It’s time for 2015 to come to an end. Pack your things, leave your key, and get the fuck out. But first, a moment of reflection. We don’t appreciate “best of” lists at the end of the year because, well, you’re all winners in our eyes. So instead, we’re going to count down the Top 10 most badass things we saw from touring bands (you’ll get the local music version tomorrow).
April’s a magical time of year, isn’t it? Spring is in the air! Love is in the air! And tiny crowd surfers are in the air! Bad Religion rolled through Liberty Hall with OFF! like a storm, and the result was a wild party that had everyone pushing their physical limits. But nothing pleased everyone more than the overly enthusiastic young Bad Religion fan, who was spotted downing pixie sticks before the show. Once his sugar rush was in full effect, he crowd surfed over and over again, flying into the hands of revelers who were more than willing to help this young lad party hard on a school night. Take notes, everyone. This is how you do it. Young man, we salute you!
We absolutely cherish the day this Wild Woman of Warrensburg came kicking and screaming into our lives. With stockings up to here, she perched herself on a stool while simultaneously stomping and yelping throughout her entire set. Everything about her approach to music is rampant. She mercilessly beats on the drums and cymbals with her feet, while fiercely assaulting the venue with those killer vocals. The genre-defying rebel rouser breaks the rules, opting for a savage style of bluegrass, grunge, and whatever else she feels like. If Molly Gene isn’t on your radar, what a horrifically boring life you must be leading.
We first saw Sweet Spirit at SXSW, and then later opening for Spoon in Kansas City, and each time we felt completely unworthy. Power ballads, outrageously bright spandex, and an insatiable energy make up this cocktail of spectacular fun. Rarely do we see a band that conjures up a party on the spot. Even the most upside down frowns were replaced with dancing and an infectious attitude. But most of all, their frontwoman is an irresistible example of “doing it right.” Everybody who’s ever dreamed of fronting a band most likely has this woman in mind. She is profoundly talented on the guitar and unmatched vocals that knock you off your feet. Most of all, she sports a natural charm that leaves room for admiration across the nation.
We’ve been waiting for someone to come along and give folk music a good kick in the pants, and The Yawpers came with steel-toed boots on. The Colorado force sports gruff, Southern-inspired rockers that make Jack White look like a sissy! The first time we saw them at the Jackpot, they were threatening folks who didn’t make the trek from the bar to the stage with a promise to punch them “in the fucking mouth.” Later on, they would proclaim “This is a song about huffing gasoline and fucking hookers!” They’ve since signed to Bloodshot Records. Consider this the year of The Yawpers.
On the balmiest of Kansas summer evenings, we understood true fear (and adoration). That’s when garage rockers Le Butcheretes were clad in an alarming shade of red from head to toe while opening for The Melvins at the Bottleneck this summer. Frontwoman Teri Gender Bender spent most of the night fisting the air and glaring at every single audience member. No, really. Pretty certain she struck fear in the eyes of every person there. It was intimidating as hell, and instilled equal parts fear and respect in the crowd, solidifying themselves as one of the coolest fucking bands to ever grace the Bottleneck stage.
Here’s the thing about the Sleater-Kinney show at the Uptown. It was on a Sunday, the day after Middle of the Map Fest. That festival, which sprawled across several venues over a few days, chewed everyone up and spit them out. So people who came to the Sleater-Kinney show really wanted to be there, and it showed. The mighty Sleater-Kinney did end up coming to the rescue with an energy that restored the pluck in every music lover there. They packed a punch, with vocals that roared across the crowded venue, robust guitar riffs, and drums that rolled like thunder. Like thunder! Every single maneuver these women pulled could be felt in your gut. They struck power stances, power leaps, power scoots, and power shuffles. And we all left the show feeling mighty as fuck! Sleater-Kinney isn’t a band that’s out there demanding recognition and respect. They already have it, and on that Sunday in April they invited Kansas City to enjoy everything they have to offer… if they could keep up.
In March, Mothercoat came to the Replay, and the Replay went nuts. This is a band we discovered at SXSW, and got relive every magical moment just a couple of weeks later. The venue was filled to the brim, with audience members reaching as far back as the soundboard and past the bar. The bassist pulled out all the funk while the frontman flailed wildly about the place.
The Japanese band impressively flipped between regular tones and falsettos, while showering revelers in highly danceable numbers. The audience lost their minds to the point where even the band was a little surprised, casually glancing at each other with wide eyes and giving that “How did this happen?!” shrug. They tried to end their set by smashing various pieces of gear, but the audience chanted and begged so hard for them to continue that they started piecing their equipment back together for one more song. They told us this was the most well-attended show of their tour (at that point). We’ll never know what brought everyone out to the Replay that night, but they brought it hard.
Editor’s note: A few months later, the bassist fell from her second story apartment while trying to record the sound of birds. She made a great recovery, but all the broken bones caused the band to cancel some dates. Regardless, she is forever a badass in our eyes.
Speaking of Japanese bands that are completely fucking badass, we present to you Melt Banana. They STUFFED recordBar with jittery and eager punk rockers over the summer. The duo worked the audience into a frenzy, blasting them out with noises we didn’t think could come out of just two people. This was the only time we’ve seen audience members get truly pinned and unable to move. Some of them never even had their feet touch the ground. But there wasn’t one unhappy face in that audience, and it was one of those fantastic hardcore moments where bodies collide and glee erupts all over the place.
Rocktober started off in Lawrence with a visually stunning performance from Ghost. This is by far one of the most theatrical bands out there. The masked Swedish rockers are fronted by a demonic “anti-Pope,” and struck excitement in metalheads of all ages and all backgrounds.
One look at “Papa” may strike fear in the average person, but not metalheads. In fact, many came out with their families. Children were strapped into little harnesses, daughters were donning capes and makeup, and parents bonded with their children. The family that rocks together stays together, and this was wildly apparent at the Ghost show. If you can see past the scary makeup and demon horns, you’ll find one of the tightest and most familial communities of any musical genre.
We’ve seen hundreds of performances this year. Hundreds! But nothing left us completely in awe and sported such badassery than when Viet Cong’s drummer broke his hand, and CONTINUED TO PLAY SEVERAL SHOWS at SXSW.
We had just seen him the week before when the band performed at recordBar. But somewhere between Kansas City and Austin, tragedy struck and the hand went into a cast, folded tightly up against his chest via sling. When you’re one of Pitchfork’s buzz bands, you can’t just whimp out of your shows. So Mike Wallace drummed with one hand every day that week. Bands like this tend to play several shows a day at SXSW, and in front of large audiences. He played with one hand, he soundchecked with one hand, opened water bottles with his mouth, and used his one remaining good hand to (jokingly) flip off his bandmates while they heckled him about the injury. Playing endless amounts of shows at the ever-grueling festival requires several levels of badassery… but doing what Wallace did was epic. They didn’t even slow the tempo down for him! We watched him play until his hands bled, and he physically could not drum anymore. Mike Wallace, I Heart Local Music salutes you! You are, without a doubt, the most badass thing we’ve seen in the world of music this year.
Words and all photos by Fally Afani