This show was a big one. The small town midwest band has really spent 7 years building to this show. Through their releases of the lo-fi debut album “Pino” and the glossy noisemaker “Anglo EP” that came out nearly 3 years ago they still seem to have always had their sights set on this record and more specifically this show.
It’s easy to see how this show is the end of 3 long years of writing, recording and album preparation but for vocalist Steven Foster and the two brothers Newton it simply can’t be the case; this is the beginning of something. Now that they have this well recorded and strong album with their best songs to date to promote the band that was filling much of their sets with Flaming Lips and Cage The Elephant covers so many years ago can really drive to increase their popularity from this concert on. That is why this show was so important and the band did it right, guest musicians, a big display to sell the album and one of their longtime partner bands to open the show, The GasTown Lamps.
The GasTown Lamps never broke up but it has been quiet at GTL camp for quite some time. Their public hiatus was over a year and probably closer to two years for live shows. When the “sons of St. Joseph” Scruffy & The Janitors asked them to play their release show, GTL knew the magnitude of the night and were happy to step to the plate. The group has come a long, long way from the rough, Black Keys sounding blues riffs that fueled the band that originally started as a two-piece. They are now a refined band with slower burning, more complex songs that are closer to soul.
The group, now with Kyla Ward on vocals for the past couple years (she joined the band about halfway through their lifespan so far) concentrate more on adding guitar textures to songs as opposed to driving the numbers with riffs. They would take on a couple older songs with reworked versions of “When The Night Comes Through” and one of their most powerful numbers, “Landmines.” They would also please the Cafe Acoustic crowd with some new songs like “You’ve Got To Sin To Be Saved” and the burning closing number “Trapped Inside A Burning House.”
The GasTown Lamps received the attention of the room and their set was enjoyed but it was obvious when the young headlining band hit the stage that the night belonged to Scruffy & The Janitors. The room filled up with an eager crowd that seemed to appear out of cracks in the walls. The first song ushered in a crowd that seemed to double the existing attendance just minutes earlier. The band said their hellos and blasted into “Eraser” the opening track from their album “Modeling Is Hard.” In addition to the core band of Steven Foster on vocals and bass, Teriq Newton on guitar and brother Trevin Newton on drums, the group would be joined for the entire set by guitarist Tommy Marshall. Half way through the blasting opening number it left you to wonder why their group doesn’t have a fourth member at all times.
The more full guitar sound looks well on the band, as does the duel backing vocals by Teriq Newton and Marshall. They would play the entire record in order for their main set and luckily it has some burners hitting high in the order. “You Got Hit” is angsty and aggressive and “The Spins” is the crunchy guitar soundtrack to most people the age of the band who enjoy some wild weekend nights. Some songs had been in the band’s cannon for so long it was like seeing them graduate on stage for this record release, “My Faith” and especially “Hermit” had this feel as the band has been live testing those songs for several years.
The group was focused in a way they haven’t been in a long time. The large crowd at St. Joseph’s best sounding venue (which sounded especially great on this night) just propelled the band. The crowd joined in the big sing-along quality of “Jonestown” and even followed the band into setlist changeups like the burning “Flesh & Bone” and “Carry Me Home.” The latter finding lead singer Steven Foster gently plucking at his bass to drive the song and showing off his vocal prowess in a nearly a cappella performance. On the even more delicate “Welcome Touch” Foster yielded an acoustic guitar while Teriq Newton jumped over to the keys to adorn the slowest and softest song of the night. After ratcheting the crowd back up with a rousing version of “Elephant” the band had completed the record and their main set was done. They would barely get off stage before electing to appease the crowd with an encore.
The encore was predictably their biggest hit “Dirtleg” that got some significant radio play in Kansas City a few years ago. The crowd soaked in the rigid rocker then the band did something a lot less predictable. They launched into a firey cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” The political song is more relevant now than ever and with the band shouting it’s lyrics to its fellow twenty somethings in the crowd you could tell they felt it too. It was a spontaneous way to wrap up a great show by a band that had played this town dozens upon dozens of times before but at the end of the night it honestly felt like this was the best they had ever been.
Scruffy & The Janitors setlist from Cafe Acoustic in St. Joseph, MO 3/2/18:
- You Got Hit
- The Spins
- My Faith
- Modeling Is Hard
- Eat It Up
- Flesh & Bone
- Carry Me Home
- Stay The Night
- Welcome Touch
- encore break
- Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)