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In Review: The Year 2012

Hello there! As you can tell from the glaring vacancy between the last post and this one, I haven’t really written much in the last six months. It’s a new year, and with that I’d like to continue to entertain the twelve three people that read this website. I haven’t really been able to make the time for writing, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t kept my ears open for great things happening in our fair city. There was such a considerable amount of good music to come out of the metro that I find it difficult to cut the selections down to a top five or ten. With that, I present you with Riot On The Plaza’s ABCs of 2012, a few dozen bands with great releases, many of which went largely unnoticed.

A is for Anakin, who released an astounding space-rock debut, instantly aligning themselves with the likes of HUM, Shiner, and Failure. The band recorded and released Random Accessed Memories before even playing their first public performance.

B is for Black On Black, a raging hardcore punk trio so humble they don’t even want to charge you for a download of Help Yourself, the LFK band’s six-track debut. Take a listen to “No Good So Far” above.

C is for CVLTS, edging themselves into the #1 spot with the internationally released Realiser, an aural oddity rife with tape loops, improvisation, and drastic mood changes. Hear “Wamego Fluff” above.

D is for Droves, who are the uncomfortable pitch blackness to the warm glow in which Soft Lighting allows the listener to bask. Bryan Cox and Michael Protzmann collaborated on an EP released last year. Listen to “Belial” above.

E is for Expo ’70, the perpetually recording project of Justin Wright. Beguiled Entropy pushes the number of his releases to the area of around fifty, and “Mark of the Rising Mantis” exemplifies what I like best about his music: a feeling of hopelessly drifting through space.

F is for Fiat, a fusion trio who blend classical, jazz, and rock together to form a very different kind of beast for the local music scene. The group released Returns over the summer, not so much an EP as a “bundle” of songs that stand on their own.

G is for Ghosty, who continue to please with well-crafted pop rooted in the ’60s and ’70s. “Joy In My Sorrow” is only one of the many stand-out tracks available on their self-titled release.

H is for High Diving Ponies, whose summer release of Suspended in Liquid received an unjustly quiet response from others in the area. The band will be releasing a split double cassette with Rooftop Vigilantes in the coming weeks.

I is for Is It Is, a band that shares with the High Diving Ponies a guitarist in James Capps, who also provides the vocals for the oblique shoegaze present on their debut, Hollyhocks.

J is for John Velghe and The Prodigal Sons, who at their fullest are comprised of nearly a dozen immensely talented musicians from the metro area. “Bloodline” is the first track on Don’t Let Me Stay to prominently feature a horn section.

K is for Katlyn Conroy, who released the three track sampling of Savannah > Jacksonville during the summer under her performing moniker of La Guerre. Listen to closing track “Lights Go Out” above.

L is for Lazy, an ever-evolving and always entertaining group of Kansas Citians who set fire to any semblance of their former selves with the release of Obsession, nine songs of filthy sounding lo-fi punk.

M is for Minden, who left us all in the dust by moving to Portland on the eve of releasing their debut full-length, Exotic Cakes. It was written and recorded here in KC, so as far as I’m concerned this little glam pop gem still deserves inclusion.

N is for No Class, who released their sophomore LP on Canada’s Deranged Records over the summer. Keine Klasse II piles more anger on the band’s already wholesale pissed off hardcore punk.

O is for Osiris-1, the name under which glitchy hip-hop producer Rick Mauna releases many of his recordings. This untitled album was recorded with inspiration from his then still in utero child.

P is for Power and Light, a Euro-inspired synth pop collaboration between Nathan Readey and Ghosty’s Andrew Connor from which I hope to hear much more than a three song EP in 2013.

Q is for The Quivers, an unabashedly retro rock band that draws from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, pop, and motown. The track above is from the band’s debut EP.

R is for The Roseline, the ongoing project of Colin Halliburton and one of the best alt-country acts the metro has seen since Buffalo Saints dissolved. Vast As Sky is the third and likely most expansive album the band has released to date.

