Secret Cities is a sweeping, colorful electronic act made up of two North Dakota kids, Charlie Gokey and Marie Parker, and KC's own Alexander Abnos. So far, the band has scored accolades from Paste, Nylon, Pitchfork, Tiny Mixtapes and Filter -- and the band kicked off its nationwide tour in Kansas City last night.
I landed in RecordBar's doorway just as Continents were taking the stage. I'd never heard the local trio before; frankly, the band didn't really impress until I'd settled in, scored a beer, and started to stare wistfully at the clock.
To be fair, Continents play the type of rock and roll that worms its way into a listener's brain slowly. At first, it seems unremarkable: sludgy, hazy, '60s-influenced rock and roll. No big deal, right? Then you notice the pounding, propulsive drums that beat crisp angles and lines into the band's sound. Neat. After zeroing in on the band's idiosyncrasies -- a warbling voice, thumping bass lines -- it occurs to you that you might want to see this band again. Or maybe a third time. It's an odd sensation that's rare with many local bands: Continents' pulsing, thudding drive is like repeating a word so many times that it becomes profound. (Bonus points: They had two of those really rad Orange amps that look cool as hell.)
After painstakingly tuning for 15 minutes (or maybe it was half an hour, I don't know; I felt like a dog who's owner left and who's unable to discern the passage of time), Secret Cities launched into its set. Of course, the sound was pristine and much warmer than the last time the band appeared at RecordBar. (Blame a few new members, maybe? A bassist and a drummer -- who played entirely in the dark -- were fresh faces in the band's lineup.) Secret Cities' self-admitted Beach Boys influence threw its weight around in the band's delicate, psychedelic textures. Unexpectedly, so did a hint of Grizzly Bear, augmented by Gokey's buttery alto that nearly approached falsetto.
Electronic bands are plagued by the dissonance between studio work and the bare expanse of the stage. But given that the band's sound is clearly difficult to replicate live, Secret Cities killed it. Two drum sets provided raw, propulsive power that kept the band's amoebalike melodies from losing shape. I'm duly impressed. I'm sure that the other 20 people in the bar were, too. Where were you, KC?