December brings waning to the music universe, a slowing down in the touring world. It’s the season of retrospection, of “best of” and “Top 10” lists and a time when radio stations host holiday festivals.
Wednesday night at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, KRBZ (96.5 FM) — known as the Buzz — sponsored the first of its four mini-festivals, dubbed “The Night the Buzz Stole Xmas.” And per usual, the show brought together four bands with differing sounds.
The openers were Night Riots, a pop band from California, and Radkey, a trio of brothers from Kansas City via St. Joseph who warmed up the crowd with a cache of hard-rock/punk tunes.
The trio is pushing its first full-length album, “Dark Black Makeup,” released this summer, a collection of hard-driving but tuneful anthems, and the set list highlighted the album’s finer moments, like the bouyant “Le Song,” the bouncy “Parade It” and the incendiary “Song of Solomon,” written for and about the band’s drummer, Solomon Radke.
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The band will forever be compared to the Misifts, mostly because lead singer Dee Radke can sound so much like Glenn Danzig, but there’s a pop sensibility to their songs that, at times, recalls the poppier punk bands like the Ramones. And when Isaiah Radke harmonizes with his older brother, as he did on the jubilant “Evil Doer,” they bring in a vocal element that only siblings can create.
Frank Turner wasn’t the headliner, but he might as well have been. A 30-something British singer-songwriter, Turner’s music is an invigorating blend of folk and rock. Throughout his set, he incited the crowd into exuberance, orchestrating sing-alongs that also inspired widespread dancing and fist-pumping.
Backed by the Sleeping Souls, a quartet that defied its name, Turner showcased tracks from “Positive Songs for Negative People,” the full-length he released in August. “Positive” is filled with rabble-rousing anthems, like “Get Better,” a keep-your-chin-up clarion call: “Try and get better and don’t ever accept less.… We can get better because we’re not dead yet.”
His set list bounced about his catalog, which now comprises six albums. “Peggy Sang the Blues” was an endearing tribute to his late grandmother, a whiskey-drinking card shark who preached to him wisdom like “It doesn’t matter where you come from / It matters where you go.”
Turner advised his fans to put on their dancing shoes before launching into “Photosynthesis,” a rousing, jaunty anthem drawn from “Love Ire & Song,” his sophomore album, released in 2008. The crowd obliged his request, bouncing and swaying along and shouting back the defiant chorus: “I won’t sit down / I won’t shut up / But most of all I won’t grow up.”
A regular visitor to Kansas City, Turner related a story about an earlier trip, when he was booked at the RecordBar. Before the show, he and his band participated in a weekly trivia session and won. With some false swagger, he called his crew a band of pirates that swept in and took all the women, whiskey and trivia booty. Later, he dedicated “I Still Believe” to his friends in the Architects, a Kansas City band that has toured with Turner.
Other highlights: “Losing Days,” a hearty rock anthem that sounded like Springsteen and the Pogues colliding like freight trains, and “The Road,” a song about touring and the life of a musician.
Turner is always a hard act to follow, but the Silversun Pickups, the show’s headliner, gave it a good go. An alt-rock band from Los Angeles, the Pickups have been around for nearly a decade. They spin big, cosmic rock songs, conjuring atmospherics that at times overtake the songs. Lead singer Brian Aubert has a voice with a timbre that resembles Billy Corgan’s. At times, it got almost completely immersed in the noise around him.
Nonetheless, the crowd of more than 800 indulged in the wafts and swells of guitars, keyboards and percussion discharged from stage. The set list included plenty of favorites, including their hit, “Lazy Eye,” which has topped 14 million hits on Spotify and which prompted a rousing sing-along, “Nightlight” and “Panic Switch.” They closed with a two-song encore that included “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already),” which foretold the close of the evening. By then, having heard “Lazy Eye,” many in the crowd had started heading out the doors, having had enough already of the fare from this holiday smorgasbord.