S is for Soft Lighting, the ’80s-influenced synth project of Bryan Cox. Slow Motion Silhouettes took me by complete surprise, and on multiple occasions it could be heard blaring from my car’s stereo while I was driving around at night. It’s that kind of record, I guess.

T is for Thee Water MoccaSins, a local supergroup of sorts, who self-released their towering debut From the Rivers of Missouri and the Banks of Fear and currently only get around to playing shows when Billy Smith is back in town from his current home of NYC.

U is for UMBERTO, Matt Hill’s monstrous creation that made a return to form last year with the release of Night Has a Thousand Screams, a score which was made to coincide with a 1982 horror film.

V is for Vital Forms, whose breadth of sound on their demo EP ranges from dark electronic beats with complementary vocals, to the chunky riffed dream pop you can hear in the track above.

W is for The What Gives, who will appear on this list regardless of their not being an active band in over a decade. Futureman Records dug up some unreleased sessions from the Lawrence lo-fi indie rock/pop group and finally let it be heard by the public.

And in lieu of an X, Y, or Z, I will post a list of honorable mentions:

Capybara‘s Dave Drusky, Coke Weed X‘s self-titled debut, Discoverer‘s Tunnels, Dry Bonnet‘s Seeds EP, Gemini Revolution‘s self-titled effort, Jorge Arana Trio‘s Mapache, Levon Realms‘ Other Time Period, Loss Leader‘s First Assembly, Mouthbreathers‘ Die Alone single, Prevrat‘s Intelligent Discontent, Radar Defender‘s Satellites and Airports, Sundiver‘s Vicious EP, and Surroundher‘s triple CD debut.

I hope you take the time to check out the bands above, they all deserve a listen. What are a few I’m looking forward to in the year ahead?

New ones from The ACB’s, The Dead Girls, and Fourth of July, and the debuts of Bloodbirds, The Conquerors, Radkey, and Shy Boys.

The Casket Lottery debut new track, 7-inch preorder

Earlier this week, I missed out on seeing The Casket Lottery play their first non-festival KC show since their decision to be an active band once more. I caught the group back in spring as part of the Middle Of The Map Festival (their second year as a performer) which happened to be at the same venue they played on July 8th with Anakin and In the Grove. I forgot how quickly time has passed since then, as the band’s new label No Sleep Records just posted the pre-order for the band’s new 7″ record (with multiple colors for the nerds). The Door EP features the title track on one side, with “My Father’s Son” as a b-side. The EP is a precursor to the upcoming full-length, Real Fear.

Any who were familiar with the band in their former life will note that there has been not much change in their sound since the last release nearly a decade ago. The songs still ride heavily on the bass of Stacy Hilt, drums of Nathan “Junior” Richardson and the miraculously un-aging vocals of Nathan Ellis, but with a revamped lineup the founders are now joined by Brent Windler (Anakin) on second guitar, and Nick Siegel on keyboard. You can stream the a-side and title track from The Door below.

Anakin kickstarting new EP

Kansas band Anakin are fresh off the release of their debut full-length, Random Accessed Memories, only issued a few months ago in conjunction with their first live performance ever. Though the band has kept quiet on the live performance front since then, they have been hard at work on a new EP, which is set to be released later this year.

It has been nearly a year to the day since the band’s kickstarter for RAM appeared alongside the leagues of others full of hope in getting their projects funded. Kansas City took notice, and the band’s campaign ended up exceeding their goal by over $500, the end result of which was one of the best, if as-yet still most unheard debut albums in recent memory. The guys figure they may be able to return to that well, and are asking for their fans and listeners to once again get their material heard by the denizens of space rock.

The new kickstarter has a modest goal of $1,800, and as of this writing still has 24 days remaining until its completion. With this new campaign, the band hopes to lure you in with tiers under $30 ranging from downloads of the album and MIDI demos of the songs therein, to a tier of $150 that will get those who pledge a very special gift — a cover song, hand-picked by the donator, recorded by the band specifically for that person. Sky’s the limit, but Tupac holograms cost extra.

Stream Random Accessed Memories below.

