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Friday January 26th, 2024 at Westport Bowery in Kansas City, MO
Siilk, Ferris Wheel Regulars, Moon 17, Remorsefully Numb, & God's Computer

In the final days of 2023, Siilk released its debut full-length album. It's a busy time of the year so the band eyed a launch party in January. They wanted to do it up big, so they handpicked four other bands to play and made it an all-ages show. They invited friends and family and promoted the gig tirelessly. And it worked. The Westport Bowery was crawling with kids – both in the club and filling its parking lot.

The night began with God’s Computer. This is the project of Liam O’Hara. It’s a bedroom project that mixes all the styles O’Hara might like to visit irrespective of categorization or commercial appeal. In the last two years, he's released something like 75 songs. As is usually the case, that authenticity has paid off, and O'Hara has found a local audience. The set opened with an unreleased rap number called "Magician with an Invisible Curtain." We're well over my head here, so I'll call it SoundCloud Rap. "Magician…" was to be an aberration though, and most of the set turned to variations of metalcore, nu metal, or grunge, with only occasional rests where emo shone through – genres I'm marginally more versed in. "Jump" was fast and aggressive, and fit in well with the Korn stadium jacket worn by O'Hara. And the audience did jump throughout the song. His typically screechy vocals, rife with fry, calmed a bit for "John Wayne." They were still reedy and atonal, but less extreme. The music behind him varied similarly. Sometimes crunching and crushing, other times decorated with tumbling drums and thoughtful leads, and still others where O'Hara wanted a strong, modern programmed rhythm track resting on beds of synth. His 30-minute set held my attention as I tried to wrap my head around the shifting sands. It held the rest of the audience's attention as it was something they grokked without need for old man analysis.

I was still puzzling the opener when second act Remorsefully Numb began its set at 8:15. The band is fronted by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Gibson, with Chaz Florido (guitar), Warren Beal (bass), and Jake Ayers (drums) completing the quartet. I spent most of the band's short fifteen-minute set snapping photos and dodging the other photographers that had come specifically to capture the band. In between shutter clicks I heard the band's emo and post-hardcore, and the interesting complications and textures that color the edges of the band's songs. Those nuances were just enough to entreat fans to listen to its album with headphones, but not enough to saddle the band with the "-gaze" hyphenation du jour. And just to make sure of that, the foursome ended its set with a chaotic, turbo-charged, gaze-free rendition of Nirvana's "Tourette's." Things I'm not a fan of: Nirvana. Things I am a fan of: Remorsefully Numb covering Nirvana.

The musical differences between the first two bands were definite, but third act Moon 17 just flipped the night on its head. This EBM duo is comprised of married couple Samantha Conrad and Zack Hames. Together they turn knobs, press buttons, play keyboards, sing, scream, and dance. Hames even plays electric guitar on a track or two. The lights were turned out in the club, allowing Moon 17 to illuminate the set with a series of colored light boxes on the stage floor. Strobe warning for the photosensitive. Darkness warning for the photographers. Vibe enhanced for the dancers who stood up front and snaked their arms around to the pulsing beats. None of them moved nearly as much as Hames though – he spent the entire 30-minute set bouncing and lunging and lurching about the stage, always rushing back just in time to set the next pattern in motion or pick up his guitar for a spectacular flourish. Conrad's vocals were often buried in the mix – her screams, however, were everything. Check out the band, bring your dancing boots, and join in the chant.

After Moon 17, the bill made a focused push toward the finale. First step, Ferris Wheel Regulars from Wichita. I keep threatening to drive down to catch the band on its home turf, but then my laziness gets rewarded when the band pulls through Kansas City again. The act is led by brothers Paul and Jack DiGiovanni – they both play guitar and they both provide lead vocals with the former offering quieter rounded vocals and the latter pushing harder. The band's rhythm section is manned by bassist Luke Goter and new-to-me drummer Matt Bianco. Goter is a busy five-string bassist always inserting interesting notes in interesting places. Bianco offered similarly intriguing lines that easily stole my focus when I gave them half a chance. The band is emo in that satisfyingly tricky and dynamic post-hardcore way, but those shifts in volume stymied the guy running sound. In the loud moments where the sculpted feedback is deafening, Paul DiGiovanni's vocals were completely lost. Like no need to even sing lost. Jack DiGiovanni's only fared better when he screamed. In the more subdued moments, both held their own. Still, the band's half-hour set made its point, and moved its fans. I tried to slip in for a few photographs, but ultimately put safety above art and returned to the sidelines.

It was now after 10pm and the crowd was starting to turn over. I suspect the youngest attendees left to honor curfews, while many others moved in and out of the club, splitting their time evenly between parking lot cigarettes and mosh pit moments. None of the bands inspired a dangerous pit, but a dozen fans did allow themselves to be hoisted on high and passed about the room. The club's (unlit) disco ball was an obstacle, while the exposed I-beams were helpful for those looking to influence their own trajectory.

The night ended in a celebration of Siilk's new album Fall in Place. It's an album that loads up on nu metal, grunge, shoegaze, post-hardcore and more, before exploding with its own energy and intention. The band's 40-minute set was built from the album, wisely trading some of the record's impressive precision for live passion. The band was active, especially lead guitarist Joel Bennett who danced and thrashed about their section of the stage, losing a ball cap, and freeing their long locks in the process. Guitarist Jordan Tyler and bassist Damian Escobar shared vocals duties, with the throaty screams of Tyler featuring more often than not. That allowed Escobar to team up with drummer Brady Matthews to focus on the crushing downbeats that had the audience headbanging while enveloped in clouds of vape exhaust. More than the night's previous acts, Siilk are a band that you feel rather than hear. The band's long vocal lines and heavy riffs can either be oppressive or comforting like a weighted blanket depending on your vantage point. While I tend to fall into the former camp, I was saved from suffocation numerous times throughout the night by the chiming ornamentation of Bennett's leads. Ten songs later, and I was freed.

If you missed Siilk's release party, you can stream the band's album at all the expected places. Cassette and CD copies are coming soon (they were sadly not available in time for the show), with vinyl scheduled for later this year if all goes well.