Do you feel it, that subtle shift in the weather — like a wound finally starting to heal? When the dog ceases baying at the moon, the cat comes home to its milk and the hawk stops circling to land on an Einstein Bros. billboard? Yes, citizens, the Pitch Music Showcase is here.
Thursday night, August 7, in Westport, for a mere $5, all children ages 21 and older can buy admission to our biggest-ever local music party — possibly the biggest Kansas City has seen. From 8 p.m. until closing time, 34 bands, DJs and MCs take over Blayney's, the Beaumont and Beach Club, the Dark Horse Tavern, the newly minted Foundry and good ol' McCoy's.
Obtain fortification at a decent eatery and rush down at the crack of 8 because the opening salvo is not to be missed: the Roseline at Blayney's, the immortal Namelessnumberheadman at the Beach Club (Rockesh canceled, having broken up), D/Will at the Dark Horse, Beatbroker at the Foundry and the Last Call Girls hooting up first call at McCoy's.
That's barely the beginning. As the showcase boils to an end, you'll find the Beautiful Bodies shaking a tailfeather at the Beaumont, the Pink Socks leading the 1960s frat-brash-a-go-go at the Dark Horse, American Catastrophe hanging 'em high at McCoy's, DJ Sku executing derring-do at the Foundry. And that's not nearly all.
The acts playing the Showcase represent fewer than a third of the whopping 95 local names that are up for one of this year's Pitch Music Awards. You can read about all 95 of these righteous slayers of popular music in the following pages. They were chosen not, as in past years, by the wider Kansas City and Lawrence music community (the usual promoters, club owners, media peeps, etc.) but by Pitch staffers and contributors, with input from a few of our friends, including Robert Moore of Sonic Spectrum, Chuck Haddix of KCUR 89.3's The Fish Fry, blogger Happy in Bag and Chronic the Hedgehog of PopFreeRadio.com.
We took the nomination process into our own dictatorial grip to ensure a diverse ballot slathered in fresh blood — and that's exactly what we ended up with. We also created an All-Star category for the acts that keep winning their respective categories year after year.
The ballot has been running in the paper and online over the past few weeks, and fans have been voting for their favorites at Pitch.com. On the night of the Showcase, if you haven't already voted, please pick up a paper ballot at any of the venues, fill it out and leave it in the box provided.
The Showcase marks the end of the voting. Ten days later, on August 17, we'll present the winners with their trophies at the Uptown Theater at what's sure to be a madcap ceremony hosted by David Wayne Reed.
As always, we encourage you to be a patron of the arts. Help us discover new bands and keep us hip to older acts that might be getting overlooked. Our ballot isn't a comprehensive list of all that's going on. Since formulating the ballot earlier this year, we've spent tons of time and spilled gallons of ink on groups that aren't up for awards.
And so what? The main thing is to recognize the great music scene we have in Kansas City by rocking out to local sounds and ending this hot-cold summer with a bang.
Contributing writers: Ray Cummings, Richard Gintowt, Greg Franklin, Caleb Goellner, Jason Harper, John Kreicbergs, Aaron Ladage, Andrew Miller, Lorna Perry, Sarah Smarsh, Ben Westhoff
Like its seminal namesake, the Sperms musical progeny is a bit willy-nilly. In fact, its all over the goddamned place. This trio whose members go by ethnic-sounding handles such as Malacheck Bamboozo doesnt write songs so much as it squeezes out tuneless improv doodle noodles like a young, smacked-out-of-its-gourd Ween. It isnt really experimental, per se; its joyous exploration.
This Is My Condition
One-man bands far too often get overlooked or dismissed as mere gimmicks, but Craig Comstocks This Is My Condition blasts apart the limits of sludgy, noisy rock. Working triple-time on drums, singing fuzzed-out vocals and sliding his drumsticks up and down his guitar for a strange, skronky-art-rock-meets-avant-blues mashup, Comstock gives a live show thats frantic in all the right places and serves as an excellent palate cleanser for those tired of formulaic and predictable music.
Mythical Beast hails from the storied school of shamanic, ritual drone. You know the one it worships at the feet of Jefferson Airplanes White Rabbit but extends the length, ups the distortion and jettisons the sweet melodic core for something less immediate. In Memory of Yellow Skin, for example from a split with fellow travelers Pocahaunted finds the group picking its way through a landscape of blackened, dour psych guitar and chilling incantations, looking for an end-of-the-tunnel light that isnt likely to materialize.
Mr. Marcos V7
Mr. Marcos V7 might be the only band in town that could score a 70s porn flick as comfortably as it could pen a Turkish opera. The bands outlandish boogerfunk alternately recalls Zappa, P-Funk, Miles Davis, Primus and Ennio Morricone touchstones that still dont explain half of what the malleable instrumental quartet cooks up. The groups Wednesday-night residence at Daveys Uptown has spawned more berserk jams than Les Claypool could shake his bass at.
Monta At Odds
Monta At Odds concerts provide a distinctly audiovisual experience, with Nate Bogert blending a live video feed of the show with archival nature footage, then manipulating the moving images so that they merge with the music. The audience experiences the senses of sight and hearing almost as one, Bogert says. The groups instrumentals, which combine retro spy-movie lounge with modern down-tempo beats, evolve live, as Monta At Odds takes what co-founder Dedric Moore calls a jazz improv approach.
