going directly into the mixer. Gluck served as his Paul Shaffer in the wings. She had the most energy of the night despite being tethered to her stool. Maybe those stomping feet were just her trying to stay warm as the night dipped into the 30s. She did say she was suffering from "Christmas Story lips," which one assumes is when your lips freeze to the microphone. Thankfully we didn't need to call the fire department.

The band's ten-song set began with upcoming single, "Saber Rattlers," and ended with current one, "Hot Dice." In the middle were six songs from the band's latest album Constancy, and two from previous album Good/Grief. "Counting Sheep" from that last category was a highlight, but the entire set provided a cozy familiarity and warmth that was perfect for a cool night next to the Replay's firepit. In fact, the whole outing was exactly the magic that I hoped it would be. So, thank you to Replay Lounge, Empty Moon, 95 Sweetbird, The Roseline, and everyone reading this, I hope your holidays are bright.