Get Up Superstars

The Get Up Kids/The Anniversary/Koufax/Le Klix
at Chain Reaction Sunday Sept. 17
When Kansas City underground idols the Get Up Kids played a semisecret show at Koo's Cafe last year, they pulled up to the club in a cramped-looking, slightly battered tour van, one in which each member of the band had presumably taken a turn behind the wheel as they tooled around from city to city, maybe even lugging that icon of DIY touring, the piss bottle, along for the ride.

But that was before their last album, Something to Write Home About, moved all those copies. Now the Kids are phatter, and they've got the wheels to show it-there it was in the Chain Reaction lot, a humongous tour bus that took up several prized parking spots, the kind of luxury vehicle most bands can only fantasize about (thanks to Napster, who helped sponsor this tour). The damn thing not only had air conditioning, it probably had its own can! A pretty sweet setup for one of the biggest little no-mainstream-radio-or-MTV-airplay bands since . . . who, Phish?

'Course, the Chain's got A/C too, but that was quickly sucked up by all the throbbing, sweaty bodies in the room. This being a bill that could largely be classified as "emo," at least there were no pits going on-just frequent kneecap-bruising stage-surges. Probably some close whiplash calls, too, on account of all the wanton head-bobbing that broke out.

The first band, a trio named Le Klix, were a somewhat intriguing amalgam of bubbly rhythms and new wave/'80s sounds-think Echo & the Bunnymen set to a preprogrammed click-track. Though they had some nice melodies and some juicy bits of catchy, creamy goodness, they suffered through the dreaded Opening Band Quandary-they were a band unable to jell fully within their given half-hour time. They felt rushed-we got the distinct feeling that they wanted to explore their music a bit more, but with three other bands stacking up behind them, they couldn't. That's show biz!

Yet Koufax had been allotted the same time, and they soared-go figga! This five-piece outfit (who, depending on who we talked to, are either from Detroit, El Segundo or Toledo) welded '70s prog-rock synths with funky '60s piano soul (they have two keys players) and managed to sculpt something just teary enough to still be branded "emo." Plus, they were very poppy, kinda like the Jam were in their heyday. Find their new CD It Had to Do With Love, and snap it up. And no, we're not on their payroll, either-we liked 'em enough to actually buy our copy, instead of pulling our usual we-deserve-one-for-free-because-we-write-for-the-Weekly scam.

The Anniversary had synths, too, but theirs were mired in a tad too much prog-really, wasn't one Emerson, Lake & Palmer in this world quite enough? When they weren't getting all art-rocked up, they were closely copping Weezer, only nowhere near as fun. And when they weren't doing ELP or Weezer, they sounded like the Get Up Kids-so why care when that very band happened to be up next? That's not to say the Anniversary were awful-it's just that we felt we'd seen their movie a buncha times before.

As for the Kids, all that touring has pumped 'em up-they were meaty, beaty, big and bouncy, and primed for fist-thrusting stadium rock in perhaps some not-so-distant future. Like we've said before, their formula of wimpy, submissive vocals crushed against driving, semi-hardcore riffage and lock-myself-in-my-teenage-bedroom-and-mope lyrics sets them up to be the next-gen Smiths, with a following that's just as fanatical-they're one of those bands that could play allinstrumental shows while deferring lead-singing duties to their people, who know every single word. Our favorite moments included "Valentine," a quieter, more reflective tune that, were they on a major major record label, could've been a decent-sized radio hit. About halfway through the gig, in the semihidden spot we had staked out in the back hallway, we glanced up to see a daddy longlegs spider-we swear this is true-bobbing his tiny body up and down in perfect time to the booming bass thuds. Even arachnids like the Get Up Kids! (Worst moment: when the Kids jokingly played the "Sweet Home Alabama" intro, which naturally inspired grotesque shout-outs of "Free Bird!" from some dunderhead who apparently thought nobody had ever thought of this before.)

Then it was over and we left, sloshing through rivers of spent perspiration on the way out, taking care not to make contact with the sweaty, steamy walls. And what of that rumored Jimmy Eat World appearance? Just that, kids-a rumor. It was Sunny Day Real Estate instead! Kidding! We're kidding!

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