Friday September 15th, 2000 at The El Torreon in Kansas City, MO
Traindodge, The Hillary Step & Jade Raven
This is the first show Ive booked in quite a while so of course I was worried that no one would show up. Generally that isnt a totally paranoid approach to take as I have had shows where even the bands didnt bother to show up until after the 3 fans attending had left. So anyway that worry is there. To compound my fears, headliners Traindodge had booked another show in town for the next night at the Hurricane virtually guaranteeing that no one over the age of 20 would come to see them at my show. Sure I bitched and bellyached (to the band, their booking agent, their record label, folks passing by on the street) but it wasnt going to get the folks out so there was really nothing to do but sit and wait to see who would show up.
Jade Raven arrived first and loaded directly to the stage. Youd think the band would be the primary audience for El Torreon right? I mean theyre obviously into music and all under 21 so there probably at El Torreon every weekend right? Of course by my build up you know that isnt the case, and the band members all told me that they hadnt been to the club. Its no wonder El Torreon is barely getting by when they cant even attract the mostly obvious audience.
After a quick solder job on one of the monitors, the band started their forty-five minute set of super-sweet pop (on person commented it sounded like The Archies while several others found a more Go-Gos inspired touch). Hollys voice was loud and clear through the house PA although her guitar was often mixed too low which seemed to over-accent that which is already accented by their songs. The band seems to be finding themselves professionally and still arent exactly what is necessary to work a crowd. Their corny dialog bounced off the stone face of the audience and hit the floor without response forcing the band to ultimately give up on a show, and simply play their songs.
At 9pm The Hillary Step began their set. At 9:10 they ended their set. At 9:15 they started their set. At 9:25 they ended their set. At 9:35 they began their set and it continued much like that. The bands set was plagued by equipment troubles (most noticeably the bass rig) and a constant battle to find the right balance of stage volumes. When the band came together (such as in the bands closer and their newest song) they were tight, intense and proved to everyone they are one of the best bands in Kansas City. In the midst of their troubles however they seemed shaken and as if they didnt want to be on the stage at all.
The bands set included several songs from the demo, a few from the CD, and two brand new songs debuted only two nights previous (the closer was actually written only three nights before). The newer songs seem to be more straight forward with fewer shifts and the loud/soft quotient raised slightly, however their is interest and the songs seemed to work with the audience who were impressed by just how powerful and loud this three piece can get.
Of course Traindodges business card says "loud, powerful, three piece" and the band proved their worth to a small crowd that was captivated by the bands performance. Although this was the first date of their tour, the band was focused and ripped through a short set of songs taken from both the first album and the just-released EP.
Their music is in many ways very straight forward rock but there is an underlying and undeniable duality. Of course they embrace the loud/soft changes that have been nearly played to death in the genre, but their songs also vary from tight and crunchy to open and heady. The dichotomy continues with songs that are deceivingly simple and pleasantly accessible while still complicated and cerebral enough for those who believe music should only be listened to with headphones. Although the band has this uncanny ability to place complicated time changes into complete song structures in a way that never jars the listener, they do have a limited number of tricks up their sleeve. This unfortunately points to songs that are frequently similar and other ones that reuse similar hooks or lack hooks altogether.
So who showed up? Forty folks -- enough that it wasnt embarrassing for the bands but yet not enough paying fans to cover my costs. As a promoter you win some and ya lose some, although I dont think Ive won one for over six months. As a fan I saw three bands I enjoyed without having to drive to Lawrence, without having to put up with the bar crowd and without having to be out until 2am and those facts probably balanced things out.