Sunday night I danced in the most carefree way, wondered what Ferris Bueller was doing on stage, swore I saw a better version of Kings of Leon and watched one of my favorite musicians play in a parking lot. One concert. Okay.
Locals O Giant Man opened Sunday night’s show at Record Bar, one of my favorite Kansas City venues. With a drum kit iced in white Christmas lights, the members bounced around stage to their own happy, peppy beats. The lead singer sounds pleasantly like The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard. Be still, my heart. O. Giant Man trademarked its sound with a range of acoustics I haven’t heard from a live band in quite awhile, a refreshing change that added a little something extra to the group’s already cohesive, solid sound. As a final note, I would like to award O Giant Man with the esteemed Least Sweaty Drummer Ever award. I perspire more at my job hocking iPads than he did in a 20-minute set and he was working hard. Magnificent!
White Girl piqued my interest immediately. The four-piece’s warm up involved a lot of deep, resonating notes and the set-up of a projection screen. My toes tingled with the anticipation of dancing to sweet beats, but, alas, White Girl did not deliver as hoped. Though the group brought a big presentation, the members themselves lacked the energy needed to fully hype the crowd. Meanwhile, too much music seemed to happen at once, turning quickly to mush in the small venue. Bethany and I discussed it, and we see a good future for the group writing soundtracks to 1980′s flashback films. Consider this, dudes. Bethany also noted that the group sounds like a “sad Owl City.” This writer whole-heartedly agrees. Miscellaneous kudos include: lead singer Martin Bush’s impressive commandeering of higher-range notes, my undying appreciate for anything that sounds remotely like the 80s and Bush’s eerie resemblance to Matthew Broderick, circa “Ferris Bueller” days.
The show shifted vastly when Tennessee indie rock band The Features took the stage. Forget the pep and electronics of yore, these guys filled the room with a serious, guitar-driven sound. My notes from halfway through their opening song probably best sum up the entire set: “These dudes do not fuck around.” I enjoyed listening to the group start a song with a simple theme and then play with and distort it through the piece, as well as the major intensity The Features brought to their set — and managed to sustain appropriately throughout. The group has a great understanding of how to taper things at the end of a song to let the audience down gently…and then picks right back up at full force with the start of the next song. I felt exhausted in the best possible way by the end of the set. True sign that The Features are doing it right? The two bros (backwards ball caps and all) directly in front of me danced like crazy for the entire set.
Of particular note in The Features’ set, the drummer had some of the tightest drumming I’ve ever seen. Every beat was perfectly on point, and I noticed that he drummed on his leg throughout the set to ensure he kept accurate time. Overall, if you’re looking for an intelligible, in-tune version of Kings of Leon (for whom, coincidentally, The Features have opened on a few tours), these are your guys.
And at the end, there was Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band. Oh, Kevin. Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. He melts my heart every time. Let’s not pretend this section is an unbiased review. But let’s pretend.
Devine played a few songs off his new album, Between the Concrete & Clouds, which was released last Tuesday, a few days after the show. This album, as well as Devine’s performance Sunday night, showed a great deal of growth from his earliest shows and recordings. While his lyrics have remained heartbreakingly honest and poignant, his vocals and instrumentals have matured vastly, giving his newer work a recognizable, consistent sound.
Devine opened with “You’re My Incentive,” eliciting plenty of squeals and cheers from the crowd. From there, he transitioned straight into my favorite, “No Time Flat.” He slipped in some new lyrics to more accurately reflect the current state of political affairs, and, per usual, he delivered it all with the ache of someone who genuinely cares. This performance marked Devine’s first time in Kansas City in over a year, since he last played The Midland with Thrice, and also served as his first headlining tour since the “Brother’s Blood” tour (2009). Based on the crowd’s reactions, this visit, not to mention this tour, was long overdue. Certainly Devine’s fan base in Kansas City has grown substantially — Record Bar was teeming with enthusiastic, dedicated fans.
Due to Record Bar’s strict curfew rules, and what seems to have been an extra opening band, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band skipped most stage banter in favor of more time spent playing — no one in the crowd complained. Despite this, 11:45 rolled around all too soon, and the venue brought up the house lights halfway through the band’s final song, “Brother’s Blood.” The band finished up, despite a half surprised, half irked expression from Devine. Record Bar shooed most of the crowd out immediately following this, but a reluctant handful lingered around the merch tables chatting with Devine until staff starting pulling drinks straight out of hands. The remaining 30 or so fans trickled into the evening, only to be followed by Devine, who pulled an acoustic guitar from his van and treated the group to an additional five-song set.
And with that said, well, I’ve seen Kevin Devine play several times, but none were quite as excellent as this. Crushing on him and obsessed with his music already or not, I have a lot of respect for an artist who will hang out with fans after the venue shuts him down so he can finish his set in a parking lot. Devine created an exceptionally notable night for a lot of already die-hard fans that evening, a favor Kansas City won’t soon forget.
*Photos contributed by Bethany Smith