Middle Of The Map: Day Three Wrap-Up

The third and final night of the second annual Middle Of The Map Festival was coming to a close. I had no choice but to make it the most ambitious day possible. I flew solo most of the day, which gave me ample time to venue-hop and catch both local favorites and make some very surprising new discoveries. Just a short twelve hours after Mission of Burma ended their closing set at RecordBar, I was right back at the strip mall venue, sliding into a booth to drink overpriced mimosas during The Record Machine’s daytime label showcase.

If necessary, Minden could have forced an early sunrise with radiant indie-pop that is simultaneously glamorous and affably disheveled. Singer Casey Burge sashayed around stage in metallic spandex, and when I spotted two girls in the audience dressed in kind, I expected some audience participation during the band’s opulence advocating “Gold Standard,” but no– they were but ordinary hipsters. I had a bit of a realization during Minden’s set. The band is well on their way to greatness, and even have a potential for “household name” status. It’s just such a damned shame that they hit their ceiling in KC, and feel they must move away to Portland to prosper as musicians.

Next up for the day show was Katlyn Conroy’s newest project La Guerre (though she was formerly billed under her own name). Conroy on her own has an undeniably saccharine voice, and when those pipes are laid over the blithely uncomplicated rhythm of her own keyboard and a backing band, creates a wholesome naïvety that holds the key to the fluttering, electronic-based twee in which she prevails. Conroy also performed at the festival with Cowboy Indian Bear, a great Lawrence-based group that is only further enhanced by her contributions.

Maybe I had a little mimosa buzz by the time Akkilles gathered their arsenal of members to begin playing folksy, acoustic guitar led arias, but I wasn’t much of an audience of David Bennett’s when they began. The multi-layered pop was admirable, but I chose to bid my adieu to the RecordBar and head over to the day show happening at Riot Room, where Cherokee Rock Rifle were tearing up the patio stage. Frontman Dutch Humphrey is obnoxious, offensive, and sings abhorrent lyrics while holding his rifle-turned-mic stand out to the crowd with little subtlety as to it being a phallic symbol. The crowd loved it, and so did I. Dutch Humphrey supplies an unquestionable arrogance that makes a frontman worth watching, and the southern-fried rock n’ roll delivered by the rest of the band with respectably day-drunk precision imprints the groove on your skull for hours afterward.

Fast forward a few hours, and the evening shows are kicking off in succession all across Westport. Maps For Travelers opened up the Riot Room (inside, this time) and the crowd was already teeming with people excited for the bands to come. Most importantly, the band performing that very moment should not be ignored. The four guys on stage played until the sweat rolling down in their eyes blinded them, and then played even more. The influences of the band are a bit curious, but their live show is executed with the ferocity of a young(er) Hot Water Music and gives plenty of nods to the various projects of Walter Schreifels and Jonah Matranga in the process.

I saw The Casket Lottery perform in the exact same venue, almost to the exact day one year prior for last year’s festival. But the last time I really watched the band was just a few months shy of ten years ago, when I was completely infatuated with them in my youth and they were still touring on their Survival is For Cowards album. The Casket Lottery was a trio of Nathan Ellis, Stacy Hilt, and Nathan “Junior” Richardson back then, but these days (as in, on their forthcoming album) they have expanded to a five-piece that includes Brent Windler (Sons of Great Dane, Anakin) on second guitar, and Nick Siegel on keyboard. “Nostalgia” was without a doubt the word on the lips of all those in attendance, as the group cranked through old and new material alike as if they never missed out on those six or so years of not being an active band, and only aroused the appetite for things on the horizon in a comeback done so, so right.

Although Reflector released a split 7-inch with The Casket Lottery in 1999, the record only served as a crossroads for the two, as TCL had a sole EP at that point, and Reflector was on the eve of issuing their last recordings as a band. Performing only their second reunion in the last decade, guitarist Jared Scholz was joined by Harry Anderson on bass and Jacob Cardwell on drums to rehash old songs that while musically on point in their arithmetic, lacked the familiar near-squawk of Scholz, replaced instead with a softer crooning while exhibiting songs from Where Has All the Melody Gone? As noted by Scholz early on in the set, the last time they shared a stage with both The Casket Lottery and following act The Appleseed Cast was 14 years ago, at a Halloween party.