Even as MC Lethal D, Toine and their bacon-dispensing personal security force of one, the dog-headed Mr. Ruggles, have inspired a mix of cheers and jeers with every show, their dedication and less-than-tenacious hold on reality have made Bacon Shoe a must-see KC phenomenon. Take a good long whiff of the groups 2007 CD-DVD one-two punch, Back From Stinktion, and youll begin to see that this hip-hop performance-art threesome is all about keeping it surreal.
You know a blues band can bring it when it gigs nearly every night of the week. Levee Town is one of KCs most dependable acts at venues such as Winslows and Blayneys, purveying an academically correct mojo rooted in the teachings of Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. Guitarist Brandon Hudspeth brings a Claptonlike flair to the proceedings, and ace-in-the-hole harmonica master Jimmie Meade channels old-school mouth organists such as Little Walter.
Trampled Under Foot
Brothers Nick and Kris Schnebelen and sister Danielle better known as Trampled Under Foot give new meaning to the term quality family time. Judging by Danielles sweet, smoky vocals, Nicks award-winning guitar riffs and Kris impeccable timing on the skins, its not surprising that they have plenty of fans ready and willing to join in on their sibling bonding time whenever they take the stage.
Some ladies have all the luck, and Angela Hagenbach is one of them. Impossibly beautiful and deeply gifted, this fashion model turned jazz singer has been turning heads for well over a decade. Possessing an impressive vocal range with lush lower registers, Hagenbach sells the soulful sensuality of her material with deft grace. And because shes a regular fixture at Jardines, KC audiences dont have to venture too far or wait too long to hear this songbird in action.
The Wild Women of Kansas City
The Wild Women of Kansas City is more than just an attention-grabbing name its also the perfect descriptor for this raucous mainstay on the citys jazz and blues circuit. Star singer Myra Taylor may be flirting with her mid-90s, but that doesnt mean her spirited, spunky voice, along with the rest of the group, cant still bring a concert hall to its knees or, more likely, to its feet.
On his 16th record, Playing With Myself, released earlier this year, Billy Ebeling handles all instrumental duties, including guitar, bass, drums, piano, harmonica and accordion. During his live solo shows, hes equally industrious, even strapping on a foot tambourine. Ebelings gentle, friendly vocals fall somewhere between Paul Simon and Bad Companys Paul Rodgers. However, this bluesman isnt shy about working blue, as his euphemistic album title and songs such as Lets Get Naked demonstrate.
If Kansas City could only elect one living ambassador to represent the artistic heritage and effusive heart of our fair towns musical traditions, we would be hard-pressed to look any further than Ida McBeth. A sultry songstress, bluesy belter and gifted gospel vocalist, McBeth has always humbly maintained a personal identity as a simple song stylist. Labels are all well and good, but what remains indescribably McBeth is the sense of class that marks this true local treasure.
If the mention of this band brings to mind Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie, well, it should. Fiddler Betse Ellis had Americas favorite 19th-century pioneer family on her mind when first thinking up the Wilders as a name. Utilizing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle with old-time glee, the Wilders offer as fine a representation of classic country as youre likely to hear. Theyve taken an old-fashioned craft, studied it, loved it and perfected it. With the release of this years Someones Got to Pay, the group continues to tonk on an ever-widening national stage.
Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys
Breaking up and starting fresh (while still hanging on) has been a constant theme of Rex Hobarts music. Putting an end to stalwart Giants Chair in the mid-90s, Hobart traded in his noise-rock pedigree for the honky-tonk crown and started the Misery Boys, a band that draws heavy inspiration from the classic high-and-lonesome country sound. A cheap can of beer never tastes quite as good as it does while you listen to Rex Hobart croon about lonely hearts and golden teardrops.
Onstage, the beer-drinking, denim-wearing, straight-talking Gary McKnight, lead singer for Holton, Kansas True North, is pretty much a country-music poster boy even if, in his day job, hes a doctor. His bands songs hover somewhere between traditional country and modern country-pop. Judging by the capacity crowds across town, at least a few thousand people get what True North is aiming for.
The Last Call Girls
When singer Robin Powell and guitarist and songwriter Heather Brecht of onetime acoustic duo the Last Call Girls called it quits in 2000, they should have known that letting go wouldnt be easy. Having regrouped in 2003, the Last Call Girls of today are, as always, lovers of all things honky-tonk, country and rock. Kicking out their eclectic yet authentic brand of cowtown hot sauce, Powell and Brecht are joined by bassist Lizz and fiddler Dana Catlett, plus a lone dude: ex-Go Kart drummer Scotty Rex. Its foot-stompin square-dance numbers one minute and sweet ballads about lost love, heartache and movin on the next. You know the stuff country music is made of.
Jeff Stolz and Wallace Cochran of Drakkar Sauna arent brothers, but they should be. With organic vocal harmonies, quirky lyrics and sartorial coordination, Drakkar plays its nuanced folk as only siblings can. The two play up that fraternal vibe on their latest disc, War and Tornadoes, which pays tribute to the legendary, close-harmony-singing Louvin Brothers.
