In Kansas City, Sister Mary Rotten Crotch, whose "up yours" intentions are as evident in its inspired, anthemic punk songs as in its name, offers such flashes of brilliance. Likewise, Big Jeter's performances are a middle-finger-in-your-face three-ring country circus, and the band's stage-storming antics at the Klammies proved that this attitude extends beyond the stage show. More and more, Be/Non epitomizes this take-no-prisoners (unless they're young and attractive) approach. The trio's old label (Turnbuckle) describes the band's sound as "tornado-twisted, bug-powered, Kansas-backward, redneck, psychedelic punk rock." I say it's that place where a classic-rock-lovin' Captain Beefheart meets an acid-addled King Crimson.
As was the case with both of those ensembles of musical mavericks and misfits, Be/Non's rock gospel includes its share of self-indulgent lunacy, a trait the group touts with pride, especially onstage. "I'm not going to talk shit on anybody," clarifies Be/Non founder Brodie Rush, clearly fighting the urge to get specific on local bands, "but you're not going to see another band play a show in drag like we did at The Bottleneck."
For that matter, many groups would decline to perform as preachers or do a set of their original songs karaoke style, which Rush has done a time or two when drummer Ryan Johnson and bassist John Huff couldn't make it to the party. But the reason many bands would give for not dabbling in those stage shenanigans is a good one: That's performance art, not rock. Rush disagrees, sort of.
"It's more theatrics than it is performance art," says Rush, "and a lot of people -- indie-fuckin'-rockers like myself -- have a hard time with the idea of theatrics. Or they don't have the energy or the time. Or they think it's stupid. All that's cool, but doing this sort of stage show is just my thing." Fortunately for Rush, other people sort of dig his thing; otherwise there would be no stage for Be/Non's theatrics, no audience for the band's craft. That's the potential downside to Rush's chosen profession: If other people don't like it, it doesn't matter what you like. In short, if it doesn't connect with the people, then your grandiose artistic vision is worth shit.
Rush learned this lesson long ago, and it has helped him to develop the manic and constantly morphing stage presence Be/Non now possesses. He took a few tips from some very big names as a youngster, when his mother was a concert caterer. "From Celine Dion to David Bowie to the Rolling Stones, I've stood next to 'em all," Rush says shyly. And even though he's not a name-dropper, "It's still sort of cool to see Keith Richards in a hall full of really good pot smoke and have him say hi to you." Indeed. But Rush's artistic epiphany came only a little more than a year ago while he performed a solo set at one of the Replay Lounge's many Megalomania nights.
"I thought it was really sappy and boring, and I thought I'd really want to shoot me if I saw me that night," says Rush, who turned such suicidal thoughts into the more constructive endeavor of coming up with a live show that's as fascinating as it is entertaining. "After that, I decided I would record everything and sing to the tape; karaoke, but I wrote it all. That allows me to do things like perform as a preacher, which I did, and half the people there hated me and the other half thought it was great." That's pretty much exactly the reaction he wanted: anything to get a rise out of the zombies waiting for the headliners.
Now Be/Non is as known for its live shows as it is for any of the recorded material it has released (which is a good thing because it hasn't released an album since 1998). This has endeared Rush and his mates to followers of local music around the area, but Rush is starting to feel the pinch from some of his peers. "Ever since the show I did in drag, none of the other people in those bands have said a word to me, and we weren't jerky either. But everyone's learning, and this is going to sound cocky -- fuck yeah, it's cocky -- but people are starting to realize that they can't follow Be/Non; there's no possible way to do it. But that's the way I want it to be, so maybe that band that's playing after us will stop doing the same old bullshit and do something crazy. Give it their all, you know?
"Everyone acts like they think there's going to be some A&R guy from Geffen there, and they're trying to play some stale old shit," Rush continues. "No one's trying to stretch it. I don't want anyone to get hurt or pull a G.G. Allin or some shit, but they should try something new. We do that more than most other bands, and so no one wants to follow us. Either it's 'cause we stink up the place, which is probably the case, or they don't know what to do. It's good to have an ego around here, though, you know? It needs to be known that we're very willing to give props to the people who deserve it, but there are a lot of bands out there that leave a lot to be desired, and I'm not saying I fulfill that whatsoever, but I fulfill it for me."