"Smoked meat is the shit," came the reply behind me. It was an unsolicited but truthful response to frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom's proclamation, from the stage, that her band, the Heartless Bastards, "had some barbecue today." She added that it was nice to be back in Kansas City, and that was it for chitchat as the Bastards let loose with "Out at Sea," from their latest album, The Mountain.
I can appreciate a hot chick like Wennerstrom working herself into a rock-and-roll frenzy so fast and hard, she's dripping with sweat halfway through the first song of the first set. Saturday night's crowd at RecordBar was so intense, it could have been featured as a segment on A&E's Hoarders. People were toe-to-toe between the stage and the bar. Once Heartless Bastards took the stage, there was no chance at getting a drink or moving anywhere except up and down in dance formation.
Sons of Great Dane and Bleach Bloodz, two local bands, warmed up for the Heartless Bastards. All beards and blond hair, Sons of Great Dane played a quick, dirty set of enjoyable rockabilly.
Bleach Bloodz' lead singer, Troy, came decked out in Williamsburg (circa 2005) gear: a Michael Jordan jersey hiding under a black leather coat (it had to be at least 85 degrees up in that bitch), white long johns and oversized plastic sunglasses. He apologized to the crowd: "We are going to play something far less musically superior than Sons of Great Dane. It's called rock and roll." I really wanted to punch the shit out of this guy when I saw him zipping around the bar, before it became overrun with Bastards fans. Much to my dismay, however, his band played incredibly, like a muddy mixture of early Rolling Stones and post-drugs Beach Boys surfer music. Sans huge plastic sunglasses, I'd pay to see these guys again.
While waiting for Heartless Bastards, the people behind me, Justin and Amy, were meeting for the first time and discussing their overwhelming love for the headliners. The conversation soon turned to Justin cautioning Amy: "I give a LOT of high-fives." They also compared war stories of growing up poor and both needing expensive surgeries to correct crossed eyes. When Heartless Bastards opened with "Valley," both Justin and Amy slammed me from behind, crushing my pelvis into the stage. (I am very short, practically a clinical dwarf. For real.). All I can say is, I hope it was worth it, you guys. And I forgive you.
Those Heartless Bastards pounded out the tunes and made the whole place surge with almost overwhelming energy, not reserved exclusively for Justin and Amy. Wennerstrom fed off the crowd, got more comfortable onstage and started jumping and thrashing about. She never let her small stature interfere with the enormous vocals she produces. My guess is Wennerstrom's vocal cords were hand-crafted by the less popular, nameless angels of the Bible, perhaps the ones who smoke unfiltered Lucky Strikes and drink Wild Turkey straight from the bottle.