Though this band typically haunts intimate venues such as the Eighth Street Tap Room, Lawrences the Roseline could easily blow up a huge stage say, Coachella. The groups full-bodied Americana is lavishly arranged, with pedal steel, piano and chiming guitars to complement Colin Halliburtons articulate voice and lyrics. The groups sophomore LP, Lust for Luster, could go toe-to-toe with anything by Whiskeytown or Josh Ritter.
Countless parties and classy midtown soirées have been shock-rocked by the seamless DJ mixes of Tactics Ben Fuller and Brent Lippincott. Now our homeboys are making a name for themselves in the remix sphere with their head-nodding tweaks of Blaqstarr and M.I.A. Get acquainted with Tactics tactics by downloading any of the free mixes on the duos MySpace page. There, youll find some of the choicest underground club music mashed up with rare disco and funk cuts.
With its pulsing shapes, neon lights and throbbing beats, Nomathmatics MySpace page is an epileptic seizure waiting to happen. Still, a more toned-down site wouldnt do justice to the mashup-loving DJ-videography troupe. Add a live show that threatens to melt down at any moment, and this is one case of sensory overload worth dealing with.
When hes not rocking Westport clubs with hit-heavy (and heavy-hitting) mixes, DJ Just deals in crackly, spacious noises that seem to have been extracted from mid-century soul arrangements and slowed to a suspenseful crawl. Dusty drumbeats, storm-cloud bass, and intermittent tumbleweeds of treble populate these atmospheric soundscapes. Its the ideal soundtrack for an urban spaghetti western, just before the villain appears.
Kiko de Gallo
Spanish expatriate Kiko de Gallo wields musical genres like vegetables, dicing and tossing them together in an electrofunk world-beat concoction. The ingredients include Latin flavoring, hip-hop preservatives, and disco to taste. The resulting sound is smooth and deceptively spicy you have to keep consuming more to keep your mouth from burning.
J Fortune is a purveyor of the drum-n-bass genre, releasing volumes of beats under the apt series title Neurocrunk. His sound is marked by jittery, helicopter-rotor drums and ominous, low-frequency, high-amplitude pulsations. Its music for a dark, paranoid future, where you just might run into a digital Laurence Fishburne.
Melding upbeat hip-hop samples with dreamy, 80s-tinged pop electronics, Spinstyles could turn the most innocuous sample into an infectious dance pandemic. Hes a versatile player, holding down residencies at Blonde and Mosaic while touring with Tech N9ne and DJing for Grant Rice of Empire. When Spinstyles mounts the decks, rather than alerting the CDC or bitching about the current state of rap, youll feel compelled to acknowledge the creative juxtaposition of sounds and join the party.
Singer, producer and DJ Miles Bonny could be heard this year at the Spitfire Grill, at a monthly in-store at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence, at the Wakarusa Music Festival, and even on BBC radio. Okayplayer gave him a shout in its review of his Innate Sounds Crews album, Alpha, and oh, yeah he had a child and took a job as a case manager for troubled kids. Bravo!
Producer and DJ Andrew Rayl, better known in the Kansas City hip-hop world as Beatbroker, made his biggest impression with the locals as the co-founder of the ultra-popular Hip-Hop and Hot Wings shows at the downtown Peanut, but he hasnt stopped there. Nowadays, this broker is busy negotiating deals with some of the edgiest rappers in town, leaving his most recent marks on Innate Sounds Crews Alpha and D/Wills Heir of Abraham.
Both online and about town, the influence of Kansas Citys Innate Sounds Crew and its producer Leonard Dstroy is apparent. Anyone who has attended many local hip-hop shows probably has heard a Dstroy beat. Rejecting mainstream hip-hops habit of ripping hooks from Top 40 choruses, Dstroy stays busy crafting original tracks for local MCs. Fortunately for Dstroys fans and collaborators, his work ethic is up to the demand.
Local geologists claim that DJ Freshs beats were detectable in this region as far back as 8,000 years ago, when the land was underwater and primitive party cruisers floated around showing their tits to passing diplodoci. Not really, but Freshs influence in the development of the local scene runs almost that deep. In his 20-odd years of working pro, the 41-year-old Gary Edwin has owned clubs, played just about every big city in the country, thrown local parties huge enough to shift the Earths orbit and worked with in his own words everybody whos makin noise around town. But hes no fossil this past year, he produced the breakout songs Sucka Duckas by Scatterman and Snug Brim and Double Dutch by the KC Gift, which even comes with its own sprightly dance (YouTube it). Someone give DJ Fresh a bone or two.
Corey Aguilar, aka DJ Sku, is best-known as the tight-bonding glue that holds sets together for area rappers such as Mac Lethal and Approach (who recently moved to San Francisco). Sku embraces that supporting role, despite his extensive battle-DJ credits and showy scratch and beat-juggling skills. His keen ear is perhaps best heard on mixtapes such as the local Heat From the Street and this summers collaboration with Mac Lethal, the Crown Prime Rib Mixtape. Peep his party-rocking skills at Karma and The Granada.
