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Friday September 9th, 2011 at Jackpot Saloon in Lawrence, KS
Tim Kasher, Fourth of July, & Aficionado
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There's no time to talk details I'm afraid, so here are the highlights:

At 10:15 Albany's Aficionado opened the show. While the band is generally a seven piece, for this show it made do as a six piece, shifting members' responsibilities and roles (a keyboard player on bass, a bassist playing guitar). Curiously, I never would have known, as the band was just that solid. Live, Aficionado is an emo band – a wonderful emo band that recalls the sound of the early '90s. Call it post-hardcore if you like, but just know it has nothing to do with Sum 41 and even less to do with Dashboard Confessional. In the studio things are a bit less cut and dry, as horns and keyboards bring in a real rock vibe a la Gaslight Anthem or The Hold Steady.

The band put on a really good performance with frontman Nick Worchol pacing about the stage, clutching his microphone, while most of the other members churned energetically behind him. Only vocalist/flutist Laura Carrozza seemed unsure of herself on stage. She seemed similarly uncertain when asked to provide lead vocals on the set's closing number, but thankfully when her vocals were overlaid with Worchol's, they blended and smoothed out considerably. The twin guitars worked nicely, with the second guitar generally providing a picked, Appleseed Cast-esque shimmery chime that lightened the aggressive rhythm section. I didn't know they still made bands like this, but I'm glad they do.

After a painful half-hour break, local quartet Fourth of July took the stage. I had been looking forward to seeing the band since falling in love with its current album a month or so ago. It was the band's smart indie pop (reminiscent of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin or Bishop Allen) that really drew me to them, so I was a bit frustrated by the raw indie rock that dominated the first third of the set. However, things soon settled down with a trio of tracks I had come to hear.

Brendan Hangauer leads the band, providing vocals that are typically scratchy, occasionally croaked (only when shouted), and then mysteriously clean and sweet. His guitar is a beaten wreck. There were backing vocals all around, though drummer Brendan Costello carried the lion's share. However, as I said, there is no time for details so let's move on. You'll hear more about this band on Too Much Rock later anyway.

Before we tackle the headliner, let me just say that shows in Lawrence are starting to get on my nerves. A good percentage of the young crowd at the Jackpot was merely there to be seen – they talked through the bands with friends; they kissed boyfriends and made sure others were watching when they did it; they had those ridiculous feathers in their hair. It wasn't until Tim Kasher was preparing to play, and a crew of very nerdy boys planted themselves at the edge of the stage, that I learned anyone had actually come for the music. Lawrence frustrates me like that sometimes.

Okay, so at 12:15 Omaha's Tim Kasher and a trio of backing musicians took the stage. Kasher has been doing this a long time, and that experience was obvious from the outset. He is a conversational frontman – very relaxed, utterly engaging. For this project (the first issued under his own name, I believe), Kasher has continued writing about the relationships between men and women, but you won't hear mention of schoolboy crushes; instead, it's mortgages, marital infidelity, and the pressures of parenthood. After the first few songs, I couldn't help but think of how old Kasher and I had become.

Most of the songs are mid-tempo confessional pop with Kasher's guitar (either acoustic or more generally electric) joined by Sara Bertuldo's bass, the drums of Dylan Ryan and Patrick Newbery on keyboards. In quieter moments Bertuldo would switch to glockenspiel while Newbery might pick up his trumpet. While not far from Kasher's past Good Life project, fans of Owen or Sean Na Na would certainly appreciate this solo endeavour as well.

After opening with a handful of thoughtful indie pop songs, Kasher picked up the pace with "Bad, Bad Dreams," which he introduced as a "real rocker." There were a number of near-solo songs as well, with Kasher begging the audience's indulgence as he began the quiet, acoustic "Strays." Kasher then took a few requests (and denied many more), before the full band sprung back to action with a cover of Elvis Costello's "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea." Bertuldo nailed the funky bass line. The band closed its set with the opening track – a five-minute sprawling number titled "No Harmony." Live, the song stretched out even further, and allowed every member to trade instruments (and Aficionado's Craig Dutra to join in on keyboards) for a chaotic, flailing, 1:30am finale.

And that, my readers, is the abridged version of the night.