Kansas City quirk made a strong showing at the recordBar last night.
The night began with Tut Tut, Alex Abnos' solo project. Katlyn Conroy and the Wild and Wooly filled the bar with a set of warm, warbling lullabies, and the night finished off with a torrential downpour of chaotic pop band Secret Cities (Abnos plays drums for the band).
Abnos played with the crowd, bantering freely, soliciting harmonies and fetching a chair in the middle of his set. "Can I get some reverb?" He asked the sound guy. "I have reverb envy." His delightfully stark songs were mostly Abnos toying with his ukulele, but his deep, Zach Condon-like vocals and funny flourishes enriched his set with a memorable charm. (It also helps that Abnos does more with a uke and an empty stage than most people have the balls to attempt, coaxing sounds that range from banjo to percussion out of the toy-sized instrument.)Katlyn Conroy and the Wild and Wooly's Saddle Creek-influenced folk isn't shy about its strongest asset. In short: Gawd almighty, Katlyn Conroy's pipes pack a punch. Conroy's caterwauling, ramshackle band -- including the Wild and Wooly's signature trombone and violin -- provided the perfect chaotic element to complement Conroy's rich, heady vocals. (A highlight: "Drapes," a song hauntingly rendered by Conroy and her violinist, showed a stripped, frank emotion that was nothing short of heart-wrenching.)
Spanish rthyhms, flailing noise and crystalline, Enya-like vocals all made brief cameos in Secret Cities' set, which was tethered by whistling and wavering melodies. It helped that Abnos muscled outrageous amounts of sound out of his drum set that grounded the band and propelled it to transcendent heights. What's weird is how the physical image of the band jives with its saturated, mature sound. Secret Cities' MJ Parker and Charlie Gokey met at band camp, and, dude, it shows. (At one point, Gokey took a break from his thrumming guitar playing to flash devil horns in the air during some tribal drum thumping. Why?) Without the dorky visuals, though, the band is a treat to see live: Gokey and Parker's meditative attention to detail pays off in Secret Cities' rich, arresting live sound.