There are a lot of bands in Kansas City. This is a blessing, in that almost anyone who has a music taste that encompasses more than one sound (sorry, fans of Burzum or ABBA, your options are currently rather limited) has a veritable smorgasbord of upcoming acts to keep up with at any given time. To some, though, this can be a curse. I, for example, have an almost obsessive-compulsive need to know what is going on in this town at all times, and I pack this information away in little brain compartments that inexplicably explode at times, as seen in my most recent live show review. While it is categorically impossible to keep track of the comings and goings of every band that exists in and around in Kansas City, as some only play a handful of shows before morphing into another band, I would like to give my readers (all three of them) a somewhat frequent update of that which should be paid attention to. Thus bringing us to…
Seaway In Typhoon. A new synth-heavy, woozy jam affair from three members of what was only a year ago known as Reward Tree. Taylor Dunn is joined by Stephen Roper and Christopher Turner in a presumed natural progression of the sound RT began expanding upon before their demise. From the beginning, as Jump Rope For Heart, a fully electric, if rather traditional indie rock band, to the earliest two EPs from Reward Tree, which slowly began to incorporate some keyboards and sampling, to Making Beds, which, to be honest, I always just thought was the name of an unreleased Jump Rope album that was made public under the Reward Tree moniker. Still a little unclear about that one. In any event, the new band has posted a handful of their songs online from a yet to be released album and EP, both of which are to be expected this spring.
In my attempt to turn this page into something of a legitimate source for local music coverage, I attended two mostly local shows at The Brick over the weekend, the first of which was posted late last night. Full disclosure: I am not a photographer, so some of the shots I took over the weekend (with two different, borrowed cameras) may not necessarily be from the most flattering angles or have the most visually appealing lighting possible. What can I say, I am a caveman and your use of portable picture-taking technology both frightens and confuses me.
I arrived at The Brick shortly after 9PM on Saturday, still rubbing sleep from my eyes from a nap cut short only 15 minutes earlier. The event was advertised as having a start time of 9, so I may or may not have been driving the legal speed limit on my way down to the venue. Already there was a very sizable crowd sitting and standing about, and a revolving group of twenty-somethings coming from and going to the outside to smoke, leaving a pile of half-full PBRs and frosty pint glasses near the door on their way out.
Reward Tree took the stage at 10, and played a 20 minute set that circled around the band’s small but varied discography. They opened with a song from last year’s Needy EP, an electronic based indie-pop effort that introduced the band to the Kansas City music scene, though they had been playing shows for a short time before that. Followers of Kansas City indie rock may notice that all four of the gentlemen in Reward Tree made up the core membership of Jump Rope For Heart, a band that called it quits in late 2007, but not before touring Japan for two weeks in 2005. If you search the darkest corners of the used bins (a home away from home for myself), I’m sure you can come up with one of their CDs.
During the band’s electronic songs, guitarist/vocalist Taylor Dunn would remove his guitar and instead don a pair of cheap sunglasses while concentrating on the sampler in front of him, removing the glasses and strapping the guitar back on for the instrument-based songs. This trend continued a few times, until the band began playing songs from their latest release, 2011′s Making Beds, which includes many songs that were reworked and re-recorded from an earlier Jump Rope release. Before starting their final song, Dunn told the story of a time they thought they had been asked to play as part of a Pixies tribute show, and prepared a short set of covers only to find out that they were actually supposed to be opening for a Pixies tribute band. After this, they launched into a cover of “Debaser” that was so true to the original, all it was lacking was Kim Deal.
The second band of the evening was Conduits, a fairly new sextet with a lot of hometown hype in Omaha, NE. They opened with “Misery Train,” a slowly building minimalistic pop song that crescendos in the latter half, becoming a reverb and bass driven shoegazer opus, and a great start to a set from a band that had only played Kansas City once previously. Front woman Jenna Morrison’s vocal mix was initially too low to hear, but the problem was fixed before the second song began. It was quite easy to become enamored with Morrison’s sultry voice, at times it recalled the smoke-filled piano bars of years past. And yet between songs, the larger than life voice turned meek to give the crowd a quiet “thank you” while she sipped at a cup of hot tea, her eye contact with the audience at a minimum.
Out of the spotlight was a group of the best musicians the Omaha indie rock scene currently has to offer, from drummer Roger Lewis (of The Good Life), to guitarists Nate Mickish and J.J. Idt, and the bass of Mike Overfield that would have otherwise made the band’s sonic sound lack were it not present. Conduits ended their set with a nearly ten-minute-long driving, droning and at times deafening song that again emphasized the sheer size of Morrison’s voice resonating from the walls of The Brick in intervals, the music repeatedly surging into a culmination of distortion in the band’s climax. After they left the stage, I overheard no less than three people exclaim to their friend in excitement that the band was “fucking awesome.” Succinctly put, comrades.
Closing out the evening was Lawrence, KS, trio turned quartet Cowboy Indian Bear, who took the stage and struck the first chord of “Saline” at midnight sharp. A rush then occurred, with a few dozen people clamoring to get a better view of the group. I wish I could say that I was able to hear keyboardist Katlyn Conroy, but her voice was mostly washed out among the harmonization between C.J. Calhoun and Marty Hillard. In fact, at one point during a break to the back of the room, I mistook what I thought to be her voice with a rather impressive falsetto from Hillard. Conroy’s vocals aside, the lot could be seen exchanging glances with each other before key time changes during the newer songs, but the four have undoubtedly found their niche as a group.
Cowboy Indian Bear have played in Kansas City many times over the last two years, and proclaimed proudly from the stage that this would be their first as a headliner in the city. A notable reaction I took away from their performance was a respect for their multi-instrumentation, Calhoun frequently trading back and forth between a guitar and a keyboard within the same song, Calhoun and Hillard trading guitars and basses, and both Calhoun and Conroy playing a small set of toms placed in front of their stations, which in turn created an explosion of sound in unison with drummer Beau Bruns. Their aurally pleasing set ran for the better part of an hour, and included a number of songs from their full length debut, but the group played a few well-received tunes that have not yet been recorded. You will know as soon as I do when those are going to be released.