Knuckleheads was full Saturday night, as it has been many Saturday nights. But this show was different and so was the crowd of more than 250 people who packed the place.
The Gospel Lounge, the small venue in the back of Knuckleheads, was full, too. Almost five dozen people filled that room to listen to one of Kansas City’s most beloved singers, Ida McBeth. She and her quartet delivered an intimate evening of jazz and soul, a set that included stellar covers of Van Morrison’s “Someone Exactly Like You” and Bill Withers’ “I Want to Spend the Night.”
The big stage was dedicated to local music, too, and the sounds of two upcoming bands who are rightfully generating lots of love and support in their hometown and beyond.
The Grisly Hand performed first. They’re a six-piece band with a sound that’s as elusive as it is engaging. It’s a mix of country, rock, pop, soul, all with a vintage tinge and old-school spirit — not urban, but very urbane.
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The band is recording its third full-length album, the follow-up to 2013’s impeccable “Country Singles.” The set list included several of those new songs, which featured many of the endearing traits that have filled previous recordings but go in directions that sound fresh and inspired.
Lauren Krum and guitarist Jimmy Fitzner are the band’s primary vocalists, but guitarist Ben Summers and bassist/keyboardist Dan Loftus pitch in vocally, too. At times, as during “Western Ave.” and one of the new songs, all four are singing, sometimes two or three different vocal parts.
They are the rare band that can be both accessible and sophisticated at once: Changes in key and time signature are crafty but seamless and keep their songs from falling prey to cliche and predictability.
They filled their 90-minute set with favorites: the title track to “Country Singles”; “That’s Not Affection,” their raucous slam of cellphone etiquette (or lack of); “Western Ave.,” featuring some splendid pedal steel from Mike Stover; and “Black Coffee,” which prompted some dancing and singing long.
At one point, drummer Matt Richey busted his snare (things got that invigorated). Once that was replaced, Summers played one of his new songs, a punchy rock tune that had some Wilco “A.M.” in its vibe.
The Grislys were joined by Katy Guillen and Claire Adams, of Katy Guillen and the Girls, for a couple of songs, including a raucous version of Faces’ “Stay With Me.”
Guillen and her band returned for a set of their own. They are a three-piece featuring Guillen on guitar, Adams on bass and Stephanie Williams on drums, but they can sound much larger and heftier than a trio. Guillen is the leader, vocally but visually, too, mostly because of her guitar play. She goes from rhythm to lead fluidly, often while singing lead vocal — no easy feat.
Their format is the blues, but they crack its limitations by drawing from a variety of styles and roots, by focusing on song craft as much as groove and by keeping solos brief, on-point and in service to the song.
The set list featured tracks from their self-titled full length, including “Don’t Get Bitter,” “Quiver” and “Woke Up in Spain,” and some newer material, including “I Can’t Live Here Anymore” — a declaration of independence, of sorts — and another gritty anthem with a punk/rock attitude that vaguely recalled early Pretenders.
For their encore, five members of the Grisly Hand joined them for a cover of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” a song that Krum handles perfectly. After a riotous psychedelic rock/blues jam, they ended with a rowdy version of “Got My Mojo Working.”
By then, it was after midnight and a heavy snow was falling, but Knuckleheads was still nearly full of people reveling in the major-league sounds of homegrown talent.