Earlier this week, we told you about the ballsiest moves we saw from touring bands. It included anything from Mothercoat’s unforgettable Replay set to Viet Cong’s drummer playing all of SXSW with just one working arm.
But as we finish out the year, it’s important to note the gutsiest plays from the locals (because we heart local music, duh). Here’s to the rebels, the agitators, and the sparkplugs that light the local scene on fire here in good old LFK. We now present to you the top 10 most badass things we saw from local bands in 2015.
10. Eyes of Iolite vs. Ingredient
The last week of June was really a tough time to throw a show. You had Free State Fest throwing events (and even free street concerts) all over the place, and the Final Fridays art walk was in full effect. So Field Day Fest had the odds stacked against them. This year, the local rock band festival stretched out to three days, and on that third night, Eyes of Iolite was the first band to go on at the Jackpot. While giving zero fucks, and nearly no one to play to, the fairly new metal act ripped and roared through their set. But, unbeknown to them, they did in fact have an audience. Restaurant-goers at Ingredient were trying to delicately eat their fancy and expensive salads, but Eyes of Iolite’s deep growls nearly shook the tables they were eating off of. We saw many faces grumpily staring straight ahead while the most metal of all howls leaked out of the Jackpot and onto the sidewalk. It was hilarious. Well done, Eyes of Iolite! You pissed off the bourgeoise good and proper.
9. The People’s Punk Band
Shortly after Eyes of Iolite’s brutal set, The People’s Punk Band set the bar really, really high. In fact, it was pretty hard to top them. This is a band that burst onto the scene in early Spring and made an impression immediately.
To be honest, The People’s Punk Band frightens us a little bit. Watching them play leaves one constantly wondering if the frontman’s going to kick them in the teeth (one sudden move and he probably would). They thrash, they’re unruly, and they wreck stages large and small. The more shows they get under their belt, the more they stomp around and intimidate the crowd. Combine that with classic punk riffs flying at you at the speed of light, and these guys have all the proper ingredients for a punk band. We almost wonder how we managed without them in our lives before.
8. Mark Osman’s three-show nights
A fellow musician once referred to Mark Osman and James Thomblison as “the rhythm section of Lawrence.” You’ll recognize them as the duo that make up Arc Flash (we’ll get to them later). But in 2015, one or both of these two diverse musicians also found themselves playing with Psychic Heat, Leggy, and Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk. Additionally, Osman has been a longstanding member of CS Luxem and Karma Vision. Furthermore, all of these bands tour. It’s no surprise that at one point or another, these bands would collide. That happened on a September Sunday night when Arc Flash (their third set THAT WEEK), CS Luxem, and Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk all landed on a lineup at the Replay. That meant Osman would play in all three sets– and believe it or not, this was not the first time this has happened.
Osman has been flirting with his limits and stamina all year. You couldn’t throw a rock in Lawrence without hitting a show he was on. Osman is nothing short of a titan, with strength that rivals that of Hercules and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with the speed of Usain Bolt.
7. The storm at Spring Into Summer
April showers brought a lot more than May flowers this year. In general, Lawrence saw a metric fuck ton of rain this Spring (made for a miserable, mosquito-filled summer). But out of all the storms that passed through, the one that slammed Downtown during the Replay’s annual “Spring Into Summer” fest was wretched.
Musicians were positively soaked. Joe Jack Talcum, of Dead Milkmen, helped the locals rush all the gear inside when the rain started up during the outdoor portion of the show (what a sweetheart, that guy). But the rain didn’t deter anyone. Dozens upon dozens of scenesters, soaked head to toe, filtered in all night for the soggy soiree.
One after another, the rock bands wailed while the lightening shot up the sky and rain flew in sideways. Rain wasn’t just falling down, it was carrying out a full assault on Lawrence. It was hitting the fire pit at the Replay so hard that steam was popping off the metal top. And if you were lucky enough to ditch the moisture on your way in, you got soaked anyway when Gnarly Davidson’s Sam Gunnerson spat beer all over the audience during his set.
6. Approach’s Mom
Stay with us on this one, and hear us out. There’s nothing we love more than a super fan– and for some Lawrence musicians, nobody’s a bigger fan than their mother. On Mother’s Day, we profiled mothers of local musicians who made it out to every single show their son or daughter performed at. But nobody, NOBODY, tops Approach’s mother. Kimberly Woods has consistently, for as many years as we can remember, showed up to every one of his sets. She doesn’t just sit in the back, she shows up with bells and whistles on.. spiky heels, hair done up high, and short skirts. She plants herself front and center, and leads the dance parties that erupt around this guy. She is a party in the form of a very short woman (even with the heels), and we’ve got nothing but mad respect and adoration for her.
The Sluts’ fans are fucking crazy. We’ve beat this dead horse over, and over, and over again. Really, it’s mesmerizing to watch human beings destroy each other (some people just like the watch the world burn).
