In the basement, Lawrence native CS Luxem commenced night two rather promptly at 7:30. Christopher’s voice resonated through the crowd as a sheet of plywood lay propped up behind him showing mundane footage of parades, soft news programming and other things that looked as though they were pulled from a VHS tape hidden in a shoebox for 20 years. Luxem’s songs are quirky without seeming dishonest, and he sings with an earnestness that even provided stability to a brief, poppy allusion to The Temptations’ “Get Ready.” His set up was simply a guitar and bass that he switched between, and a canopied box in front of him on which he placed his hat and a string of lights. The hat concealed the little amount of gear he had, but multiple times throughout the set he was seen switching a backtrack cassette in a player to his left.
John Bersuch and Sterling Holman are a two-piece named Import/Export, and play divisively concordant instrumental rock that borrows only in part from an ideology of jazz meters and a subscription to constant innovation in an evolving music landscape. Bersuch sat behind the kit, expertly facilitating rhythm to keep time while Holman’s guitar sliced through stagnant air with unorthodox vibrance. The songs were distinctively raw in their composure, and were played with an equally coarse tenacity. Within the primordial soup of their songs was a loosely woven anatomy that minute after minute redefined what I previously thought of them through my experiences of listening to only the two-dimensional recordings they provide as some kind of archaic offering, which only served to whet the appetite. In short, they kicked my ass.
I’m almost at a loss for words when attempting to explain the performance from Carnal Torpor. The set opened simply enough (considering the event), with a group of shirtless guys assembled at various stations around the room. A little over half the normal crowd could even gather around due to the tower of junk in the middle of the room that at first glance appeared to be nothing more than a hoarder’s wet dream. On one end of the set up, Colin Leipelt stood quietly and almost entirely shrouded in darkness. On the other, J Ashley Miller sat at a desk scattered with old keyboards and other sound modifying devices. Microphone in hand, Drew Roth paced menacingly back and forth at the front, a wooden assemblage dominated most of the area between the members and the conglomeration of things obscured some almost entirely from sight.
What followed could only be described as primal. The noise created by the group was little more than that, and only assisted the immediate experience the audience was thrown into. A tapestry of vaguely pagan equilateral symbols was draped across the wooden structure, and installed on either side was a wheel that had sporadically placed pegs extending from its outer edge, resting on the strings of guitars strapped into the piece. While Roth would sparingly shout and growl things that could not be understood, Miller remained seated, each note played causing his face to contort, his head and body would twist into disturbing positions, and he would open his mouth and stick out his tongue like a feral being. Roth took pause to pick up a jar of molasses, empty it into his hand, and then began ceremoniously wiping it across his shorn scalp, cheeks, chest, and arms. He then grabbed a sheet of aluminum foil, and with the same paralyzed features tore pieces off and stuck them to the parts of his body recently made adherent.
Upon blindly covering areas of his torso, Roth grabbed a conch shell and began vibrating his breathing into it like a didgeridoo, then climbed atop the wooden tower, grabbed a weighted string and intermittently swung at a cymbal standing up front. While this happened, the band played on in discordant drones, flashes of electronic bliss scarcely shining through like the calm during a storm. The wheels were put to use by Miller and another, who spun them by hand, each peg hitting the strings of the guitar and causing a rigid, never-ending power chord while hands moved up and down the neck. The imagery I’ve laid out may be a bit overwhelming, but there’s more. After a bull’s horn full of honey was passed around to those willing to drink from it (germaphobes unite), Roth emptied the rest onto his head and grabbed an audience member.
He picked up this person and held them in his arms for a moment, then dropped them down on his knee as though he was breaking their back. While the man was still in a daze, Roth ripped off his shirt, threw him on the ground and strapped a gag into his mouth. He grabbed a giant, red gummy worm and, acting as though he was pulling out the man’s intestine, began eating it. Once the music began climaxing, the man still lay on the ground with his eyes closed, Roth moved on to close out their set with some other grunted words which I could not make out. The set ended, and there was a discernible pause before a tempered applause began to come from the crowd, likely because everyone, like myself, was standing with their mouths open in shock after what just happened.
