Another packed and frosty night on Stadium Drive. While a metal show raged at Farewell, the punks filled the all-ages Howdy two doors down. Kansas City showing up for its locals. You love to see it.
Violet Approach was up first. I hadn't seen the trio before so either they're new or I'm out of touch. Of course it could be both. The band is fronted by Lio. They're an energetic, gregarious frontperson. One capable of screams that split the difference between simple hardcore rage and the coy daggers of riot grrrl acts. Say plays guitar. Lots of chugging and a lot less dancing. Also, no leads or solos. Drummer Rin looked down at her drums through the set, focused on propulsion. Later in the set, Lio and Rin swapped roles allowing Rin to shout her mind while the rest of the band worked through some slower, roiling punk. The 23-minute set flew by, and Lio spent most of it in the audience pushing, shouting, bouncing, and clutching their microphone. They called the girls up front for cover of Bikini Kill's "White Boy," instructing the amped crowd that it was "time to spin." Hands were clasped, legs set in motion, and bodies went around and around until they tumbled to the ground. "I win. I'm already bleeding," one attendee announced after being picked up off the floor. The band is recording soon, but until then you can buy hand-printed shirts and patches from the band at one of its upcoming gigs.
Doldrums followed. This is a band I've seen before. The quartet's hardcore is a punch in the face, performing short songs that are intense without being chaotic. Each showcases a craft and melody that recalls the NYHC heyday. There are more violent, more extreme, more dangerous hardcore bands in Kansas City, but none better than Doldrums. The quartet delivered a strong 24-minute set that kept the pit active. There were a few bruisers that paraded around looking for a willing participant to bounce off of, a couple of flippers and spin kickers that cherished the spotlight, and a lot of pushers and partiers smiling and having a good time. One dummy nearly caught hands from an old-timer who didn't appreciate being tackled, but mostly it was happy violence. The pit only calmed when frontman Jordan Taylor set up shop in the middle – especially during the captivating moments where he would wrap the microphone cord around his neck and shout his aggression while flexing every muscle in his sinewy form. It was good to see him back in action after health issues caused him to cancel a show a few weeks back. Edoardo "Dodi" Wiemuth didn't wrap his guitar cord around his neck, but rather watched others tangle themselves in it when they careened onto the area of the floor that served as his stage. Bassist Ian Andreasen and drummer Jacob Ziskind remained out of the fray and kept the ten-song set of all unreleased material crunchy. That's good because both scare me. Especially Ziskind who always plays with a perturbed scowl on his face. New Doldrums music is coming soon, and when that record drops, a lot of people outside of Kansas City are going to lose their minds.
At the end of the set, Jordan Taylor told the young audience to stick around, as The Uncouth was going to destroy the place. Cody Blanchard and I shared a chuckle. "That's not what we do," he said. The band isn't known for raucous pits, but rather singalongs. Maybe with a sloshing beer held high. Maybe with an arm around a stranger-come-brother. But. Just before the band went on guitarist CJ Wilson looked out across the crowd. A few regulars had come out, but most of the audience was unfamiliar. Wilson noted that he was drinking before much of the room was born. For better or worse, this was not going to be the typical Uncouth gig.
As soon as the guitars called out, members of the audience crowded tightly around the band, only inches from the players. Behind that wall, a pit consisting of dancers and pushers and spinners and revelers suddenly demonstrated entropy. As the band ripped through first song "Madness on the Streets," the edges of the pit were filled with fans singing with pumping fists and pointing fingers. And that continued throughout the set as fans and band sang about union membership, fakes and phonies, and coping with life under late-stage capitalism. How did these kids who never get to see the band in the bars know all the songs?
Half (if not more) of the appeal of an all-ages show has always been the environment – the comradery, the energy, the movement, the explosion of freedom. The kids were making it happen, and the band feasted on it all. Despite the lack of monitors and a sound mix that only amplifies vocals, the band still nailed every rock & roll guitar solo (and Wilson offers plenty of them), every three-part harmony (from Blanchard, Wilson, and bassist Steve Gardels), and every machine gun fill or terrace-born stomp from drummer Todd Rainey. After a half hour and eleven songs, the band called for its own encore, adding a cover of "Evil" (originally by The 4-Skins) as a bonus. The double time punk anthem with a one-word chorus was fuel to the fire and ended the night with a bang.
After the set, I made my way to the back of the room to pick up my camera bag and coat. I tried to say goodbye to the members of the Uncouth, but they were surrounded by new fans who had scavenged the band's setlists and were now holding them up for signatures. Not a normal Uncouth show, but a better one thanks to the all-ages crowd, and you love to see it.