“Watch out for the black cat. It scratched me,” Julie Rose warns as I arrive at the host site for a four-act local bill on Sunday. Cat? Sure. More abandoned desert bunker—two humans apparently calling it home notwithstanding—than music venue, these days the compound known as the Katherine Gianaclis Park for the Arts serves as home to an olden fire pit, a long-perched motorcycle and, yes, a gaggle of stray cats within its wooden-fenced perimeters near the intersection of Boulder Highway and Tropicana.
Tonight, however, as it has been a handful of times since its January re-emergence, the KGPA is abuzz with non-feline activity. A crowd of about 40 turns out to support the underground scene, gathering inside the cramped dwelling at one end of the property to take in the sounds brought together by Rose (Black Market) and co-promoter James Woodbridge (MetaMeta).
Two summer tours intersect in this space tonight. Las Vegas Club*, Mother McKenzie and onetime Las Vegan Jacob Smigel—on break from his Arizona med school—are at the tail end of a 16-date swing that took them to such hotbeds as Little Rock, Arkansas, and Kearney, Nebraska. Hungry Cloud (aka Mike Weller) is just home from a seven-gig jaunt with Action Cat to the Pacific Northwest and back.
Las Vegas Club*, the brainchild of Tom Waits-ian gravel-voice Joe Kendall, kicks it off. Smigel smilingly hammers the drums. Wyatt McKenzie mans a pedal-steel guitar purchased for $80 last week in Kansas. Violinist Tristan Moyer duets with the bearded and bandana’d Kendall. And Kendall brings the house down with hilarious new original “The Pee-Pee Song” (sample lyric: “I just found out about my pee-pee/And it likes you/And I like you”).
Next up: Mother McKenzie, combining group and solo material, including the debut of a lyrically vibrant—and unfinished, McKenzie insists (“When it’s done it’ll be like R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’ … like 80,000 volumes”)—epic tale of an aging Kansas City boxer. And then it’s Weller’s turn to surprise, waving Action Cat off the couch for rare full-band versions of two tunes from his soonish-to-be-released debut CD.
Smigel closes with a trademark storytelling performance, taking his floor-full of fans from a camping trip to New Mexico to a “found sound” conversation between two Texas teens, the latter re-enacted by Smigel and bassist Matt Kendall on cordless telephones.
It’s far colder outside than in as folks spill out into the midnight air, exchange hugs and handshakes and wander back to their cars. My eyes are still peeled for a black cat I know is out there somewhere.