DJ Shad pronounced like shod, as in roughshod, as in Ima run roughshod all over your ass with this beat! has made a huge impact on Kansas Citys hip-hop and DJ scene since moving here from Chicago. Though his fellow local deck champs have undying respect for him, Shads biggest fans are undeniably out on the dance floors wherever he spins, having their joints rocked to the mans unbending blends of hip-hop, house, garage, dirty house, Baltimore house, kitchen sink house (OK, we made that one up) and hardcore rap. He and his friend and mentor DJ Fresh (see previous page) share the honorable distinction of being among Nellys Dirty DJs crew out of St. Louis, and he has opened for the likes of Devin the Dude, Lil Flip, Trina and Keak the Sneak. But fortunately, Shads not out of the average beatseekers reach; he spins at Zen on Fridays and Karma on Saturdays and can frequently be heard mixing it up on KKFI 90.1s Show-Me Mix Show. To find out more, say DJ Shad five times in front of the bathroom mirror, and he will appear and kill you with records.
Sal Retta uses her fluttering soprano to sing old-soul torch songs. The Kansas City songwriter also impresses with her nimble guitar fingerpicking and jazzy, melodic turns assets that place her head and shoulders above the bar-stool competition. Her recent collection, Lost Songs, is as seductive as it is spellbinding, hinting at a more avant-garde approach to come.
If folk is music for the people and Americana points to a broad scope of immigrant influences, then the music of singer-songwriter Barclay Martin is beautifully drenched in both notions. A tireless traveler, Martin works with themes of personal discovery and introspection, weaving them throughout his repertoire a country byway dotted with broken-down memories and sparkling new discoveries. Hes a KC native, but Martins musical and philanthropic aspirations reveal him to be a citizen of the world.
Pendergasts material crackles like old Midwestern punk, but singer Tony Ladesich strips it down to its country core for his solo shows. In either incarnation, maverick rural-rock or acoustic twang, Pendergasts songs reveal an uncommon connection with downtrodden workers and jilted lovers. Ladesichs weary delivery and frank, conversational lyrics speak not only to the currently distraught but also to any listener who has ever felt broken in short, everyone.
In The Pines
Acoustic rock is a cringe-inducing premise at times unless the music is as beautiful and layered as that of In the Pines. Finding a tactful balance between delicate and powerful, the band relies almost entirely on acoustic instruments. Its hard to believe that this music wasnt found in some pressed-tin time capsule in Appalachia.
Singer-songwriter Chad Rex resumed his rock-band mode during the past year, reassembling the Victorstands with brother Scotty Rex on drums and Brent Kastler on bass. The groups recent shows have been anything but alt-country, instead favoring loud, brash tunes that recall the early days of the Replacements. Rex also spent much of the year touring with Drag the River, making his infrequent hometown shows all the more essential.
Hitting upon some of the underappreciated and obscure aspects of the writing and production of the late-60s country-rock scene, the Afterparty writes western-tinged heartbreakers with huge, swelling harmonies. Together, the six-strong crew evokes a drunken romantic who stumbles with just the right charming sloppiness onto the dance floor, squinting through a tequila hangover from last nights post-gig activities.
Just as his music strays from the patterns of the average club joint, D/Will steps outside the hip-hop lifestyle. Its easy to slap unconventional hip-hop with surface terms such as positive or conscious, but D/Wills upcoming solo album, Battery Effect, gives credence to these tags by explaining how the producer and rappers pleasant origin story (complete with family and education) influences his music.
Cash, we love thee. Versatile Van Brunt Entertainment prodigy Cash Images latest release, Take It Slow, is a fine example of the breadth of his talent. His vocal range and ability are noticeable throughout equal parts soft croon, speedy rapping and legitimate singing. In fact, the only thing static about the disc are the hooky, contagious grooves that could get a grandma dancing.
With only two full-length albums under his belt (including Corner Speech, his excellent sophomore collaboration with Danish producer Twelve Beats), Stacy Smith, aka Reach, is already rapping like hes been doing this for decades. Reachs smooth vocals and dynamic stage presence, typically involving slinky R&B beats, dont make up the whole package, though hes also a figurehead in the hip-hop community, hosting MC battles for up-and-comers to showcase their skills.
The rap collective Empire guarantees mixtape fixtures Grant Rice, Panic and Luna a steady stream of hot beats, courtesy of veteran producer S.G. These MCs tell haters to suck it like a lollipop, but at this point in these underground veterans careers, there arent many shit talkers left. During concerts, Empire occasionally uses live instrumentation to supplement S.G.s looped hooks (with sampled strings and horns) and thumping bass.
Heet Mob keeps good company. The crew hosts the Embassys Mic-Check Mondays, helping to cultivate local talent before closing each cipher with a shutdown performance. It also consorts with hip-hop gods, collaborating with Public Enemys Slam Jamz label and opening for the Roots in July. Connections notwithstanding, Heet Mob qualifies as a self-contained network, with a diverse roster of lyricists, vocalists and musicians.
Firing rat-a-tat lyrics and deploying the occasional harmony, CES Cru (for the uninitiated, its pronounced sess and stands for Conglomerate Elements of Self-consciousness, among other things) seems to be practically everywhere lately. Its common to find Cru-mates Godemis and Ubiquitous dropping tracks with the Innate Sounds collective or doing their own thing, as on their latest mixtape, Cesphiles Vol. 1, Codename: Iron Giant.
