There is no better downtown location in which to see a powerpop/rock show than The Brick. With the exception of the dive bar bathrooms, the venue is one of my favorite places to not only see a reasonably priced show but to eat a good meal with cheap drink specials to boot. I am lucky enough to both work and live within blocks of The Brick, and try my damnedest to patronize the location on at least a monthly basis. Although they are not operating within a very large space, I’ve noticed their sound is always exactly as it should be and have rarely encountered a night when I am unable to hear one of the musicians on stage. This past weekend, I attended live shows at the venue two nights in a row, a first for me at any venue in KC since I was a teenager and had the extra money to hang out at all-ages places such as the El Torreon a few nights a week during the summer. My double night attendance was nearly pushed into a triple night, but alas, I missed the tour kick-off of The ACB’s with headliner Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin the night before.
The night was kicked off at around 10:30 with opener Deco Auto, a powerpop trio who only made their debut as a performing band back in April. I would have been in attendance had it not interfered with my previously scheduled plans to be in Westport for the Middle of the Map Festival. The band played a seemingly short set that turned out to be half an hour and consisted of ten songs with only a few moments between having any kind of banter from guitarist/vocalist Steven Garcia, who later explained to the crowd that he is usually much more friendly. Few and far between were the people who watched the band play without talking to their nearby friends, and the set was only viewed by a sparse two dozen people.
It is easy to judge a young band still trying to get their footing within the music scene, even if the members are veterans of live music themselves. Deco Auto, young and fresh as the entity itself is, really don’t have far to go before they can book time in a studio and get some of the songs I heard recorded to tape. The rough edges seem to still be an ongoing process, but the combination of Garcia’s strong voice for melodic punk-influenced rock and bassist Tracy Flowers supplying an additional level of melody with her vocals, creates a kind of catchy, late ’90s pop-punk/powerpop sound that is best with rough edges intact. The rhythmic backbone from drummer Michelle O’Brien completes the trifecta of Deco Auto, her stripped down playing style taking cues from the earliest days of pop music from seminal acts like The Yardbirds and The Dave Clark Five.
The next to take the stage was another new band called The Chaotic Goods, five guys who hail from Manhattan, KS, and most of which have been active in music for nearly two decades. I was particularly looking forward to seeing this band due to the inclusion of guitarist Marty Robertson, known for his work in Frogpond, Abileen, Onward Crispin Glover and the embarrassingly unspoken of El Fontain. The band began their set strong, touching on a Danger Bob-esque approach to quirky nerd rock/powerpop, vocalist Ralph Reichert at one point exclaiming simply “we write songs about girls,” among other quips between he and a few of the more talkative members of the audience. As the band progressed, there were more and more hit-or-miss songs, some that were an outright throwback to grunge in the worst way, and some that could have been considered for inclusion on an iconic Kansas City Misery type compilation, had the band existed more than 15 years ago when the original was released.
The longer the band played, the more restless the crowd was becoming and the more their talking amongst themselves was increasing. Let it be noted, that had the band played half as long as they actually did, and cut out an equal amount of their set list, they would have been overall well-received by not only myself but the majority of those in attendance that had grown tired of some of the very repetitive songs being played. When they left the stage, I was left a little bitter that they could have been so much better had they not tried to cover so much musical ground in an hour. The vocal harmonization among Reichert, Robertson, and guitarist Ray Kristek was generally in tune and certain songs would have severely suffered had they lacked it, and I was amused with Robertson and bassist Chad Myers frequently trading instruments between songs, but I think the band was just on the wrong lineup on the wrong night.
If there is any band in the metro area that doesn’t get the respect and attention they deserve, it’s chronic room-clearers The Dead Girls. Blame it on their name (someone once told me they expected them to be a metal band) or the fact that, if headlining, they don’t begin playing until some bars and venues are having last call. Blame it on the cringe-worthy banter between guitarists/vocalists Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom, but nobody can say the quartet aren’t all equally talented musicians who put on one hell of a rock show. One could only speculate why the ‘former members of’ hype doesn’t catch up to the powerpop group composed of 2/3 of Ultimate Fakebook and 1/2 of Podstar, but they still manage to play to a small but dedicated built-in audience multiple times a month between Kansas City and their home of Lawrence, KS.
Sitting at a table prior to their performance, and with a cup of hot tea at his side, Hawk explained that he was losing his voice and so their set list that night would largely consist of songs written by Longbottom, Hawk performing the necessary back-up vocals. He seemed rather unfazed upon taking the stage, playing just as hard as he would have otherwise. The band barreled through a set with songs that spanned their discography to date, including the crowd pleaser “You Ignited,” from the 2010 vinyl-only full length Out of Earshot. The band has been gradually unveiling new songs in their recent performances, preparing for the release of a 7″ EP coming out on the same label that released their last effort, as well as the vinyl issue of Ultimate Fakebook’s Electric Kissing Parties. The EP is scheduled for release later in 2011 on Rocketheart Records.