Me Like Bees
Wednesday, March 23
The Riot Room
Better than: Any opener since Me Like Bees played RecordBar or, before that, since Tony Ladesich and Kasey Rausch played those gorgeous Stones duets at Crosstown Station.
It may have been 9 p.m. on a Wednesday at the Riot Room, and only a third of the crowd had shown, but Me Like Bees' frontman Luke Sheafer and bass player Asher Poindexter had mischievous grins on their faces as the band drummed and strummed its way to a tuneless opening crescendo. The Joplin band immediately launched into the hard-rocking one-two punch of "The Devil's Song" and "Good Machine" -- buoyant funk rockers with the raw edges of punk and the weight of metal. Poindexter's whole body dipped, turned and rocked with the groove, while Sheafer addressed the mic with the intensity of a man whose life depends on making everyone in the room feel the music.
By the time the band eased into the quietly building storm of "Doubt," the several dozen people in the place formed a semicircle around the stage. After "Lazarus" (a song that features a lilting, delicate vocal over a massive reggae-flavored rhythm) came a hard-hitting, jubilant cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." The Me Like Bees version is big and bold, with Sheafer growling and the band maintaining the funky lift of the song with hard, heavy swings of rhythm.
The band blasted a hole somewhere in the back of the house by the insistent swamp blues of "She," a song that more than relishes, as any good blues should do -- lines like, "My baby has a sweet left hook" with ecstatic vocal calls answered by scorching guitar. The song revolved around a swelling bridge worthy of the Who before delivering its definitive closing punch.
The end of the short set featured two of the band's finest crowd-pleasers. "Mama Don't Know" worked its way up to giddy breaks where the band cried "na na na" over hand claps. "Iconica" closed things out with the kind of hormone-charged rave that got rock-and-roll records burned in the first place.
The band's two shows a month ago, at Coda and RecordBar, worked packed houses to various states of giddy excitement. That kind of interaction with a crowd fuels any band to play its best, and those were unforgettable shows. But last night's show at the Riot Room served as a truer test of the band. With a much smaller crowd -- all but obscured, no doubt, by the glare of stage lights -- this four-piece delivered a level of energy all too rare on any night in any club in Kansas City.
Critic's Bias: This band had me at hello two shows ago.
Critic's Notebook: I love the black electrical tape across the drum set that cries out, "Free Weezy"! That's musical solidarity!
The Devil's Song
What Your Mama Don't Know