"A lot of those guys were stuck in the '80s," Smith says. "And we were trying to decide whether we would have a singer who didn't write songs, who would basically be a robot up there. We almost broke up -- we were at a total loss. And then Kevin fell in our lap."
That would be Kevin Kos, former frontman of hard-rockin' local favorites Strychnine. After Kos told Moaning Lisa frontman/United Entertainment guru David George that he was looking for work, George served as matchmaker. It was a marriage of convenience, but it soon sparked a flurry of productivity.
"We've been together three weeks, and Kevin and I have already written seven songs," Smith says. Although Smith is a keyboardist by trade, he writes songs on the acoustic guitar, and Kos, who also plays guitar, concocts accompanying vocal melodies.
Adding Kos to the group has also helped Spinning Grin simplify its back catalog, which covers a sprawling array of musical styles. Its first release was an eclectic 12-song effort that Smith says tackled nearly every imaginable genre "just to see if we could do it," while the follow-up was a solid four-song demo produced by the Rainmakers' Steve Phillips. After Kos came on board, the group started dropping old material to make way for the new, and finally only eight pre-Kos numbers remained as setlist candidates.
Spinning Grin will publicly unveil its new-look lineup at Spirit Fest on Friday, September 1, at 6 p.m., as the group will open the local-stage festivities. It's a deadline Smith wasn't sure the band could meet, but now he's confident that three weeks of 12-hour Sun- day mara-thon practices have paid off. "It took us awhile to get on the same wavelength musically, and at first we came out torn in different directions," he recalls. "Now we're focused. If we play as well as we do at practice, we're gonna kick ass."
Should said ass-kicking occur, Spinning Grin, which hasn't played a gig in months as a result of its search for a singer, might soon be showing up regularly at area clubs. "We've finally gotten to that stage where we might actually be able to take this somewhere," Smith notes optimistically.
The SuperNauts, Kansas City's latest teen sensations, have already had a banner year, beating out 120 bands to win the regional "Battle of the Bands" contest at the Flamingo Casino and playing a 45-minute set at Sandstone Amphitheatre prior to the formidable triple bill of Styx, R.E.O. Speedwagon, and Eddie Money. Thursday, August 31, will be yet another red-letter day for the group, which hosts a CD-release party for its debut effort, Orange Moon, at the Grand Emporium. This 12-song album captures the band's classic-rock-inspired sound nicely, but it only hints at the depth of its arsenal. As guitarist/vocalist Jason Smith says, "We could put out four CDs right now if we wanted to." The SuperNauts boast 65 originals from which to draw, as well as 75 finely honed covers.
Although releasing a CD is certainly ample reason for celebration, Thursday night's concert holds special importance for the band. After the first 100 people pay only 99.7 cents (part of a promotion for this KYYS 99.7 -sponsored show, and, yes, they do round up to $1, so no reason to use heavy machinery to cut pennies into fractions), the $5 cover charge goes to United Cerebral Palsy. A dollar from every CD sold also goes to this organization, which is of special importance to the group since drummer Kenny Wood Squires was born with cerebral palsy.