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Friday October 27th, 2017 at The Brick in Kansas City, MO
Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, Drugs & Attics, & Salty

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We're all very worried about Blind Tiger closing. Where will our dirty punks play? Specifically, where will The Whiffs, Drugs & Attics, and Salty play? I've seen each of those bands dozens of times in 2017 and only once (in each case) have I seen them outside of that club's crude basement. And where will they bring back the bands that they've met on the road? Those are the bands that appear if by magic in the Blind Tiger basement and steal my heart. Where will The Loafers and Sweet Spirit return to? Will everyone retreat to house shows, or is there another option? Enter The Brick.

The bar's website listed a plausible 9pm start time, but as I arrived at 8:50, bands were still carrying in gear. A family was also entering the bar. They were surprised by the $5 cover, but inertia demanded they pay the doorman. Once inside they took a table near the back. I skulked to the high top nearby and opened my book. The party began with a discussion about flipping houses, but as the reality of live music began to set in, its conversation turned to the stage. I butted in, answering a question not directed to me, offering rudimentary descriptions of each band. They seemed satisfied. Unafraid. Good for them.

A bit after 9:30, Salty started. During the soundcheck, frontman Jonathan Brokaw was already living up to the band's name, and his liberal use of insults and profanity continued throughout the set. He's not dangerous. Just anxious. And crude. The band had just returned from a lengthy tour, but curiously Brokaw seemed unable to remember how any of the band's songs began. Once launched, however, the band's twitchy post-punk and new wave songs were airtight. The band's half-hour set seemed tighter too. Starting with the straightforward "Perfect Angel" (scheduled for the band's next album), the band made a concerted effort to embrace the simple pop structures that support the layers of wiry guitar, pulsing synthesizer, and propulsive rhythms. The set ended with Brokaw angrily throwing his guitar to the stage floor, then batting the microphone and stand off the stage. The latter was quickly followed by an apology. He's not dangerous. Just anxious. And crude.

Walking back to my table den I noted the family had left. Maybe not so brave after all. Or maybe their real estate business had just concluded naturally.

The stage was quickly turned over to Drugs & Attics who promised a short set, reasoning that everyone was there for the touring headliner anyway. This was not the case. While the audience swelled during Drugs & Attics' set, it would ebb immediately afterward. Drugs & Attics were the draw. Like Salty before them, the trio had just returned from tour. A tour that must have been a destructive whirlwind, as frontman Willie Jordan seemed stunned. Although he still polled the audience in hopes of trading "weed for real drugs," the early twenty-something frontman admitted that the tour reminded him that he was mortal. So mortal in fact, that several songs later Jordan asked for water (over the objections of drummer Brett Livingston, who instead called for shots). Jordan got his water, and a beer, and a round of shots. He took his shot with a faux reluctance, using the moment to introduce "The Party's Over." But it wasn't. The party continued with all the garaged-out rock 'n' roll party tunes that have defined the trio's set for months. The band sounded good, "So Mad" had the audience singing, zombies ('tis the season) were dancing, and it all ended with a big string-bending guitar-god solo from Jordan, the likes I had never heard from the band. Well hot damn.

You'd have thought it was after 1am by the way the room emptied. How could anyone walk out after seeing a man in a rhinestone-studded leotard preparing to play? My house could be on fire, and I'd still have stayed just to see what this band was all about.

Of course, I did know what to expect. Earlier in the day I had visited the headliner's bandcamp site, quickly discovered an 8-track's worth of Thin Lizzy rock 'n' roll, and knew my plans were set for the whole damn night.

Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs are a six-piece (three guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums) from Toronto. While the band has been around for a few albums, I suspect this was its first time through Kansas City and its members found the state line confusing. As noted, frontman Sam Coffey indeed wore a leotard recalling The Darkness (recalling Freddy Mercury), but over it he wore a denim battle vest with a large back patch advertising his band. In fact, everyone in the band wore a similar denim vest with the patch. I hadn't heard a note from the crew but I knew I wanted my own vest, and I wanted to join the fanclub. After a couple of songs, I wanted to join the band.

Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs' driving set was drawn largely from its self-titled album released earlier this year on Dine Alone. Contrary to what one might expect from someone with my passions, I'm horrible with lyrics, and I seldom remember a single song from a band's set. If not for my copious notes, my show accounts would be rich with details on everything but what the musicians actually played. This show, however, was different. I left with the lyrics to "Tough," "Judy," and "PhD" stuck in my head. Somehow those lyrics had seeped in while Coffey and his merry men assaulted me with blunt K. K. Downing-esque riffs, righteous keyboards, rich backing vocals, and Thin Lizzy-styled twin guitar leads. And while the band didn't offer much in the way of a stage show, Coffey sharing Liam Doyle double-necked guitar to play leads on the twelve-string, while Doyle mirrored them on the six-string, brought out the cell phone cameras from every corner of the audience. The set ended at Midnight with Coffey on his knees, deep into an upending backbend, his tongue wagging, and his guitar ringing. So maybe there was a good stage show after all.

As Willie Jordan and Sam Coffey plotted future shows together, I looked around the club. Several regulars remained at the bar, the owner wasn't too upset with Jonathan Brokaw's microphone toss, some dirty (but not the dirtiest) punks had played, and another touring band had stolen my heart. Maybe there will be life after The Blind Tiger. Maybe even at The Brick.