The summer in Kansas City, much like the rest of the country, has been sweltering. For the first two bands at 96.5 the Buzz’s Buzz Under the Stars, that sweltering heat showed no signs of going anywhere. But Mother Nature felt like testing the music fans’ dedication to the show and rolled in a very large storm. Nearly two hours later, the storm passed with a double rainbow apology and the show would go on, making for one of the most memorable Buzz Under the Stars to date. And no, the irony of it raining just before Garbage played was not lost on anyone.
The show was lucky it was at Berkley Riverfront Park, which meant that even with the rain delay, none of the bands had to cancel since there wasn’t a curfew. Unfortunately for the working folk, the show was on a weeknight, so staying in attendance until 1 a.m. was a little much for some and there was a steep decline in crowd size as the night went on. But even with the rain and late night hurting some of the crowd size, the bands all kept positive attitudes and made some great banter about the evening’s events.
“There are not a lot of things that happen in Kansas City after midnight and this was one of them. This is the coolest neck of the woods right now,” noted headliners Silversun Pickups about the late show (points to them for the Neck of the Woodsreference, the title of their second album). “We were all part of something tonight..I’m not talking about the rain. I’m talking about the ALABAMA SHAKES.”
The Alabama Shakes hadn’t only blown away the Silversun Pickups, the show’s 2nd band of the night had blown away pretty much everyone in attendance. If you weren’t blown away, you probably made the mistake of choosing to get a beer during their set and missed what was going on. Their name defines them well: this Alabama band will get your ass shaking with their southern rock. Singer Brittany Howard has a powerful voice and it was fun to watch her screw up her lips into weird shapes to stretch out words, “You’ve got to hoooooooooooooold on.” In a bold move, the band played radio hit “Hold On” as their second song in the set. Historically bands that do that lose the attention of the audience members that only know them for the one song, but for Alabama Shakes, it didn’t matter. People were enraptured by their entire set.
Electric Guest played before Alabama Shakes and while they also got booties to move, it was to a very different sound. While Alabama Shakes are all about the slower rock tunes with lower, grittier vocals, Electric Guest is upbeat indie pop with a singer that effortlessly slips into a falsetto as he travels all over the vocal registry. Singer Asa Taccone looks like he’s been studying dance moves at the ‘School of Thom Yorke.’ As smoothly as the guy slipped through the vocal scale, he was equally smooth slithering around the stage. It looked like he performed half the stage squatting front in center only to pop up several feet away. Super fun to watch.
Garbagewas the first post rain band, which was perfect. Dead center in the crowd, a kid had taken one of the 96.5 the Buzz banners and had written ‘I’m Only Happy When It Rains’ across the back in sharpie and was holding it up proudly. Garbage had a longer set planned, but their equipment had gotten a little soggy from the storm, so they sadly only played half of what they had planned (though it was still longer than what most bands get to play during radio fests). The short set was the only complaint anyone could have though because they sounded fantastic even after being away for nearly a decade. Their older songs fit in perfectly not only with their newer tunes, but also with the newer bands playing the fest. It’s always great to see a 90s band that’s music ages well and still sounds great live. The other impressive thing about the band is how bubbly and chatty singer Shirley Manson was in between songs. Despite their more brooding lyrics, she’s actually a very upbeat performer. She made her own quips about the rain and frequently thanked everyone for sticking it out to see them. She also showed her compassion during “The Vow,” in which she stopped the song to breakup a fight in the crowd and make sure everyone was okay. Unfortunately, that meant the song went unfinished, but rather that than an injury.
Garbage Set List:
Blood for Poppies
Vow (song stopped very early & never finished due to fighting in the crowd)
Only Happy When It Rains
The grunge rock of Garbage was followed by the indie pop of fun. These guys have been blowing up in the past year and deservedly so. fun. is an energetic live force to be reckoned with. fun. mostly stuck to songs off of Some Nights, kicking things off with “One Foot.” Their songs are a lot more complex than what you’d expect from most top 40 radio. The current radio single “Some Nights” has some of the craziest transitions going from an acapella opening to a big bombastic rock anthem before pulling into a sad reflection and then going back all Queen-like into another big phrase. The drums are already killer, but it seemed like they tweaked the guitar a bit for the live version to be even more rock and roll. The best is when singer Nate Ruess hits the last “Oh Come On,” holding the mic arm’s length away, but he’s still incredibly loud. This guy has some powerful lungs. “Some Nights” even got a bigger reaction than the ubiquitous “We Are Young.”
Silversun Pickups had some tough acts to follow, but they embraced their late night set with a giddy energy that reinvigorated the tired crowd. The set list was heavy with songs from their latest album, Neck of the Woods, but a few Swoon and Carnavas staples still made the list. Heavy guitars and the effeminate vocals of singer Brian Aubert had a sort of soothing effect that was perfect for closing the evening. The band bantered with the audience in between songs and frequently commented on how special of an evening it was not just for the crowd, but also for them — good vibes all around. And Silversun Pickups was right, this was a special evening and everyone in attendance has come out with some memorable stories about braving the storm for favorite bands.
Silversun Pickups Set List:
The Royal We
Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)
Future Foe Scenarios
Dots & Dashes (Enough Already)