First, you know it's not going to be the best live show you've ever witnessed when you arrive to the venue before the PA system and the instrumental band is slated to play the second slot of the three bands. Second, you're clued into the fact that it's going to be an interesting night when you sit down with your friends and there's a drunk woman nearby with a smokeless cigarette and a mouth as dirty as most sailors.
Finally, everyone can agree that they've had fun when the drunk woman with the dirty sailor mouth gives a guy in a wheel chair a lap dance during the second band and you're not at a strip club. While the "Professor" looking guy with the Tommy Hilfiger sweater, glasses, and pleated khakis has fully clothed dancing "sex" with what looks like a graduate student, but was likely his girlfriend or wife, in front of the entire bar.
All of those things and more happened Saturday night when Franklin Felix, DiBiase, and Explosive Space Modulator took the stage at The Stagger Inn...Again in Edwardsville. Two dollars got you into see these three local bands from the Metro East rock with their mix of progressive rock/post rock/indie rock.
With the apparent miscommunication about who would provide the PA rectified, Franklin Felix, hailing from Collinsville, opened the show. For their first show at The Stagger Inn...Again, they quartet played a strong set of seven songs that forced the listener take notice due to the pounding back beat laid down by drummer James Amos and thundering bass of Bruce Klosterman underlying the effect heavy guitar work by Skip Johnston and Jeff Johnisee.
These complex songs with changing time signatures are fresh yet also harken back to records released in the 1970's by English Progressive Rock bands or even 1990's Indie Rock bands. The music was tight and well rehearsed, but unless you were standing in the right place in the room, singer/Guitar player Jeff Johnisee's vocals were not easily heard on the 2nd rate PA system over the drums and Orange cabinets used by Johnisee and guitarist Skip Johnston.
Most bands would be happy with one guitar sound for an entire show while having a backup in reserve. However, Franklin Felix is a band that certainly takes great pride in and knows its way around gear. Johnisee, Johnston, and Klosterman each brought two guitars to the gig. The band constructed these songs with specific sounds in mind and use all the tools at their disposal - a Fender Telecaster, a Gibson SG, and a couple of Gibson Les Paul guitars. In fact, Johnston used a sea of guitar pedals and effects that would rival, if not be the envy of most touring acts. The most visible sign of using all of their tools was when Klosterman moved from a Fender Precision bass guitar to a Gibson Thunderbird IV bass for some of the set. Due to their recent work on recording an album, the songs from Franklin Felix were solid, tight and well-played.
Talking to Johnisee and Johnston after the show, they advised they are about 85% done with the work on the album. The album scheduled for a release on vinyl (with a CD insert likely) by Anomer Records later this year. After this show with a bad sound system, I am really looking forward to hearing the finished album and seeing them play live with a better sound system.
Franklin Felix set list
Growing Up With Steve Perry for An Uncle
DiBiase kept the theme of the show going -- that of complex arrangements played loud. The lack of a good PA became a non-factor as this band of local St. Louis music scene veterans played their set of instrumental progressive rock style songs with some funky beats and synth stylings for good measure. While the band's music does not fit into one category, I will attempt to explain their sound. Some of the songs fit well with a Classic Rock or Southern Rock vibe while only lacking vocals while others venture into spacey, Art Rock territory -- elements that the band succeeds at inserting into the same song. Add in some elements of Acid Jazz, Trance and Heavy Metal and an interesting combination begins to take shape. Longer songs clocking between 4 1/2 and 7 minutes rule the day as guitarists David Goodman and Chandler Evans stretch out the boundaries of the song while bassist Mark Cange and drummer Lynn Sipole keep things contained while Brian Perry layers over and under with pulsating synth sounds. I was not able to get the set list from the band, but they played both songs from the videos posted here and you can hear more on their My Space page.
Unfortunately, I could not stick around to see Explosive Space Modulator who started their show at 1 a.m. Hopefully, they put on a good show for those faithful that stuck around. Nevertheless, it's nice to see good friends meet new ones, and reconnect with some old friends along the way.
Franklin Felix next show: March 4 @ The Tap Room, St. Louis, MO with DiBiase and Vaudevileins (from Chicago). Free!
DiBiase next show: January 21 @ Hurricanes, Collinsville, IL with Hope & Therapy and Kill Drifter
Explosive Space Modulator next show: TBA
Epilogue - As I walked out of the bar into the freezing weather to go home, the drunk woman stood outside on the sidewalk smoking and talking on her cell phone. I walked past her and made a right turn down the alley toward my car. She started following me not long after, still on her phone, yelling obscenities to the person on the other end of the line. At one point I asked, "are you talking to me?" and she replied, "No! You'd know if I was talking to you!" and kept on yelling at the caller. From what I could surmise, the person on the other end was her ride home and was hiding from her someplace in the general area as she stood outside freezing. I pulled away with her still yelling in the parking lot. An appropriate end to the evening...