Thursday October 28th, 1999 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Shiner, The Hillary Step & Starksy

Shiner Shiner The Hillary Step Starsky [more]

There had been a number of different openers listed on flyers, so it was a bit of a mystery as to whom would actually pop up on stage. Around 10:30, three very fresh faced boys sheepishly took the stage and introduced themselves as Starksy. Their first song was long and involved with a number of different parts stuck together in ways I didn't always understand.

This new band didn't seem to be sure where they wanted to let music take them with some songs being thick and emotional, others thin and abrasive and even more being long meandering masturbation sessions disguised as indie rock. The guitarist played a number of different power chord patterns that droned and times and drove at others. Although six string were tuned, only four were played and the band's songs seemed repetitive because of this. A few minor 7ths could go a long way in creating mood for Starksy. The bass would occasionally carry the weight of a song, occasionally define a song, but too often it would go on long high runs that brought the songs completely out of balance. The timid drummer seemed to have no real face in their music.

All of the criticisms of a young band aside, they did have some nice ideas and if they find their sound, Kansas City will have another bright spot in the indie rock scene.

The Hillary Step set up quickly and with only a mutter of thanks from vocalist/guitarist Brad Hodgson started their usual set of intricate yet powerful indie rock songs for the 10 audience members standing up front and the 100 sitting at tables in back. They say only a few people saw The Velvet Underground, but every one of them started a band. Tonight as I looked at the audience I saw members of Proudentall, Shiner, The Anniversary, The Casket Lottery & Reflector - The Hillary Step continue to earn their reputation as a band's band.

Hogdson's voice was strong, even when it trembled, and after initial adjustments to the mix, the whole band sounded tight. Drummer Danny Mac was solid and doesn't play drums as much as he executes drumming. He isn't a robotic, precisian drummer, but fluid, powerful and expressive. I have never been to a show The Hillary Step played where I didn't hear another musician comment on his drumming ability - even tonight as he ran a high temperature.

Shiner is the magnetic personality of frontman/vocalist/guitarist Allen Epley. As he took the stage he asked the audience to come forward and what was 10 people up front, was soon 100. His light hearted banter between songs is sincere yet professional and the band echoes that sentiment entirely. Everything about this band screams "BIG TIME" including their more rockin' four piece that they seem fully comfortable with.

Their thick sound permeated the club and each one of their fans. And although the band initially indicated they planned to play a short set, they seemed to be having such a nice time that they played "two more" several times lasting for an additional thirty five minutes. Unfortunately that was a little more than I could bear so I finished out their set from the parking lot across the street talking to some friends about the commercial viability of the band yesterday and today. We all agreed it is much better today than when we used to stay for the last song and holler for more.