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jason gerken

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SHINER announce first reunion show

Nearly a decade has passed since SHINER played their final show at the Madrid Theatre in 2003. The group left their legacy at a high point, having released a handful of acclaimed full-lengths and singles on labels ranging from Sub Pop (freshly into their Warner partnership) to Kansas City’s own Anodyne Records. The band was heralded for their affinity for twinkly, spaced out guitar work and chunky riffs, and were contemporaries of fellow space-rock cohorts Hum and Failure, managing to curate a sizable fan base in their eleven years of activity.

All things must come to an end, and the same is true for SHINER. The band existed no more, but the members were anything but silent in their projects that followed. Allen Epley returned shortly after with The Life and Times, a band that to this day releases material able to rival that of SHINER’s in their sonic magnitude. Josh Newton and Paul Malinowski (both formerly bassists in Season to Risk) as well as Jason Gerken (Molly McGuire) all saw fleeting glimpses of celebrity in their acts to follow, Newton joining nationally touring bands From Autumn to Ashes and Every Time I Die, and Malinowski and Gerken taking up with Open Hand.

Years of silence came from the band, and occasionally a blip would surface with rumors of a reunion. Record nerds had something new to be excited about in early 2012, when news that the band’s final full-length The Egg was finally getting the vinyl treatment. In addition to this, the band announced that they would come together for a few reunion shows later in the year. Four reunion shows, to be exact — and it doesn’t take a genius to piece together that Epley lives in Chicago, Newton in NYC, Gerken in LA, and Malinowski in KC, making three of the four shows in the largest metropolitan areas in the country, but only one in the best (spoiler alert: I’m talking about Kansas City).

Today, the Granada in Lawrence revealed that they will be the host of the band’s single area reunion, to be held Friday, August 24th. The $20 tickets will be released this Friday, and it is suggested that you grab yours quickly, as it will surely sell out. No openers have been announced yet, but come on, does that really matter?

UPDATE 04/24/12 — the rest of the band’s reunion shows have been announced, and are as follows:
08/11/12 @ Irving Plaza (New York City)
08/18/12 @ Echoplex (Los Angeles)
08/24/12 @ The Granada (Lawrence)
08/25/12 @ The Bottom Lounge (Chicago)

Middle Of The Map: Day One Wrap-Up

To anyone in attendance, the first night of Kansas City’s second annual Middle Of The Map Festival is on the books as a success. From my standpoint, I couldn’t have been dragged away from the RecordBar to see anyone else but those that were on the lineup. Laziness and wearing the most awful choice in walking shoes attribute to that as well.

I arrived fairly early to the venue, not sure if I should have expected a mass of people and a line down the parking lot. Entering the building shortly after 6, only a handful of people were peppered around, the usual crowd size for a poorly populated show or a trivia night. A current of excitement was permeating the air, stimulating the scattered bodies awaiting the opening band. The close to a never-ending workweek was near, and with it, the cathartic release made possible only by live music.

Brand new (as in, that day) KC import duo Schwervon! opened right on time at 7:00 with bubbly powerpop hinting toward garage without the distinctive schtick that so often comes with a membership of two. Drummer Nan Turner and guitarist Matt Roth faced each other while playing, connecting eyes while their vocal harmonies complemented over bare bones jangly riffs and simplistic drum beats. The former New Yorkers played a 30 minute set that started the night on a high note.

After a quick set change, the first in a series of local music veterans took the stage, as Cher UK opened with “Disaster,” the closing track from the band’s 1993 debut She’s A Weird Little Snack. Immediately following this was “Ba Ba Ba Ba,” a track from the band’s last release to date (from 2000). The set jumped around the bulk of their discography, and spanned the multiple punk influences that came from member changes, though it focused heavily on the previously mentioned releases. From the last full-length, Texas Vacation, the band performed “Retrofeeliac” and the speedy “One Nation,” dedicated to the GOP by grey-haired front man Mike McCoy with the same exuberance with which it appears on recording.

McCoy moved to Austin without ever officially retiring the band, and his return visits are usually graced with a show or two, though he has also stayed on the local music radar with the conceptual one-off Black Rabbits and country band Wood Roses. A new Cher EP is to be expected eventually, though little more than a few support shows will occur in conjunction with its release. The all too short 40 minutes the band performed was capped off by a few of their most potent power-punk anthems: “Kibbles ‘n’ Bitz,” “College Song,” and “Motocaster.” Here’s to hoping that new album is a priority for the group.

Metal stalwarts The Esoteric started their set late, the first of two taking place that would prove to be plagued by bass cabinet issues. I racked my brain during their reunion set to figure out how long it had been since I’d seen the band perform, and came up with the answer of roughly a decade (looking into it after, it’s been just under 8 years — and was at the El Torreon, no less). The band, like Cher UK before them, and the one that would follow immediately after, only play the occasional show every few years, the members’ lives filled with other music projects and interests.

