Too Much Rock
Pics+Video Podcasts Singles About
Wednesday April 17th, 2024 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
Surf Trash, Parrotfish, Gibby, & Gemini Parks

No other plans? Go to a rock show. That's what I do. Any show. You needn't be too particular. The worse thing that happens is you lurk in back and read a book while some band that doesn't interest you offers a soundtrack. And that, my friends, is still a fine way to spend an evening. Of course if the lineup features one band that you know you like, then you're already a winner no matter what the other bands sound like. In that case, it's a slam dunk. See you at the show. Any show.

This show began with Gemini Parks just after 7:30. Gemini Parks is the pop project of Josh Berwanger (of The Anniversary and more). Live it's realized with help from rhythmic duo Josh Hartranft (bass) and Mitch Hewlett (drums). These two have played together for years. Maybe you know them from Westerners. Maybe from all the other things they've done and do. Berwanger provides vocals. They're breathy and bit high as they have been in every project. I'm not sure there's a full voiced scream in his repertoire. With a gold microphone in hand, he paced the Record Bar stage, but even with that bling, he's a reluctant frontman, and at this show he was quieter than usual. He can be animated and excited and devilishly funny, but this wasn't one of those nights. On this night he leaned heavily on his guitar. He used it to add little things, just jabs and scratches as most of the melodies come from tracks full of synths and bolstering backing vocals. All of this was augmented by video projected behind (and on) the band. Some abstract. Some pop culture. More than one dragon with flapping wings lurked behind the band. Somewhere in the middle of the set the band played an instrumental track where it stretched past its usual three-minute pop songs, and instead luxuriated in disco that recalled the Bee Gees' prime. Hewlett handled the four on the floor, Hartranft the funky lines, and Berwanger really dug into that Gibson Flying V. Keyboards came from the track though in my head I saw Jimmy Jam on stage stepping large with his keytar. That one got the audience dancing and that's a win for any opening band playing when the sun is still up.

I planned to spend the intermission in the back of the room with my book, but there was no time. Almost as quickly as Gemini Parks left the stage, another musician was strapping on a borrowed guitar. San Diego's Gibby Anderson wasn't listed on the flyers, but sometimes you get surprises like this when you just wander into a gig. Turns out Anderson (who records as "Gibby") is a bit of a wanderer too. To hear him tell it, he just hopped in the van with Surf Trash while in Salt Lake City and has now become an unofficial part of the tour. After delivering that quick introduction, he launched into with a bright pop song built around his voice and the borrowed guitar. The audience pushed forward knowingly. Gibby, it seems, has fans. And over 20,000 follows on Instagram. Unfortunately for those fans, they only got a one-song teaser before Anderson slid out of the guitar and disappeared back into the audience.

A few minutes later that guitar was picked up by its rightful owner in Parrotfish, and the night resumed its regularly scheduled programming. Parrotfish lines up as Conor Lynch (vocals), Joe Cadrecha (guitar), Matty Rodrigo (bass/vocals), and Trace Chiappe (drums) – just four young dudes out on the road having a good time playing their tunes. Brah! Initially I threw a modern alternative pop blanket assessment over the band, but as the ten-song set continued I began to question that. For example, "Drugs" recalled the sleazy 2008 indie disco vibes of The Virgins and Black Kids. "Miami" hinted that the band is well-versed in Sublime's beachy 1990's catalog. Also why did Lynch have two microphones configured with different effects? Was one for rapping and one for singing? Why did some songs require him to contribute a second guitar? How did the sick metallic accent crash of Chiappe fit in? What was with the squealy, Tom Morello-esque tone occasionally employed by Cadrecha? Did Rodrigo's slapped bass have any right to be that funky? And are those big backing harmonies in "The Implication" straight from a 1980's hair band how-to? Unable to answer these questions I retreated to the back with my book while the rest of the audience stayed up front, dancing and singing along for the full 40 minutes. They had come to the gig with intent and were having a blast.

The night culminated with Surf Trash from NSW Australia. The band is a fourpiece consisting of Andrew Scott (drums / vocals), Lachlan Jackson and Patrick Russell (guitars), & Nicholas Scott (bass). Yes, a singing drummer. That explains why the shared drumkit had been at the front of the stage all night. And here I thought someone was just being difficult. Not sonically far from the evening's other acts, Surf Trash play a bouncing pop rock with hints of sunny surf. And like Parrotfish, the band's long set was a mix of new unreleased tunes combined with songs pulled from an avalanche of digital singles. Both bands must be betting on the algorithm and against albums. Troubling trends for someone who grew up on FM-powered AOR.

The band opted to play in front of a twenty-second projected animation that repeated throughout the set that bathed them in white light and occasional dark scribbles. There was no way to be moody in that lighting. Thankfully moody is not how anyone would describe Surf Trash. Scott was affable behind his drum kit. He was having a good time and spreading that frivolity across the stage and into the crowd. This got the audience jumping, and during several songs, jumping into each other forming a small pit. I watched a Gen Xer pogo his way through the set like Surf Trash were his favorite band. Later, when the quartet hit those backing vocals all the way across the stage, I started to see things his way. And by the time the foursome arrived in power pop territory with a song from the Under the Rader EP, I was jumping too.

At the end of the band's long set Gibby Anderson was invited back onto the stage to play "tambo" and soon the members of Parrotfish joined in for a raucous revue that became the night's finale. After the excitement had peaked, I packed up my camera gear, thanked the bands for coming through, and started my walk home. I knew the show I happened upon would be a fine night when I saw Gemini Parks on the bill, but the random touring acts made it a good one. I guess I'll just have to finish my book at another show. What are you doing tomorrow?