K-NACK Reunion, Night 2

Live review of K-NACK's reunion concert Saturday

K-NACK Reunion, Night 2

Saturday at the ND, night two of K-NACK's reunion concert weekend, was lighter on the former local radio frequency's station-related activity than Friday – at least for me since I didn’t show up until right before the first band went on.

Said band was Gomez, whose moniker was famously bought out by the rootsy UK pop band of the same name. One of my favorite Austin punk rock groups, they were tighter on Saturday than at the last reunion show I saw. Drummer Keith Palumbo told me later that he, “Wasn’t feeling it” until he started playing, then “it took off.” They busted out the (cough) hits a-plenty: “23,” “Darth Vader,” “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park,” etc. The set went by in an almost breathless rush, due in part to bassist Chepo Pena having another gig the same night, but it definitely rocked like a bitch.

The first of the poster-listed “special guests” came up next, and it was a surprise to me: Wheel. I always dug this Kevin McCarthy-fronted power pop band that evolved out of Black Irish, which was begat by Hey Zeus, which was begat by Public Bulletin, and I still spin their Hip Eponymous CD from time to time. Their set was even briefer than Gomez’s – only four songs – but those four included bygone shoulda-been-hits “Let Me Down” and “... and Jill,” so I’m not complaining.

Bug, or Splinter, depending on when you first got into them, was up next. I confess I only vaguely remember them; I think they were a favorite around the Pop Culture Press offices back in the day. I was amazed at how fresh their sparkling indie pop sounded. They could relaunch themselves today and probably find a readymade audience in the blogosphere.

Bug/Splinter was followed by the unlikely trio of David Garza, Tony Scalzo, and Chepo Pena doing an acoustic set. I missed most of it due to conversation, but I do know they opened with Fastball’s Scalzo-penned “The Way” and ended with a sloppy, seemingly endless take on Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue.”

I thought headliners the Wannabes would be up next, and I was partially right: frontman Jennings Crawford and drummer Steve McCarthy joined bassist/singer John Clayton and guitarist Steve Collier for a two-song Sidehackers set. If at all, the Sidehackers are probably best remembered as the launching pad for Clayton and Collier’s sweet ‘n’ clean power pop group the Rite Flyers, but on the basis of this firebreathing pair of songs, I’d say the original is the superior creation.

The Wannabes closed the night in their usual style, blasting out fan favorites “August,” “Every Star Mary,” “Itchin Jenny,” and “I Am God,” ranging far and wide over their 20-plus years (ack!) of material. They even broke out the lounge cheese slice “Girl, Let’s Not Have Sex,” which doesn’t get a public airing all that often. Of course neither do the band themselves, which is why the faithful gathered to rock out and sing along with great fervor.

The crowd had thinned considerably by the time the ‘bes hit the stage (indeed, the whole evening was noticeably smaller in audience than on Friday), but neither band nor fans cared. Every Wannabes tune still sounds fantastic. These guys’ way with melody has been underestimated since they started.

They didn’t play their cover of Haircut One Hundred’s “Love Plus One,” their contribution to one of those K-NACK compilation CDs from the early Nineties, but they did end the show with a rousing take on the Beat’s “Save It For Later,” and that was more than good enough.

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