It took the worst cab of my life (to date) to get to Sonic Spectrum's Anniversary Party at Record Bar in Kansas City on Saturday night. I'm a big fan of the dashing Robert Moore's Sonic Spectrum podcast, and I was excited to check out all four bands on the bill so I braved through a cab ride that went a little something like this:
I was only in the cab for thirty seconds before the driver told me that he thinks he needs Adderall to drive better (Um, no dude, I think you need driving lessons to drive better). He swerved to miss hitting a sedan as he pointed out that there are too many cars on the road and that the oil we use comes from dinosaurs. Next, he ran a red light while trying to convince me that Hannah Montana is a really good television show. While taking a wrong turn he told me that I need Adderall. I told him that was a quick observation since I'd been in his cab for less than two minutes and had only said five sentences. He goes on (and on and on) about Adderall, and how he really thinks we all need to be on it. I told him that if he really thinks he needs Adderall that badly, he might as well take cocaine since it's also a stimulant and it doesn't require a prescription. I should have known better than to mouth off because it got him really worked up and I was then subject to him going on (and on and on) about his former addiction to cocaine and swerving again while swearing on his mother's grave that cocaine and Adderall aren't the same thing. I shouted, "YES, THEY ARE DUDE!" threw my money at him, and jumped out of the cab. As I walked into Record Bar I concluded that it might be better to risk getting mugged at night than to continue to ride in Kansas City cabs.
I made my way inside right as Ghosty was taking the stage. Ghosty makes pretty indie music that reminds me of summers at the beach with Beulah or The No Twists coming out of my headphones. The band has the pretty indie music formula down, while throwing in a touch of Midwestern Americana and a rock jam in here or there. The entire band was on it throughout their entire set. I've been listening to their new album Answers over the past week, and it was great to see the album translated into a live setting. I can't think of one bad thing to say about their new album or their performance on Saturday night. If you're into pretty indie music, check out this band.
Ad Astra Per Aspera ("To the stars through difficulties" - the Kansas state motto) is a five-piece from Lawrence that played after Ghosty and kicked some serious ass. They have a noisy art rock vibe that's punctuated by psychedelic keys, a bass player who makes the gravy and uses his pedals wisely, and an assortment of instruments (glockenspiel, shakers, cowbell, etc.). Instead of focusing on being arty, the band focuses on melodies and capturing the right sound for each song. During their set the band's lead guitarist and singer asked the sound person to "Give me some cannons" and then later said he needed "some set back, some delay, like Elvis Presley but more than Elvis Presley." The band had another performance later that night, but they still offered the crowd a long set that included two new songs and a guest performance by Henry, a friend who had just moved to Kansas City from Nashville and delighted the crowd with a song about bears. As Henry sang, "Ah bears / They're just like giant dogs / But they will kill you / Oh my God," I couldn't help but think of the exotic animal trainer who was just killed by a bear. I don't get why it made such a splash in the news. A wild animal attacked and killed someone after being denied a natural life and forced to perform tricks? Shocking! It's like what Chris Rock said after a tiger attacked Roy Horn- "That tiger ain't go crazy; that tiger went tiger!"
After Henry's guest number, Ad Astra Per Aspera ended their set with "Rrrrip It Up," a new song that has five distinct changes in it and the power to melt some faces. I was excited to see what would follow their great set, so I moved forward as the band left to go to their second gig of the night and Clue to Kalo, an Australian band, took the stage._The first thing I noticed about the stage setting for Clue to Kalo was a stand on stage right with papers on it. Was it sheet music? The band quickly explained that the girl who normally sings on quite a few songs has problems with her tonsils and wouldn't be able to sing (she did play keys though). The papers on the stand were lyrics that one of the guys planned on referencing so he could fill in for her. Uh-oh. This was their last show on the tour and they wanted going to go ahead and perform and fill in as best as they could. Unfortunately, their best wasn't good enough for quite a few people and me at the show. It also didn't seem good enough for the female singer who was unable to sing. She kept giving the boys funny looks that seemed to say, "Did you really just do that?" The band did their best to overcome a bad situation, but the end result wasn't a great, spontaneous performance. It was off, awkward, and hard on the ears for the most part.
By the time Owen (aka Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) took the stage the crowd was small. The indie kids, the older people, and the people sporting afros or dreads had all the building. Remaining were the people who were very dedicated, very drunk and unable to move, or there to see a man who spouts witty line after witty line over innocent sounding beats and keys. As my friend Matty said while standing next to me, and watching Owen's set; "I like it because it's bittersweet, but you can't tell the bitter from the sweet."
His cover of Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" was spot on. "Nashville Parthenon" was very well delivered. The only thing I found disappointing about his set is how quickly it went. All of his songs are very short, so even if he performed ten songs it would only have made it a twenty-minute set...at the most. Nonetheless, his performance was lovely and he was amusing in his dry banter in-between songs. Before playing "Old Panda Song" he said, "This isn't a song about cocaine. Cocaine is for assholes." Did you hear that Mr. Cab Driver? You're an asshole.