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Wednesday May 22nd, 2024 at Minibar in Kansas City, MO
Sundiver, Museum of Light, Lafayette, & Drifter

I was exhausted just thinking about this bill. Four bands on a weeknight. Bands with heavy and oppressive tones ready to bury audiences. Ones who sculpt their sound such that they couldn’t possibly use another drummer's floor tom as the 62.3% coated heads they use are vital to their sound. Sometimes it's too much. But then your friend tells you that you must see the touring act from Seattle and that their drummer is in other bands you love, so you grumble a little and then go to the damn rock show.

The show started early at 7:30. That'd be a fine time to start a show if people were conditioned for such things, but we're not. So when Drifter took the stage, they stared out into an audience that contained only five or six patrons. That's a shame as the band is brilliant. Dean Edington provides bass, vocals, assorted textures, and some electronic percussion. Brodie Belt plays guitar and adds in his own percussion. There's still room for more drums from Joel Denton. Edington switches between clean vocals and roars befitting his large frame and larger beard. In the middle of the hour-hour set there were even some screeches. Songs contained long instrumental passages that grew and exploded. They soothed and pummeled. Is it post-metal? Post-rock? Slowcore? Doom? Yes. Those things. But thankfully it's unified as heavy and achingly beautiful. I've written about them lots – maybe too much as the band's set hasn't changed much in the last year. New songs exist and the band is slowly recording it for an album that may just make it out by the end of the year. But even if nothing changes before the band's next show on June 19th at Howdy, I suspect I'll be there. It's hard to complain about getting the same excellent set twice in one month. I recommend anyone who missed this set do the same. The band makes fans out of everyone that sees them.

Between acts the club filled up – everyone is just used to 8pm start times at Minibar. Most of the room was there to welcome Lafayette back to the stage after a twenty-year hiatus. Too Much Rock last covered the band in 2000, and curiously, there haven't been many changes. The band is still the project of bassist/vocalist Jeffery Farson, guitarists James Sizelove and Kevin Sweet, and drummer Chris Metcalf. The band's music is still rooted in the sound that defined Kansas City in that era – shifting rhythms, strong dynamics, shimmering and atmospheric guitar work, and emotive vocals. It is the sound that cohorts The Appleseed Cast, The String and Return, Casket Lottery, Elevator Division, and others all built from. Lafayette not only resurrected its own songs from that era, but played several new ones that recreated the vibe. While the first songs showed bits of rust – particularly Farson's voice – by mid set everything was working perfectly. The chemistry between the two guitarists was particularly pleasing as each player offered leads that communicated with or built upon the other's. It's no surprise that Metcalf (who also drums for The Life and Times alongside Shiner's Allen Epley) was a menace playing a small kit composed of big drums. He's a canny musician capable of leading the band through complex time signatures as well as performing lyrical lines that accent soaring guitars. In short, the band's 35-minute reunion set was a success. New songs are being recorded. Merch is being planned. Welcome back.

Seattle's Museum of Light must have noticed Lafayette's crowd easing toward the door, because only fifteen minutes after the previous set ended, the lights were again dimmed and the three-piece created conspicuous rumblings in the dark. A few quiet measures of atmosphere passed and then, BAM! the song shifted. Rob Smith came crashing through the cymbals mounted high above his head. Blinding white floor lights shone through his clear drums, illuminating the room. Fat rounded tones poured from both the guitar of Ted Alvarez and the bass of Travis Duennes, rattling my chest. The audience was captured, but the band repeated the dynamics just to be sure the hook was set.

The trio's sound lands somewhere on the post-rock side of indie rock near the math rock border. Far from the Peppermint Stick Forest but I think it still has access to Molasses Swamp. Longer songs (say six minutes or so) stretched and developed. Shorter ones made their point quickly. All of them were bombastic. Bombastic in the way that all noise rock bands are, yet for all the bludgeoning, Museum of Light were never noisy – just intense, loud, and threatening. Maybe it was the way Alvarez's vocals (when there were any) were shouted or screamed or barked that made the music seem more aggressive than it really was. By the end of its eight-song set I hadn't figured the band out, so we'll have to wait until next time to understand why this trio is so enthralling.

The audience was now three bands and two and a half hours deep into a Wednesday night. Those remaining in the club were almost exclusively the friends of final act. They were a bit younger, a bit drunker, and definitely there for a good time.

Kansas City's Sundiver is a band of considerable breadth. I find that arduous. Others find it exhilarating. Even after seeing the quartet four times over the last ten years, I've never been able to close that gap, and so I pledged to examine my disconnect this time around.

Throughout the set John Agee's guitar was out front. He played dense chords, cutting leads, and picked effects-riddled lines that recalled The Edge. Bobby Bayer played most of the set high up the neck of his Rickenbacker bass. He's a progressive bassist and simple root notes are not his thing. He also put on a show. He was in constant motion, covering for Joe Wells who faced the back of the stage, tending to his pedalboard amongst the shadows and coaxing the spacy sounds he needed from his rig. The drums of Neal Brown frequently locked into repeating patterns that shepherded the band through its mathy passages. That's a lot of different things in one band. Of course, the revelous fans that were pressed close to the stage hollering and dancing weren't dissecting the band the same way – they were enjoying the band while I was only examining its calculous. Sadly, it didn't add up for me this time either. So I took a different approach, and found a chair in the back of the room.

When I can't see a band, I can't focus on the concrete components of a song or the actions of player. Without those things I can instead lose myself in a band's mood. Its energy. Its vibe. And that's when I heard it. Or rather, when I didn't hear it. I just don't hear any BDE in the band's sound. It's charted and rehearsed by smart and talented musicians using excellent building blocks, but I can't imagine the band ever bashed out a sloppy Stooge's cover in their practice space. Somehow, I hear that hole louder than Agee's vocals, and it rubs me the wrong way. I sat pontificating this until the band ended its set, the crowd called for an encore, and Agee disappointed them with, "We literally know nothing more." I then packed up my gear and left.

While I may have grumbled my way into the show, I didn't feel the need to grumble my way out. Sometimes rock shows are long and exhausting, sometimes I don't connect with every band on a bill, and sometimes I show up for someone else rather than myself, but every time I go I'm supporting someone's art and passion, and that's a good use of my – or anyone's – time.