Here comes another story, where, once again, I attempt to compensate for bad photos by at least writing a paragraph about the band that I have wronged with subpar photography. This has become an embarrassing habit.
It's possible that Nashville's Thelma and the Sleaze is cursed. Was frontwoman Lauren "LG" Gilbert just was born under a bad sign? Or could this be the heavy hand of a vengeful god displeased by the band's ribald lyrics and propensity for nudity? I suspect it is both, because when the band pulled into Kansas City, it came face-to-face with a poorly promoted Monday night show with no supporting act and booked on a stage that was currently drowning under a pop-up thunderstorm. Gilbert must be used to this, as just before showtime I found her and her three musical conspirators across the street at Jerusalem Café, sharing stories, binging on baklava, and giggling like schoolgirls. I guess nothing gets this band down. Or maybe the band knew something I didn't, because at 9:00 the rain stopped, the red stage lights came on, and the quartet walked onto the stage.
The band's first song was about straight girls, LG explained with a wistful sigh. The second one was too. The third was about "finger banging" straight girls. There was a theme. LG is never a shy woman, but I wondered if the intimacy and accountability of playing to an audience that barely outnumbered the band might dull her banter. It didn't. In fact, she shared more. Little things. Like how at that moment she suddenly decided she should pace the stage before each song could begin. Why? Well she didn't say that. This new kink tickled touring bassist "Queenie" (Kaycie Satterfield), who LG then accused of being a "giggle monster." Veteran drummer "Snowflake" shook her head, having seen it all before. Later in the night, keyboardist "Coochie Coochie Rodriguez" (as Amaia Agirre was known on this night) was revealed as an ally in the absurd, offering hilariously sincere flowing piano riffs while LG spun off on a tangent about masturbation, the Family Feud, and a foundling with "big pierced nipples and a lazy eye." What resulted was the sort of rant that The Dead Milkmen's Rodney Anonymous would be proud of. LG couldn't keep a straight face. Later Rodriguez got center stage herself, as she carried the band through an impromptu rendition of Leiber and Stoller's "Kansas City" that pleased the crowd even if it never got to the bridge. Like I said, nothing was off limits.
While the theatrics were appreciated, the night was really about the band's trademark dirty rock 'n' roll played fast, colored by blues and soul, and emanating from below the belt. Throughout the band's hour-long set, there were slow burners and roadhouse rockers that edged climax, but the foursome saved the explosion for the howling version of "Hot Steam" taken from the band's 2017 album Somebody's Doin' Something (Last Hurrah / Burger Records) that served as its closer. The track highlighted everything that the band does so well: LG's effortless hot licks and note-perfect solos, Rodriguez's bright organ hits, delightfully coy backing vocals, and a rhythm section that pushes everything forward, bypassing pointless filigree. While I had heard that this tour was to be the band's last hurrah, LG gave the small crowd some hope (or maybe it was a warning) before departing, announcing that the band would be back through again so that she could "prove [herself] to Kansas City." I think it's the other way around — Kansas City needs to show up come Monday night or high water and prove itself worthy of Thelma and the Sleaze.