The benefits of a 3AM bar that doubles as a venue are essentially void once you realize you must scrape yourself out of bed before the sun comes up the next morning for a rousing eight hours of subservience to the overlords without whom you would be penniless. Westport venue the Riot Room is guilty beyond doubt of taking advantage of their last call time, often pushing a live show back to a 10:00 start time or later. With a two band bill, I was dreading getting to the venue at 9:15 and gawkily mulling about for an hour or more before the first band started.
As luck would have it, local space rock group Anakin took the stage promptly at 9:30 to play what was billed as their very first live performance ever. Let me preface that last sentence by saying that the band recently released their debut, Kickstarter-funded full-length, Random Accessed Memories, have appeared on a HUM tribute compilation, and have merch readily available for purchase. To most, if not all, this logic would seem a bit flawed and a sure way to lose money before your band even gets a foot in the live music door. Don’t put your prejudice pants on just yet, though, as the members are anything but amateurs in the world of public performance.
The five gentlemen on stage have spent time in touring and recording bands like The Escape, Tablets of Orion (which later became Orion — two separate entities, both of whom had a submission on a Failure tribute compilation), Sons of Great Dane, and a recently revamped lineup of The Casket Lottery. The band wear their influences on the sleeve (and chest, as noted by drummer and co-founder Brad Chancellor sporting a Rentals shirt), and leading man Brent Windler quietly croons into the microphone like a Fantastic Planet-era Ken Andrews. The band played a 45-minute set and performed their new, 10-track album front to back, for better or worse.
I spoke with a fellow show-goer and we both agreed that we wanted to like Anakin a lot more than we actually did. Their set expectedly began a little rocky, by the bass guitar cutting out halfway through “Action-Reaction,” but they quickly recovered by following with synth-heavy cuts from the album like “Magnified,” “Abort.Retry.Fail,” and “Disconnect,” but I regrettably grew tired of the set about 30 minutes in. Not to say their sound is a novelty or a conscious mimic of elder bands that are in the annals of worship for fans of space rock, shoegaze, or even dreampop, but I came wanting just a taste, and left feeling I had absorbed more than intended, my senses on overload from the sheer onslaught of sound that came from the stage. Kudos to the band regardless for playing likely the best first gig I have ever witnessed, and for having a great album with which to back it up.
I may have been just a little too harsh on newly reunited Los Angeles natives The Jealous Sound in my recent review of their latest album, A Gentle Reminder. If their nearly hour-long live show is any indication, they still have energy to spare for a future album or three. Singer/guitarist Blair Shehan took the drunken revelers in front of the stage with a smile, and made references throughout the set to the now dwindling audience that remained about the last time they played in Kansas City. If anyone wants to date themselves, it was in early 2004 at the short-lived west bottoms venue The Spitfire, opening for Statistics and Engine Down.
The Jealous Sound effortlessly tackled a career-spanning set, with a few hiccups and false starts, but those that were there to see the band were not left disappointed. With the exception of set opener “Beautiful Morning,” which I referred to as “background noise from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy” in my review of the album, the entire set was energetic and was met with bouncing heads and people dancing in a way only acceptable in the privacy of their own homes. After playing the opening track from the most recent full-length, they jumped to the opening track from their last full-length (which is now sitting at nearly a decade old) and continued to jump between the two while throwing a few EP tracks in (“Got Friends,” “Priceless”).
By all accounts, the band had fun while on stage and worked with the audience they had. It’s an odd thing, but I’ve never been to a show at the Riot Room where the audience was larger for the headliner than the opener unless the header was also a local. You could chalk that up to the place being very representative of a certain sect of Kansas City music (a sound which some, or just myself, refer to as Riot Room rock, but that’s another story in itself). While a national headlining act may not have the pull of a local opener, I have repeatedly witnessed a small group of dedicated fans loudly requesting an encore from the headliner once their set ends. This night was no different, and after the band laid their instruments to rest and walked off the stage, Shehan decided to strap on another guitar to play a solo version of “Turning Around.”
The solo encore was met with inebriated approval from the group in front of the stage, at which point the rest of the band came back up to play one more song, “Naive,” from their 2003 full-length Kill Them With Kindness. The crowd was given a genuine thank you from the band, then the house lights came up and the group in front of the stage began to gradually stagger off, with a few individuals remaining behind to enthrall one another with slurred stories of how much the band meant to them at a certain point in their youth. Tabs were paid or further increased, and the patrons began to tightly wrap their necks in scarves in preparation of braving the outside weather. Some, like myself, were already bemoaning the workday that stood ahead of them in a matter of hours.
The Jealous Sound setlist:
Hope For Us
Promise of the West
Your Eyes Were Shining
A Gentle Reminder
The Fold Out
Turning Around (Blair Shehan solo electric) – encore
Naive – encore
by Greg Stitt
photos by Matt Cook