Radkey’s Radfest Vol. 1 delivers homegrown crowd its latest dose of delicious rock noise
The Ugly Cowboys, Drop A Grand, The Many Colored Death, and The Phantastics led off five hours of rock, June 3, at Lemonade Park.
From the West Bottoms’ Lemonade Park, under the sun-stained silhouette of the Kansas City Livestock Exchange Building, Radkey returned to their home turf on June 3 with some of their favorite tourmates and regional friends in tow for RadFest Vol. 1.
Radkey—the St. Joseph brothers Isaiah, Solomon, and Dee Radke—brought things to a head at 9:30 p.m., diving straight into “Underground,” the seventh track off the group’s 2020 release, Green Room.
“Evil Doer,” from 2016’s Delicious Rock Noise, began a run of three classics in “Rock & Roll Homeschool” off 2019’s No Strange Cats, and the meme-momento from a simpler time, “Le Song,” off the former project.
One of their most recent recordings came next with “Games (Tonight),” a 2022 single that keys in on the tonal shifts and earworm hooks of a record like Weezer’s Pinkerton and gives the audience a refreshing twist on the already tried-and-tubular Radkey formula.
“Love Spills,” the forever-banger from Delicious Rock Noise, got the crowd going as it always does and should, before the guys went on to launch “P.A.W.”, a fantastically high volumed affair that channels early 2000’s alternative and laces it with an extra cranking of fuzz and distorted riffs. Dee, the lead guitarist and vocalist, crushes one of the band’s best solos to top it all off. That shit never gets old, no matter how many times you go see these guys. I promise.
“Judy,” one of the Green Room tracks, was a highlight for me the last time I saw Radkey live and was equally worth its weight on this setlist. A slower strumming intro volumizes itself into a melodic, melancholic chorus that, once again, shows the diversity of the band’s influences.
“Dark Black Makeup,” perhaps held in an equally high regard to its discmate, “Love Spills,” is an obvious highlight all its own. Both singles have remained staples at the top of Radkey’s arsenal for years now, and are perfectly infectious intros to the group’s sound.
Again alluding to their home-schooled background, Isaiah and the gang continued with “Not Smart,” an anthemic 2018 single that also appeared on No Strange Cats, followed by “St. Elwood” of the same album.
“Seize” is, in my humble opinion, probably the best track Radkey has released this decade. It has everything I like about the guys packed into just over two and a half minutes of thumping, crashing waves of rock that, on this night, culminates in a moment where Dee and Isaiah play back to back as the latter limbos down until the head of his bass is very nearly touching the stage while the former nails another memorable solo.
“Red Letter,” a throwback to the band’s earliest years from the 2013 album Cat & Mouse, is a classic homage to the trio’s raw punk roots and always throttles onstage and includes one of the screamingest moments in their discography to close it out.
They continued to draw from this era of their 13-year run with “Romance Dawn,” another energetic 2013 piece that was the final piece on the official 15-song setlist. Though, of course, the trio came out with a favorite show-ender in their cover of the Teen Titans theme.
Minutes after the show, a guy came up to Isaiah and told him he had a collection of the entire Teen Titans box set. This is a rather normal occurrence and will happen several more times before I can reach the front of the line. He left (hopefully to go watch them) and I snapped a picture of Isaiah with a pair of fans.
Once that was done, I finally got to ask one of the more pressing questions on my mind throughout, prompted by Isaiah’s (the group’s primary talker) mentioning the new Super Mario Bros. movie between songs early in the show.
So, what did he think of it?
“I was the number one hater of the trailers. I just wanted it to be an adventure and I wanted Mario to be cool. ‘Cause they’re kind of badasses, but it’s hard to explain,” he says in truly Radkeysian phrasing.
As he says this, two fans walk up to greet him, talking Dragon Ball and other such nerdisms. He greets them politely before continuing his analysis:
“In the movie, I guess Nintendo made sure they were done correctly. I mean, We’ve got old DVDs of the old Mario Super Show and shit. I was scared of the voices,” before seeing the film, he said, echoing my own thoughts.
“I thought that they really got into the characters. So I fuckin’ loved it. They were badasses and they did such a good story. It was like, ‘man, fuck’, I fuckin’ loved it,” Isaiah, hyped off that post show adrenaline, says.
Fresh off seeing Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse the night prior and back in town for a few days of the other kind of R&R before the brothers hit the road again for a show in Des Moines, June 8, and another in Davenport the following day. In November and December, the lads will play four shows in the United Kingdom, one in Sweden, and another in the Netherlands.
For the time being, and also likely at many points on the road, Isaiah will be grinding it out in such titles as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the Resident Evil 4 remake, and prepping for a new competitive season in Destiny 2.
As he said during the show to great applause, “we are the freaks and geeks.”
We wouldn’t want it any other way.