Welcome back to this list SPECIFICALLY! We haven’t seen the list of what makes a “badass” moment at a Lawrence concert since 2019 (2020 was the shutdown, and 2021 didn’t have enough touring acts come through to make a comprehensive list).
So now, dear reader, we look back fondly on what was 2022 and see which shows clobbered us, kicked our asses, and left us laying on the floor (and begging for more). Now, there are a lot of shows that were good, but this list is for the badass moments. You’ll see what we mean in a moment. We’ll also be posting the most badass things we saw from local acts later this month.
Here is, without further delay, the absolutely staggering amount of badassery we saw from touring acts in 2022:
(ok, ok, we know this isn’t something that a touring act did. Rather, it is something badass we saw at a touring act’s show)
It feels like wherever there is Ani DiFranco, something gay and cool is happening. Well lo and behold, right before our Lord and Savior took the stage at Liberty Hall back in October, queerness erupted in the audience when one lesbian proposed to another. She said yes. The crowd cheered. The lights went down. And Ani manifested onstage.
The emotions were already high for this show, but when you live in a state where politicians are after our queer peers, any moment like this is a win for humanity. We also heard that every time a queer couple gets engaged, it’s like destroying another one of Kris Kobach’s horcruxes or something.
Favorite moment of the night came when Ani dedicated “Crocus” to the newly engaged. Listen, we were all invested in this storyline as soon as she went down on one knee. Here’s hoping “Crocus” makes an appearance in the setlist at their wedding.
The punks that showed up for Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds, and Negative Approach on Monday night were in it for the looooong game… and speaking of long, look at that setlist taped to the floor!!
Tickets for the March show originally went on sale two years ago, but COVID kept the concert at bay until this year. Nevertheless, fans stayed resilient, frantically looking for the physical tickets they bought ages ago on the day of the big show. “We were supposed to originally come out to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Group Sex,” lamented vocalist Keith Morris. “Now, we’re out celebrating the 40th anniversary of Wild in the Streets.” Then, in true punk fashion, rather than diving into “Wild in the Streets” they trolled the crowd and instead fired up “When the Shit Hits the Fan.”
When they weren’t doting on Morris’ ramblings, the elder punks of the local scene were reminiscing about the good old days… who saw what band at the Outhouse (or VFW or Pirate House or whatever), who they were with, what patched up jacket they were still able to squeeze into decades later… it was a celebration of how the scene (as we know it) came to be, a wealth of punk knowledge all crammed into the Granada.
Under regular circumstances, someone laying on a couch isn’t worthy of making it onto a list with “badass” in the title. But this sheer act of resilience and “the show must go on” mentality in the midst of the already tumultuous pandemic landed Lucy Dacus, a normally shy and reserved performer, on the badass list.
In February, she started the show by softly announcing “Hello” into the mic. Then, in front of a sold-out audience, she calmly laid down on a couch center stage, and quietly said “I’m on a couch.” The crowd. Went. WILD.
Now normally, having a lay-down on a couch wouldn’t conjure up such cheers, but Dacus has had a heck of a time the week before the Liberty Hall stop. In the midst of a massive tour– with many, many tour dates still remaining– she suffered a setback with two herniated discs. Rather than cancelling and rescheduling her sets, she took into account everyone’s weariness from COVID cancellations and decided that the show must go on… and she did so as comfortably as she could: laying down on a couch.
When the crew was setting up the stage, an overly-enthusiastic round of applause came when the couch got moved into position. By now, her die-hard fans were well aware of the couch becoming the unintended sixth member of the band. It’s almost like they were really looking forward to this unique setup with the small sofa. But perhaps they were trying to be encouraging, in a way. Everyone’s suffered setbacks over the last couple of years, right? For these fans, Lucy Dacus’ raw and emotional lyrics were comforting them throughout the pandemic. Now, with Dacus’ own setback, they were trying to reciprocate that support.
