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Monday March 7th, 2022 at 22/32 in Kansas City, MO
Zorn, Doldrums, & Piss Kinks

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This week's installment of Too Much Rock Basement Stories takes place at 22/32 on the Eastside where three bands gathered on a cold evening to warm the black hearts of Kansas City's true non-believers.

The night began with Piss Kinks. The band keeps popping up on bills and I've unwittingly become a bit of a groupie. The foursome played a short opening set that hit like hardcore, prompting a Soul Train parade of dancers to crisscross the basement with fists pounding to the dusty floor. The single, dim, red ceiling light was just enough to allow the audience to make out the forms of drummer Tate, guitarist Harry, and new bassist Judah [the band eschews last names presumably to protect the guilty]. Even though I had staked a prime spot in the wings, I was only able to catch short unphotographable glimpses of vocalist Reece as he fleetingly appeared between the coursing dancers, or when he fell backwards toward the light after his many incursions deeper into the shadowed audience. Reece wasn’t in a strappy sundress today (temperatures have plummeted in Kansas City as our indecisive Spring tries and fails to take hold) but instead wore all black with makeup to create darkened skeletal eye sockets. It was a menacing look for a band that can feel dangerous. The set ended with a big breakdown that had dozens of men swinging arms, kicking legs, denting the duct work in the basement, and knocking over countless beers.

As is my habit, I stayed in the basement between acts. Although this approach assures better visibility and personal safety when the next band begins, my lungs pay a penalty of inhaled cigarette smoke and dust. While those are known and accepted risks, when I heard someone from the other side of the basement ask "Anyone know who lives here, the furnace sounds like it's just blasting gas," I realized that my calculus was off. A fiery basement death wasn't in my plans. Thankfully our amateur superintendent was mistaken, and another band took the "stage."

Doldrums are a marginally more established band, one with older members, and a with strong crossover thrash vibe that replaced breakdowns with double time moshes, but the biggest change they brought to the basement was one of illumination. The quartet requested the diffused white light remain on during its set, not only keeping the stationary members of the band (new guitarist Edoardo "Dodi" Wiemuth, bassist Ian Andreasen, and drummer Jacob Ziskind) visible, but also assuring the wiry frame of vocalist Jordan [no last name] would not disappear into shadows as he paced the floor. The light also impacted the audience. Dancers were visible and the tough guys were now on display. More jumps, more kicks, and more somersaults. Jordan interacted with the audience, introduced new songs (which made up the bulk of the set), and for one song, insisted the audience move faster. That last request was honored, and bodies flew back and forth across the floor, pinning me up against the wall on occasion, and unplugging the band's guitar and vocal mic more than once. At least the dancers could see when they were tangled up in the chords.

I winced when the members of Philadelphia's Zorn requested a return to the red light and dark concealing shadows that introduced the night. Photography is kind of my thing. But I didn't know what was coming. I listened as the band set up — joking with each other about playing in a basement again. For some reason I felt protective of the dusty, could-explode-at-any-minute, beer-soaked shithole. Again, I didn't know what was coming. And then I saw frontman Eric Teofilak appear in corpse paint, put on his spike leather gauntlets, and climb into his coffin. Yes, his coffin. Damn, I misjudged this band.

Zorn is a hybrid of many musical styles, but outwardly the band is black metal, rife with the leather and chains imagery of macabre Satanism. As the set begin, Teofilak rested in his casket. In a bigger venue it might be carried to the stage by pallbearers, here it just sat on the floor, as an ominous omen and a source of great anticipation. Teofilak would eventually burst worth and screech his vocals. After trying to stand on the coffin but finding the ceiling too low, the coffin was moved to the side of the basement whereupon it become my job to keep it from tipping over. The band galloped around his vocals with bass, drums, and rhythm guitar moving quickly and forcefully. This was Motorhead power and chaos and D-beat more than the double bass and tremolo picking of Darkthrone. The lead guitar often joined the din (the band's amps were a lot for a basement) though occasionally melodic metal leads cut through. And he wasn't afraid to use that whammy bar.

The dancers went feral for the band — less peacocking and more pushing, crashing, and stumbling as the mounds of bodies moved back and forth. I can't be sure, but I believe I saw a guy walking on his hands in the pit. I wouldn't be surprised if someone did that upside-down-spider-walk-on-the-stairs thing from the Exorcist too. Teofilak commanded the chaos and survived multiple incursions into the audience thinned by a late performance on a school night. As the set neared its finale, Teofilak retrieved his coffin and prepared to return to his grave. But what's this?! He's pushed someone else in?! Teofilak quickly placed lid on his victim as the audience surrounded the coffin, pounded on its lid menacingly, and doused the newly entombed in beer. Eventually Teofilak would upend the coffin, dumping the interloper, and taking his rightful place, thus ending the show.

It's amazing the sorts of things you can find in a normal-looking house on the Eastside of Kansas City on a cold Monday night. Don't ever think you've got it figured out. Don't ever think you've seen it all. And don't be afraid to go down to the basement.