Space constraints in this week's issue prevented the Wayward Son from going into much detail about all that Robert Moore is doing for KC music, so here's my chance to say what didn't make the old-school newsprint edition. Though he regularly does live in-studio sessions with area bands on his radio show, Sonic Spectrum, Moore's week-to-week playlists contain only a minority of local spins, which could lead one to believe that he doesn't really have his ear to the ground as far as the scene goes.
Born and raised in LA (the dude went to Hollywood High), Robert used to work in the industry, doing promotions for IRS Records and A&R at Virgin before getting out — because we all know what those folks is — and moving to Kansas City. He's still got hella connections, though, and he's using those to try and help some of his favorite bands get in through the transom at labels where he knows people. Lately, he's been trying to help Ad Astra Per Aspera, the Roman Numerals, American Catastrophe and namelessnumberheadman each get a leg up. He feels that there are definitely more bands in town worthy of a record deal, but not all of them have shown him their tits yet. (Kidding.)
Seriously, though, the guy's got over 200 regional acts signed up as friends on his Myspace page -- keep in mind, however, that he says yes to any local group that requests him as a friend, so not all bear his personal stamp of approval. One band that does, though, is definitely namelessnum...aw hell...NNHM, which is the band that recorded the instrumental "Sonic Spectrum Theme" that kicks off the second hour of Robert's show each Saturday. That band also played the first show of the new Sonic Spectrum Presents series at the Record Bar on March 1.
It seemed like NNHM had been in hiding. Its last show was in November of '05, one of only 16 shows it played the entire year. The trio did, however, stock up its site with mp3s, including an entire EP of cover songs, two of them by Doris Henson and Minus Story.
When I got to the Record Bar that Wednesday night, NNHM was unloading its equipment onto the sidewalk. Inside, the club's long-ago-booked touring performer Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor and Carly Simon) was still goin' to Carolina in his mind, so I hung outside with 'headman. The band's three members — Andrew Sallee, Chuck Whittington and Jason Lewis — are rare birds. Exuding politeness every time I meet them, these innocent-seeming nerds look like they could be in a buddy movie about junior physicists who create a buxom brunette out of subatomic particles. Luckily, rather than sitting around searching for the secret Kelly LeBrock recipe, however, they devote their time to making soaring, catchy, experimental, electronics-heavy pop. The folks who'd come to see Taylor didn't seem to know that (or care), though, as they cleared out of the club after Sweet Baby Ben's last melancholy croon.
It took NNHM about 45 minutes to set up its elaborate array of keyboards, drums, pedal steel, guitars and more keyboards. By then, it was nearly midnight, and the room was sparse except for at the bar, where a dozen or so drunken oafs were blabbing loudly. Admittedly, the NNHM show had been scheduled somewhat last-minute, but I expected way more people would show up, considering how infrequently this band plays — and especially since the word was spread that the band would be playing brand-new songs. School night for the indie crowd, I guess.
They opened with a quiet number, with Andrew on acoustic and vocals, which I'd never seen before. He's usually stationed at the drums -- sometimes singing, keeping a beat and playing a keyboard all at once -- or else sitting prayerfully at the pedal steel. The song fluttered on the edge of Americana, then drowned in a keyboard wash, and Andrew went back to his drums to begin smashing out "Every Fiber," off NNHM's 2004 masterpiece Your Voice Repeating, an album which Death Cab For Cutie still can't touch.
Sadly, due to lack of a decent audience, the gig turned into a practice session for namelessnumberheadman. At a better show, the crowd would have massed at the front, begging to get blown away, and applauding even when the songs blended seamlessly into one another. But at times, applause was awkwardly withheld at the ends of songs, even as band members shifted instruments. There were only a few tables of people paying attention, plus one random guy who set up a single chair defiantly in the middle of the dance floor. I don't mean to paint a too dour picture, though — the show was definitely nothing for the R. Bar or the R. Moore to regret having booked (after all, I enjoyed it, and I'm the one who matters, right?) — because NNHM sounded great and proved that it can still write compelling songs. Somebody needs to help get this group signed.
Oh, wait — that's already covered.