It is at times a bit disheartening to walk into a venue and be one of a meager number of people in the building that is neither performing nor part of the staff. It’s hard not to internally bemoan the state of local music when even on a night of mild weather, no stragglers wander in out of sheer curiosity. Of course, energy can be better spent on things that don’t involve griping about the attendance to a weeknight show, but it is still interesting to wonder how things would transpire had the room been filled to capacity.
Lawrence trio Muscle Worship opened to an almost empty house with the same veracity I witnessed when the band’s volume quite literally made things fall off the walls at a now defunct record and second-hand clothing store. For thirty minutes, the trio of Sean Bergman, Billy Ning and Nathan Wilder basted the room with meticulously arranged, obliquely analytical rock music. Though perhaps not quite as experimental as the acts to follow, the band was no less complex in their delivery, albeit Bergman’s shouted vocals were stifled as a result of their insistence of playing as loud as they possibly could. The bulk of the set consisted of songs from the first EP (“Gone Before Dagon,” “Jesus vs the Lord”) and other releases already available, but two new songs made an appearance from the trio’s upcoming full-length debut, and were nothing if not complementary to the sound upon which the band has built.
Kansas City native Justin Wright began performing under the moniker Expo ’70 as an experimental outlet while living in California, and brought his project with him upon returning to the area. Wright’s output of droning and atmospheric soundscapes is staggering, especially as someone whose band is almost always nothing more than a floor full of effects pedals, an amp and a guitar. Recently, Wright has been playing with Aaron Osbourne (Monta at Odds) and Mike Vera, a move that only works to amplify the celestial Kraut-inspired work Expo is often known for and delves that much deeper into avant-garde compositions, replete with a looming disquietude and seemingly erratic plucking of strings. Don’t get used to the lineup just yet, though. Once the trio is finished playing a few upcoming regional shows and festivals, Wright will be back out on his own.
The last act of the night further continued the rule of three, but with the addition of the Pontiak trio being of blood relation. Lain, Van and Jennings Carney are not only brothers of the beard, but also by birth. The band call Virginia home, and on their multiple albums and EPs over the last seven years have touched on influences as arcane as Olympia drone purveyors Earth, to as obvious as psych, prog and stoner rock trailblazers like Tony Iommi. The trio played the majority of their newest release, Echo Ono (including the quite raging album opener “Lions of Least”), and so the 50-minute set was very much grounded in an ethos of organic, American psych-rock with rare instances of pedal work and noodling during soaring acid rock interludes. Banter was neither present nor necessary, in its place even more ear-splitting noise reminiscent of the forefathers of heavy metal.
I hate to be that guy, but you missed out on one hell of a show, Kansas City.
Nerd talk: Although Muscle Worship has had a relatively short life thus far, only having been around since 2009, Sean Bergman and Billy Ning have been playing music together for over a decade. Before the release of their debut full-length in 2000, Bergman joined as second guitarist in Proudentall, in which Ning was playing bass. The band was fronted by Matt Dunehoo, who would go on to lend his voice and guitar to Doris Henson and Baby Teardrops. After Proudentall ran its course, Ning and Bergman formed Volara with Paul Ackerman (Giants Chair, The Farewell Bend) and Brandon Akin (Panel Donor). Muscle Worship drummer Nathan Wilder currently plays in both Ad Astra Arkestra and The Appleseed Cast.
Justin Wright has been evolving as a musician since he was in a high school band called Restrain, a band that was more or less straight edge hardcore, and was fronted by Sean Ingram before he later formed Coalesce. When Wright moved to Boston in the late ’90s, he threw in a few months of practice time with a group of guys led by Aaron Turner. Once he moved on, the group eventually became well-known metal band ISIS. After Boston, Wright moved to Los Angeles, where he joined Living Science Foundation, who had a release on the Kansas City label Second Nature Recordings. Wright now resides back in KC, where he runs the Sonic Meditations label and releases other mind-expanding sounds from local projects like Umberto, Sounding the Deep, and Breathing Flowers.
I would be a fool to hunt down and post every local show happening in the coming months. The metro area is experiencing a musical boom, and has been for the past few years, so I suppose limiting myself in the amount of shows I post here is both good and bad. Good that there are so many choices, but bad in that I don’t wish to show preferential treatment against those I choose to exclude. These days, most local events are pretty easy to track via the bands, venues or promoters participating in them, so if you miss out on something you only have yourself to blame.
CANCELED: The September 29th Unwritten Law show at The Beaumont Club has been canceled, likely due to co-headliner The Ataris inexplicably dropping off the bill. The show previously had three KC bands in support, including Hipshot Killer, Bent Left, and Le Grand. Hipshot Killer is one of the best melodic punk bands to come out of KC in a long time. If you haven’t already, you can pick up the band’s debut 12 inch at Vinyl Renaissance on 39th Street. For the tech savvy, a digital version can be purchased from their bandcamp here. Bent Left has been a mainstay in the local punk scene for the better part of a decade, and has many politically-charged albums and EPs which can be purchased either through local stores or directly from the band. Le Grand, while not my bag, probably has a built-in fanbase with high schoolers who love auto-tuned and frankly generic pseudo-punk and/or radio-friendly “screamo.” Not trying to put baby in a corner or anything, but I have to call it like I hear it.