Back upstairs, Tim and Heather Goodwillie conceived an at times harsh realm through the constantly fluid daymare of Goodwillies. The project was helmed by Tim, a Los Angeles native who has performed previously with (VxPxC) and Thousands, both endeavors who like Goodwillies released stretching sound structures almost solely on CD-R and cassette. The husband and wife stood, apoplectic, for the duration of their allotted thirty minutes, the constantly moving visuals pouring over them like an unspoken tertiary member whose purpose was only to invoke a sense that could stray the mind from the agitation being ingested by the ears. I took a brief moment during their set to back against a wall and close my eyes, as only then the subtle melancholy of their ambience could truly be appreciated.
It’s not my intention to denigrate any of the artists from the festival, but something about Andrew Plante‘s set didn’t quite sit right by me. I could make a cheap dig at Sunn O))) and their propensity to voyage into guitar-driven pieces of full-blown, single layered ambient drone, but then that becomes a blanket insult for a handful of those playing, which is neither fair nor intended. I can only provide critique based on the merit of his set alone, and though it did not strike my fancy (more of a time and place thing, really) he certainly enamored a number of those in the crowd. Alone in a spotlight, Plante stood. Though he was nowhere near motionless, his set still fell flat to this observer. He ended the set rapturously, by extending his guitar into the feedback field of his amp, providing the only time, however brief, that the sounds became anything other than monochromatic.
In addition to being the most populous band to perform at the festival, the seven people who stood and represented The Conquerors turned out being likely the most popular band as well. By the time they started, half of their scheduled time had already gone by — and by the time they ended, the night was a full thirty minutes behind schedule. Set times are of no consequence when you have the main room congested with the closest thing to a full house as possible. It also doesn’t hurt when you play crushingly kaleidoscopic psych rock that leaves a sear on the brains of all those in attendance. Their more ample songs could get a throwaway comparison to Thee Oh Sees, but the overall verisimilitude of their craft is an admirable drawing from an era spanning well that they come by honestly and keep riveting through impressive execution.
Now that the night was already thirty minutes behind, the flow of the evening just seemed a bit… off. After a large portion of the crowd spilled out into the street and onto the smoking patio, Lawrence five-piece Karma Vision tore into a pop-filled thirty minutes of their own, wherein they played songs adversely different from those heard above. With the exception of bassist Danny Barkofske and drummer Rachael Mulford, the band seemed entirely listless and detached from the rest of the room. Musically, though, every member was on their game throughout renditions of songs from the band’s quickly growing discography. A highlight of their set was the buoyant “Teeter Totter,” whose organ intro is unmistakable and was one of the few songs which got the rest of the band to move more than normal. I believe I may have even seen a smile or two.
Festival organizer Dedric Moore and his brother had already played before, with both being in Monta at Odds, and Delaney also performing in Twofaced with Sterling Holman (who himself was set to perform once more before the festival ended). I’d cry nepotism if every band the guys participated in wasn’t incredible and wholly different from the last. Enter Gemini Revolution, the Moore brothers’ foray into a downplayed psych more modern, but no less moody, than the soulful Monta. The brothers kept an off kilter electricity of guitar and keyboard centric rhythm between them, but Mika Tayana’s drumming spotlighted some fantastic irregular temporal patterns that ultimately gave the trio the concentrated backbone necessary in order to complete their set as one of the primary stand-outs from the entire weekend.
Justin Wright is typically renown for solo spacial compositions that span from five minutes to more than half an hour and can encompass any variety of emotions, from pure elation to unadulterated dread. This year, Expo ’70 has been collaborating with two other musicians, performing measured illustrations that paint an effigy in sonic momentum. When the normally soft-spoken Wright stands with a stack of amps to his back, he undergoes a lupine change surely brought on by the push of sound behind him. Pummeling is the only possible description for the force with which the music hits– a paradigm to the very word “loud.” I lament even having the knowledge that the three-piece band is only temporary, but I hope it can make an occasional resurgence for some live performances when the finished recordings are made public.
The morning of their performance, Be/Non announced that Jeremiah James had quit the band to pursue other interests. This interest included his new solo project under the name Yuo, which was to perform at the festival the next evening. Why he couldn’t wait another day to quit may remain a mystery, but the unexpected trio made due and played a great set. Brodie Rush is the driving force behind the band. Hell, Rush more or less is the band, and keeps a rotating cast of musicians on deck for when he feels too dormant and wants to switch things up, which admittedly seems to be pretty often. With an eyepatch adorned Ryan Shank on drums, Ben Ruth on bass, and a specially programmed astral projection behind them, the trio cruised through the sounds they’ve been focusing on since the release of the space-funk opus A Mountain of Yeses.