While flirting with national recognition, Ghosty has been making reliably good music locally for just short of a decade. Andrew Connors attentive songwriting and confident vocals mask ambitious song structures; his crisp pop melodies and the bands Byrds-influenced guitars float back and forth between wistful reality and lucid daydreams. No wonder Ghosty has played tributes to Big Star and the Go-Betweens; its own music achieves similar pop-rock mastery.
The Republic Tigers
Its not always pretty when a Kansas City band tours nationally, gets media attention and performs on late-night TV. (Puddle of Mudd, anyone?) However, the Republic Tigers seem to have made plenty of area fans think to steal a cereal spokestigers line theyrrrre great. All the band had to do was release its stunning debut LP, Keep Color, and make performing its layered brand of indie pop look easy.
If a band could subsist on stellar record reviews alone, Namelessnumberheadman would be making bank on its 2007 release, Wires Reply. But with keyboardist Jason Lewis in Boston, the band has been happy just to persist and perform some stripped-down acoustic shows. Meanwhile, guitarist Chuck Whittington has been working up a new pop-indulged project and paying tribute to Journey via Stone in Love. In the immortal words of Steve Perry: Dont stop believing.
Ad Astra Per Aspera
Bending genres and minds is not an easy task, but Lawrences Ad Astra Per Aspera has it down to a science. Writing politically charged dance rock isnt new, but adding world-music elements and making discordant hooks that Sonic Youth would covet and then tossing them into a jubilant live show results in an awesome, spastic combination that few bands can create.
Lights & Siren
Anna Cole and Andrew Kirk have seemingly fronted a dozen different incarnations of Anvil Chorus and Lights & Siren during the past few years, each one accompanied by swells of promise. Coles brooding keyboard work and breathy vocal delivery look to be in their best company yet with the addition of former Supernauts Timothy Braun and Jordan Lebrecht, the latter of whom will share lead-vocal duties as Lights & Siren spreads the news of its debut album, Our Hands Make Waves.
Olympic Size is an apt name for a rock band with seven-plus members and a sound that listeners can drown in. Singers Kirsten Paludan and Billy Smith dont duel so much as coexist, with dark, haunting harmonies that never sound bleak. Cohesive, formidable arrangements such as those on the groups triumphant, limited-release debut, Youll Miss Me When Im Gone make Olympic Size leagues beyond a giant side project.
Of the handful of youngsters who have started to hop onto the bandstand at Jardines, few carry more eclectic tendencies than pianist John Brewer. Plunging between straight-ahead jazz and free-form experimentalism, Brewer has quickly become the KC scenes bad penny, turning up in unexpected places and challenging the suppositions of jazz traditionalism at every turn. Its a role the young performer appears to relish Brewers sense of devilish delight can be heard on each of the six (six!) CDs he put out last year.
Escaping the rigorous confines of traditional jazz can be difficult sometimes, but Snuff Jazz makes it look easy. Taking jazz to a completely experimental place, this trio, led by gonzo hornman Mark Southerland, breathes life into the genre by adhering to as few rules as possible and redefining standards.
Boulevard Big Band
Once upon a time, there existed a Kansas City of countless clubs where the acrid smoke of cigarettes mingled with the heady aroma of hooch and sweat. At the center of it all was a singular soundtrack fueled by the once mighty big-band sound. Though that legacy has faded, its power and potency remain, thanks to the Boulevard Big Band. Proof can be heard on the outfits 2007 release, Live at Harlings Upstairs. Still, theres nothing quite like the full force of a 17-piece ensemble blowing through a shout chorus live and in living color.
Singer Megan Birdsall didnt have banner years in 2006 and 2007. First, she was diagnosed with a severe degenerative jaw condition that could have spelled the end of her music career and even her life. Birdsall rebounded, however, with the release of her late-2007 LP, Little Jazz Bird, completed just one month before she underwent surgery. Things are much better these days for Birdsall shes making up for lost time in KCs most venerable jazz clubs and wowing audiences all over again with her sophisticated, soulful voice and upbeat personality.
Seventy-four-year-old saxophonist Ahmad Alaadeen remains a vibrant force on the jazz scene, a fact signaled by the release of And the Beauty of It All this past fall and the recent award of a grant to pen The Rest of the Story, a jazz manual for young musicians. Having logged engagements with everyone from Miles Davis to Billie Holiday to Sam Cooke to the Temptations, Alaadeen has rightfully earned his stripes as an elder statesman of the art.
Say what you will about any cat who can swing an alto sax, but you should know that it takes something special to show up to a gig with a big, bad bari. Though Kerry Strayer is knowledgeable in all things saxophonic, his weapon of choice has set him apart for more than 20 years. Though the dust has begun to gather a bit on his 2006 release, Play It Where It Lays, Strayer remains a first-call ringer for the top gigs in town.
The Pink Socks
Make no mistake, Googling the words pink and sock together pulls up really, really gross results. Fortunately, those two words also pull up the Pink Socks MySpace page. Like a harder, gospelized version of the Cramps rocking out at CBGB during its heyday, the Pink Socks make fun, unpretentious, high-energy 60s rock, accented with f-hole twang and amped-up keyboards.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, every bubbly pop act from the mid-60s should be blushing whenever Its Over takes the stage. But unlike other genre revivalists, frontman Jamie Searle isnt confusing nostalgia with flat-out plagiarism. Instead, he belts out line after quirky line while the rest of the band mixes its playful style with hints of riffs long forgotten. The band is calling it quits soon, so catch it while you can.
