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Wayward Weekender: Olympic Size, In the Pines, the Life and Times

Posted by on Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 8:59 AM

As far as I know, neither Olympic Size nor In the Pines have ever played a wedding. This past Saturday, both bands came close, playing on a deck tucked behind the Westport restaurant and special events establishment Californo’s, where on the larger indoor/outdoor side of the venue, a wedding reception was taking place. Some 50 or so eaters and drinkers paid $7 to hear the bands, while, just across the sidewalk that leads away from the front door of Murray’s ice cream, wedding guests got a taste of the best homespun music KC has to offer, for free.

Olympic Size kicked it off just before 9. The slapdash mixing job the band did before playing didn’t hurt the six-piece’s sound at all. Maybe it was the wood deck underfoot, or maybe it was the canopy of trees. Maybe it was the warm breeze and the high we Midwesterners get when our tenuous, mostly cold spring resigns itself to the first caresses of summer. In any case, with just a couple PA speakers and monitors and a few vocal mics plus amps, they sounded great.

The mood cast was mellow. The dinner crowd — most of whom, I assume, were not regular followers of local music — waded aurally into the band’s sound, probably not dipping below the surface, under which lies a cinematic, blue world of rich complexity and depth. I’ve always thought of the band as a friend to introspective moments, best suited for a quiet, at-home listening session or a dark, intimate bar. Outside at Californo’s, O-Size played the role of pretty backdrop. They got up, played some sweet tunes and left. Here’s hoping the people who paid attention — and even those that didn’t — got a sense of unexpected satisfaction, like a belly-warming glass of wine at the start of an evening out.

Providing the main course was In the Pines. The band that was born sitting down and only recently has begun to stand up enjoyed a crowd that, compared with the first band, was, well olympic-sized. Few of the people who’d come just for the show got tables, which, I think, is a good sign. Many of the dinner guests stayed through the whole, two-hour show, and spectators formed a vertical crowd down the aisle between tables to the stage, where ITP also benefited from the abundance of wood.

  • In the Pines, under the pines, on the pines.

This was one of my favorite shows from this band, which I’ve seen countless times. Despite frequent mic squeals (i.e., whenever frontman Brad Hodgson veered to close to his microphone), the band killed it. Backed by a row of evergreens, In the Pines seemed to feed off the natural world, not so much playing a show as creating a space to be experienced in. Who knew In the Pines were the ultimate front-porch act?

Vocally alone, the band is unlike any other act in town. Trading off vocals like players in an early American parlor drama, Hodgson is the unpredictable, preacher-man shouter; bassist Darren Welch is the earnest, boy-voiced herald; violinist Laurel Morgan is the desperate ingenue and violist Hannah Kendle is the strong-voiced schoolteacher. Watching them trade off singing parts is almost as interesting as listening. Instrumentally, they’re compelling as hell: lead guitarist Auggie Wolber plays lines that are so melodic and complex as to be almost like jazz, while Morgan and Kendle’s strings inject all the suspense and drama that the songs’ words — which are often riddled with yearning and strife and sadness — can’t possibly manage to, being only words. Could someone please make this band famous?

Up next — and equally deserving of fame — was the Life and Times, playing a ten-minute hike away. Me and my best gal walked past police barricades and drunk guys slumped dejectedly on the curb across from Chili’s waiting for their cabs, through the absurd Westport night, to the Record Bar, where, in keeping with the night’s theme, the band would come from fucking local and totally fucking kill it.

Just back from a tour of the West Coast in support of their latest, Tragic Boogie, now barely a month and a half old, these three elder statesmen of rock came to try and prove that no matter how many times they’ve played KC stages, each show they do has the potential to top the last one, whether there are 20 people in the crowd or 200.

  • TLAT walks the boulevard of broken strings.

And they delivered one slug to the head after another, driving each through the PA like a battering ram. Standing down front was to stuff your head between explosive pillows of rock. Seriously, this was probably the loudest show I’ve ever witnessed at the Record Bar. People leaving Rockfest, 20 blocks north, probably heard it. It was like My Bloody Valentine in a concentrated vial of fury. And it was beautiful.

Technically, yeah, it was probably ridiculously loud. But getting to hear older songs like “Ave Maria” and “My Last Hostage” along with newer ones “Que Sera Sera,” “Fall of the Angry Clowns” and “Dull Knives” at a volume completely out of reach of one’s typical home setup was totally worth it.

The fact that 50,000 people went to Rockfest and barely 100 saw TLAT at the Record Bar (and even fewer still Olympic Size and In the Pines) just proves that the Good Book got it right: The pathway to Heaven is narrow and the number of those who will be saved is small.

I am blessed to count myself among the righteous. Repent or perish, motherfuckers.



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