Kansas City's local music scene is far from static, but it's always encouraging to catch new local acts with the potential to make some sound waves. At RecordBar Friday night, opening art-pop group Field Day Dreams put in a wild-card bid for the crowd's attentions, even if a couple of the musicians seemed better known for slinging hamburgers than blending harmonies.
"Have you met that guy?" a girl sitting next to me at the show gushed, gesturing toward keyboardist Jeffrey B. Kenkel II. "He's the best server in town."
Fortunately for the crowd, he proved just as capable on vocals and keys. Though the quartet has played together less than a year, its music has the conceptual confidence and informed collaboration of a much older group. The Field Day Dreams set at RecordBar boasted layered, well-balanced instrumentation and a surprising lyrical sophistication.
Field Day Dreams described its sound as "shoegaze" at Friday's show, but no one seems to have conveyed this to bassist Brian Clifton, who bopped around behind the band's stoic front line, clambering over amps and swinging his hips in harem pants and a gold-embroidered tunic.
That dissonance is an apt analogue for the band as a whole: What can seem at first blush like an inconsistent energy might be at the heart of its unique appeal. Genres that ought to compete for dominance negotiate a strange harmony here. A propulsive drum machine chatters under lush, loping passages rife with layered synth textures and William Laessig's controlled, ambient guitar. The band transitions seamlessly - occasionally within the same tune - between dance-ready '80s synth-pop and the more restrained, atmospheric musical textures and vocal blends of a shoegaze act.
The band's anthemic opening tune, "Never Relaxed," showed off frontwoman Paige Lockhart's airy vocals and effortless shifts between registers, setting dreamy, image-drenched lyrics and Kenkel's light, jazzy piano riffs against the slow drive of Clifton's brooding bass.
Other highlights included "Caesura," a new song that embraced a more playful guitar pattern and an upbeat synth line that wouldn't seem out of place on the MIDI soundtrack for an 8-bit video game. "Stiletto" turned the vocal reins over to Kenkel near the end of the tune, and I wondered why his firm, fluid voice hadn't been featured earlier.
For its last number, the band invited the crowd to get up and dance, which resulted in a scant handful of confused white guys shuffling self-consciously around the corners of the dance floor. Two girls got into it, twirling each other around. The meter didn't seem to matter. Everyone was having a good time.
Like any new band, Field Day Dreams has its own growing pains: vocals that occasionally skewed flat during Friday's show, a stage presence that seemed at times scattered and self-conscious. Still, these are minor quibbles for a young band. Chalk the last one up to the unaffected air of a group that hasn't yet realized what a good thing it has going.