The members of Kill Vargas, a local rock band, perform a set for the Eagle's Underground Press series at Harvester Arts. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle/Dec. 15, 2016) mriedl@wichitaeagle.com
The members of Kill Vargas, a local rock band, perform a set for the Eagle's Underground Press series at Harvester Arts. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle/Dec. 15, 2016) mriedl@wichitaeagle.com

Keeper of the Plans

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Keeper of the Plans

It’s not easy being a teenage musician in Wichita, young band says

December 16, 2016 10:30 AM

UPDATED December 16, 2016 10:56 AM

Sometimes, after his bandmates in Kill Vargas play shows at bars, Griffin Bush has to sit outside and wait.

The lead singer and guitarist in the band is only 17, while his two bandmates – his brother, Logan, and longtime friend/neighbor Austin Engler, are 19. Most bars will let them stay for a while after performing, but the 17-year-old Griffin Bush has to leave immediately after the performance is over, Logan Bush said.

The band, which has played many shows in Wichita and has even toured through the Midwest, seems poised to become Wichita’s next Travel Guide – a popular local rock band. But, then again, more than half of its fans can’t ever watch a show because they’re under 21, he said.

“I love everything about being a young band except for that part,” said Logan Bush, drummer for Kill Vargas. “The venue’s the only thing that sucks about being young. ... We don’t have a problem with bars. It’s just there’s no other option.”

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Kill Vargas is a local rock band whose members are recent Bishop Carroll and Maize grads – except for Griffin Bush, who still attends Bishop Carroll.

The Bush brothers first started making music 10 years ago, before they even knew how to play instruments.

The brothers would play “Guitar Hero” and make custom songs in the game using the buttons on the plastic guitars, Logan Bush said.

“We’d do that, take one of our little MP3 players and put it next to the TV speakers, and Griffin would lean over and sing into it,” he said. “That’s how we made our first songs. We were just writing songs for fun.”

We’d do that, take one of our little MP3 players and put it next to the TV speakers, and Griffin would lean over and sing into it.

Logan Bush, talking about the first songs he ever recorded with his brother, Griffin

Their neighbor from two houses down, Engler, had a plethora of music equipment at his house, as his father is a local church musician, Bush said.

The three got together and started recording songs using Engler’s instruments – badly, because they didn’t actually know how to play them.

Over the years, they picked up and learned their respective instruments, practicing together as a band.

Once they got good enough to land gigs, they started traveling around the Midwest – with Mr. Bush driving them around from place to place.

“Our parents, you can’t blame them, but they were kind of sketch about us going around – 15-year-old kids going and playing in bars cross-country,” Logan Bush said. “People always gave us weird looks when we’d walk in the bar, because we’d just walk in the front door, 15-, 16-year-old kids. We’re just like, ‘We’re the band.’”

Need for all-ages venue

The band plays at Wichita bars and other venues – including Barleycorn’s, Lucky’s Everyday and Rock Island Live – but, like other musicians in Wichita, they recognize the need for a permanent all-ages venue, particularly in the wake of the fatal Oakland warehouse fire earlier this month.

On Dec. 2, 36 people were killed in a fire during a concert at the Ghost Ship warehouse, which was being used as live/work space for artists who couldn’t afford living elsewhere.

All-ages shows in Wichita are usually held at either the Donut Whole or at places not intended as concert venues – basements of homes, stores or parking lots.

“There’s spots that open up, they’re open for four months, then something happens and then you’ve got to find the next spot,” Logan Bush said. “That’s just how it is in the DIY scene. Kids like us renting a venue – we don’t know what’s up to code. We just want to have a good time and have a spot to play music.”

The Donut Whole, R Coffeehouse – and for some quieter bands, Mead’s Corner – offer space for all-ages shows, but are perhaps not particularly well-equipped for live rock bands, which tend to be pretty loud, Logan Bush said.

“There are spots – you just have to work your way around the noise complaints,” he said.

Despite all the obstacles for young bands to overcome playing in Wichita, it is possible to succeed.

“We’re showing other kids that you can do this too,” said Engler, the band’s bass player. “It’s totally possible. If you want to do it, do it.”

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

Kill Vargas, Tideway and Cavves

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 28

Where: The Donut Whole, 1720 E. Douglas

What: Last show of 2016 for Kill Vargas, a local rock band who will be joined by fellow rock bands Tideway (who are releasing a CD at the show) and Cavves. All ages welcome.

Admission: Free