Monday January 22nd, 2001 at The Grand Emporium in Kansas City, MO
The Stella Link, Oscar Edison Jones, & The Shut-ins

The Stella Link The Stella Link Oscar Edison Jones The Shut-ins [more]

It’s not often that I attend a show in Kansas City and see three bands for the first time. And if the truth counts, then I actually didn’t want to go to this one. But after being asked by several of the bands to come, and remembering that a Monday isn’t good for much else, I hopped in the car and headed into midtown.

At 9:30 the club was empty — only about fifteen people and most of them either in the band, or related to the band. I, of course, knew no one; this wasn’t the kinda show where indie rockers abound. There wasn’t buzz around any of these bands and without buzz and someone of authority telling the rest of the scene what’s cool, how would anyone know to show up right? A little sad.

The first band was the most straightforward of the night. With a simple drumbeat keeping time in a pop song structure incorporating indie edge and rock swagger, The Shut-ins were immediately approachable and digestible. However those same qualities made it somewhat forgettable. With Matt Wolber (guitar) and Dan Weber (bass) also doing duties in The String and Return, I’m not sure if this is a simple side project, or a full-time endeavor. If the latter, more time and effort could return great results, now though, it just wasn’t anything to write home, or here, about.

Oscar Edison Jones was the next two bands up. Although masquerading as a single band, the different song styles of guitarist/vocalist Danny Krause and guitarist/vocalist Aaron Baker define schizophrenia. Although both bands root themselves in a certain psychedelic element of indie rock, each songwriter has their own approach. Following, half of the songs favoured a mostly acoustic low-fi pop sound ala Syd Barrett, while the other half of the songs were swirling masses of electronic space rock. Although the whole of their set was enjoyable, this duality disturbed me and left me clamoring for focus.

The third unknown of the night (at least in my world) was Stella Link. The band is, at heart, the latest space rock calling card of David Gaume who can be traced in some way or another to Shallow, NASA’s Little Secret & Airieluxe — essentially every space rock band in the area. The similarities between efforts, however, are mostly one of genre, as the approach is somewhat unique.

Initially it should be known that all songs are born of jam sessions between Gaume and fellow multi-instrumentalists Justin Warring [former guitarist/vocalist of ska band The Lowbrows!] and Chris Metcalf [who sits behind the drum kit for Lafayette]. Second, although the band’s music twinkles and drones in all the ways required by the genre, there is an occasional element of song and of structure to their music reminiscent to the melodies Gaume was introduced to in Shallow.

With the noted exception of a female guest vocalist, the band was largely instrumental relying on sculpted sounds to determine the song’s direction. This would occasionally leave songs without direction; which of course isn’t such a bad place to visit, especially live. However when recording I think the band might need to make a decision on expansive soundscapes of exploration or tighter dream pop song structures. Either way it’s bound to be a success.