The Republic Tigers and I have never clicked. I certainly appreciated their sensibilities and I’ve always wanted to like them, but there was always a bit of a disconnect. This is partially due to their single “Buildings and Mountains” which I initially embraced and quickly tired of due to a massive overplay on local radio station, but more significantly I just never “felt” their music. Understandably so, when I got the opportunity to spend my last night of 2010 at the Beaumont drinking cheap vodka and listening to the “Rep Tigs”, I felt apprehension. But, I thought, “Why not? Maybe I’ll have a change of heart when I see them live.”
Surprisingly enough, I did. Before their set began there was a lackluster ambience throughout the bar. As the final moments of 2010 trickled away, it became apparent that The Beaumont Club was not necessarily the hopping place to be. Everyone appeared to be having a relatively good time, but a pretty good time is not what one aspires towards on a holiday that Mark Twain recognized as, “a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks”. I assume that promiscuous drunks were there, but they were not being nearly promiscuous or drunk enough for such a day. The moment the five-piece took the stage this changed. The club felt as though it instantly doubled. It was no where close to a sold out show, but the love bouncing back and forth between the fans and the band members was tangible enough to fill the room.
Opening just thirty minutes before the stroke of midnight, I was enthused by the band members instantaneous energy, warmth and complete lack of ego. They instantly jump started the show with a handful of newer songs that set the tone for the evening appropriately. I found myself moving closer and closer to the front, wiggling through the crowd of dancing people, only to find our humble lead singer, Kenn Jankowski moving and shaking just as much as his fans. Apparently not content with being solely a vocalist he accessorized not only with a microphone, but with a tom-tom by his side and a tambourine in his hand. However, additional percussion were not the only break from your run of the mill, indie-rific band. Not only do the Republic Tigers infuse a strong electronic tonality in their music, but guitarist Adam McGill complements this with the ever present use of a standard acoustic. This merging of old and new, adds yet another layer to the music, finally topping all of this off with Beatles-esque four piece harmonizing and you’ve got the potential for a pretty good show.
And a good show is what we got. Keeping with the theme the coming New Year, fifty percent of the set list was “old” from their 2008 album Keep Color and the remaining half covered new pieces that will presumably be showing up on their album slated for release in the spring of 2011. Live they seem to embrace a spunkier, more playful attitude than on their recordings. They have a deeper tone, and maybe feel even a bit more “rock ‘n roll” than on their album which feels closer to a modern day lullaby that is no longer hummed, but now synthesized. This playfulness may in part be due to the enthusiasm felt from all the band members. This is not a band where the lead singer has exudes all the charisma and the remaining musicians feel like props to fill the stage. Guitarists Adam McGill, Ryan Pinkston, bassist Marc Pepperman and drummer Justin Tricomi played as one cohesive unit. Not only do they seem to have control of the music that they playing, they seem to be having a hell of a good time doing it.
As much fun as they appeared to be having, the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves too. The entire night, of course, culminated when the band nearly concluded the show with their hit “Buildings and Mountains”. The moment the opening notes were introduced the crowd insisted upon assisting with their vocal talents and for a second I thought I saw a couple band members blush. In this moment, The Republic Tigers ceased to feel like a local band and quickly began proving that they were aspiring towards nothing shy of rock stardom.
Rock stars or not though, the local color was still apparent. Their brief intermission before their encore was disputed by a crowd of Kansas City-ians who attempted to lure the band back onto the stage, not by shouting their name or stomping their feet, but with a unified Kansas City Chiefs style war chant. The band quickly returned with even bigger smiles than before and a chuckle under their breath. They seemed to look out into the crowd and recognize their audience a little bit less like fans and a little more like friends. This became ever more apparent when an overly excited fan decided to participate in the show by swiping Kenn’s tambourine. He did not react with a glare but instead welcomed her rhythmic additions and invited her, as well as any one so inclined, onto the stage for the final song and farewell.
As I finished my cranberry-vodka and procrastinated leaving the warm, cozy bar for the brisk freezing January Kansas City air, I spotted a slew of potentially adequately promiscuous drunks refusing to let the party end. Although, the show was over its energy had yet to cease. More than two dozen people lingered turning the concert floor into a dance floor in an attempt to keep the night alive. A band member or two even wandered out to do enjoy the remainder of the night. The lackluster ambience no longer stifled the air. The Republic Tigers did their job and made sure every one had a Happy New Year.
I give The Republic Tigers Four out of Five Stars
By Erin Tuttle
Photos By Becca Armstrong