The Rich Boys
The Rich Boys finally put their money where their mouths are with $, an album that delivers on the promise of those tight red pants and nighttime sunglasses. An aloof bunch enamored of before-they-were-born acts such as the New York Dolls, the Stooges, the Rolling Stones and the Ramones, Mitch Rich and his rotating ensemble pay due tribute to their forerockers by retaining that generations playfully pompous attitude and bar-cruising riffs.
The dance-punk circus that is Ssion is a multimedia collective of art, fashion, pop music and weirdness. Even when reduced to its basic elements, the group, which centers on singer and filmmaker Cody Critcheloe and musicmaker Ashley Miller, stands as a testament to the power of creativity. Does the music shake booties? Yeah. Do the videos both amuse people and make them mildly uncomfortable? Hell, yeah. The result is a live show thats half Las Vegas Cher, half Gwar, and all ambitious absurdity.
The Beautiful Bodies
The Beautiful Bodies often begin their shows with a funk vamp, some jagged riffs and undulating grooves to get spectators moving. Its a smart gesture because the groups whirling-dervish singer, Alicia Solombrino, shouldnt be unleashed on a cold crowd. Once the partys started, Solombrino becomes its life, flirting with the front-row patrons so seductively that everyone in the venue ends up pressed against the stage. When these sweaty, tightly packed fans start writhing to the rhythms, the results are orgiastic.
More than any other area act, American Catastrophe transports concertgoers to the scenes suggested in the groups music. After a few bars of the groups gothic Americana aesthetic, a downtown club becomes a rustic saloon, with ominous ghost-wind guitars rattling the swinging door. The bass lines burble like thick oil seeping through parched earth as brooding frontman Shaun Hamontree hitches his horse, describes the bandits that ransacked his town and warns that theyre on the way.
Hundred Years War
Hundred Years War sets its clock back roughly 17 years, back to a time when loud, ugly-sounding bands such as Season to Risk and Molly McGuire drowned Kansas Citys clubs in sludge. For its scene-veteran members, its a cathartic project: Drummer Mike Myers and guitarist Auggie Wolber get to pummel their instruments with more ferocity than their positions with In the Pines require, and singer Jason Hall and bassist Chris Wagner unleash all the screaming and harsh noise they keep corked during their work with the Secret Club.
Currently a headless monster, with singer Derek Thompson having departed in June for San Jose, California, Sicadis still does serious damage with its thrashing limbs four arms for harmonic guitar leads, two legs to trigger the double-bass drum pedals. Sicadis self-titled 2008 EP serves as a testament to its power-metal prowess, with Thompsons versatile mix of gruff shouts and clean vocals setting a daunting standard for his prospective replacement.
At the Left Hand of God
Lyrically, metal ranges from dark odes to despair to blunt expressions of rage. At the Left Hand of God proves fluent in both, with singer Rikk Wolf using serpentine tones to track the angel of deaths flight and dropping a few octaves to bellow fuck you all before a massive breakdown. ATLHOG shreds through solos and buries the beats-per-minute speedometer, but its multilayered songs feel epic rather than technical.
Out of the Suffering
For a hardcore band, Out of the Suffering does a good death-metal impression. The group melds the low-growl dissonance of the death scene with the open air, bob-your-head groove of Northeast hardcore. (The bands video for Act of Desperation would make Obituary proud.) With dashes of ringing guitars à la Chronicles of Chaos, sections of soulful singing and breakdowns guaranteed to make you pick up some change, Out of the Suffering proves to be broader than the confines of deathcore.
The Cast Pattern
Pulling together a whirlwind of atonal runs, polyrhythmic chaos and groove, Lawrences the Cast Pattern released its first full-length this year and kept a steady schedule touring the East Coast and the Midwest. Represented by Tennessee label Midgets With Machetes, the band kept its trademark dark sense of humor along with its tech-metal-meets- old-school-breakdown sensibility. Tongue-in-cheek song titles, Dillinger-like precision, full-throated vocals and a cameo by the Red Chords Guy Kozowyk fill out the self-titled 2008 release.
Molech comes out blazing and possibly bleeding with a dose of new-school grind and a healthy respect for old-school gore and black metal. Working with Kansas Citys Disgorge Media, the band delivers straight-to-the-gut death metal, with vocals that are sometimes reminiscent of classic lo-fi black metal such as Darkthrone or Immortal. Eyes of the Betrayer fans will recognize singer Dan Albright.
myspace.com/molechmetal NEW ACT
Someday, legend will tell of when Adrianne Verhoeven, her hand cramped from repeatedly writing her 17-letter name, transformed herself into the soulful, abbreviated Dri. In the process, she acquired dance-inducing electronic beats, a stellar voice and an endless supply of cool vibes. Dris solo work offers many memorable grooves, fortifying an already impenetrable rock resume that began with the Anniversary.
The Fourth of July
For those oblivious to American history but well-versed in Lawrences music scene, the Fourth of July should evoke a holiday spent sitting on a front porch, drinking beer, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing sweet tunes about troubled love. Meanwhile, your hair grows long, you develop a farmers tan and you effortlessly craft appealing folk-rock songs.