No one will judge you for getting a little emotional at a Lucy Dacus show. It was her at her most vulnerable, both artistically and physically, and she was taking us along for the ride. Scoot over, Lucy. After a heartbreaking and beautifully transparent set like that, we may need to lay down as well.
She goes for her big rock out moment halfway through this clip:
On a sleepy Sunday in early October, Austin-based Nik Parr and the Selfless Lovers proved that they are a band that (in our opinion) could tackle any stage, any size.
In front of a notably tired and lethargic crowd, the band accomplished the impossible. The presence from these guys was a massive one, and they absolutely conjured up the dancer in everyone because THESE GUYS MAKE PARTY MUSIC. This was one of the highlights of our month, and since they frequent the area, we’d like to recommend that you not miss out the next time they roll through.
The guy plays sax with one hand and bangs on the keyboard with the other, for fuck’s sake. He’s an energetic ball of positivity, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he just started handing out aggressive high-fives mid-set. Don’t sleep on this one.
Speaking of piano madmen, have you considered joining the Church of Low Cut Connie? The wild-eyed and energetic-as-hell man behind the band, Adam Weiner, can command a room like a powerful pastor. Back in February at the Bottleneck, his congregation was an audience willing to brave single-digit temperatures for some of that inspirational rock and roll.
Weiner’s call to actions were thrust into high gear by his no-holding-back stage presence. He spent half the set standing on his piano bench, he leaned into the crowd and pet fans on the head, and he gave us more high kicks than the Rockettes. And the backup vocalists! They were just as entrancing and bursting with confidence and charisma! That magnetic energy, along with a dynamic and powerful backing band, was all the momentum the crowd needed to dance along all night. “Gotta keep it rockin’ and rolling, babies!” he demanded. This was truly an ass-shaking sermon.
From the Church of Low Cut Connie, we now head to the Church of Rock and Roll.
Did you go to Foxy Shazam’s rampant and unruly show at The Bottleneck in September, or did you fuck up?
The rockers, known for their barbaric stage shows, threw down so hard at the Bottleneck we got winded just watching them. Fronted by madman Eric Nally (known to eat cigarettes onstage, though on this night he merely smoked them and procured a few tricks), the band brought all the high kicks and wild flailing they could muster. We’re not talking a few jumps here and there. Foxy Shazam brought that chaotic energy through every single song.
“Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll, motherfuckers!” Nally proclaimed to a large, squealing audience (one he frequently climbed on top of and dove into). It was hard to keep track of that fucker, he bounced back and forth far more than a tennis ball at Wimbledon. One minute he’s climbing an amp, then he’s jumping off the drummer’s chair, and now he’s humping the wall, and oh look this time he’s jumping off the keyboardist’s chair…
At one point, keyboard player Schuyler Vaughn White decided to crowd surf with his keyboard in tow. The fans were more than happy to elevate him while he banged out a lengthy solo. And watch out for that swinging trumpet! Alex Nauth was practically windmilling his horn the entire night. The mic (and mic stand) never stopped swinging either. And did we mention the insane amount of nipples onstage? Like, everyone’s nipples were out. This was not a show for the faint of heart.
The Chats’ first time in Lawrence will be marked by the absolute madness their fans brought to the Bottleneck. The May show, which sold out quickly, brought punks of every age out of the woodwork… and their chaotic natures did not disappoint.
The Queensland-based trio have built themselves a reputation of making music for absolute maniacs. In fact, when that first note hit, someone was already stage-diving. From there, the kids threw down hard in the pit while simultaneously holding each other up in the air. The Chats stopped to throw some attitude-filled banter between songs. “This is an old one. It’s so old, it was our first song,” they’d announce to the happy cheers from fans. The glee was promptly interrupted when they told them “Don’t get excited, it’s fucking terrible.”
In 2022, Lawrence had a bit of an African renaissance. We’ve had musicians from Congo (The Salvation Choir at the Replay), Ghana (Ata Kak at The Bottleneck), and Niger (Mdou Moctar at Liberty Hall)– but the show that stood out the most to us involved some Afrobeat royalty from Nigeria.
