Centro-matic is one of the most unique acts a person can see live. Their sound is distinctly different than any other band out there. Will Johnson’s vocals can’t really be fairly compared to any of his peers. The Johnson led band have created a sound they alone own and for this reason they are worth going to see every time.
The Record Bar is not a big venue. A fair amount of people will make the place seam packed. I have been to several shoulder-to-shoulder events at the place and they aren’t huge crowds. Unfortunately Centro-matic and Polica would fail to even fill the small venue on November 10th. It was a Thursday and sometimes competing shows can effect a crowd but whatever happened, the crowd was too small for a band like Centro-matic.
I knew the evening’s crowd might be small when the will-call list was only three names, including myself. The crowd that was in attendance was very good. The group of 35-45 people (depending on how many were in the restroom or smoking) was very attentive to the bands.Their was very little talking during songs and always a nice response for each song.
The opening band Polica came out with a surprising lineup, singer, bass, and two full drum kits. This instrumentation would remain consistent throughout their set. Polica had a female lead singer putting PJ Harvey vocals over the very beat driven music. The two drum sets really made for an intriguing sound from the band, the two drummers would sometimes play in sync with each other and other times play to compliment each other. The total lack of guitar was actually not very noticeable with the entire sound of the band. It is always interesting to see bands approach their music from a fresh perspective.
Centro-matic would take the stage after a short sound check. The crowd would rise from their chairs and tables and gather in front of the sound board which made the audience seam much less sparse than they did for Polica. The people that were present were very excited to hear the band that hasn’t played Kansas City for several years.
Going on at about 11:15 the set would be short lasting only an hour. Centro-matic would manage to blast through 11 songs during the hour and wouldn’t phone in one minute of it. With an expansive catalog like the band has, you never know what they are going to play. You know that you will get to hear “Flashed and Cables” but other than that it will likely be a grab-bag.
They would hit some of their most recent records multiple times during the set, playing at least 2 songs from Fort Recovery, Love You Just The Same and the new and fantastic Candidate Waltz. I would have been perfectly content for the band to play their entire newest record but it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of their stellar records.
Early in the set produced possibly their two best songs to date back-to-back. “Flashes and Cables” was immidiately followed by the powerful new song “Iso-Residue.” The short set also produced several Centro-matic standards such as “Calling Thrematico” and “The Mighty Midshipmen.” Candidate Waltz was hit three times including the two best songs from the record. A show without “Iso-Residue” or “Only In My Double Mind” would have been disappointing. “All The Talkers” was also played from the record.
“Only In My Double Mind” would serve as the final song of the set with no encore. The song was extended and with some nice Will Johnson guitar ad libbing. This lasted a couple minutes while the band backed Johnson with a beat and carefully watched for him to break back into the song. Overall it was a short but satisfying set. Anytime the band comes around they are definitely worth going to see.
The last thing about the show I’d like to say is about Centro-matic’s merchandise. They are one of few bands who really try to have their stuff available to buy. Many bands don’t really carry much with them on the road. Centro-matic had 12 different cds, their new LP, two different shirts, a poster and a deluxe version of Dual Hawks on the merch table.It is so important for a band like Centro-matic to bring their albums to shows. The only way to get most of their stuff in either online or at a show. Fans really appreciate being able to find the music they want to buy; Centro-matic does it right.