By the time I walked back to my car, I was a short five hours away from waking up and heading in to work. Reluctantly, I skipped the two closing sets from Vor Onus and Kevin Harris. I’m sad to have missed out, but I have zero regrets when it comes to things involving sleep.
Once again, thanks to Leah O’Connor for giving people something to look at on this page. See the rest of her great work here.
Nestled within the confines of the Strawberry Hill neighborhood in Kansas City, KS, the FOKL Center flourishes in a space marked with little more than the four letters which make its namesake. Formerly the Tienda Latina market, the large display windows that face the street at its corner perch give a view of the precarious intersection at 7th and Central, a crossing which I found out that night is the antithesis of pedestrian friendly. Inside the building, the floors remain tiled with the featureless squares of vinyl that once provided footing for those acquiring their weekly groceries. These days, the floors support the traipsing, dancing, and stomping influenced by frequent art installations and live music performances.
The idea of a music festival in its basest form is daunting to all parties involved. The bands are kept on a tight schedule of loading and unloading heavy amps and road cases filled with who knows how many pedals, wires and gear, perpetually waiting for their brief moment to give what crowd there is little more than a sampling of their work, then tirelessly haul that same equipment back out to their van. The venue and those volunteering to keep things on track are constantly kept on their feet by unexpected malfunctions throughout the course of the night, and deserve commending for keeping their sanity intact through it all. Lastly, the audience themselves are inundated with a variety of musical choices, asking themselves if they should see band A, B, or sometimes C, D, or E.
The first ever Kansas City Psychfest made a good choice in staggering the musical acts so that while one is playing on the ground level, a band is setting up in a second performing area in the basement. In theory, when the first band finishes, the second band begins playing minutes later, providing an almost seamless night of music. There really is no better way to have a dozen artists play in the same building in one evening, but when put in practice the difficult task is given of deciding whose set you should break from to take a piss, get some fresh air, or grab a bite to eat.
The evening of music was kicked off at 7:00 with Thee Devotion performing upstairs. The local five-piece with an affinity for fuzzed-out ’60s and ’70s funk (with a nod toward The Sonics), white pants, frilled shirts, and platforms just released a new record and played some of it that evening. Davin Watne spent half the set with a pastel-colored guitar around his shoulder, and the other half peacocking around his performing area, all while giving a surprisingly on-point falsetto, wherein the stories were about ladies, sexiness, and other things one would expect from the kind of music they play. Such a performance was ultimately lost on a small, motionless crowd that wasn’t yet prepared for that kind of energy.
The duo that followed contrasted as much with the previous act as the dark basement from which the sounds emitted did with the luminosity of the light sculpture in the room above. Delaney Moore and Sterling Holman performed a set of improvisational drone as Twofaced, each settled adjacent from each other in the corner of the room. Ropes of intertwining red and blue light lay at their feet, providing the only other glimmer in the room barring the projector immersing the corner in fragmented images and video displays. The forms dancing on the walls were not so much influenced by the sounds coming from Holman’s guitar and Moore’s table of gadgets, but the aimless movements created a haphazard kinship with the wandering intonation they produced. The project has recorded together, but at this time none of it has been made public.
Upstairs, Brandon Knocke stood alone behind a case piled high with keyed instruments, eyes ceaselessly darting from one piece to another while everything above his waist instinctively bobbed in rhythm with the synth-heavy electronic music he creates as Discoverer. The tracks Knocke displayed began as sharp, bare-boned beats with a few sequencer knob turns, then were gradually piled upon until the initial raw beat was only an undercurrent to often soaring panoramas of groove conscious streaks that gnawed at a vintage aesthetic. Discoverer’s last output was 2010’s Build a Base, but a brand new album is expected to be released later this year. Knocke can also be seen and heard as one half of Parts of Speech, whose approach to ’80s centric synth pop is strewn with sleazy fuzz and overdubs.
Among the three musicians that make up the Jorge Arana Trio exists decades of experience in crafting fast-paced compositions with erratic time signatures. As a founding member of Pixel Panda, Arana is no stranger to the precision required in constant time changes, though with the Trio he is able to venture into avant-garde jazz experimentation. Most songs may feature a calculated mashing of keys or a meticulously plucked guitar, backed with bass and drums played with accuracy just as severe. Violinist Chaski Zapata joined mid-set to further accentuate the sheer veracity one can achieve through adherence to training. Final side note: it’s a bit odd that Jorge would play immediately after Discoverer, as Trio drummer Josh Enyart played with Knocke in the band Latin, which also contained Evan from Minden, and John from Sundiver, but I digress.
