It was 5:30 the morning after the Bands Across Kansas City band battle at the Beaumont Club. I awoke early because I had me some eatin’ to do. I cooked up a two-egg breakfast burrito and a side order of my own words, dredged in flour, deep-fried and served with raspberry jam — and boy, did it taste good.
The verbal ingredients: And maybe I’ll give birth to a sperm whale.
I had uttered those words the day before — November 22, the day of Bands Across KC — in response to a co-worker’s suggestion that I might discover my favorite new band that night at the show.
See, I hadn’t been too stoked about going to this thing. My lack of enthusiasm began weeks ago, when some local Web surfing led me to www.bands acrosskansascity.com. It was a bizarre discovery. The site had excellent layout and design, some big-time sponsor logos and, craziest of all, a whopping list of 84 bands that had registered to compete for some hefty prizes (including $1,000 for first place). Each band had a picture, a bio and a couple of song files that popped up in a sexy-looking audio player.
But neither I nor anyone to whom I showed the site had even heard of more than five or six of the bands. And among those few, none were the sort you’d see at the Brick or hear on KCUR 89.3’s Sonic Spectrum. I clicked on a few random band pages and promptly forgot about it.
Then the day finally came, and I was faced with hanging out for hours at the Beaumont, watching a bunch of bands that can’t get regular gigs, followed by noncompeting headliner Chasing 7, which plays AC-sounding power pop. It’s nights like this, I thought, when my job really becomes work. And that thing about discovering my new favorite band? Like I said. Maybe I’d give birth to a sperm whale, too.
By the time I arrived at the club, only 30 minutes after start time, I’d already missed the first band, the Disasters. (Later research revealed that I hadn’t missed much.) Longtime KC radio personality Fast Eddie was hosting the event, and Time Warner Cable camera operators were set up around the brightly lit stage. (TWC Channel 113, KC on Demand, plans to show each band’s performance sometime later.) A few kids were up front, and most of the tables were occupied by sedate parents of band members.
The second contestant was Motorcar for Courtney, who played the kind of emo-mallpunk I’d dreaded hearing all day. After that came Cory Ryan, prettily clad in vintage leather jacket and red stocking cap and backed up by proficient, boring musicians playing proficient, boring modern-pop-singer-songwriter stuff. After serenading his preppy friends, Ryan spent the rest of the evening walking around with a clipboard, either signing up people for his mailing list or taking orders for festive holiday cheeses.
After that came charismatic, hard-rockin’ Albino Fly, which held about 50 kids in enough thrall to execute an amazing maneuver wherein the singer, wireless microphone in hand, sang while being passed on his back from one side of the audience to the other. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this band win it all when the online voting ends on December 5, so great is this town’s love for hesher rock.
Bixby Lane was the fifth band, and it wasn’t the one, either. Dressed in duds that married the retro-swing revival of the ’90s to Miami Vice, Bixby was born to live sidestage on a late-night talk show. But instead of playing five-second snippets of popular tunes, the group played its own amalgam of jam, the Get Up Kids and Ben Folds.
By this point, the club had filled up, but I was getting bored. There was only one contestant left, a group originally from Branson, of all places, called Walter Alias. I began chatting with a crew of blond tweens by the pool table. Two of them were there with their mom, Cary Brandon of Brandon & Brandon, the marketing company that had organized BAKC. The energetic lads favored Albino Fly, but they praised Chasing 7 because, to quote young Mr. Alex Young, “They bring out the ladyfolk.”
I eventually broke away from my youthful comrades and walked down to the floor to pay attention to Walter Alias, expecting a band that would call itself something like Walter Alias.
And that, my friends, is when I knew I was going to crap out Moby Dick.
Singer Ryan Wallace was sweating in his quirky white dinner jacket and matching tie, looking distantly over the crowd as he pounded his acoustic guitar and unleashed his clear, intense tenor at some melting horizon. Keyboardist Cody Stockton darted among his immense consoles like he was directing a 747 to its runway, and guitarist Elliot Thurman (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Elijah Wood) and drummer Jason W. Smith pushed every dynamic swell up and over the levee.
The band’s sound comes closer to good Britpop — the Verve, the Frames, Elbow — than anything I’ve heard locally, and that’s why it’s so welcome. I had to accost each member after the show (which resulted in my helping to cart an amp offstage) and demand to know (a) if they really were from Branson and (b) why they weren’t taking the scene by storm.
It turned out that they had just moved to KC and the contest was only their second gig in town, following a debut at the Lucky Brewgrille a week before. Not the Brick, not Davey’s or the Record Bar, where they should be playing — but a primarily hip-hop bar in Mission. Gotta start somewhere, I guess.
Chasing 7 began rocking the house in admirable form, but by then I only had ears — and one vote to cast — for Walter Alias.
After a few hours of fitful sleep, before I could dig into my whale-birthing words the morning after, I had to check out the band’s page on bandsacrosskansascity.com and get a two-song encore, just to make sure I hadn’t blown a fuse the night before.
Sure enough, minutes later, I was tucking my napkin into my shirt and chowing down.