Metropolises are revolving doors, and this is especially true of college towns, where every May brings an exodus and every August an invasion. Right now, though, the Lawrence music scene is undergoing something of an evacuation. Two of its pillar groups, Fourth of July and Hospital Ships, are moving (to San Francisco and Austin, respectively). And a third, Rooftop Vigilantes, played its final show last week at the Replay.
The Lawrence Field Day Fest, held over three nights at the Bottleneck last weekend, reflected some of these changes. The shows had the air of scenes in transition: Some of the musicians were saying goodbye, some were moving into new life phases, and still others were emerging to fill the voids left by the departing.
All this isn't to say it wasn't great fun. Zach Campbell, the only member of Rooftop Vigilantes sticking around Lawrence, fronts a new band, Jocks, and about 20 minutes into its grimy garage-pop set on Friday, he switched out members, bringing fellow Vigilantes Oscar Guinn and Seth Wiese onstage and morphing the show into a Vigilantes performance.
"We have four more songs that the Man didn't let us play last night," Campbell said, referring to the previous evening's official farewell show at the Replay, which ran late.
Watching the three dudes bang, thrash, lose their glasses, and deliver the heady tempo changes and Rooftop screams one last time was worth the price of admission. Not every band breakup is sad, but the Vigilantes' goodbye really is a bummer — those guys have been consistently creative and entertaining, and we'll miss them.
Mike Tuley has been a fixed point in the Lawrence scene going back to his days in the Short Bus Kids and at the Pirate House, a former punk house venue at 14th Street and Tennessee, whose new paint job and absence of an anarchy flag out front are unnervingly normal. Tuley has since led Ad Astra Per Aspera, then Ad Astra Arkestra, and is now a Kansas Citian and member — with his wife, Brooke Tuley, on drums, and Anna St. Louis on bass — of the psych-punk trio Bloodbirds.
"This is the last one," Tuley told us, meaning that Bloodbirds is his last band. "We're gonna try to have a kid." We wish the Tuleys the best of luck, but it seems unlikely somehow that Tuley will hang it up musically whenever Bloodbirds disbands. He has been one of the best around for more than a dozen years. But if he's serious, then you had better get your ass to a Bloodbirds show next time you see that name on a bill.
Not just Lawrence acts filled the Field Day Fest. On Friday, KC duo Schwervon took a turn on the Bottleneck's stage, channeling Blue Album-era Weezer and Viva Voce, in addition to delivering the wittiest back-and-forth stage banter of the night. Nature Boys, who increasingly seem like the hardest-working punk band in the area (and, not coincidentally, one of the best), also repped KC. Frontman Danny Fischer shreds so fast, it sometimes looks as though his right hand contains six fingers. (Upon closer inspection: nope, just five.)
Radkey, the teenage, brotherly St. Joseph rock trio, closed out the Friday leg of the fest. They're just back from the U.K., where they were featured in a slew of British publications, including The Guardian and NME, which named Radkey its featured band of the week. (Google the article, in which the three reveal that they've agreed to a no-sex pact — not for religious reasons but because they don't want to worry about paying child support.) It has been awhile since a band from these parts has gotten that kind of national (and international!) attention, but the kids still seem pretty grounded.
"When we were in England, we visited Rough Trade," guitarist Dee Radke said from the stage, referring to the London record shop. "They said they're gonna put us [our album] on the wall, with the Ramones and shit. We're just so humbled ... we're nobodies, man."
Up front pumping his fists during damn near every performance at Field Day Fest was Cameron Joel Hawk, the Dead Girls singer-guitarist and organizer of the festival. (His other band, the hilariously named Many Moods of Dad, also played a set, and its quick technicality sometimes called to mind St. Louis' Riddle of Steel.)
"I just like this scene," Hawk said, shrugging. "What are you gonna do?"