Back in the day I used to go to an old warehouse in the West Bottoms to see shows. They didn’t cost much, the bands were good, and you could post up against the wall or on an old couch, set your six pack on the dusty hardwood floor and watch live music without the bright lights and antiseptic nonsmoking get-the-fuck-out-it’s-last-call atmosphere of a commercial bar.
I’m sure over the years I’ll remember those shows even more fondly, building them up in my head until the West Bottoms becomes my own personal Bowery or Manchester, but the moments in which I felt actual connectivity to the city or any kind of scene were relatively rare. Most of the time I just went with a friend or two or even by myself to drink whatever we brought with us and anonymously watch some of the best music you could find. One of those shows was the Sic Alps at the Pistol in January 2008. I found a video of that performance, which the shot above is taken from during a split-second camera flash.
As you can see, the space looks more like being backstage at an old theater than an actual venue. And as you can hear, it got fairly loud. (If you don’t like ambient noise than it’s probably best to skip to about 3:30 mark of the video for the song to kick in, one of my favorites by the group, as it turns out).
The last show I saw in the Bottoms was not at the Pistol or Foundation Room but some other place that didn’t have a name as far as I knew. Jana Hunter’s group “The Lower Dens” played one of the best rock sets I’d seen all year, unfortunately largely ignored by the flocks of kids smoking outside, the girl in a space costume writhing on the floor, and the drug-addled stragglers near the door.
That show, which had been hastily moved from its original location for reasons no one ever explained, felt like the end of something. Maybe the era of great shows every week at underground venues in the Bottoms. Or maybe just the end of my going to them.
Since then I’ve talked to some of the folks who helped put those together, and they seem happy to have moved on with their lives. Not sure where the current DIY or all-ages hotspots are in Kansas City right now, but I’m sure there are plenty of things still taking place downtown, along Troost, or elsewhere in the city. Meanwhile, there’s always places like The Record Bar, where I saw Bill Callahan play a great set last week. And, for those of us stuck at work or no longer feeling up to venturing into the smoke-filled rusty nails on old floorboards pay-what-you-can type places, there’s always YouTube.