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Monday July 18th, 2022 at Farewell in Kansas City, MO
They Are Gutting a Body of Water, Nerver, & Flooding

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Flooding has a draw. And a draw across several tribes. I haven’t quite figured it out, even though I’m a part of it. But as the three members of the Lawrence band walked toward the stage, the audience followed. Vocalist and guitarist Rose Brown is the Pied Piper. Bassist Cole Billings and especially drummer Zach Cunningham pull a lot of strings in the band, but it’s Brown that gets the adoration. Wanted or otherwise.

The trio began with a noisy number. They’re all loud, but this one left me searching for the rhythm under all the churning sound. Brown’s pedal board ensures that nothing is immediately identifiable. By the end of the band’s half hour opening set either I had broken the code, the sound person had dialed something in, or the band were taking it easy on us. In the clearest moments I heard Matador bands of the mid ‘90s. The noisy textures of Bailter Space. The expanses of Bardo Pond. Probably some other bands that don’t begin with “B.” Let’s say Unwound. Brown’s vocals seldom make it over the din. She likes it that way. She likes the mystery. When she shouts you can hear her. Even when talking between songs, she’s quiet. The audience barely heard when she plugged the other bands. They did hear her announce a new song. And they cheered. Loudly. During the set someone screamed “Rose you are f*cking sick!” Other amorous screams came before and after. They’re not wrong. Flooding is amazing and only getting better.

Between bands I slipped outside. It was 30 degrees cooler. Farewell is hot. Crop tops abound. It’s not a bad idea. Unless you’re a chubby middle-aged man. Then it’s a bad idea. Outside a bro talked at the door gal. It was his first time at the club. He asked if it does a lot of nu metal shows. “No, mostly black and death metal. Nothing like that.” He had seen the next band at Record Bar. I hadn’t heard them before, but suddenly their fans worried me. I went back inside to defend my perch from a possible bro-vasion.

Nerver is a KC three piece. Loud as hell. Drummer Mat Shanahan put on big over-the-ear hearing protection. Then he told guitarist Jack Melech to turn up. Melech seemed to be in an arms race with bassist and vocalist Evan Little. I’m not sure who wins this race. It’s likely mutually assured destruction. The band’s music is heavy. It has a groove. Maybe not all the way to Helmet or Clutch or Prong (are my touchstones outdated?), but maybe. My earplugs were in deep. Little’s voice is rough. A hardcore scream with a little death rasp to it. I’m not sure what he said, but I know he meant it. Melech had little vocal contributions too. The audience that swayed and nodded to Flooding woke up angry for Nerver. Lots of stomping and jumping and pushing and bodies falling onto the stage. Not side-to-side peacockery, not spin kicks, just a lot of classic pushy-pushy and guys (mostly) losing their minds. While most of the set was straightforward at 100 miles per hour, broken up only with sneaky false stops, there were also moments of relative calm. Times when Melech picked arpeggios and Shanahan dropped the tempo to allow the songs (and audience) to breathe. Without the constant driving groove, the band floats in a post-something-or-another territory. Somewhat closer to the opener. Not nu metal. Thank goodness.

Again, I spent the time between acts outside. Nerver talked about gear with fans. About the band’s never-ending quest for volume. Two girls giggled as they attempted to balance on the scrap wood abandoned aside the sidewalk. “Can you imagine having to walk the plank – that’d be hella embarrassing.” Cutlasses, sharks, or peer ridicule, any of them can end you. Soon the sound of guitars lured me back into the club. The headliner had set up on the floor in front of the stage. Sonovabitch. Horrible for sound, horrible for photographs, horrible for dancing. Just no. But it’s evidently what they do. Frontman Douglas Dulgarian immediately confirmed my fears when he tested his microphone and wasn’t happy with the results. Well, the bed was made, let’s all lie in it.

Flyers for the show called the painfully-named They are Gutting a Body of Water “shoegaze.” In truth the Philly band (best referred to as TAGABOW) is a lot of things. Some complimentary. Some curious. We’ll start where the band did, with a repeating EDM air horn and some high BPM breakbeats. They came from the sampler controlled by founder Douglas Dulgarian. Dulgarian has a thing for breakcore and jungle. The audience started dancing. Hard. Drummer Ben Opatut used his drumsticks to “conduct” the busy sampler. Eventually he cued the band – first Dulgarian, then lead guitarist PJ Carroll, himself, and finally bassist Emily Lofing. Twinkling guitars started. Emo. Swelling to a dense wall of fuzz. Shoegaze. But propelled by swinging drums that recalled Pavement more than The Jesus and Mary Chain. Is that indie rock? At times the infrequent bass pushed the band forward in a swelling unison that climbed to thundering post-rock climaxes. The audience liked moving to those zeniths as much as they liked the breakbeat interludes that resurfaced between songs. There was a lot of dancing. And pushing. Participants were frequently flung into the band’s sphere. Pedals were kicked. Cables were unplugged. Carroll seemed particularly annoyed by this incursion into his space. Dulgarian moved his sampler closer to the drummer and away from the tidal crowd. Whether a symptom of that packed crowd or not, there was little movement from the band, and no theatrics. Lofing looked uncomfortable. Dulgarian hid behind his bangs. Shoegaze after all.

The band’s performance in the round left me searching for light and angles suitable for photography. For a position where the instruments and vocals mixed well. For a station out of the way of furious dancers. Sadly, this search precluded me from cataloging Carroll’s picked melodies, the hooks in Dulgarian’s riffs, the messages in Dulgarian’s lyrics, and in general, experiencing the band. Disappointing, as the band’s take on shoegaze is an intriguing one filled with fresh influences, bending tones, and electronic inflections. I caught just enough to make me want to hear more. And saw enough to let me know I didn’t need to see it again.