Good Clean Fun/Indiana/The Short Bus Kids/The Syndicate
At most midsize punk concerts, such as the ones that take place at The Bottleneck, a few devoted souls show up early to catch the local openers, then the venue gradually fills to capacity by the time the Fat Wreck Chords/Epitaph-affiliated headlining act starts to play. At El Torreon, a much different scenario unfolds. Scenesters arrive in droves to support KC/Lawrence-based groups, then wander off as the out-of-towners unload their equipment from their rickety vans. Such was the case on Wednesday night, as the seasoned punks of The Syndicate delivered a tight nine-song set in front of an appreciative crowd. This politically driven group placed a stack of lyric sheets on the stage, so those in attendance could follow along with singer/bassist Tyler as he spoke/sang his way through such tunes as “Did Somebody Say Sheep?” and “You Know You’re Doing Something Right When There’s a Gun to Your Head.” Blending slow, chugging metalcore with noisy thrash and some unique guitar lines, The Syndicate kept things interesting with ever-evolving compositions. At times, the trio stopped abruptly when the song was still running at full speed, a difficult task akin to shifting into park while going 65 on the highway.
Next up were The Short Bus Kids, a five-piece hardcore outfit with ties to Lawrence’s punk haven, The Pirate House. The group proudly hung the trademark pirate flag behind its talented drummer, and a member of the crowd held up a smaller version as he participated in the raging circle pit. This slam-dance action, which continued throughout the band’s brief set, was probably inspired by The Short Bus Kids’ breakneck beat and well-chosen Minor Threat covers and not by singer AnD.I.Y.’s taunt “If you don’t dance, you’re a bunch of assholes.” Showing some range, the Kids satisfied those who were bummed about missing the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert the same night by ripping through a funky number about shopping at the mall, then directed fans from right to left during “Martha Stewart’s Cutting Cheese.” AnD.I.Y. definitely had star presence, showing off her dance moves and coyly inviting the crowd to come closer in a manner reminiscent of Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna or Sister Mary Rotten Crotch’s Liz Nord. But with two other vocalists and a stellar rhythm section on board, the group’s solid performance was truly a team effort.
A mass exodus followed SBK’s last explosive number, as roughly half the crowd either went outside to socialize on the sidewalk in front of the club or headed home. Left to perform in front of a handful of patrons was Indiana, an emo band that gamely trotted out its slow-paced songs despite being admittedly out of place on the bill. “Get ready to cry,” announced the group’s singer before closing his eyes and crooning his way through a woeful love-related tale. “If you hated that song, you’ll hate this one even more,” he deadpanned as he launched into a tune that was even farther removed from the hardcore world.
Quickly bringing the rhythm back up to a frantic gallop was Good Clean Fun, the Washington, D.C.-based headliners. Unfortunately, the group struggled with sound difficulties, as its singer’s vocals were scarcely audible throughout the set. Good Clean Fun is known for its witty, intelligent lyrics, and though the band’s likable personality was on display during its between-song banter, the fact that the words to such songs as “Sweet Tooth” and “Positively Positive” couldn’t be heard somewhat deadened their impact. Still, fans took particular delight in shouting along with “Good Clean Fun” and yet another Minor Threat cover (“Minor Threat”) and remained enraptured by the high-kicking musicians and their Sick-of-it-All-style songs throughout the set, although one young woman eagerly prompted them with “shut up and play” while they were in the midst of a winding story about having traveled the world. Good Clean Fun expressed good-natured dismay at the bad hand it had been dealt by the sound man on several occasions and lamented the fact that The Get Up Kids failed to show up and show their support, but despite less-than-ideal circumstances, this quartet managed to deliver plenty of what its name advertises.