Center of the City
Vandals, Kansas City
Saturday, April 5
Center of the City started as a response to Middle of the Map's excluding bands of a ... shall we say, "angry" nature. Despite past acts like Fucked Up and Coalesce, Middle of the Map tends to eschew punk acts. However, what was once a middle finger to Middle of the Map has now become a full-fledged attraction in and of itself. This weekend featured more than 30 of Kansas City and Lawrence's finest purveyors of punk, rock and hardcore, and if Saturday was any indication of the other two nights, then this fest might need to expand next year, because Vandals was fairly bursting at the seams. Had it been warmer, this would have quickly gotten uncomfortable.
Audience members knew one another, and it's tempting to say that at least half the crowd for any particular set was made up of performers from other acts. Still, it created an enthusiastic, inclusive atmosphere. Every right hand held a beer, and sing-alongs were almost a given during every set.
By the time I wandered into Vandals Saturday night, Deco Auto was a few songs into their set, and I'd been drinking for a couple of hours. Their rock and roll was a soothing change from the indie I'd been perusing as part of an unexpected excursion into Middle of the Map. They were scrapping songs from their set in an effort to fit into the half-hour set they'd been allotted and to make sure the next band was able to start on time. This was something you'd see time and time again as the evening went on: Each and every band wanted to make certain the act following them had their full set, and that everyone inside went out back to see them and vice versa.
It's been awhile since I last saw Dead Ven, but this was the first time I'd seen them play electric. No accordion, either, as Ethan was on call as a father. It's evidently something the band does consciously, as explained when I spoke with frontman Ven. It seems that the band tries to play differently - in this case, electric - when certain band members can't make it to play their standard folk-punk set. The sound was pure street punk: an ode to Boulevard Brewing (It's in our hands
/It's in our heart
), like a less political, more drunk Against Me! Maybe the ever-popular Swingin' Utters. They had some issues with the vocal mic cutting in and out but persevered.
Back inside, the Itch had a surfy, Minutemen vibe going on, with their standing drummer hollering out lyrics like D. Boone. It was entertaining beyond belief, even if I'd never heard any of their music before. It was hypnotic, the way they'd lock into a groove and follow it to its illogical conclusion.
Donner Diaries was the first band to cope with the dropping temperatures and increasing wind outside, but managed to play an energetic set of rough-hewn pop punk nonetheless. Their sound is catchy and rocks that whole orgcore vibe relentlessly (gruff vocals, melodic chord structures, unafraid of choruses). The band's performance was enthusiastic, despite the increasingly uncomfortable weather.
Inside, Scene of Irony was straight-ahead punk rock. It's pretty unaffected, basic shit. It's not bad, with a good, grinding guitar base, but nothing that really grabbed attention. After a few songs, it started to get plodding, with everything seemingly based around a basic riff that got same-y after a few songs. A cover of Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" livened things up a bit but still hit the same thudding monotony.