At this point, Riot Room was quickly filling in with those awaiting venue headliners Coalesce and Fucked Up. I chose to forgo the lingering stench of beard sweat, and ran over to Firefly to catch Fourth of July play to a modestly sized audience. The brothers Hangauer (Brendan and Patrick) provided the guitar and bass, while the brothers Costello (Brendan and Brian) furnished an additional guitar and the drums necessary to fuel Brendan Hangauer’s creative outlet. The crowd was small, but the number of mouths in the audience that knew every word to every song (even those yet to be released) were far greater than any other band at the festival thus far. The quartet sounded impeccable, and their jaunty pop clattering off the lavish furniture of the speakeasy was not entirely disjointed from the scenery.

I dipped out of Firefly a bit early to catch my second wind with an espresso (after the day show, it was a wonder I was still standing), and passing the vast swaths of festival goers lined up outside the Beaumont and Riot Room only further affirmed my decision to head down into the chambered depths of the Union to catch the remainder of The Devil‘s set. The Lawrence quartet of Mike Teeter, Natale Collar, and Sara McManus is led by Taylor Triano, and pummeled out a filthy, stoner rock answer to the question “what would Janis Joplin sound like today?” — part performance art-punk, part unforgiving noise rock.

The Oklahoma by way of Lawrence band Mansion wreaked a towering ruination of doom metal upon the audience with a face-liquefying decibel surely outlawed across much of the country. Almost entirely instrumental, the songs were time-traversing expansions of momentum with a metronomic backbone rhythm the only thing keeping the audience from devolving into throat-tearing creatures straight from the pages of a Lovecraft novel. Whether they played one forty-minute song or ten four-minute incantations, I have no idea, but their opus could soundtrack the apocalypse.

While others were drinking the kool-aid of festival hype bands, Cleveland’s mr. Gnome were creating a fan for life in what amounted to little more than a dreary cavity carved into the basement of an old Midtown building. Through the entirety of the weekend, I watched bands that varied from pretty good to great, to even some old standby favorites, but this duo pushed sound from their speakers fit for an orchestra of musicians, and seemingly with little effort. Nicole Barille’s technique was a spastic array of hummingbird-paced guitar strumming culminating in a medley of genres and influences, and drummer/pianist Sam Meister’s work behind the kit was so robot-esque in its accuracy it’s a wonder he didn’t exhaust himself halfway through the set. I’m kicking myself not for watching them, but for even considering the possibility.

The second group of Oklahomans to climb behind the guard rails that create the makeshift stage at the Union, Broncho played a set covering most of their debut album Can’t Get Past the Lips. The band left the room a sweltering mess of sticky bodies after laying out a sound akin to The Stooges, The Exploding Hearts, and leagues of other punk bands with era-defining attitudes from the ’70s, ’80s and today. Frontman Ryan Lindsey can also be seen as part of Starlight Mints, and joined the defunct OK band Cheyenne after their album was released by The Record Machine, whose owner Nathan Reusch curated the entire festival.

Phantom Family Halo brought their traditional stoner psych in from Brooklyn, and played an ultimately forgettable set that was doomed from the start, crammed between two of the better bands of the night. The band took a backseat to most of the room’s conversations at the time, and with every other venue having already closed their night out by that time, it was inevitable that the crowds would gather and the overflow would begin to gradually fill the room. Which it did, for a short while.

Acid Mothers Temple began at 2:00 in the morning. Had they started at their planned start time of 1:30, they may have gotten an extended set, but due to city regulations, the sound was cut off after only 40 minutes, so that the place could be vacant by 3. In the short time the Japanese psych saints played, I stood on top of someone’s road case (sorry) that was tucked away in a cement support pillar’s corner, and closed my eyes for most of the set. Not because I was tired, but because the band’s free-form space prog was a sensorial trip for the mind and body, and removing one of the senses was the only way to heighten that of one that was more important at that time.