It was around 9:00 when my body reminded me I was going on over eight hours with nothing but an afternoon espresso as fuel, recently ingested beer trying to start a cage match in my stomach notwithstanding. As I mentioned above, the single downfall of nonstop live music is making the decision to skip out on a band to nourish oneself. By no fault of their own, Restless Breed ended up being that band, though had my hands not been shaking I undoubtedly would have enjoyed their set. In the few minutes for which I was able to stick around, I was enthralled by a trio versed in the kind of traditional psychedelic rock made popular by Vangelis years before his “Chariots of Fire” days. Under layers of woozy, synthesized programming by Tom Romero was a straightforward style displaying a fundamental example of exemplary songwriting.
After grabbing some questionable street tacos from a little place down the road and nearly getting hit by a car (full disclosure: it was my fault) I walked back into the basement with but a single thought in my mind. I hate smoke machines. Better yet… I abhor them, I loathe them, I unequivocally revile their very existence. As much as I wanted to stay in the room while Yam played, I got pushed out by a rapidly forming sinus headache and watched from afar. It was already proven earlier in the evening, but one need not encompass all things psychedelic in order to be welcomed into the fold of artists calling the venue home over the next few nights. While the trio displayed an unmistakable talent with composition synchronicity, an assumption of Will Christie’s influences would better lie on someone else, though their roots are assuredly planted in rhythmic eccentricity.
At the risk of sounding as though I’m giving one of the evening’s bands a bad review, Box the Compass played an overall adequate set of unmemorable rock needlessly pushing an expansion of time and space neither remarkable nor necessary. I understand that may sound overly critical, but had this band’s position been switched with Thee Devotion, the floor would have been a mess of drunken bohemians shaking their asses instead of a littered few with barely a head nodding along anywhere in the room. I only have this single, short set by which to judge the quartet, but the addition of vocals did not save them from the doom of sounding like anything more than a culture hungry band in any number of rock bars across the city. Furthermore, I can find no online presence of the group to seek out the possibility of giving them the second chance they deserve.
Following a trip down the wooden stairs to the basement, I encountered something very surprising. It wasn’t what I was hearing, though David Williams’ Sounding the Deep is wholly transcendental. I was taken aback by what I was not hearing. The exhaustive chatter of audience members during a subdued performance was nowhere to be found. In a cobweb-ridden basement with leaking pipes and spray painted walls I had found respite, and a near metaphysical experience with music that relied as much on the concrete walls for amplification as it did the delicately drifting hands that wrought the sounds from a guitar. The atmosphere was made further cerebral with padded drumsticks at times tapping a snare and gong, and an upright bass being slowly grazed with the bow of a man who looked as though he could crush me with his bare hands.
One of the many highlights of the evening was the fantastic Monta At Odds. Delaney and Dedric Moore have nurtured the project for the better part of a decade and continually expand their sonic horizons by adding or removing elements of jazz, funk, soul, dub, and an audible penchant for combing through endless boxes of long forgotten records. Depending on how the light catches them, they could be paying tribute in their own way to Ennio Morricone, or forging their own path through expansive creations that twist and turn through moods like a stereophonic bipolar. I’m unfortunately not familiar with the extent of their discography, but every note of their performance was a thrill, and I look forward to my next chance of seeing them.
Brock Potucek was nowhere to be found, so a planned performance from South Bitch Diet was replaced by the only half hour in the evening without any kind of music. In his absence, the next band to perform was Lawrence performance art weirdos Metatone. The group is headed up by J Ashley Miller, a local artist and contributing member of the prolific SSION, as well as Pewep in the Formats, and are just as quirky as anything else he has been involved in. Behind the elevated pitch of Miller’s voice and the syncopated plucking of his guitar was a group of musicians (including Mark Smeltzer playing a homemade, one-stringed fiddle) making the experience uniquely odd, and entirely undefinable in the placement of their sound. Metatone was equal parts indie pop, calypso, and folk, the result of which had the floor visibly bowing with each jump of the crowd in reaction to their animated set.
