Ricky & Del: Kai Kln redux
When bands burst out onto the national stage, it feels as if the local scene loses something precious. There is an inevitable backlash, a sense among the hipper-than-thou, world-weary crowd that the band isn’t deserving of its fame, that it has in some way “sold out” to the American media monster.
This may be the reason we hold our true local heroes so dear to our hearts. Those bands that, for whatever reason, never quite broke out into mainstream America are the true legends of the local stage. These are bands like Thin White Rope, Sex 66 and Kai Kln: acts that were popular enough regionally to make waves—and some of them were critically acclaimed by the national and even international media—but that never made it to Kansas radio. Call it a failure of American radio to understand true genius, if you will, but ultimately, Sacramento is pleased to keep some of its brilliance right here.
It is for this reason that music fans may understand the draw of the Ricky & Del Connection, which performed last weekend at the Blue Lamp. The group not only features two members of Kai Kln (frontman Gene Smith and drummer Neil Franklin) but also draws from a very similar sound, despite Smith performing strictly on an acoustic guitar. Surprisingly, the sound of Ricky & Del is every bit as loud as Kai Kln, in part because of Franklin’s heavy rock-drum work. The overall effect is of a very loud rock band gone inexplicably acoustic.
It’s an interesting project and one that is almost saved from redundancy by the complexity of the performances. However, many of the songs strike the listener as essentially the same in character. Flamp Sorvari’s sax work certainly helps in this regard, particularly because he underscores the melody lines (often doubling Smith’s guitar line), but ultimately the material tends to rely more on the vamp and jam than anything one might actually call songs. The theme of redemption, constantly present in Smith’s lyrics, similarly began as interesting but very quickly faded into the realm of the born-again. Despite these concerns, fans of Kai Kln clearly will understand and appreciate what the band is doing.
On the same bill were Soul Taco and SinClaiR. The former provided a party atmosphere, which seemed to capture the audience’s attention, and even provided a few sing-along moments. The band has drive, despite its terrible name, and would be vastly improved by a realigning of guitar tones, relying as it does on buzz-saw shred sounds that are simply irritating. A slightly more organic (but nonetheless distorted) tone would make the songs stand out more effectively and would give the music more definition.
SinClaiR performed an opening slot that proved that bands can learn from their past errors. Frontman Justin Ancheta seemed every bit in control of the music this time around, and the addition of a percussionist has helped define the band’s sound more fully. Nice work, gentlemen.