Not too many high school bands end up playing the Uptown. Then again, not too many high school bands sound like some kind of offspring of Kula Shaker and the Who. Only now, that sound is past tense, because Rockesh is no more. After three years, the band, which started when ginger-haired growler and guitar player Brendan McReynolds was just 14 (cute!), has called it quits. Thats too bad not just because we were looking forward to getting drunk with these dudes at their shows in four years but also because too many aspirants of Rockeshs age dont give a shit about real rock music. Oh, well. Well look forward to McReynolds upcoming work with the Voice Issue, and well keep the band on the ballot. Because a vote for Rockesh is a vote for Americas headbanded and polyestered youth.
The Jen Say Kwahs
For such a young band, the Jen Say Kwahs are already familiar with modern indie-rock recipes, especially those with jaunty, dance-inducing flavors. Some of the Lawrence groups songs feature crunching guitars, bouncy bass and synthetic drumbeats, but others employ solemn pedal steel, sensitive balladry and live drums. This is head-nodding, foot-stomping music energetic but far from hyperkinetic or threatening.
It might seem ludicrous to apply the new-act tag to a band thats been around for more than a decade, but Expassionates seems possessed by a renewed vigor. Much of that is due to the addition of drummer Sam Platt and bassist Rich Burgess, who lay down sultry rhythmic beds for Marco Pascolinis reverb-drenched guitar and Scott Easterdays genteel baritone. After a 10-year wait, a new album is in the works.
The Noise FM
Though informed by the FM radio euphemisms classic rock and modern rock, the Noise FM strives for a considerably more intelligent sound. The Lawrence trio does, however, maintain rock radios polished accessibility. Tight and technically proficient, the Noises music is often aggressive but always closely calibrated, with equal attention paid to searing melodies and killer riffs.
With the release of their self-titled debut album, the four members of the ACBs have created quite a bit of buzz around town an impressive feat, considering the album is nearly two years old. Cool, laid-back harmonies and guitar riffs that would make Rick Ocasek drool punctuate this perfect soundtrack to summer. If the next album sounds this good, were willing to wait as long as it takes.
After watching plenty of shy, shoegazing bands, its refreshing to see a band that isnt afraid to show a little swagger and occasionally rock a neckerchief. Borrowing liberally from the 90s Britpop explosion (particularly Oasis kooky Gallagher brothers), Abracadabras balances the line between pop gold and riffy rock, with just enough eyeliner to check the glam box for good measure.
Life In Jersey
When the Life In Jersey lads arent starring in music videos filled with something akin to black-costumed Spider-Men, the four purveyors of indie pop-rock are gigging throughout the Midwest and gearing up for the future. LIJ is busy crafting its full-length follow-up to last years mature, conceptual Skeletons EP. That should be music to the ears of LIJs head-bobbing fanbase.
Johnson Countys Josephine Collective released its debut LP in June with backing from Warner Bros. and production from Goldfingers John Feldmann the pop-radio guru who helped break Good Charlotte and the Used. Despite all the hoopla, the Collective has acted like a young band thats still earning its stripes by playing hella all-ages shows and slumming it on the Warped Tour. For anyone who ever indulged in Blink 182 or MxPx, the Collective comes correct.
The dissolution of Lawrence metal stalwarts the Esoteric begat something entirely different when guitarist Cory Smith enlisted drummer Billy Johnson and bassist T.J. Matthews to form Paper Cities. The groups shift from metal to rock came full circle with the additions of singer Marty Bush and keyboardist Zac Laman, who steered the group toward a sound more akin to Hum than Mastodon. All riffs considered, its the most refined project any of these fellas has undertaken.
Dead Girls Ruin Everything
If the PMAs had a Best Band Name to Frighten Grown-ups category, Dead Girls Ruin Everything would be a shoe-in. But there isnt, so this Lawrence foursome will just have to continue winning over fans in real categories. That shouldnt be too difficult the bands debut full-length, What a Perfect Ending, is the kind of catchy, listen-all-day disc thats practically impossible to resist.
Bands that name influences such as 13th Floor Elevators, Hasil Adkins and Captain Beefheart run one big risk being totally unlistenable. Black Tarantulas are a notable exception to that rule, purveying a loud and brash sort of garage rock thats actually quite catchy. The Sonics or, more recently, the Black Lips could shimmy and shake along with these goofy young punks.
Bent Left, one of the areas hardest-touring bands over the past few years, canceled a string of spring and summer dates when its overtaxed van finally collapsed. Fortunately for the groups Kansas City fans, its always easy to arrange transportation to local gigs. Bent Left plays melodic punk with scratchy vocals, rattling bass, political lyrics and a superfast backbeat, resembling the genres early 80s trailblazers.
Take the necessary ingredients needed for a high-quality, no-bullshit, hardcore punk band, throw them all in a boiling circle pit, and what you get is Were Fucked. Saturated with harsh but rousing vocals, rapid-fire drums, ferocious guitar work and lots of anti-establishment energy, these guys imbue even their 7-inches with throb and sweat.
D.I.Y. hardcore punk is alive and kicking and screaming at whatever basement stage Dark Ages inhabits. The groups debut four-song EP sounds like something from the early Dischord catalog: scuzzy, white-hot punk rock that leaves hardly a measure to inhale. Unambiguous titles, such as No Cops, No Christians, cut straight to the point, and theres the bonus of watching Ad Astra Per Aspera frontman Mike Tuley wail away on the drums.
