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Friday June 23rd, 2023 at Farewell in Kansas City, MO
Via Luna, Temp Tats, & Internet Dating

The Farewell crowd is more or less the Farewell crowd. The venue has become home base for a dozen or so bands that play there regularly, and a clubhouse for scores of fans who seem to make it out to most of their shows to support them. When the venue promotes a band outside of that insular sphere, strange things happen. Strange isn't necessary bad. In this case it just meant Farewell was packed with an indie rock crowd unfamiliar to the club and its vibe. They drank different drinks, stood in different places, and experienced the night in different ways. I felt a little like Jane Goodall as I sat outside at a table, studying the patrons dropped off by rideshares.

At 8:20 Internet Dating took the stage. The Farewell-regular project is the endeavor of Deano Erickson. He's a singer-songwriter with quick fingers that work the fretboard of his acoustic guitar with intriguing classical-come-math-rock allure and a soft, rounded singing voice But on this night he greeted the audience by announcing "Hi, we're Internet Dating." The "we" included Brittany Sawtelle (of Nightosphere) who added secondary and backing vocals to the performance, as well as controlling the tiny Pocket Operators – the two samplers that looked like stripped-down Casio calculators that were responsible for the skittering and glitchy percussion that peppers Internet Dating’s songs today. Sawtelle’s voice with its slight vibrato blended well with Erickson’s, and the quiet tones of each recalled the early work of Kings of Convenience. So quiet, as it turns out, that Sawtelle had to remind the foreign audience to not talk during their set. When the two voices weren’t blending, it was Sawtelle that came in answering Erickson’s lines, building a dynamic that reminded me of The Burning Hell. The duo played five or six songs that were either very new or taken from the project’s just-released cassette, Weary. The finale was a song about Erickson's move to Kansas City from the Twin Cities. Despite his ode to the City of Fountains, that relocation still seems incomplete, as Internet Dating hasn't changed its location to Kansas City on Bandcamp or Facebook. Let's hope we can hold on to Erickson with his honest and dear lyrics, his complicated and intriguing guitar skills, and his sunny demeanor.

While Internet Dating is still settling into Kansas City, the act that followed has been part of the scene for nearly a decade. The fact that I've never seen Temp Tats is more than curious, it's statistically unlikely. But the Too Much Rock archives don't lie. The quartet is led by Eric Schuman who plays guitar and sings. Chris Paul (bass) and Luke Waye (drums) round out the band's core, while Matt Purcell (tenor sax) and Joel Schuman (backing vocals) guested on several songs. The band's 35-minute set wasn't afraid of breadth, combining Schuman's emotional vocals, his mathy guitar lines and jazzy chords, Paul's funky five-string bass, and Waye's tight tom-less kit replete with a very ugly-sounding ride. The resulting brew of indie rock, math rock, jazz and emo created Temp Tats unique fusion. Recalling the band's association with challenging locals Haymaker Records helped my spinning head understand the rough-and-tumble assemblage, but while I struggled to categorize the band, the chatty audience blithely enjoyed it all as simply part of a fun night out. What's it like to be normal?

Just after 10pm, Via Luna's Chris Gordon took a final swig of his Tank 7, stepped to the microphone, smiled a goofy smile, and thanked everyone for coming. He was having a good time and the band hadn't played a note yet. Soon the foursome comprised of guitarists Gordon and Greg Baker, bassist Blain Bridges, and drummer Mike McDonough went to task building repeating organic patterns, only so it could slowly subvert them by dropping or adding beats, purposefully twisting their songs in interesting directions. Like the act before them, the band is a deft amalgamation of the complex and shifting math rock created in the '90s with the twinkling emo popularized twenty years later. But Via Luna aren't a band of scrappers. Instead, the quartet exudes a laid-back vibe and sheen that Walter Becker would have approved of. The band's songs are relatively compact four-minute affairs built on shifting time signatures. The band seldom plays in anything resembling standard time, and I was tickled watching McDonough count the band in at six. Tempos never race nor drag as the band steers far from math rock's bombastic hardcore intrusions. Instead, songs are light and breezy built on clean leads buoyantly tapped out on fretboards. Each player is a virtuoso, but none flash it about.

The band had mapped out a ten-song setlist that not only sampled it's four EPs, but also included a song from a Haymaker Records compilation, and one new one called "Infinite Spice." However, as the band got deep into the setlist, the hot room began taking its toll on the quartet. Bridges' bass rig proved problematic and soon McDonough pushed his bandmates to cut the set by a song or two. As scheduled, the band ended with "No One Cares" from 2017's Wilt. One of the band's longest compositions, the tune has bits of everything including skittering drums, pulsing bass, ascending gossamer guitar work, and even a rare moment of tremolo-picked explosion that brought the band and audience together for a head-bobbing finale.

After the band completed its set, the audience turned toward each other or the bar to continue its night out. This wasn't a crowd that had come out to see a show and head home, but rather to visit with friends at a bar while good music played. That's definitely not bad, just strange for a venue that many see only as a conveyance for live music. I'll have to devote a chapter to that in my upcoming book, In the Shadow of Punks.