Show Review

Chad W. Lutz
“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing” - Socrates


When I arrived at the 83 year-old Kent Stage having traveled through a blizzard of mild proportions, given the month long blizzard all of Ohio has seemed to be in the icy grips of, I didn’t know what to expect. But after the eight-hour ordeal was over, and the final curtain fell, I realized that’s the exact mind frame I needed to be in.

My first impression of the local sensation, The Know Nothings, was a little tainted, having a semi-personal history with most of the members of the band. The bassist and I had hung out during college and the guitarist found his way into our mix every now and again. But seeing them up on stage preparing for the show, it was like being reintroduced to them all over again. The way they moved, the way they spoke; it was calculated and well planned. Like a plan they all knew but didn’t have to articulate. They moved with purpose, but not without enjoyment. And the instant I saw their stage props, I knew I was in for a real humdinger.

The set was constructed to look like there was a panoramic sky with a giant sun grinning like an idiot in the dead center of the tie-dyed blanket with the band’s name in trippy, calligraphic lettering. And lining the base of the drum platform were a drove of plastic psychedelic flowers, two-foot paper squirrels and rabbits, hand-colored by a four year old, her mother, and a member of the band (which one escapes me at the moment). But it’s neither here nor there.

While they were doing their sound checks, I perused the venue hall, hobnobbing with the owner and volunteers that kept the place running. I was surprised to learn that the Kent Stage was run as a non-profit organization. All of the concert proceeds went directly into paying bills for things like electric, gas, and heating (which you could have fooled me on considering the place was as cold as a witches tit in a brass brassiere). As I walked the main entrance hall I couldn’t help but notice the high-class clientele that graced the walls in a slur of photographs paying homage to various acts that rocked the stage. People like Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Stephen Stills, Keller Williams, Ekoostik Hookah; people of performance and clout. It was like waking up to find out that Elvis had lived in my house without ever realizing it. Shows what I know.

After talking with the owner a bit, I made my way back to the stage and caught the tail end of their sound check; a rendition of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” that burrowed its way into my brain and remained there the rest of the night. But once they were done it was down to brass tax, at which time they led me down a system of corridors to a room sitting directly beneath the stage. That’s where I “formally” interviewed the band. But with these guys, it was anything but formal. They joked and joshed around the entire time and seemed truly excited about the show. Not because it was a paying gig, but because they truly loved to play.

My first question was pretty prototypical and robotic; “So when did you guys start playing together?” They all took deep breaths and looked each other up and down, as if to search for the answers in each others expressions. David Coffield, guitarist and co-founder of the band, spoke first.

He told me that he and the bassist, Mark Chesnes, first thought about putting a band together in 2005, but nothing really started materializing until late 2006, early 2007 when David moved to California, only to return back to the Buckeye State four months later. It was there that their songs “Ruby” and “California” first took shape. And when he came back with enough material for an EP, they felt they were onto something. But the band hasn’t always had the same lineup, as I came to learn.

“Four drummers and two singers later, here we are”

Currently, the band is comprised of lead singer, Kyle Buckley, who David lovingly refers to as being, “full of dreadlocks,” relentless drummer, Eric Hartzel, Mark, and then David himself.
Their first release was in 2008 in the form of the Silly Thoughts EP and featured the same lineup with a different drummer. This was followed later that same year with another EP featuring the current drummer. Both albums were then combined to form the 2009 release of their first LP For Supper. The February 26th show I covered was actually the release party for their new EP For All We Know, which is out now and can be downloaded for free from their website (www.theknownothingsband.com).

Then came the million-dollar question.

“Let’s suspend the truth of reality and pretend we don’t know each other for a moment. Who are The Know Nothings?”

Needless to say, their response surprised me. I was half expecting them, though not wholeheartedly, to tell me about how this was all a grand ploy to get girls or set some cosmic wrong straight with the high-arcing, overtly oppressing banking oligarchy that was controlling the entire world. But no, this was not that kind of setup.

“Well,” started David, “We’re not a political band, if that’s what you mean. Ya know. We’re not out there to play for anybody or any idea. We’re playing for the music. Kind of, “Music for music’s sake.”

He then went into how the band got its name.

“Tell him the good story,” said Mark, laughing as he spoke.

They all laughed a bit and I sat hungry with my pencil.

“Well, the truth is, I was in eighth-grade and we were studying some time-period in American History” (I did the research and the time-period he was referring to was the 1840s and 50s where a political party called, “The Know Nothings,” was gaining strength due to the rise of German and Irish Catholic Immigrants in the United States. When asked about their affiliation to the party, the members simply replied, “I know nothing”). Long story short, his teacher plopped the phrase, “The Know Nothings,” on the overhead screen and it stood out in David’s mind.

“Alright, now tell him the good story,” boasted Mark, grinning all the way.

“The good story is when we played our first show at a party at Mark’s house.”

“You were at that party weren’t you, Chad?” Asked Mark, interrupting.

“Probably,” I confided. But the past is a hazy subject for me. And let’s leave it at that.

David began again. “After the lead singer got naked and ran around with a lamp shade on his head before we could even get into the set, we were all a little bummed, needless to say. So I went to the kitchen to get some food. We had Chinese that night and I grabbed a fortune cookie and opened it.”

The fortune? A quote from philosopher Socrates: “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” The rest, as they’ve said probably a trillion times over, is history.

They ended the interview as soon as the first act took the stage, showing truly how much appreciators of music they were on top of being musicians. They stood front row for pretty much every act; except for one metal act that sounded like cats being drug underneath a running car. They sang and danced to a couple other bands; most notable The Heights Band, which seemed to really warm the crowd over before The Know Nothings took the stage.

And then, it was their moment of truth. Dressed in a banana yellow suit from head to tow, a striped shirt that looked like it was straight out of Bert or Ernie’s closet, bare skin, and jeans with a green button down; it was show time.

They started out with the hard rocking “No Way Out” (3:30) from For Supper about a relationship gone horribly wrong. The song features Buckley’s maniacal vocal range and the band’s ability to change tempo as if it were as easy as brushing teeth. Next came another crowd favorite, the bouncy, Rastafarian rocker “Ruby” (3:53) which had all the band members jumping and flailing around the stage like gerbils on ecstasy; Rock N’ Roll at its gritty core.

But this wasn’t just a plug for their albums. The Know Nothings paid homage three times to bands that either influenced them, or music in general. Songs by Rage Against The Machine (Guerilla Radio as part of a two song encore), Sublime (What I Got), The Avett Bros. (Kick Drum Heart), and even Aretha Franklin with “Chain of Fools,” featuring the trio of Laine Keener, Natalie Freedman, and Liz Chesnes on the catchy, and now infamous chorus (chain, chain, chain…chain of foooools).

When I first glanced at the set list, I realized that my own personal favorite had been left off, “Mr. Hangman”, from their first EP. But possibly by a show of good faith, or maybe by complete accident, they finished off their fantastic 15 song set with the drum heavy, energy charged rocker, that had Mark nearly falling backstage at its end proclaiming that he, “had nothing left.” Nothing. The reoccurring theme of the night, it seems. And after the crowd had left and the lights dimmed, I stood on the stage looking out at the empty music hall, clutching my blue plastic souvenir flower in my right hand, and couldn’t help but feel like I knew absolutely nothing, and that The Know Nothings know more than what their name leads on.

No sympathy for Socrates.