09/23: Kansas City via Chicago (or vice versa) space rockers The Life and Times are heading up an event at Crosstown Station for those who want to punish their eardrums (in a good way, of course). Not only will this be one of the venue’s last shows before their untimely demise of being turned into an urban church, but it will be one of only two times the headliner will make an appearance in our town before the end of the year (the other being an opening slot on the 11/04 HUM show at recordBar). Opening the Crosstown show will be thirty-something favorites Dirtnap (Are they together? Are they split up?), Larryville newcomer indie-pop sensations Cowboy Indian Bear, and Cherokee Rock Rifle, a hard-rockin’, hard-drinkin’, hard-sexin’ foursome with only one release under their belt, but a steadily growing local following due to the charisma of bar tending front man Nathaniel “Dutch” Humphrey.
10/01: Crosstown Station will be saying it’s goodbyes with a final live music show on October 1st. The list of names on the bill is long, not the least of which is a rare reunion from Giants Chair, co-creators of a ’90s indie rock sub-genre lovingly referred to by some as the “Kansas City sound” (shared in part with Molly McGuire, Shiner, et al). Also performing as part of the festivities will be Be/Non (the ever-changing sounds of the prolific Brodie Rush), Thee Water Moccasins (a side project of Roman Numerals), Minden (new project from members of Kelpie), Olivetti Letter (a brand spankin’ new band with members of To Conquer, Season to Risk, Doris Henson, and many others), Olympic Size (a mostly one-off project between members of Doris Henson, The Belles, and Roman Numerals that still pop up for an occasional gig), local jazz outfit Diverse (who often team up with other local musicians to pay tribute to past influences), and the synth-heavy sounds of Parts of Speech. Other unannounced and unbilled (Major Games) special guests are expected to appear, and if you are free that evening, you would be wise to attend.
10/15: Kansas City label The Record Machine is releasing a new split 7 inch between locals Soft Reeds and Minden, and The Brick will serve as host to their record release on October 15th. Also opening will be TRM newcomers Deadringers. The event will be 21+, and the cover will probably be $7. Even if the flier says $5, bring $7, as the venue in question has a history of magically increasing their cover charges the evening of the show. Hear Deadringers’ single publicly released demo track here, and while we’re on the topic of TRM, go here to stream and purchase the debut LP from Ad Astra Arkesta. New releases (and coinciding release shows) can be expected from Capybara and Max Justus before the end of the year as well. If 2010 treated The Record Machine well, and 2011 has placed them in a local spotlight, it will be interesting to see what 2012 has in store for the label.
10/25: Last but not least, Season to Risk will be playing a very unexpected second gig this October, opening for the once great Helmet (or, as they have become since reuniting, Page Hamilton & Co) at Riot Room. Locals Waiting For Signal will be rounding out what is currently only a three band bill, sure to give at least some in the crowd a migraine due to either S2R’s smoke machine, or the deafening wall of noise coming from much of the lineup. Helmet has reportedly been playing a respectable amount of their older material, covering a lot of songs from Betty, Aftertaste, Meantime, and Strap It On. But, as is to be expected, at least part of their set will involve some of their newer, inferior songs as well. Season to Risk revealed before their first show of 2011 last month that they have now written two new songs as an inactive band. There is hardly any chance they will ever be recorded, so if you want to hear them, you know what you need to do.
Kansas City upstart label Golden Sound Records has been building a steady reputation recently with some fantastic releases from Everyday/Everynight, The Empty Spaces, the Fullbloods, and ED/EN & TES frontman Mat Shoare. The label recently announced plans to release the debut vinyl full-length from Matt Dunehoo (Proudentall)’s NYC-based Baby Teardrops. X is For Love can be expected to be available for purchase on vinyl, CD or in digital form by November 15th. In the meantime, the album in its entirety can be found for free on their bandcamp page here.
Matt Dunehoo fronted Kansas City’s Doris Henson, a band once poised for greatness according to anyone who was aware of their existence. Dunehoo formed DH with Giants Chair bassist Byron Collum, multi-instrumentalist Michael Walker (Olympic Size, so many others), Jamie Zoeller from Chicago’s Nymb, and drummer Wes Gartner. The band was well received across nationwide tours, not the least of which was an opening spot on a 2005 Smashing Pumpkins tour. After the band dissolved, Dunehoo packed up and moved to NYC, where he formed the still up-and-coming Baby Teardrops, though the band has already received various online praise.
I leave you with this, a taste of some of Dunehoo’s genre-bending vocal and composition work: