The Rainmakers/Nace Brothers (Friday, August 16, 2013—Grinders) Ticket price: Free
For the 4th time in two years (and my 7th time, overall), my friends and I went to see Kansas City’s own Rainmakers perform in concert. You’d think we’d be getting a bit burned-out on them, but you can’t beat free, and as usual, the boys did not disappoint. If anything, they exceeded expectations this time.
Outdoor concerts in mid-August in Kansas City usually automatically come with London Broil temperatures, but not on this night. We couldn’t have dreamed of more perfect weather this time of year—mid-70s at showtime, no wind, no humidity and a waxing gibbous moon hovering overhead. This was my first visit to Grinders, a place I’d never even heard of until last week, but I was fairly impressed. It certainly was a MAJOR upgrade over Knuckleheads, where two of our previous R-makers shows were staged. Grinders is open and spacious and instead of an old loading dock, their stage was actually a first-class stage, and it looked to be almost half the size of the stage at Sandstone Amphitheater (or whatever it’s called now). The Port-A-Pottys were actually an upgrade over the closets they expect you to piss in at Knuckleheads and they had several libation stations scattered about, so the beer lines were quite short all night (although I abstained) even when the place filled up. Grinders even allows you to bring your own lawn chairs in if you like.
My only issues with Grinders were the "No cameras" policy (which meant I had to take my digital camera back to my car first—never mind that people were snapping pics right and left with their camera phones, like whoever took the pic I've included here) and the fact that they allowed kids in the place. And I'm talking little kids, too. For the better part of an hour, I watched these two nandofuck parents in front of us allow their three no-attention-span little boys (the oldest of whom couldn’t have been more than 8 years old) to run around loose and futz around wrestling with each other (and with Mom and Dad) and just generally be a nuisance. This show as free—why couldn’t these dumbasses splurge for a babysitter or dump the kids off on Grandma for the night so they could actually enjoy the concert? And did they really expect those little shits to sit and watch the show? I felt like that chick in Showgirls who uttered, "Would somebody get these fucking kids out of here!!!" Come on folks, this is a Rock concert in an outdoor bar/nightclub with people getting drunk, not daycare at Romper Room.
Okay, enough ranting. The Nace Brothers hit the stage just around sundown and played for roughly 45 minutes or so. A four-piece KC outfit just like the Rainmakers (and two of them actually are male siblings named Nace), they’ve been around over 30 years and have released several CDs during that times, but I knew nothing about them. They weren’t bad, though—sort of an edgy Gin Blossoms with a little bluesy Jeff Healey-style blues mixed in. They played all original material too, and I noticed right away how crystal-clear the sound was at the venue because I could understand each and every word they sang and the between-song patter as well. The Bros. didn’t necessarily blow me away, but they didn’t suck, either, and were not a bad opening act at all. We watched them perform from near the top of the hill, but for the main attraction I was more than happy to relocate somewhere else away from the Karate Kids, so we ambled down to the standing room area down front, and before I even knew what hit me, we were suddenly right in the front rowwwww by the barricade, just to the right of guitarist Jeff Porter’s microphone at stage left. Now I REALLY wanted to use my fucking camera, dammit! I was also shocked at how good the sound still was even right down front with the speakers just a few feet away from us. It was plenty loud, yes, but not blowing my brains out like the shrieky headache-inducing sound mix Styx and Speedwagon employed at Starlight back in May—and we were way up in the back of the venue at that show!
The Rainmakers hit the stage around 9:30 with leader/guitarist Bob "White Shoes" Walkenhorst, "Shoeless" Jeff Porter on lead guitar (apparently channeling the late Ronnie Van Zant by performing barefoot), bassist Rich Ruth sporting a scruffy beard and Daniel Boone hat with raccoon tail (he would’ve fit right in with Hayseed Dixie!), and drummer Pat Tomek in plain black t-shirt. They fired off three straight songs from their second album Tornado, "One More Summer", "Snakedance" and "Other Side Of The World", which gave me hope I might finally hear them play a personal favorite from it, "Tornado Of Love", but they never got to it—work on it, will ya? Actually, all of their albums got plenty of spins over the next 2.5 hours, with the once again curious exception of 1997’s Skin, which they didn’t touch for the fourth straight time I’ve seen them play live since 2011—could it be Skin has a rash?!? For once, I wasn’t in (or on my way back from) the toilet when they played another personal favorite, "Reckoning Day" (which features the credo of this here blog: "Well, I feel like pickin’ a fight, with anybody who claims they’re right…"), from their underrated 3rd album The Good News And The Bad News. The Rainmakers’ most recent release, 2011’s 25 On, was visited several times on the night, including "Like Dogs", "Missouri Girl", "My Own Bed", "Given Time" (a track which is really growing on me) and my favorite from the album, "Kansas City Times", all about Bob’s old paper delivery route back in the ‘60s in rural north central Missouri.
The band seemed in great spirits as they reeled off song after song, and Walkenhorst remarked about what an absolutely splendid night it turned out to be, thanks to Mother Nature. More high points ensued, like "Wages Of Sin", "Government Cheese", "Width Of A Line", and especially "Rockin’ At The T-Dance", which took on added significance with "the Hyatt House" and its "big dance floor" looming just five blocks south of the venue—you can still see the ghosts from 32 years ago, too. Apparently the band’s plan was to play just about everything they knew, but unfortunately the venue turns into a pumpkin at the stroke of Midnight and they were up against a tight curfew. With the clock ticking, they brought the Nace Brothers back on-stage for a brief tribute to Elvis on the 36th anniversary of his passing and performed "Burning Love", followed by Jerry Lee Lewis’ "Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On." They had planned to do more with the Nace Bros., but only had time for one more song, and to my surprise (and delight) it was the Rainmakers classic "Big Fat Blonde" instead of their signature song "Let My People Go-Go". This is akin to Kiss not playing "Rock And Roll All Nite" or Springsteen not doing "Born To Run". I wonder if this was the first Rainmakers gig at which "Go-Go" was ever omitted. In any case, it was a most outstanding show, 34 songs in 2.5 hours—not too shabby for free! They could’ve charged 20 bucks or more and I still wouldn’t have felt cheated.
One more rant: I would’ve enjoyed our front row spot a whole lot more but for the stupid and inconsiderate drunk fucks who inhabited the area down front. This one palooka next to me was totally wasted from the moment the Rainmakers hit the stage, and he kept bumping into everyone, he hollered crude homosexual remarks at Jeff Porter saying he wanted to fuck him, and he kept climbing on the barricade flailing his arms around and just generally made an ass out of himself. I don’t think he even knew who The Rainmakers were to begin with. I hope to hell he woke up Saturday with a gi-normous hangover in the morning. Fortunately, he went away (or was hauled away) after about 30 minutes. No sooner than we got rid of him did this gaggle of gabby Kardashian-like women show up right behind us and they would not shut up the rest of the show. They were almost louder than the band at times. My friends had to leave early because of next-day work obligations, and I finally gave up my front row spot because I was sick of listening to these bitches yammering away. Nothing wrong with getting drunk and having a good time at a concert—I’ve done it myself a time or two—but there’s such a thing as common courtesy, and being royally-ripped is no excuse for that to cease. As I made my way back up the hill and took in the rest of the show from a distance, I was quite amused at this joker who was literally falling-down drunk trying to get to the latrine. I sincerely hope he wasn’t going to get behind the wheel anytime soon—he couldn’t even drive a golf ball!
SET LIST: One More Summer/Snakedance/The Other Side Of The World/Downstream/Turpentine/Battle Of The Roses/The One That Got Away/Missouri Girl/Width Of A Line/Long Gone Long/The Wages Of Sin/My Own Bed/Half Past Kissin' Time/Reckoning Day/These Hills/Another Guitar/Given Time/Half A Horse Apiece/Small Circles/Lakeview Man/Like Dogs/Shiny Shiny/Nobody Knows/Kansas City Times/Rockin' At The T-Dance/Government Cheese/Spend It On Love/You Remind Me Of Someone/Information/Drinkin' On The Job/Hoo-De-Hoo/Burning Love (w/Nace Bros.)/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (w/Nace Bros.)/Big Fat Blonde