Friday March 17th, 2000 at El Torreon in Kansas City, MO
Wretch Like Me, [DARYL], the pAper chAse & Emma Feel

I pulled into the El Torreon at 6pm with the big white vans of [DARYL] and the pAper chAse in tow. Both Emma Feel and Wretch Like Me were already there and the club was cold and full of cars. I immediately ducked back to the soundboard where I had left my camera the night before so I could set its batteries to charging, but it wasn't there. I hunted the whole club and asked everyone with keys and no one moved it. So my digital camera is now officially stolen. That set the tone for the night. So if anyone sees an Epson 750Z lying around with pictures of Onward Crispen Glover, Lushbox, The Hillary Step, Avondale, Outhouse, Strictly For Rent, Bright Eyes & Ann Baretta on it, lemme know. Until then show reviews will be an unfortunate text-only endeavor.

Emma Feel started the night out playing to a crowd of around 25, 15 of which seemed to be friends or family of the bassist, who was playing her last show with the band. Although the band must have been at it a while, it really wasn't obvious – the guitarist played bluesy leads on a large hollow-body Gibson while the vocalist played simple power chords. Seldom did it seem they were even in the same band. The bass leads were simple, bouncy and over-played, the drum work was sloppy, and the vocals were over the top. There was very little redeeming about the band other than comedy of the singer in leather pants and with bare chest trying to hump the microphone and deal with his Jim Morrison complex.

The band played a 45 minute set that only ended after I gave the band the "one more song" sign, and even then the band ignored me playing two songs. I didn't mind though as the final song was a cover of Joan Jett's Cherry Bomb which brought the bassist to the microphone and sent the normal vocalist back to play bass. Although her voice was too meek for the song, it was still the best part of the set.

Bands touring together generally swap slots with each show and tonight the coin put the pAper chAse on first. I was a little worried as the band isn't exactly listener friendly, and the small crowd that had decided to attend the alcohol free environment of El Torreon on St. Patrick’s Day were sure to be scared away. It turned out not to be an issue as the first band left with their fanbase before the pAper chAse ever played a note.

Playing in itself was difficult as the house soundman wasn't feeling well and left earlier in the night. That left Alison and a member of Wretch Like Me to run sound on a mis-wired soundboard. The band were getting impatient with the sound and decided they would just play – after all they played in a record store the night before with no PA at all.

I don't think anyone was prepared for the pAper chAse's set. It was loud, completely chaotic, very involved, incredible intense and so very tight. Guitarist/vocalist John Congleton shouted at the audience and ranted about any number of things that I didn't even know existed... he did though, and he obviously felt pretty strongly about them. Although we saw him playing a guitar high on his chest, the noises we heard weren't familiar. The strings chimed and screeched and occasionally growled in a most glorious way. The bass and drum work followed much the same pattern... it just wasn't right!

[DARYL] pulled down the pAper chAse's gear and set up their own (3 synths, 2 guitars, 2 vocals, bass & drums – four guys) as if they were changing tires at the Indy 500 or delivering pizzas for Dominos or something like that. I suppose that is just how it works when you’ve been on the road for a week – at that one week mark you’re in good practice and still excited, after a week the set up starts to become a chore and we head back down the other side of the bell curve.

The first song, Radio’s Replaceable from their upcoming EP, was heavy in melody created largely by a mix of guitar snarl and keyboard kitsch. A sort of two-parts- rock-and-one-part-punk sound The Police might have come up with if they formed twenty years later. Vocalist/guitarist and occasional moogist Dylan Silvers was having trouble hearing himself but continued to belt out the songs in a distinctive yet hard to describe voice – it’s so familiar but I don’t know from where!

The songs with more drive and bite (such as Bottle Rocket also from the upcoming EP) seemed to impress the growing audience the most though they were polite if not electrified by the every song in the set. The band itself seemed to fall into much the same territory. The small audience and the relatively poor sound on stage seemed to weigh heavily on the band, and unlike the pAper chAse they seemed unable to work through that.

Wretch Like Me frontman Abe Brennan began their show saying "Thanks to the other bands for starting things off, and now we’re going to take it on home." It seemed a little excessive for an audience of less than three dozen, but the fans up front seemed to buy it.

The band was incredibly loud... possibly the loudest band to play at El Torreon. As a result the vocals again were nearly lost. I walked back to the soundboard to see if anything could be done, but not only were the mains at full volume and the vocal channel maxxed out, the eq on the vocals was pegged as well. I looked over at Alison who was giving me that "I’m giving all she’s got cap’n" look so I just walked back towards the stage shaking my head.

As a secondary insult to having my camera stolen, the villains also absconded with my ear plugs. So on the night when a band decides to answer the "How loud is hell?" question, I had no ear plugs. Consequently I spent the majority of the band’s set in the main room hoping against poor judgement that my hearing would return.

When I did poke my head into the main hall, I noted that Wretch Like Me wasn’t as punk as I expected. They were much more pop-punk than the early 80s California punk I expected. Songs were obviously centered around pop hooks instead of brutal minimalism. And from what I was able to discern with fingers in ears, they sounded as if they knew what they were doing.

However already being dumb and blind, I opted not to tempt the power of three, and sat out the majority of the band’s performance. Worry not though as they’ll be back at the El Torreon in a few weeks and this time I’ll have new earplugs (but probably not a new camera).