"Let's hear it for Davey's Uptown," said Rex Hobart, to a rowdy crowd raising plastic cups of whiskey toward the stage of the midtown dive bar. "What the hell are you guys doing here?"
It was a good question. Despite the fact that Davey's showroom is a bit of a cave, a brief glance at the crowd made it clear that it was difficult to think of another opportunity for this assortment of people to be in one bar. A grizzled guy and his wife clapped and swing-danced near an amp; a bespectacled hipster couple in plaid traded whispered jokes; a dude in an embroidered cowboy hat clinked glasses with a guy in a button-up shirt and a fleece vest. But that's the power of the Hearts of Darkness and Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, who teamed up for one night of powerhouse live local music in Kansas City on Saturday night.
Rex Hobart and his band kicked off the night around 10:30 with a set of dusty country that was so tight, it hummed: I'm a honky-tonk nighttime man / I can't stand no light. (The set would also include a country-fried cover of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn.")
The band's lead guitarist was responsible for a lot of the twangy, shit-kicking attitude in the band's set, and he was the least cowboy-looking dude onstage. Awesome.
The clearly Midwestern crowd had a big, gooey soft spot for the band's brand of country music: a 6-1/2-foot guy in a cowboy hat nodded his head enthusiastically with the slide guitar lines, balancing a can of PBR in his whiskey shot. (Little did I know that he'd later take the stage with Hearts of Darkness. In fact, two of the men donning cowboy hats in the crowd were later packed on the stage with the Afrobeat collective.)
Members of the Hearts of Darkness crowded onstage at 12:30 a.m. The Hearts of Darkness' lighthearted clap-along beats and call-and-response vocals had the hypnotic type of appeal that could suck a listener in for hours -- even those with the shortest attention spans.
It was the perfect jazzy, spazzy mix to usher in the wee hours of the morning. The Hearts of Darkness' feel-good vibes accompanied many (many, many) a listener into the hazy fringes of drunkenness with a smile, a slopped beer and a grooving, head-nodding rhythm.
Critics' Bias: I go to a lot of shows -- a lot of crowded, dirty, smoky shows. But the elbow-to-elbow shoving, breathing and grooving had me seriously claustrophobic in Davey's small space. Very rarely do I think about fire hazards -- I know, it's lame -- but this was one of those moments.
Overheard in the Crowd: Does other peoples' breathing on your arms, neck and face count as overhearing something?