This year was the first Pitch Music Showcase where food trucks were part of the festivities, and when I arrived early Saturday evening, I went directly to them. Along with one of the Showcase's eight stages, the trucks were at the Back Yard at the Beaumont. Perhaps you know this area as the Westport Beach Club. But the Beach Club is no more; it is the Back Yard now, and soon you will start to sound old if you keep calling it the Westport Beach Club.
It’s quite pleasant back there — there is actual grass beneath your feet and picnic tables. I sat on one of those picnic tables with a hamburger I ordered from the Indios Carbonsitos truck. In addition to a large beef patty, this hamburger contained jalapenos, bacon, three types of sauces, and a chicken-flavored hot-dog patty sliced in half. I removed the top bun and gave the sandwich a long hard look. Behind me, the B’Dinas were noodling out some backyard-friendly blues-pop. I shook my head and flicked the hot dog off the patty, onto the basket. On this night, I would get my fix of excess in music, not food. Yep, just the bacon and cheese and jalapenos and half-pound of beef for me. Call it maturity, call it a heroic act, call it courage, call it what you will. On to the shows.
I was delighted to see rapper Reach
onstage for their set inside at Riot Room. His presence instantly transformed the jazz ensemble into something resembling A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul — smooth, positive hip-hop. The bass lines cut sharp and low, and the vibraphone and trumpet cast a dreamy vibe over the room. At one point, Reach hopped off the stage and watched the band perform as though he were an audience member. “I like the view from here. I kinda want to stay out here,” he said, and I wasn’t about to disagree. Diverse was later joined by another rapper dude wearing a rhinestone jean jacket, but I didn't catch his name.
By the back entrance to Riot Room, a guy in an Ed Hardy/Affliction style T-shirt urinated on a telephone pole. I stood and watched the man, because what else are you gonna do. As he zipped up, he staggered backward into one of those knobby, yellow, 4-feet-high parking poles and nearly fell over. Then he walked into Riot Room. The back of his shirt said “REDEMPTION” on it.
At McCoy’s, Amy Farrand
stood alone onstage blasting out gritty acoustic blues songs and confronting everyone in the place with her preposterously hardcore mohawk. I am trying to remember the last time I respected a haircut so much. McCoy’s isn’t always an ideal venue — it’s kinda hard to rock when there’s an eight-top chowing down on chicken fingers — but Farrand seemed unbothered. “Now that I’m playing in a restaurant, it occurs to me that my songs aren’t all that family-friendly,” she said, and then played a song that contained the lyric Kill everybody and quit my fucking job
The name Katy and Go-Go
used to make sense. It was a two-piece blues act featuring Katy Guillen (also of the B’Dinas) and this dude named Go-Go. But now Go-Go is gone, and in his stead there is a new drummer named Kelsey, plus a bassist, who I think is one of the guys in the Good Foot? I will have to check on that. Anyway, they are kind of nameless at the moment, although at the close of their set in the Back Yard, Guillen said, “Thank you, I’m Katy, and this is Go, and that is Go,” pointing at her bandmates. Their sound is pretty meat-and-potatoes blues, nothing too wild, but it’s tight, and Guillen has a pretty gnarly guitar O-face.
Riot Room was getting packed and sweaty by the time Radkey
went on. In the span of one of the St. Joseph teenagers’ Danzigy punk jams, I felt a drop of sweat slide from my head all the way down to the back of my knee. I am a disgusting monster and I should just leave and never come back
, I thought. But how could I resist Radkey? “This song is about the N-word and how people think it’s OK to spell it N-I-G-G-A,” bassist Isaiah Radke said. Later, he said, “This song is called 'Is He Alright.’ It’s about asking someone if he’s all right.” I love seeing bands that are clearly really geeked to play, and Radkey wins the award for most excited band of the night.
Downstairs at the Union, Soft Reeds
performed with a man down — short a guitar player. As such, their set was shortened, but it conveyed what you need to know about the band: they’ve got hooks, and they like Talking Heads. Singer Ben Grimes’ voice sounded especially quivery and David Byrne-like, and they even covered “Stay Hungry,” from More Songs About Buildings and Food
. I’m into the jittery Heads influence and am eager to hear Soft Reeds’ new record, which is hopefully coming along later this year.
the Pitch Music Showcase last year, I mentioned that I had pondered my heterosexuality while gazing at Making Movies
frontman Enrique Chi. The man is gorgeous. On Saturday at the Beaumont Club, Chi further confounded me by performing in a dress onstage. The rest of the band was wearing ponchos and Zorro masks and maybe a sombrero? I’m not quite sure what the theme was, but I supported it. When I walked in, there was a smooth sax solo happening and I was all nodding my head like, Yes, please, more please
. “They’re just so professional,” a friend said of the band after the set, and that nailed it for me. I can’t think of another band in KC that has its shit more together — both musically and in terms of doing what it takes to be a viable, successful band. On their last song, Chi and the sax player did a little back-and-forth musical conversation, built the solo up for a few minutes, and then returned to the chorus at exactly the right moment. At which point I noticed just about everybody in the crowd jumping and heaving along, absolutely exploding. That Best Live Act category is pretty stacked, but they made a pretty convincing case for themselves on Saturday.
Somebody vomited at the bar downstairs at the Union — fat chunks of half-digested food splattered on the floor next to a bar stool — and the place never smelled right again. Luckily Hipshot Killer
was loud enough to drown out the stench. They’re not pop-punk exactly, but there’s enough pop in their punk to please a pop-ist like myself. Think Jawbreaker maybe. Frontman Mike Alexander (who, as pictured above, also played guitar with John Velghe’s band over at McCoy’s, which I was sad to miss) is an OG punk dude — low-slung guitar, screams up into the mic with his head cocked. Later in the set, he set his guitar aside and went out in the crowd and did more of a tough-guy hardcore stomp-around thing. A versatile punk. I think that one might have been a Black Flag cover, but I’m not certain.
Only caught about 10 minutes of Hearts of Darkness
, but they looked to be incorporating some DJs into their set, which was cool. I remember hearing “Hypnotize.” I tried to pace myself, but I think the booze caught up to me somewhere around this time. The room was unsurprisingly wall-to-wall. It’s rad that they’re getting bigger gigs these days, but a hot, sweaty, cramped room like Riot is the best look on a brassy, sprawling outfit like HOD. As a side note, I think I saw HOD rapper Les Izmore up front and dancing his ass off during at least four of the other shows I was at. You gotta respect that dude’s enthusiasm.
What else? Sheppa
at Riot and Brent Tactic
at Union drew arguably the biggest crowds of the evening, further evidence of young people’s growing appetite for electronic dance music. But at least for now, there’s still an audience for all kinds of shows, and I went home happy to have sampled such delicious local varieties.