I spoke with the band’s road manager/translator after the place had been cleared out, and he confessed that although the prints available for the tour stated it was to be the last tour, the reality was it is only their last tour of 2012. Well played.

The final tally for the weekend concluded with 25 bands having been watched, seven venues attended, a boundless number of beers resting in my belly, and a revolting number of sleep hours lost. Don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s in store for year three.


This review was written for Lost in Reviews.

Anakin debut “Send/Receive” music video

Local space-rockers Anakin have unveiled their new Fernando Cordero-directed music video for “Send/Receive,” the first single from their debut album Random Accessed Memories. Watch the video below, and read a review of their recently played first show here. Rated R for robot content.

02/20/12: The Jealous Sound / Anakin @ Riot Room

The benefits of a 3AM bar that doubles as a venue are essentially void once you realize you must scrape yourself out of bed before the sun comes up the next morning for a rousing eight hours of subservience to the overlords without whom you would be penniless. Westport venue the Riot Room is guilty beyond doubt of taking advantage of their last call time, often pushing a live show back to a 10:00 start time or later. With a two band bill, I was dreading getting to the venue at 9:15 and gawkily mulling about for an hour or more before the first band started.

As luck would have it, local space rock group Anakin took the stage promptly at 9:30 to play what was billed as their very first live performance ever. Let me preface that last sentence by saying that the band recently released their debut, Kickstarter-funded full-length, Random Accessed Memories, have appeared on a HUM tribute compilation, and have merch readily available for purchase. To most, if not all, this logic would seem a bit flawed and a sure way to lose money before your band even gets a foot in the live music door. Don’t put your prejudice pants on just yet, though, as the members are anything but amateurs in the world of public performance.

The five gentlemen on stage have spent time in touring and recording bands like The Escape, Tablets of Orion (which later became Orion — two separate entities, both of whom had a submission on a Failure tribute compilation), Sons of Great Dane, and a recently revamped lineup of The Casket Lottery. The band wear their influences on the sleeve (and chest, as noted by drummer and co-founder Brad Chancellor sporting a Rentals shirt), and leading man Brent Windler quietly croons into the microphone like a Fantastic Planet-era Ken Andrews. The band played a 45-minute set and performed their new, 10-track album front to back, for better or worse.

I spoke with a fellow show-goer and we both agreed that we wanted to like Anakin a lot more than we actually did. Their set expectedly began a little rocky, by the bass guitar cutting out halfway through “Action-Reaction,” but they quickly recovered by following with synth-heavy cuts from the album like “Magnified,” “Abort.Retry.Fail,” and “Disconnect,” but I regrettably grew tired of the set about 30 minutes in. Not to say their sound is a novelty or a conscious mimic of elder bands that are in the annals of worship for fans of space rock, shoegaze, or even dreampop, but I came wanting just a taste, and left feeling I had absorbed more than intended, my senses on overload from the sheer onslaught of sound that came from the stage. Kudos to the band regardless for playing likely the best first gig I have ever witnessed, and for having a great album with which to back it up.

I may have been just a little too harsh on newly reunited Los Angeles natives The Jealous Sound in my recent review of their latest album, A Gentle Reminder. If their nearly hour-long live show is any indication, they still have energy to spare for a future album or three. Singer/guitarist Blair Shehan took the drunken revelers in front of the stage with a smile, and made references throughout the set to the now dwindling audience that remained about the last time they played in Kansas City. If anyone wants to date themselves, it was in early 2004 at the short-lived west bottoms venue The Spitfire, opening for Statistics and Engine Down.

The Jealous Sound effortlessly tackled a career-spanning set, with a few hiccups and false starts, but those that were there to see the band were not left disappointed. With the exception of set opener “Beautiful Morning,” which I referred to as “background noise from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy” in my review of the album, the entire set was energetic and was met with bouncing heads and people dancing in a way only acceptable in the privacy of their own homes. After playing the opening track from the most recent full-length, they jumped to the opening track from their last full-length (which is now sitting at nearly a decade old) and continued to jump between the two while throwing a few EP tracks in (“Got Friends,” “Priceless”).

