Three bands made up the bill last Friday night: Kansas City's Olympic Size and American Catastrophe bookended the fashionable Finnish-French folk duo Mi and L'au (whom Record Bar booker and Olympic Size singer and guitarist Billy Smith had brought to the Pistol because he was afraid that the crowd at his noisy home-base venue would drown them out).
Most private loft shows, and many the Pistol has hosted, are underground punk shows attended by plumaged hipsters. But the crowd on January 27 was older and more mainstream, spread out in the vast, dark space between the front door and the warmly lit stage area.
Olympic Size began with a wash of keyboards and guitar. Smith and singer Kirsten Paludan executed full-throated, pitch-perfect harmonies in passionate, weighty, fluent songs that built to gasping choruses. It was music you could close your eyes to. Olympic Size may be one of the least-known bands in town, but that night's show proved it to be one of the best.
As the stage was cleared for Mi and L'au, people began to sit on the floor in front. During the elegant foreigners' intensely quiet, acoustic set, a strange, metallic bird song began quivering in the air. Seated behind a PA stack was the hostess herself, Laura Frank, cradling a handsaw handle between her knees, bending its weathered blade and tapping it lightly with a bow. It was bizarrely sexy, like the snake woman at a carnival sideshow.
Beautiful as it was, the second performance seemed to sap much of the crowd's energy either that or they had drunk all the booze they'd brought so American Catastrophe played to a depleted audience. Nonetheless, AmCat took advantage of the staggeringly good sound (provided by Nic Aldrich) to brandish its baleful blades.
"Cheers to the Pistol. Revive the Bottoms!" singer Shaun Hamontree said between songs.
I always feel a soreness when I leave the Bottoms. I couldn't live there, any more than a kid could live in Disneyland. To me, it's a beautiful, abandoned subterranean city populated by heavy machinery, hobos and some of the city's most creative souls. The Pistol is another hot flash on the landscape. Bottoms Up The Pistol Social Club points to a thriving underground scene.