It was hyped for months. A Gun that Shoots Knives was returning after their 1.5 year hiatus. Who are they? AGTSK is a band that was a moderately big deal a few years ago, but from what I understand, they have gone through some lineup changes, and developed a new creative direction. This Tuesday marked their return to live music.
I have only been aware of AGTSK since they started their Kick Starter campaign to press their album to vinyl. Before I knew who they were, I had actually written about some of their members in previous posts. The first time was when I covered a show by a related side project, The Shitty Dudes. The second time was when I wrote a review of Kurly Something, a band that happened to be opening this show, and which is a band that I currently regard as my favorite live band in Seattle. Scott, the drummer for Kurly, is also the current drummer for AGTSK. Kurly used to be the drummer for AGTSK, but is now obviously perusing his own independent project. So, this show was one big family reunion.
As expected, Kurly Somthing primed the stage with a spectacle that would be hard, if not impossible, to top. I love writing about this band because there’s always something new to talk about. For starters, the costumes have become bigger and more numerous. There were more giant paper mache monsters creepin’ around the stage and the audience. The Gingerbread Man was brutally murdered by the character I call, “The Lurker,” and his streamer guts were spread all over the audience. Kurly did his usual routine of running around and off the stage, hanging off the monitors and generally just rockin’ it. I wondered how he was going to do in a bigger venue like Neumos. He was definitely limited by how far his mic cable would take him, but he made the most of it. At one point, Kurly did a sort of poetry break. I have trouble recalling what the subject matter was, but if it was anything like the other banter he had going on, it was probably about cocaine. All throughout Kurly’s set, there was a projection of surreal and strange cartoon segments that added to the overwhelming spectacle. It’s impossible to take it all in. This is the third time I’ve seen Kurly Somthing perform. I’ve learned something new about the nature of live performance each time I’ve witnessed them play.
Despite the dark imagery and lyrics, Kurly was very appreciative to his audience and thanked everybody for supporting his band and coming out on a Tuesday. I have said it before, and I will say it again; Kurly Somthing is simultaneously the most friendly and most evil live band in Seattle. I took some video of his set that you can see down at the bottom of this page. The audio is totally blasted, but it might give you an idea of what the visual spectacle is like.
Next on the bill was Shit Machine. They seem to be some strange hybrid of “Monster Mash” Indie music and Electronica. It definitely got the crowd moving, and I noticed lots of people singing along. Not bad for a band from Mt. Vernon on a Tuesday night. Their set was tight and fun, though the reverb-drenched vocals could have been toned back a bit for the sake of understanding the lyrics. They performed with great charisma. It added a lot to the fun factor of the show and did a good job of shifting gears towards the AGTSK aesthetic.
Up next was the eccentric stylings of Partman Parthorse. I got the impression that there were less people in the crowd for these guys. Either that, or people were trying to keep their distance from the sweaty front-man who, after a few songs, was wearing only briefs. Their music had flavors of Jane’s Addiction with Punk vocals and an Electronica beat. What they lacked in melody they made up for with their Stoner-Rock party-chug aesthetic. The front man was a little out of place, dancing around in a colorful costume, or lack thereof, and singing about being a “Party Brat,” and “Hardcore Fuckin’.” Really, the main focus of this band is their eccentric front-man. You can try to look away, but it’s not easy, as much as you wish it was. The rest of the band was dressed comparatively plain, which made their performance feel a bit oddball. There were times when it seemed like even the other band members were a little weirded out. Sharing the stage with this guy must not be easy. Rumor has it, the drummer is pregnant with the front-man’s baby. Good for her. It didn’t slow her down in the least.
Finally, we got to A Gun That Shoots Knives. Oh, wait…nope. Technical difficulties delayed the start of the show. The band had taken the stage and was standing in the ready position, but their background video and some of the pre-programmed backing tracks were not loading properly. They spent a great deal of time trying to get everything working, including restarting the computer. It became apparent, after a few bad jokes, that there was no contingency plan in place for this kind of issue. Still, I chalked it up to “debut band bad luck.” I know they aren’t new, but I think it qualifies based on how the show had been hyped and advertised.
Their spirits were not broken, and after some compromises, they started. While they played, a puppet show created by “Stubby,” the front-man, was projected behind the band. It was an impressive touch. The band was dressed in chrome space suits that had a kind of 80s space future theme going on. They threw handfuls of glow sticks out into the audience, which had a catnip effect on people. The drunk “dude-brah” standing in front of me insisted on swinging them around wildly, inches from my face, while he stomped on my foot off-rhythm, but I digress. The match up between what was played and what was shown in the performance was well orchestrated. The whole set had a high production value, even if it did have a Mystery Science Theater 3000 bent to it.
Before I go any further, I want you to understand that the songs that this band plays are, in my opinion, perfectly arranged, borderline genius works of lyrical and melodic art. I highly recommend you check out their music and form your own opinion based off the recordings, rather than off this review, which is only covering impressions from 1 specific set. Anyway, moving on.
The beginning of their set was a little rough. It took them a while to fall into a groove and build up momentum. However, when they did come together, the playing was excellent. They played long, narrative songs that would crescendo into climactic and thematic breakdowns with solid pop grooves. At times, their playing reminded me of the Melivins, but AGTSK tended to be more centered around the lyrics than the instrumentals. There were high points and low points, but overall, it was a solid re-debut.
AGTSK shows have a plethora of sights and sounds to experience. They belong on a live stage. I would gladly go see A Gun That Shoots Knives play again, but I think they could have cooked in the “practice oven” a bit longer before this show. There was some room for improvement, but it’s the kind of improvement that will come naturally, from doing some more shows. Look out for these guys, because there aren’t a lot of bands that put this kind of effort into making a live show something this memorable. I look forward to seeing how they evolve.
Overall, the show was a great success, especially for a Tuesday. I want to thank the audience that made the effort to come out. The show climate in Seattle has been mild, lately. It was encouraging to see such a show of support. Kurly Somthing took the prize for best performance of the night, but I wouldn’t be surprised if AGTSK makes some headway in the coming months.
Below are some videos of songs from the sets of Kurly Somthing and A Gun That Shoots Knives. I apologize for the quality. I have linked the videos to their respective tracks on Bandcamp so you can get a better idea of what is going on.
Kurly Somthing Performs “Deathtrip.”
A Gun That Shoots Knives Performs “Make Believe.” The Smoke obscures the projections and screws up the focus, but it clears up towards the end.