By all accounts, the band had fun while on stage and worked with the audience they had. It’s an odd thing, but I’ve never been to a show at the Riot Room where the audience was larger for the headliner than the opener unless the header was also a local. You could chalk that up to the place being very representative of a certain sect of Kansas City music (a sound which some, or just myself, refer to as Riot Room rock, but that’s another story in itself). While a national headlining act may not have the pull of a local opener, I have repeatedly witnessed a small group of dedicated fans loudly requesting an encore from the headliner once their set ends. This night was no different, and after the band laid their instruments to rest and walked off the stage, Shehan decided to strap on another guitar to play a solo version of “Turning Around.”

The solo encore was met with inebriated approval from the group in front of the stage, at which point the rest of the band came back up to play one more song, “Naive,” from their 2003 full-length Kill Them With Kindness. The crowd was given a genuine thank you from the band, then the house lights came up and the group in front of the stage began to gradually stagger off, with a few individuals remaining behind to enthrall one another with slurred stories of how much the band meant to them at a certain point in their youth. Tabs were paid or further increased, and the patrons began to tightly wrap their necks in scarves in preparation of braving the outside weather. Some, like myself, were already bemoaning the workday that stood ahead of them in a matter of hours.

The Jealous Sound setlist:
Beautiful Morning
Hope For Us
Got Friends
Promise of the West
Perfect Timing
Abandon! Abandon!
Your Eyes Were Shining
A Gentle Reminder
The Fold Out
Anxious Arms
Turning Around (Blair Shehan solo electric) – encore
Naive – encore

This review originally appeared on Lost in Reviews. All photos taken by the talented Matt Cook.

Actors&Actresses remix compilation up for pre-order 09/23

Kansas City’s Actors&Actresses has a sound that far surpasses what one would expect from just three people. The trio have steadily built a national fan base thanks to their label The Mylene Sheath (Gifts From Enola, Junius, Giants) with which they have worked for most of their existence. The label released the band’s latest studio output, 2009’s Arrows (recorded at Eudora’s Black Lodge with David Gaume of The Stella Link), though they most recently re-issued the band’s 2005 debut EP, We Love Our Enemy (recorded at HUM frontman Matt Talbot’s studio with the great Paul Malinowski of Shiner). With the recording details listed above, I think one can surmise that the band is largely influenced by a sonically driven, spaced out rock that has been championed by the likes of Failure, HUM, and Shiner, among others.

While those who are looking forward to brand new A&A tracks will have to wait a bit longer, their take on HUM’s “Aphids” can be found on the recently released tribute compilation to the aforementioned, Songs of Farewell and Departure. Locals Anakin and The Esoteric are featured on the album as well, performing “I’d Like Your Hair Long” and “Iron Clad Lou,” respectively. Author side note, I’m confused as to why no band attempted a re-imagining of “Diffuse,” a top 3 favorite of mine from the band. But perhaps this is for the best, lest it be tainted by a group who should not even be included in the first place (ahem, Funeral For a Friend).

On Friday, September 23rd, The Mylene Sheath will begin accepting pre-orders for ARC: Arrows Remix Compilation, a 14-track (digital) or 8-track (vinyl) remix and reinterpretation album, featuring various artists de- and re-constructing songs from the band’s 2009 album. A few of the artists featured include Philip Jamieson of Caspian (under the guise The Atlas Ladder), Will Benoit of Constants (using the name New Rochelle Rotary Club), Arms & Sleepers, and other artists who may have crossed paths with the label in the past. Only 207 copies of this release will be available on vinyl, and only part of that will be available for pre-order from the label. If you want to get in on this, either get your mouse finger ready or track down one of the members of the band.


Additional nerd note: in 1993, HUM’s “Diffuse” appeared on a compilation CD released by Lawrence label Lotus Pool, titled Feast of the Sybarites. The compilation was populated primarily by Midwestern bands, including local artists Howard Iceberg and the Titanics, Sufferbus, Kill Creek, Rise, Panel Donor and Zoom. The last two bands on that list had releases through the label around that time as well. The compilation is worth seeking out for fans of local music.

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