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Thursday October 27th, 2022 at 403 Club in Kansas City, KS
Suzi Moon, & The Uncouth

I was worried it was going to be a late show. I was wrong. When I arrived at 7:30, all the tables had been removed from the 403 Club and the headliner had assembled a long and impressive assortment of amplifiers stretching the length of the room. A soundman with his iPad was running the band through its paces. He was way too concerned for what was a punk band playing on the floor of a pinball bar decorated like a sports bar and priced like a dive bar. I paid $1.50 for my ginger beer and visited with friends while the soundman asked the bass player to cut some of his mids. When he was finished with the headliner, the local openers were run through the same ordeal. This time the snare drum (the same snare) was too “live” for the room. Alan Parsons gave up just before 8 o’clock and the show started.

The night opened with The Uncouth. Click the band’s name in the box to the right if you’re not familiar with the foursome. It’s Oi! with both the capital “O” and the exclamation point. It’s rough and tumble street punk with big melodic sing-along choruses. Its lyrical themes never stray far from anti-fascism and working-class struggle. The band packed the club with its supporters: skinheads, ultras, casuals, and battle-vested punks. The band’s shortened 35-minute set began with “Madness on the Streets’ and continued mixing both old and new cuts. Guitarist and vocalist CJ Wilson shared that the new ones were just recorded earlier this month with Joel Nanos at Element and are destined for a full-length album out “sometime.” Released or not, the audience knew most of the songs. The biggest response came for “Same Old Story,” where the audience met the band’s energy with righteous fist pumps and loud voices. Covers of “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” and traditional closer “Because You’re Young” both brought the audience onto the “stage,” circling around the microphones of Cody Blanchard (vox/guitar) and Steve Gardels (bass/vox). While the band put on a tight performance (fresh from a big gig in Minneapolis the weekend before), the borrowed drum kit gave drummer Todd Rainey fits, and despite the overattentive soundman, Wilson’s leads and solos were barely audible for most of the set. But the show was a quick and last-minute affair. Shortcuts were taken. Four songs had to be cut from the set, and there was no time for banter outside of the important welcomes and thank yous provided by Gardels. The band were asked to be a classic opener, which is quite different from just being the first band on a bill.

Suzi Moon reclaimed the stage quickly, and by 8:45 her band had launched into the title track from her new album, Dumb & In Love. The song exemplifies Moon’s music. It’s got just enough punk growl to feel dangerous, the right amount of rock & roll basics to move bodies, and it’s delivered as pure power pop with hooky choruses and quick guitar solos that allow it to go down smoothly. Moon’s vocals sit somewhere between Joan Jett and Josie Cotton. That’s a good place. Her guitar work is limited to simple power chords designed to bolster the sound rather than create it. The solos (and what few leads there are) come from Drew Champion. He’s got a baby face and a tall thin frame. If we need someone to do a Coyote Shivers biopic, he’s your man. The two were joined by long-time cohort Patti Bo who provides bass, most of the backing vocals, and all the band’s rugged street cred. Drummer Neil Ganesha wasn’t along for the last trip through KC, though he’s put in some serious international road work with the band over the last six months. He’s a focused musician who drums with little movement or flash, but instead lays down the simple foundation required.

The quartet tore through a shortened twelve-song set in 45 minutes, largely duplicating the set played in April, with only “I am Not a Man” from her debut EP added to the set in the place of three others lost. I had hoped for the ultra-poppy and mawkish “California” from the new album, but I suspect Moon read the room and erred on the side of fast and snotty. Between songs she was chatty. It wasn’t as intimate as the show in April – florescent lights and acoustic tiled ceilings aren’t usually an invitation to sing along, much less for sexy mischief – but Moon seemed to prefer the vibe of 403 Club over that of miniBar. I think she likes to see her audience. As with the previous show, she slipped out mid set, allowing the backing band to rip through its instrumental (always on the setlist as “G.T.H.O.T.B!” if any codebreakers wanna give that a shot). Normally this is a chance for a titillating wardrobe change, but instead Moon opted for the Batman pinball game in the bar. When she returned to the microphone, she had dropped her feathered jacket, revealing her backless and plunging leather bustier that disappeared into her tight leather pants, which in turn vanished into her high glittery silver boots. That, along with the bondage belt dripping with chains – chains that paired with the heavy one hanging from her wireless microphone – was sultry enough.

After her pinball break, Moon went mobile, moving her microphone stand deeper into the crowd with each song. By the time the band played “Money,” she had climbed on onto bar, sitting on it with her legs spread wide, her high boots on stools, her microphone stand splitting the difference. She upped her game for finale “Animal,” lying on the bar on her back, grasping the wireless (yet chained) microphone, kicking her legs in the air. For the final stanza she climbed to her knees, sitting on her heels, one hand pressed to the ceiling, singing “Cuz I’m an animal / I’m a fuckin’ animal / A rock n’ roll animal / A vicious little animal.”

And that ended the night. There was no encore. It was only 9:30. Such a perfect time to end a show for all of us crepuscular rock & roll animals who were worried about our busy mornings.