You can’t really even watch the band anymore if you don’t want to get hit or “lightly tossed around,” as the band calls it. Even their attempts to stage dive off the tiny little Replay stage result in a few bruises and cuts. It won’t be long before they start breaking bones. How could you not? The music that comes out of The Sluts just screams “punch me in the face.”
4. Girls Rock! Camp
“We might fuck up a little bit, and we’re not sorry. Because we’re girls and we’re not perfect.”
Those words, spoken by one of the many campers at the Girls Rock! Showcase, set everyone off at the Bottleneck. I mean, they truly lost their minds when she said that. Feminism was at the forefront this year in pop culture, and it had a profound affect on the scene in Lawrence. Girls Rock! Camp is a nationwide organization, but this is the first year the camp came to Lawrence. It empowered dozens of young women who performed rock songs in front of some of the town’s most popular local musicians. They thrashed and rocked riffs like the best of them. Later on, they released a CD loaded with songs they wrote and recorded at the week-long camp. You can listen to one of those impressive tracks below, and look forward to what the scene will become when these women take over the town in a couple of years.
3. Stiff Middle Fingers’ four shows in four cities in one day stunt
You absolutely cannot think of punk rock in Lawrence without recalling the hilariously obnoxious stunts of Stiff Middle Fingers. In October, the band known for running into the streets during their shows and intimidating passersby pulled one of their biggest stunts yet.
Four shows. Four cities. One day. And they pulled it off! The band started with a show in Manhattan in the morning, then moved onto a comic book store performance in Topeka in the afternoon. By the time the evening rolled around, they were fucking up the Replay good and proper before sprinting to Kansas City for a fantastic finish. At every show, they went full gallop. The frontman darted in and out of and around the venue, a trail of punk rockers following closely behind. They screamed on the stage, they screamed off the stage, and they screamed on the streets. The singer’s voice was still somewhat intact by the time it was all over, which is good because they still had some more shows left on the roster this year (where they will surely continue to go balls to the wall like they always do).
Speaking of balls, we almost named Stiff Middle Fingers’ recent near-nude rumpus through the streets in the list. For the full coverage on that full-frontal (sorta) event, click here.
2. Arc Flash goes surfing
About a year ago, Arc Flash had a hard time getting a crowd to watch them. We were there, but not many others were. But because they’re insane and play just about every week, you couldn’t avoid them.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2015, and you’ll find a different story. KJHK was throwing themselves a birthday show of epic proportions at the Bottleneck. The place was packed, wall-to-wall with college students, scenesters, and everything in between. The space punks were in full effect, ripping through their riffs at twice the speed they were the year before, while the crowd threw themselves onstage, ripped their hair out, and lost their damn minds. The fandom and excitement over Arc Flash has gotten a tad out of control in this town, and they can’t get enough. They’ll throw their bodies as close to the musicians as possible. But on this night, they didn’t have to. Because the musicians dived into the crowd. They recruited a “mystery guest” to beat on the drums while the distortion looped and wailed away, leaving James Thomblison to dive into the sea of people as though he were going for a swim. Mark Osman (Hey, remember him? We were just talking about this badass!) was hoisted up onto the shoulders of the band’s admirers. Without missing a beat, he reached into his space-suit, pulled out a pair of shades, threw them on, crossed his arms, and fucking chilled, you guys.
If anything, the story of Arc Flash is an inspiration and a lesson in persistence. They went from playing to no one to having everyone in the crowd reaching for any physical contact with the band. The fan base reaches from Topeka to Kansas City, and when you think of what they could accomplish in 2016, it leaves our heads spinning.
1. Sam Gunnerson
The Lawrence music scene is full of badasses, but Gnarly Davidson’s Sam Gunnerson has steadily positioned himself at the very top in headbanger heaven.
Sam Gunnerson! The producer of puns, the badass of beer rock, and the sultan of screams. The man who made the phrase “Hot Shit!” a staple at Lawrence rock shows. The patriot, the punk, the hardcore brother of the scene. Have you ever enjoyed having beer spit on you? People in Lawrence LINE UP FOR IT at Gnarly Davidson shows! At the very first Gnarly shows, Gunnerson would hide half a cup of beer in his mouth and surprise the crowd by spitting it out halfway through one of their eight-minute songs. Since then, Gunnerson has perfected his spitting technique. Bro’s like a fucking sprinkler, man. A hot shit, kicking and back-bending sprinkler. Fucking ridiculous.
No matter what any band tries to do from now on, they’re not going to get close to the shit that this guy has pulled. Did you know that they recorded their album drunk? Like, completely fucking drunk. They recorded it sober, and once told us “Why would we play it sober on the recording if we never played it sober for anyone ever? We did it really drunk because we thought that made sense.”
So here’s to you, Sam Gunnerson. Leader of the beer rock rebellion, the king of jackassery, and the biggest fucking badass of the Lawrence music scene in 2015.
All words and photos are by Fally Fucking Afani