With the game muted on my own television, I drift from couch to computer to kitchen, sweeping the floor and thinking about whether I love or hate the Midwest. A triumphant yell upstairs attracts my attention to the game; a Chief has just intercepted a pass, and the neighbors are hooting and stomping.
During my couple of years here, the two strongest forms of KC pride I've encountered are (1) for the Chiefs and (2) for barbecue. Coming in perhaps not at third, fourth or even fifth, is our city's pride in its music scene, going back to the 18th & Vine days all the way up to the Season to Risk-ruled turn of the millennium. (That band, by the way, put on a reunion show over Halloween weekend so awesome it scared away the angels who circle the Rev. Jerry Johnston in his sleep.)
I wonder whether the neighbors upstairs are into local music. Many musicians I've met in town are Chiefs fans. In any case, I fight the urge to take out the CD I'm playing over the game and carry it upstairs (along with the CD I listened to during the first half), knock on their door and say something like, "Hi, I'm the guy downstairs. I hate to interrupt your party, but do you realize that if you were in the hospital, not one of the Chiefs would come visit you unless (a) you were under 13 years old, (b) had leukemia and (c) a professional photographer and camera crew were there, too?"
I would then hand them the CDs, Room #4 by Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers and Surer Days by Danny Pound. "Here," I'd say. "Take these albums these guys won't ever let you down."
The Chiefs end up winning, however, in a last-minute comeback led by Larry "I Fucked Your Bitch" Johnson, and the guys upstairs scream and pound the floor.
I don't bother going upstairs to find out whether the apartment is an appropriate place to rave about Lawrence singer-songwriters. That's partly because this is the place, right here.
The Thursday before the Raiders game, both Pound and Dodge played a gig at the Record Bar.
Many area musicians were there that night, and they unleashed laudatory memories of Pound's previous bands, Vitreous Humor and the Regrets.
One went so far as to sing.
How many chances does a grocery-baggin' guitar player get? wailed Adam Stotts, leader of the Lucky Graves and a sideman in Be/Non and a shitload of other bands, quoting an autobiographical Regrets song.
The band ruled, Stotts added. "They could've been fuckin' great."
Similar praise came from the Moment Band's Andy Graham, who remembered when he was living in Portland, Oregon, in the late '90s and his friends would send him recordings of Pound's experimental basement projects. "It was like getting a new Radiohead album in the mail," Graham said.
Unlike Dodge, who was born to shovel the country-rock coal, Pound started in the '90s as a wild-ass rocker whose first outfit (the one named after eyeball juice) came within a guitar string's width of making it big. He and his bandmates talked to major labels, impressed young Conor Oberst and his Saddle Creek homies and lived an almost-Almost Famous life. But it was all over by '96. Then came the dance-punkin' Regrets, who made it through only one album.
Now Pound has borrowed Dodge's own backers, the Horsefeathers who are so good, they would've edged out the Hawks as Bob Dylan's backup band in '65 and recorded a magnificent, rootsy album, stepping up as Dodge's sole labelmate on Lawrence-based Remedy Records.
The show began 45 minutes late because of one of those interminable and inexplicably popular trivia games, but the Danny Pound Band turned back the clock to sunset, introducing a disappointingly small crowd to his own Lou Reed voice and Townes Van Zandt brokenness, along with Jeremy Sidener's effortlessly melodic bass lines and harmony vocals, David Swenson's ragged Telecaster and soulful keys, and Ken Pingleton's subtle drums.
These guys should not have been playing to a half-empty bar in Kansas City; they should've been playing to a sold-out crowd in Austin, Texas (where Pound briefly contemplated moving).
The same was true when Dodge took the stage, bringing along lead guitarist Matt Mozier, who let Swenson pound the ivories full-time. On Room #4 and whenever he's with his band, Dodge takes on an outlaw-country-meets-R&B-singer identity, with his 1970s-vintage beard, dark glasses, funky shirts and big oak-tree voice. He can also turn right around, sit at a piano, cop some serious vulnerability and turn into an alt-country Randy Newman. But with the Horsefeathers, Dodge is big enough to fill Waylon's hat, and when he sings, My brother, he's in prison/My girlfriend, she's in pain/My wife, she wants a child/A boy that she can name, Dodge's dark humor distinguishes him from dorky-ass, old, white roots rockers who sing about Memphis women they'll never get and driving in Cadillacs they'll never own. Fuck that Arthur drives a cab in Kansas.
But for all that talent and class, Pound and Dodge will probably never make it big. They just don't seem interested in touring like madmen and putting up with music-industry fickleness.
Dodge has taken a sabbatical from cab driving for the past six months to head out on short solo tours around the area, but he's clearly way more into writing songs than selling out shows.
Similarly, Pound said, "I'll just stay at home, write new tunes, record, play a few shows and develop a supportive fanbase."
Meanwhile, back at the apartment, the game's over, and I'm waiting for the crowd upstairs to disperse. Soon, triumphant Chiefs fans will be clomping down the central stairs of our old building. My speakers face the doorway, so I turn the music up a little louder.