After spending the time that South Bitch Diet would have been playing making programming changes on a variety of sequencers, CVLTS began a droning set that was effectively cut short due to bass amp troubles. During their appearance, Josh Thomas remained kneeling on the rug that covered the corner of the basement, adjusting ambient tape loops and knobs to further heighten the intensity of the sound scape. Using his guitar through a floor full of pedals, Thomas provided a despondent tension that worked in opposition to the sensations released from the tapes. Nearby, Gaurav Bashyakarla had pushed two benches together to form a makeshift stand for his equipment, eliciting a piercing buzz through the air that idly glided until the eventual amplifier issues began the countdown to the piece finishing. I sat on the ground in front of Thomas, and once the sounds faded into a close, he looked up and shrugged, saying “That’s it.”
The final band to perform that night was the esteemed Mr. Marco’s V7, a group whose talent and vitality have made the band (and members) mainstays in the KC music scene for longer than I care to count. Marco Pascolini’s contributions to local music (Expassionates) are vast, but so are bassist Johnny Hamil’s (Pamper the Madman), and drummer Kent Burnham (many jazz, zydeco and rock bands), but all are outshined by the force of nature that is Mike Stover (Cher UK). Throughout the set, Stover would trade back and forth among a theremin, a mandolin, and a lap steel guitar as necessary, but the first two were the most prevalent. V7 is another band that defies definition, and anything you could label them as wouldn’t do justice to the extent that their sound reaches, though there were a few mentions of Captain Beefheart during their set. I was fighting sleep by the time they closed the night at nearly 2:00, but I’m very thankful I stuck it out to see the impossibly fast “Sweet 5,” followed by a bossa nova set closer.
Huge thanks to Leah O’Connor for stepping in and taking some amazing pictures. Check out the rest of her shots from the evening here.
Shows that are of a uniform sound get rather boring at times. There are some nights when I leave a venue having seen a handful of indie rock or punk bands and I have trouble remembering who was who. Which band with the shaggy hair, plaid shirts, and beards played that one song I probably drank too much to remember anyway? I take it as a breath of fresh air when tours come together, or a mish-mash of local bands decide to play together and not a single damn one of them are even comparable.
A last-minute addition of Cheyenne Marie Mize pushed the night to an earlier start time of 9:30. The Louisville native ran through a quick set of medium-bodied songs that made a pinball effect from Appalachian folk and country, to devil-may-care femme rock icons like PJ Harvey, all while straddling a sweet-toothed pop sensibility. The live renditions of her songs didn’t come across quite as cavernous as some of her studio-recorded material, but they resonated well within the walls of the Recordbar just the same.
Kansas City three-piece Gemini Revolution began assembling their stage ensemble by setting up a cheap folding table with a Moog, then aiming a light projector at the giant, white sheet that was hanged behind the drum kit. Guitarist Dedric Moore and programmer/keyboardist Delaney Moore, both of whom co-founded the local space rock collective Monta at Odds, were backed up by the spastic free jazz drumming of Mika Tayana. The set was at times caustic, but maintained a freely flowing vibe above the pretension that often comes with electronic-based psychedelia. The creeped-out, ’70s Italian b-movie synth break midway through the set is a more common occurrence for their full-time project, but the addition of Mika’s spoken word throughout added that much more of a performance art vibe.
The crowd was slowly thinning out as Sister Crayon began at 11:30. Undeterred, the Sacramento band played a kinetic set to an audience that all but ignored the quartet, who except for vocalist Terra Lopez remained shrouded in a mountain of drum machines and keyboards. Lopez wildly danced around to the music, pale arms and jet black hair flailing and flipping about while the singer hit some rather operatic notes amid the brain-shaking bass from programmer Dani Fernandez. There was nary a guitar on stage save for keyboardist Jeff LaTour bringing one out temporarily, and even then it served mostly as a pick-scratching post. At their best, the band called to mind Portishead during the trip-hop feasts of “Here We Never Die” and “Anti-Psalm” — at their worst, they resembled a more sufferable Imogen Heap.
The attendance greater waned before Capture the Flag closed out the night at 12:30. Former frontman for a variety of (for better or worse) forgotten Warrensburg bands (Nephesh, Sunday Blackout) Micah Jacobsen paired up with guitarist Adam Zarda (yes, that Zarda) to make some unabashedly radio-friendly rock supported by a drummer and laptop-supplied backtracking. The band ran through the entirety of their recently self-recorded and self-released debut album in just over 30 minutes, with little banter but much appreciation for the handful of those that remained. I once read a truth that critics like for things to come in threes, so the band’s combination of pop, punk, and indie rock melting together in an enjoyable fusion was just a bonus.
This review was written for Lost in Reviews. All photos taken by the talented Matt Cook.