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Friday April 26th, 2024 at The Brick in Kansas City, MO
RxGhost, Enemy Airship, & Still Ill

Life moves pretty fast. Since this show was three weeks ago we're going to have to limit ourselves to just the facts. I don't remember much more.

The night opened with Still Ill. The Kansas City post-hardcore band played a half hour set that mixed old songs with brand-new debuts. A new album is eminent according to vocalist/guitarist Ricky Reyes. What to expect from it is still a mystery as the band touches upon so many moods. Reyes' voice was exceptionally scratchy on this night. His vocals virtually croaked. The sound was curious and enthralling and I leaned in. Guitarist Jen Kean provided the vocals for the closer. It's a new one, and unlike her vocals on "All Out," she really pushes herself in this one. Here she's loud and hoarse and similarly intriguing. The two guitarists split the leads song by song. Their solo lines sing out. Their rhythm lines hum, churn, and lift. Bassist Dom Zappia delivers his melodic lines in artful waves. He's got plenty of pedals. And plenty of volume. Drummer Kyle Herrenkohl finishes the quartet. I'm amazed at just how hard he hits. There's hardcore aggression in his swings, ensuring the band never settles for cerebral shoegaze alone. How will it all play out in the new album?

Enemy Airship from St. Louis followed. I hadn't seen the act before, but I was urged to check them out by several friends. Wise friends it would turn out. The trio consists of Zach Biri (vocals/guitar), Michael Hopkins (bass) and Logan Epps (drums). Maybe the band is indie rock. Maybe it's trickier than that. Jazz chords tumbled out of Biri's hollowbody guitar. Epps favored his cymbals, ensuring his succinct rhythms were not clouded by reverberating drums. A click track in his ear made sure songs remained tickety boo. Hopkins was a bassist in name only. His playing was low and punchy, but never performed the root note duties of a rock bassist. Instead, he moved up and down his fretboard, coloring the songs and countering the guitar. Biri's vocals sat on top of everything. They were exceptionally loud in the mix. His voice was relaxed but he wasn't. He was sweaty and nervous, stammering like a Michael Cera character. Later in the set he confessed that he had consumed too many edibles and was "losing his mind up [there]." That explains things. The band's half hour set went by quickly. Too quickly for me to fully appreciate the heady ins and outs of the compositions or the act's thoughtful melodies. I probably should have picked up the band's Emperor, Somehow LP that came out last summer for more clues. But since I didn't, I can only hope that the threesome will return and give me another chance to suss out the details.

The night ended with RxGhost. Although the Kansas City band could have billed this show as a launch party for its just-released LP Scaffolding, there was no mention of it. Bandleader Josh Thomas has been making music for decades. He's wearied of the promotional cycles required by the industry, and on this night, he just wanted to play his songs. And he did play them. His whole band did. Exceptionally well.

Like Enemy Airship before them, the band is indie rock for the lack of a better term. The band prefers "danger pop" for what that's worth. Its songs skitter more than they glide. There's no effort to smooth out the rough edges even as shoegaze and Brit pop elements creep in. Most songs in the twelve-song set built to satisfying climaxes and then ended unexpectedly, missing the chance to milk that established groove or hammer on that smart chorus. Thomas seems to have no appetite for that either. The highlight of set was "Nail House." It's a standout track on the album, and live it had everything. Punchy drums (Justin Brooks), a chorus of thick churning guitars (Thomas and James Capps), a driving bassline (Chris Snead), prodding sixteenth notes from bass VI (Jeremiah James), and vocals (Thomas) that moved from a whine to an urgent scream. All of that energy in a song that is barely two minutes long.

The set continued to build as it had all night. Each song in the arranged sequence adding more than the one before – more energy, more sonic secrets revealed – until the set climaxed with "In the Ocean." This song is another standout from the album. And another one that barely reached the two-minute mark. Its pounding drums and cascade of crashing guitars made for a fine ending and ensured no one would need an encore.