Review: American Catastrophe with Softee, Ghosty and the PedalJets

Live, loud and local -- that could have a been a subtitle for last night's Sonic Spectrum Anniversary Showcase in Kansas City. As a former college radio DJ and a current free-form music fan, I was happy to drive out from Topeka to catch Robert Moore's birthday party for one of the coolest music programs around. On Saturday afternoons, I often find myself stuck in a parking lot, listening to the tail-end of a Moore conversation with the next big deal in the music world or happily grooving to my new favorite band and forgetting to un-snap my seatbelt.

Last night, Softee opened up on a mellow tone with a cover song. Things picked-up when this all-girl band from Kansas City dived into their original tunes. They got the rest of the Record Bar bouncing with fun indie pop music. It sounded like they channeled a retro 1950's bebop vibe plus some modern-day girl power. "String" showed off the tight cello and bass riffs; both sounded amazing together. "Sugar Vendor" had a catchy, sassy lo-fi vibe mixed with sweet vocals and a borderline "punk attitude."

Up next, some musical representation from Lawrence. Ghosty started up strong and loud. They kept that energy for their entire set. This is my second encounter with the group and I was impressed. Last night, they sounded ready to take on the world: catchy melodies blended with aggressive experimental grooves. They explored funky beats and country twangs while staying true to their indie rock roots. I especially enjoyed their live rendition on "The Big Surrender"; they pounded through the pretty melody with a fierce attitude.

The PedalJets went on next. They sounded loud, upbeat and oozing with rockers' attitudes. They kept the crowd rockin' with songs like "Tiny World" and other fun, brazen and infectious melodies.

American Catastrophe brought the house down with its dark mix of wicked bass riffs, powerful drums and black-hearted melodies.

The indie rock quartet filled the Record Bar with a wild, haunted sound that sent shocks through the floor and trembling up into my pint of Strongbow. ShaunHamontrees ' rich vocals sounded like they was poured over shots of bourbon. It was all served up with chaser of lush vocal harmonies by Amy Farrand. Their live set had a more raw attitude in comparison to their album, "Excerpts from a Broken Bone Choir." The CD sounds great and it still captures American Catastrophe's dark sound. But for last night's set, the Kansas City group managed to go beyond dark; sounding more out of control and other worldly. Songs like "The Well" could have played through a modern rebel's bloody exit following a classic western gun fight -- moody lyrics, tight percussion and Hamontree sounding like an edgier Tom Waits.

Overall, last night was a toast to KCUR's music show. It was fantastic way to say happy birthday to Sonic Spectrum. I'm looking forward to next year's party.


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