by Nicholas Stahl
Photo gallery at the bottom of the page
As the temperature rises day by day, the town’s population continues to shrink exponentially. Lawrence is by no means a ghost town in the summer, it is just a bit more refined. The academic horde funnels down to just the usual faces, enjoying the breathing room at their favorite watering holes. As the students leave, the days of the week become more and more ambiguous. Randomly, the bars will be flooded with locals any day of the week. Not every night is a party in the summertime, but each one is a potential rage filled extravaganza.
Tuesday night at the Replay was a prime example of how quickly an ordinarily mundane evening, early in the week, can become an unforgettable (regardless of the massive amounts of whiskey consumed) dance party. When entering the Replay, the stage setup was a bit out of the ordinary. An overhang of lights and lasers towered towards the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some concern that the lights were not going to even fit on the stage. The rig dwarfed any system I had ever seen inside the Replay. This was the first clue that what was about to ensue could go one of two ways. Often, bands that have way too much gear tend to be a little too big for their britches. There is always risk involved when a band brings their own lights. In order to avoid looking completely foolish, they better bring their A-game as well. Glancing around, the regulars seemed a bit taken back by the altered form in which the stage had morphed. I too was interested in observing how these bands would try and win over the crowd of skeptics.
As the band hopped out of the van and crossed the threshold of the front door, heads turned in anticipation of what could possibly happen next. Taking their respective places on stage, the band members checked their instruments, but just momentarily. Not hesitating in the slightest bit, as soon as the insane light rig was fired up, glowing like a futuristic Christmas tree from outer space, Nicos Gun broke into their first number. Immediately, the band’s technical prowess became apparent. Talent and good music are not always one in the same. Nicos Gun tastefully mixed their shredding ability with having the best time ever onstage. The result proved to be a wonderful surprise for those who chose to listen. With each member emanating their own unique essence, a five-way battle royal ensued. The victor would emerge as the funkiest dude in the room. Ultimately, the real winner was the audience.
Nicos Gun put on an incredible performance that could lead the forces in a glam-punk-funk revival. The entire band was decked out in DIY denim vests, complete with hand sewn patches and self applied metal studs. Perhaps these studs were applied with an altered punk style bedazzler. From the front lines came groovy bass, overlaid with scratchy guitars. The sea of pedals was an endless array of blinking lights, perfectly complementing the spastic flashes coming from the pinball machines, adjacent to the stage. Slowly, the crowd began to inch closer towards the band. A few stragglers wandered in from the patio, perhaps thinking that the soundtrack from Purple Rain was blasting inside. Heads began to nod as hips began to sway. Unconsciously, the crowd became infected with the grooves pouring from the stage. Even those who are not into dancing were helpless against the soul power. Their combination of looking the part and playing like complete badasses provided Nicos Gun with the funk-fueled energy to pump up the innards of the Replay just enough to prepare everyone for the complete madness that was about to transform the venue.
A co-worker highly recommended going to see Morning Teleportation; I owe them a huge thank you. Without their recommendation, I would not know just how crazy Tuesday nights at the Replay could be. Now that everyone was good and confused about what just happened, Nico’s Gun packed up a few things onstage as Morning Teleportation brought up their instruments. These two bands were traveling together, even sharing a member. One of the guitarists of Nico’s Gun played bass in Morning Teleportation. Most of their gear was shared. Having witnessed what could have easily been labeled as out of the ordinary for the Replay, the crowd did not quite know what to expect next. Again, the lights lit up and anticipation rose. It was apparent that Morning Teleportation was going to be insane. How could two bands touring together put out anything but pure insanity after Nico’s Gun?
Sweeping synths began to fill everyone’s ears; swelling like the cries of mythical creatures, engulfed in a flameless fog. The lasers cut through the fog, like guides for the audience’s movement. Most of the crowd had been completely swallowed by fog, blasting its way across the floor, quickly rising upwards. Audience members struggled to keep their heads above the fog as if they were Leonardo DiCaprio trapped in the lower levels of the Titanic. Fear for what might happen in the fog was quickly dissipated, as nearly everyone found themselves involuntarily dancing. The sound in the room rose and fell in both conjunction and syncopation with the lights.
Morning Teleportation could be described in countless ways, seeing that their music found its way into so many different genres. Each song uniquely blended catchy hooks and lengthy instrumental builds. Back and fourth between rhythms, both musically and visually, created an overall experience equal to some form of a schizophrenic drug episode. Everyone in the Replay was transported to a floating fortress in the clouds, as colorful explosions filled the space. As the band finished their last song, the Replay descended back to the Earth’s surface. People’s faces were a buffet of random emotions. Astonished smiles transitioned into joyful laughter, ultimately leading to a wonderful round of applause for not only the band, but everyone who had just shared that experience.
If you are still not convinced about how crazy these two performances were, just look at the photos. Better yet, look up these bands and listen to them while looking at the photos. Random encounters of awesome bands in Lawrence have become more and more frequent as of recent. Perhaps it has just been a brilliant year for small tours, or maybe the booking personnel in town have been doing an incredible job. Either way, there is no telling what to expect when seeing a band for the first time. Listening to records is wonderful, but nothing will ever replace live performance.
Unfortunately, there have been a lot of great shows that are severely under attended. When bands come through and play to an empty room, it affects how soon they come back to that town, if they come back at all. Local support from both bands and music fans alike can alter a touring group’s experience of Lawrence. We live in a great town, full of great people. Sometimes, out-of-towners have a hard time seeing that. Lawrence needs ambassadors for our music community. There may be a few bands out there who dislike talking with fans, but most of them love to interact with people. Socializing is a huge part of tour. It is nice to see people in other towns who appreciate the same things you do. Next time you go out to a show and enjoy it, let the band know. You don’t have to completely geek out, and definitely do not give an ingenue compliment. Instead, treat the bands that come through like human beings. Regardless of how mind blowing a band is, the musicians that make up that band are just like you and I, music fans.
by Nicholas Stahl