On the road to SXSW the KC Popwreckoning.com Showcase

Arriving at the sparsely filled Beaumont Club a little after 6:30 Dreams are for Rookies were already on stage. A pretty early start time for local bands whose set times are usually closer to 11pm on a Friday night than the 6PM start time that the first annual Popwreckoning.com SXSW showcase kicked off at.

Since I arrived a little after the first set time I only caught the final two songs of Dreams are for Rookies set . They brought some good kick off energy to a crowd in their short thirty minutes on stage. The crowd initially was an awkward mix of what I venture to guess were some of the band’s parents and the typical hipster type, ironic mustaches, skinny jeans & thrift store shirts with circa ’70’s and ’80’s eye glass wear were the norm. In other words the typical crowd one would expect to see at a show like this.

It seems many made it here quickly after work  (such as the case with me) while others weren’t quite used to being in front of a live band during what is still happy hour at most venues. The set length was kept to a pretty crisp 30 or so minutes per band. It was just about enough time to get a feel for each of the act’s styles. The showcase was put together to have five of the six bands performing compete for two open spots at the 5th annual All Together Now showcase at SXSW. All of the bands were Kansas City originals hand picked by the Popwreckoning.com editorial staff.

All were very representative of what one can expect from local music and gave a good feel for what KC has to offer as far as local acts go currently. One of the bands in the lineup, Thieves had previously been selected to participate in the showcase. The rest of the bands, the aforementioned Dreams are for Rookies, The Grisly Hands, Olympic Size, Capybara, and Roman Numerals were vying for the two open spots.  A couple of these bands Olympic Size and Roman Numerals I had seen before. The rest I was getting to see for the first time. Let’s break them down one by one.

To judge the two songs of Dreams are for Rookies I was able to take in wouldn’t be fair. The quintet was interesting to watch as one of the members was playing an electric cello, not something you see every day in a typical rock band type setup.

Next up was the sextet, though their myspace page list a seventh member I either didn’t see or wasn’t at the show that night, were The Grisly Hands. They came out to a pretty loud pop obviously doing a good job of rallying their fans, friends and family to the show. The band had a couple of sound issues in the early goings and the mix between leads were a bit off. About midway through the set this was fixed and they were able to shine with their folksy Americana sound that had many in the crowd dancing along. They had a fun stage presence to match the sounds and were fun to watch.

Olympic Size were next to the stage. Olympic Size has been around the Kansas City music scene for five years now. Composed of members of many other popular local acts. Case in point guitarist and singer Billy Smith was pulling double duty at the showcase playing with Olympic Size and returning to the stage later with the Roman Numerals. Olympic size is an interesting band to watch and hear as their songs can be nice, slow almost spacey numbers and the next song being thunderously epic without being overpowering. It’s a fragile difficult line to hold but something all the members of the sextet pull off seemingly effortlessly. This is no doubt helped by the fact that all the members play in pretty diverse acts away from this one. Unless you are a complete newcomer to the Kansas City music scene, chances are you have caught Olympic Size before. If not, it’s time to check their concert dates and plan an evening to take in a show.

Capybara, easily the most interestingly named band of the night as it sent me on a Google search to find out what it was , if anything or if it was even a word. Turns out it’s the world’s largest rodent. The animal is indigenous to South America. Class dismissed, on to the band bearing the rodent’s name. Being that I am a bit of a modular synth (music) fan I started to get a little excited when I saw what appeared to be some patch cables running from a couple of places in a rather large case and a roland either synth or midi keyboard controller.  I wouldn’t be disappointed either as the band brought voice clips/samples and various other synth/noise to their show which also consist of choruses sung over each by separate members of the band. The band had some great energy obviously enjoying this and it was cool to see them switching instruments and multitasking like crazy. The crowd was also feeding off the energy and was breaking out into dance all over. Out of all the bands I had seen to this point, Capybara easily had the biggest impact on me and really got me into their music. I can’t wait to catch another one of their shows hopefully sooner rather than later.

The Roman Numerals are  a band I have seen near countless times. They were also the final band vying for the open spot to SXSW. They brought a good mix of new and old material including their new track GO/NO/GO which you can download from them for the low, low cost of an email at their website linked above…DO IT NOW. The song came off live as good as it does recorded. The band sounded as tight as ever having a solid line up for the last couple of years now since Ryan Shank joined the band as drummer. One thing I honestly had never really noticed is how heavy some of the Numerals songs can be. After the softer tunes earlier in the evening it was a welcome crunch to my rock-loving and beating heart. The song they closed with was also something new that I dug the heck out of. A nice dance friendly number that was super catchy. Based on it I can’t wait to hear more new stuff from them. Really hope to catch them once down in Austin at SXSW and again here at home for a full set soon.

Closing out the evening was the already SXSW bound Thieves. Thieves are newer to the Kansas City scene but have been making inroads and gaining a following pretty quickly thanks to the high critical praise of their first EP Divider, which is a free download here. One notable thing about them is they are showmen. Being the only band that seemed to have brought their own light show with them I wasn’t sure what to expect. They opened with a slower layered number. The next couple of songs were starting to up the tempo when some one walked out on stage, had a brief conversation with the band and were then told the next song would be their final. I was a bit disappointed as I was really getting into their set and felt they had more to offer. They asked the crowd if they wanted to dance or rock out. Their question was met with the semi typical crowd response of a collective yeah/yell. The band being left with the decision left the crowd dancing into the night and Saturday morning which was quickly approaching.

With six acts the showcase lasted until nearly midnight. This was easily one of the best values in town that night and also a tremendous way to show support for the local music scene and get a good feel for the various sounds and types our fair city has to offer. I don’t know if it was a couple of uncontrollable (First Friday + near sixty degree temperatures) factors that played into the thin turn out  or something else I am completely overlooking but either way it was a shame that the Beaumont felt so empty the entire evening. At least those that did show got a different taste of Kansas City and were welcoming of the bands over the course of the evening.

PopWreckoning.com posted the winners Saturday at noon. The winners were chosen by Jeff Tafolla of Saddle Creek Records. The winners were The Grisly Hand, and the Roman Numerals. Of course it’s a bit cheesy and totally a cliche to say but in my opinon the real winners on this evening were local music fans that came out to support the local music scene and the musicians who do this. Any of the bands are worth a listen, be sure to head to their various places on the net and give them a listen. Maybe even take in one of their shows.

by John Coovert

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