Femi Kuti, son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, brought one of the liveliest shows of the year to The Granada on back in June. Accompanied by several percussionists, a horn section, and a spirited trio of dancers, he took fans on a wild ride. He was also joined by son Made, who held a note so long on his saxophone, it had to have stretched to at least a minute.
This is the sort of show you could have walked into knowing nothing about the artist or genre, and left a dedicated fan. It was a happiness explosion of color and fun. The dancers carried the weight of that vibe, bursting onto the stage in getups full of color and texture, and they didn’t stop moving until the music stopped. The momentum was so high in there, there was not for the weak at heart. No wonder they were called “The Positive Force.”
Believe us, it was very, very hard not to make this the #1 show of the year. This was everything you could ask for in a rock show: it was chaotic! It was energetic! And (most importantly) it drove the fans wild.
Rock and roll is all about breaking the rules– and believe us, The Velveteers broke all the rules on Sunday night at The Bottleneck. For one, they ditched the traditional rock band setup and instead stormed the stage with wild and unruly frontwoman Demi Demitro backed by two drummers, Baby Pottersmith and Jonny Fig, who sat side by side, sometimes banging on the same drum. They used every inch of the stage, with Demitro scaling the the drums when she wasn’t darting all over the place and throwing herself on the ground. Even the drummers took their instruments for a little walk (this drove the crowd absolutely nuts), leaning heavily into the frenzied audience.
This moment alone won us over:
You honestly shouldn’t be surprised. We knew, and we announced, from the very first moment we saw them play that this was going to be the best show of the year. It was a performance so profound, we covered them twice.
But first!! Let’s all raise our glasses and offer up a toast for the staff at the Granada, for they must have the world’s strongest biceps after what happened when Turnstile played the venue on a Saturday night in May.
About a half-dozen staffers remained planted in front of the barrier, catching crowd surfers every 30 seconds (or less) throughout the entirety of the hardcore band’s set set. At any point during the show, there were somewhere between five and ten bodies soaring across the crowd and over the barrier. From the moment the rockers fired up their first song, the bodies just went flying.
In our professional opinion (and it is our profession), Turnstile is the most important American rock band on tour right now. What they’ve accomplished in their short time as a band is exceptional. They’re in the midst of a massive tour, playing just about every single day through the end of August (not to mention the dozens of shows they played prior to tonight). Think about that. This is a band that plays songs hard and fast, and they’re bringing that energy every single night. The stamina behind these fellas is simply outstanding. Not to mention, navigating the hell that is COVID touring and avoiding cancelling tours due to inflation (as many of their peers have).
They exploded into the night with their latest single, “Mystery,” and the throbbing momentum remained frenzied until the very end. Even during slower songs from Glow On, such as “Alien Love Call” or “Underwater Boi,” fans were still throwing down hard in the pit and (you guessed it) crowd surfing as though their lives depended on it. The floor felt less like wooden planks and more like a bounce house because the sold-out show was an uncontrollable storm that ate up everyone in its path. Every song in the setlist felt like it could have been their most popular single.
Along with Truth Cult, Ekulu, and Citizen, we couldn’t help but notice a fantastic (and important detail). In past hardcore shows we’ve covered, the musicians were primarily white men playing to other white dudes. But this lineup of all four bands included people of color, and that diversity was reflected in the crowd as well. We also saw far more women than we do at most hardcore and metal shows.
The night also served as a reminder of all the best parts of seeing live music. As fans gleefully limped away from the show clutching guitar picks they caught, or merch they snatched up, we were reminded that it’s nights like these that kept us going during the pandemic. These were the shows that gave us hope for coming out of the other side of COVID, and Turnstile put on such an electrifying set, you could just feel that things were going to get bigger for them. This was likely the last time were were going to see them like this, all packed in together as one giant fan base in a beloved local venue, and it felt good to collectively experience that in such a music-rich community.