Friday September 20th, 2002 at The Brick in Kansas City, MO
A Storied Northwest, Animated by Sound, & The Trophy Wives
Sometimes a band will ask me out to a show -- it's like a date but they don't talk to me, I don't get dinner first, and I don't blow anyone. Other than that, it's identical. There are expectations (for better or worse) and unspoken obligations which I must live up to. The band knows they are being judged and opinions being formed in only minutes. From the first note I know if I'm going to get in bed with this band. It's been a while since I dated, and frankly I'm not so good at it.
The Trophy Wives, or possibly more accurately Anna Cole & the Trophy Wives (for she now owns this band despite being part of a retooled line-up), opened the show to a audience of fans. Cole was loose and ready to party while the rest of the band maintained its somewhat stiff, ready to rock exteriors. Only guitarist Steve Hittner seemed playful, although he was still not entirely comfortable.
The band began its set with several older songs, ones which Anna described as "punky", and kept things fairy quick tempo for their first four or so numbers before slowing things down with their version of a ballad or two. In general the band seemed to have a better handle on their sound and they're really beginning to come into their own. While the high energy "punky" numbers seem to work best for a band ready to push forward, it is the mid-tempo playful numbers get the crowd jumping, and allow Cole to strut her extravagantly extroverted stuff. Even the slower numbers seem to make sense and the variety was appreciated. There is a cohesion to the band's set that survived despite a ridiculously long set (for an opener). While the band may tread too far into "bar band" territory for my tastes, their future is looking brighter, and The Brick holds their audience.
I returned to the back of the club to finish a game of Scrabble (on the Palm) with Dana. After over forty-five minutes she still hadn't determined what her next move would be. She explained it was easy for me to go quickly; I was ahead. At some point waiting ceases to be fun. After getting in a couple of turns (and scoring heavily with "depot", "jugs", & "braved") I pushed my way (literally) up towards the stage for Animated by Sound [are you ready guys, this is what you asked for].
The audience turned-over a bit following The Trophy Wives' set as the "woo girls" moved back (or sat down entirely) allowing for a decidedly more macho set of boys to crowd the front of the stage (or in one case, rest a bended leg up upon it). Animated By Sound's set was largely instrumental, very powerful, often chugging, sometimes heady (particularly when the two guitars of Brian McMillen and Brad Boeck played well together), and overtly metal. Yes, you heard me, metal. Case in point:
During the band's set one of the audience members (who was certainly drunk if not outright dim as well) shouted something in my ear. "Mosh Pit?" Did he say "Mosh Pit?" I ignored him and moved to the side of the stage in hopes of getting better pictures of bass player Orion VanOntjes. However it wasn't long before a handful of big "men" could be seen bouncing off of each other in the front of the stage. In what resembled a fight more than a mosh pit (I did have drop the camera to my side and stare for a while to figure it out), the five or six guys hurled themselves into each other, the retaining wall of fans, and the stage. VonOntjes intently jumped to the mic asserting "What the fuck?" and adding "We're not Pantara." The music stopped, and the audience closed the hole created by the brutes. Although the instigator laughed a bit, I did hear him utter something back to the band "when you rock it that hard, you've got to expect that." He's right you know. The oaf knows something about the band that they haven't figured out themselves: they are only a half step away from playing Ozz Fest.
Of course that is both the good news and the bad news. The band is tight, their music moves well, and it's presented with power and authority. As a bonus, the band is much more than bombastic rock & roll: the guitars play well together, the structures aren't straight forward, and there is an intelligence to all of this that recalls Lafayette (what happened to them?). But audiences are honest (if not always "right") and their response to the agro nature of the band's music, was entirely appropriate. As the band's name suggests, mosh pit metal heads are going to be an ongoing occupational hazard.
After an unconscionably long break, A Storied Northwest took the stage. Why a band will set up, sound check, and then leave the stage before returning to rock, I'll never understand I've never liked a cock tease. The last time I spoke with A Storied Northwest the band were just starting out, a little on the generic side, still searching for a fan base, and that first small break. Today A Storied Northwest must be the best-kept secret in the Kansas City music scene. With a powerful and assured presence, the band launched into its epic songs dominated by winding guitars and pulsing rhythms. The band seems to done everything right in creating a mix of metallic muscle, emotional connection, and cerebral structure. Most amazing was how the band was able to pull the sizable audience through every twist, repetition and howl.
Although the band were only half way through its set, this is where my tale ends. Already nearing 2am, at the edge of permanent hearing loss, and with a very bored grrlfriend in tow, the door, the cool night air, and clean sheets beckoned. That night, however, it wasn't visions of sugarplums, but A Storied Northwest that infiltrated my slumber and it was a good night.