Likely as a way to poke fun at the band as they were in their existence, Stevie Cruz came out wearing a mop-top wig, a hairstyle similar to what he had in his pre-Hammerlord days. The five members chugged through a deafening set, covering ground from a small amount of the early, vitriolic noise they played in the beginning, to the open chord, breakdown-friendly metallic hardcore with which they gained their popularity. This notoriety nabbed them a spot on the roster of Prosthetic Records, through which they released their final two albums, With the Sureness of Sleepwalking and Subverter.

By the time Season to Risk began, the RecordBar was shoulder-to-shoulder with people aggressively enjoying the band. While perhaps there was no all out moshing happening, a fair amount of close range shoving (which equated more to a small unison of people surging in one direction at once) and even a lone crowd surfer appeared. Steve Tulipana worked the room, often standing on the monitors at front or hanging from the projector installed in the ceiling, leaning over to yell at the audience through his microphone. As with most of the bands that evening, their setlist spanned across most of their discography, with key songs and former hits like “Mine Eyes” and “Snakes” getting the most audience reactions.

The band’s lineup was fleshed out by founding member and guitarist Duane Trower, David Silver on drums (a longtime player, but one of over ten drummers that have worked with the group), and Wade Williamson, who joined the band shortly before their final album was released over a decade ago. The night featured a special guest in bassist Josh Newton, who played on the band’s acclaimed post-major label foray Men Are Robots, Monkeys Win and has seen success in other nationally touring bands since. Final thought: my sinuses were thankful that the band decided to forgo the use of a smoke machine this time around.

The last band to perform on the RecordBar stage that night was from none other than Molly McGuire. It had been over a decade since the band performed together, when founder Jason Blackmore got the itch to piece the band back together and record some old songs for proper release. This led to an eventual series of live reunion shows, starting in California and ending in Blackmore’s former home of KC. The original lineup has remained intact, with Ray Jankowski on bass and Jason Gerken on drums, and rotating guitar spots from Scott McMillian, Seth Harty, and Toby Lawrence, each performing on songs from the era in which they were a member.

Though the rest of the band remained silent, Blackmore was audibly overjoyed to be able to perform songs that had been written 20 years earlier, and to be able to share the stage with who he described as some of his best friends. Set highlights include all of the songs that were written before their major label release Lime, including the great opener of “Sick,” followed by “With Passion,” both being the lead-in tracks on the far superior (and far grungier) debut album, Sisters Of. Molly is a band I was too young to have ever witnessed firsthand, but I’m glad I was given a chance to remedy this and hear songs performed live that I’ve been listening to for the last ten years.

This review was written for Lost in Reviews.

Molly McGuire to Reunite at Middle of the Map

This won’t be news to anyone who already follows the local music announcements that have been building in anticipation of this year’s Middle of the Map festival, but Kansas City’s own Molly McGuire will be reuniting for what is currently being billed as a one-off show. The band’s recently successful kickstarter campaign also means we can expect a new album from them in the near future, and on vinyl to boot. Joining Molly onstage will be a Men Are Monkeys, Robots Win era Season to Risk (meaning they will have Shiner‘s Josh Newton in tow), a reunion from The Esoteric (no word on whether this will be career-spanning, or focus on their earlier, more experimental sounds), and an opening slot from the never-quite-broken-up Cher UK.

Molly McGuire has not played live in over a decade, and were a mainstay at venues like The Hurricane (now Riot Room). As the band ran its natural course, the members’ musical interests began to skew in varying directions. The band Gunfighter was started as a side-project, but after the Epic Records-released (and Ken Andrews-produced) Molly album Lime, what was once a hobby band gradually pulled in all of front man Jason Blackmore’s focus. Upon Gunfighter becoming his primary concern, Blackmore moved to California to begin anew, with a fresh take on his songwriting. The band, like any other, ran its natural course through various lineup changes and eventually sputtered out quietly with a death rattle few were paying attention to at that point.

Blackmore then experimented with the mercifully short-lived Kingdom of Snakes, a quartet which garnered Molly, S2R and Shiner drummer Jason Gerken, and featured two members from the nu-metal band Nothingface. Let us all take a moment of silence to appreciate the quickness with which that project ended. Blackmore still resides in California to this day, and began talking with his former band mates about an album which they were never able to record and release, and what the chances would be anyone would still care. If the kickstarter is any indication (pulling in almost $6,500 with a $5,000 goal), the people are anxiously awaiting the new material.

The show is scheduled for April 5th at the RecordBar, and is slated to be a kickoff, of sorts, for the festival. The first 500 MOTM ticket purchasers are guaranteed entry (not that the venue holds that many) and it is first come, first served after that.

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