Alongside ex-members of Stretchmarxxx, Last of the V8s and Moxie, musicians Venus Starr, Brittain Smith and Rachel Roboto are all about power-chording their way through songs that instruct people to (a) shut their mouths, (b) hit the freeway and (c) rejoice in the delicious fruitiness of boat drinks. And as much as wed love to describe the Sixteens as spunky or sassy, we wont. Thats just asking for a punch in the mouth.
Fast, dirty and lean, the Hopeless Destroyers are the kinds of dudes who remain punks for life. None of that fleeting, teenage, hang-a poster-of-Sid-Vicious-on-the-bedroom-wall-for-a-while shit. These guys are in it for the long haul, tattooed necks and all. Which bodes well for their explosive, from-the-gut sound and breakneck pace. Its a style doomed to fail in the wrong hands, but not with these guys they have the experience and confidence to pull it off, and pull it off well.
The Life and Times
The Life and Times hasnt set a release date for Tragic Boogie, its next album, but fans have ample evidence that the group remains on task. The Boogie sessions have yielded Fall of the Angry Clowns, a new MySpace-posted track. Also, the film Life Is Pleasure, which documents the Life and Times 2006 Japanese tour, uses large chunks of the unreleased material as its soundtrack. Finally, the groups set lists concentrate heavily on its latest creations, which sound just as eerie and cosmic as its earlier efforts.
Billy Smith, Steve Tulipana, Ryan Pope and Shawn Sherrill collectively represent a handful of decades of living, loving and toiling on the KC music scene. Sure, its been a little over a year since Pope joined the fray as the new percussive piston for Roman Numerals, and just shy of two since the group released its self-titled debut. Regardless, this dangerously seasoned quartet of vets continues to flaunt its love for British postpunk synth-rock with regular live outings.
Federation of Horsepower
As politically correct as our society is, its hard to remember when rock and fucking roll used to be dangerous. Those drag-strip fumes that youre smelling on the local scene are from the Federation of Horsepower, a riff-heavy, greasy-hair-flying-out-the-window joy ride that flirts with deafness and leaves a string of crushed beer cans and broken guitars in its nitrous-tinged wake.
Building on the swirling, dark sounds of the Cure, the grandiose and pristine message rock of Coldplay and Muse, and some of the mathier rhythmic elements of mid-90s college rock, the Belated makes just-friendly-enough-for-radio tunes that would be perfect companions for mopey goths and lighter-waving arena rockers alike.
Is rock and roll a young mans game? Bands such as Aerosmith say no. Then again, Aerosmith sucks. But like a fine wine, the Pedaljets seem to be getting better with age. Thanks to the geniuses at OxBlood Records, the bands 1989 self-titled opus has been remastered and reissued, showcasing the talent and raw power of a band that was, and still is, on a par with the brightest lights of Midwest rock.
Super Black Market
Super Black Market is the kind of band willing to use the ultimate adjective. By topping its bands nom de punk with Super, Benn Bluml, Joseph Remlinger and Sonny Remlinger join the company of Super 8 and Super Mario. The confident nomenclature pays off with aggressive tunes and a rollicking live show. With a possible relocation to the West Coast looming, SBM has little time left to show local listeners just whats in a name.
This past October saw the long-awaited arrival of Mac Lethals 11:11, released on indie-rap-kingmaking label Rhymesayers, and lo, the former Scribble Jam champ and local underground hero was introduced to the world. With his Sunday night alternative and underground show on KRBZ 96.5 and his Black Clover Records label, this bleary-eyed MC with the poignant backstory is poised to be a KC hip-hop force for years to come.
The Architects, still a premier live draw around town, return to the Pitch Music Awards having more than fulfilled their rock-and-roll prerequisites. The band has toured the nation extensively and released not one but three well-received albums. The latest, Vice, maintains a no-nonsense sound with an attitude augmented by touring in the face of $4-per-gallon gas, keeping the band in the ears and on the lips of fans.
Flee the Seen
Dont forget where you came from, singer Kim Anderson repeats during Stage Lights, one of four tracks Flee the Seen released for download this year. The band clearly follows its own advice. Musically, the new songs boast more complex structures and showcase Andersons expanded range, but they retain the groups exposed-heart emotion and jolting intensity. Also, Flee the Seen hasnt abandoned its no-gig-is-too-small policy, bringing a dynamic live show to every area outpost.
Split Lip Rayfield
The past year has been a cathartic one for Split Lip Rayfield and its extended boogan tribe. The revered punk-bluegrass outfit returned to the stage last August to honor the memory of Kirk Rundstrom, who died in February 2007 after a bold fight against throat cancer. Thanks to those familiar with the bands roughneck songbook, Rundstroms singing parts still ring out wherever SLR takes the stage as the rowdiest trio on either side of the state line.
Unless youve somehow stopped leaving the house altogether (goddamned gas prices!), youve probably seen Tech N9nes face hanging from a light pole, glued to a stop sign or stuck on the side of a van, thanks to his omnipresent street team. If you arent familiar, now is the time to get acquainted with the citys most well-known rapper, who just dropped his best, most expansive work to date, the double album Killer.