I got a call around midnight Monday from amjhawk asking if I would like to go see VAST in concert on Tuesday night. Well, damn straight I'd like to go! However, I teach class on Tuesday nights... but if we let out a little early, AMH and I could get to Kansas City in time to eat before the opening bands.
As it turns out, students don't mind so much getting out of class 45 minutes early in a 3-hour class. In fact, they were kind of excited about leaving early. Hm. Whatever.
So I picked him up in my little Crossfire and we were off! I bought gas at $2.19 per gallon for PREMIUM (seriously, folks - last time I filled up, it was $3.29 for premium, which should give you an idea about how frequently I drive a car), then we zoomed over to Kansas City using MapQuest directions. As you can imagine, we took a rather indirect route to the Grand Emporium, passing through the Plaza (a ritzy shopping area) - which turned out to be fortuitious, as AMH had never been there before. Eventually we made it and parked half a block from the venue. Freaking amazing! And that's when we discovered that VAST - what I consider to be one of the top bands out today - was playing in a 350-person-capacity house. Wow. I don't understand that, really; I figured it would have been something that seated thousands. Instead, we got an intimate setting where we sat on tall stools just 15 feet from the stage!
We grabbed some pizza from a real pizza joynt run by a surly Italian fella, then grabbed the aforementioned seats in time to pick up some cheap shirts and beers. After some chatting, the first opening band came out: The God Project. These guys - sort of Goth/Industrial - are awesome! The lead's voice has just the right power and mood, the drummer kicks ass, and the synth player has a fascinating knack of smoking while playing the keys. They didn't need a smoke machine to moody-up the air, because that kid must've burned up half a dozen cigarettes during the show. They played for about an hour, and afterward I had to buy a CD.
(Note: Still no sign of sdemory, whom AMH said was supposed to join us. Dude, you missed a great show! What's up with that?)
Oddly, the place was still mostly empty when the first band opened, with about 100 or so patrons in the house. Even by the time the next band started playing, people were still arriving. Is this normal for such a venue? Odd and unfortunate, because they missed a couple of great shows.
Okay, next up was Mardo - named for the brothers Mardo, one the lead and bassist and one the drummer - who rocked the house and gave one of the best shows I've seen. The lead has the feel of Robert Plant or Mick Jagger, you know the type. And he remembered where he was playing, even played the crowd with comments about how Kansas City, MO, is the REAL KC. He did the unzipping of his denim full-body leotard in response to an audience member asking to take it off. That sorta thing. Oh, and they had one of those UFO-sounding instruments that he played with the neck of his guitar. The lead guitarist didn't have a mic, and it soon became clear why: He's all over the freaking stage, his long hair flying and skinny body bouncing around. Meth hound, I'm guessing, but holy moly that boy can play the gui-tar. Mardo is... I guess it's called "Roots Rock," and much fun. AMH bought their CDs. Their high energy was a great way to warm up the crowd for VAST.
After clearing the stage and setting up for the headliner, out came VAST. They're a four-piece band, but really it's one guy whose writing, guitar work, and voice are just indescrible. You need to buy an album if you don't have one already. I first heard about the band driving home from work one day in Seattle, the radio announcer saying that a new band was playing in town that night and here's a cut off of their album. I fell in love immediately, but couldn't make the show then. So glad I had the opportunity to see him live. I had wondered how his music would sound live, because the recordings use a lot of production work like voice effects, orchestral sounds, and so on, and of course a lot of that doesn't come through live even when the sound guy uses recorded tracks to stand in for the missing orchestra. However, the live effect more than made up for the difference, giving me a whole new way to listen next time I play the CD. I expect that I'll be a bit disappointed by the missing energy hearing the recording, but maybe it'll enhance the listening pleasure. We'll see! Jon Crosby - the band's core - is a highly charismatic man, but unlike the Mardo lead, he's subtle and powerful rather than brash and in-your-face charismatic. As they played (and did an encore - WOW but was the audience loud in demanding the encore, their cheering sounding like a jet at takeoff), his energy only continued to increase and his presence became more and more vivid. I hadn't expected VAST to be such a great live experience, but I can't recommend it highly enough. Especially if you can sit just feet away from the stage as we did!
Sorry you couldn't make it, Demory! I hope you're not dealing with illness or such.
Another cool thing about such a small venue is that you get to meet the bands afterward, because the bus was right outside and the two opening bands hung around for VAST and a meet-the-audience afterward. Both of the openers were outgoing and pleased to meet everyone; I only wish that Crosby and crew had been available, as well. Oh, and of course the price is unbelievable: $12 for a show like that! Wow!
I'm so pleased that AMH's original date, then his back-up date, weren't able to attend, and that his back-up-back-up date got on his nerves so that I could take their place. Thanks, man!
High on music,