By opening this story, I’d like to state forthright that I fully support the inclusion of more Anglophilic bands in the Kansas City music scene. There could never be a shortage of them, and the last one I can really think of that may have been remotely Brit pop in their influence is long defunct Lawrence garage rockers Conner (who were admittedly channeling Guided by Voices more than anything), though you could surmise that Soft Reeds draw from the well of Roxy Music as much as any other band in the metro.
I generally focus my reports on downloads of albums that are available at a price of less than $5, but I’ll make an exception for this one. Thee Water MoccaSins have been steadily building up their name for well over a year now by playing ’80s-centric rock that focuses on more of a Pale Saints or Boo Radleys caliber of British rock than Pulp or The Smiths. How weird it is, then, that the members in this band have mostly all been active in recorded music since the sounds of the predecessors have been in existence, and that the band has just now surfaced as a viable output for those involved in the creation of the project. In the era when underground indie music was dominated by My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver and Slowdive, founding member Steve Tulipana was still a kid, fronting the aggressive noise rock band Season to Risk, and making quite a name for himself in the process.
Rounding out the lineup is current S2R member Billy Smith (also of the Tulipana co-fronted Roman Numerals), John Bersuch of Minds Under Cover and Bacon Shoe (and the sadly out of print Dandercroft magazine), and Wade Williamson of Olympic Size. The quartet create an enormous sound that establishes itself as a contender for any best-of KC music ballot that will exist by the end of this year before the listener even reaches the end of the first listen of their debut album, From the Rivers of Missouri and the Banks of Fear. Throw in some underlying and possibly unintentional Tom Waits themes, and we have an eight-track album I would defy anyone to find uninteresting.
The band has decided to forgo the use of Kickstarter, and is currently offering their album as an $8 digital download, with the intention of every cent of the proceeds going toward a vinyl release of the album. Those who purchase the download need not worry about paying twice, though, as it looks like the price paid for the download will be considered something of a down payment on the final product to be released in the next few months. You can stream the album as much as you want here, or if you want to support your local bands, suck it up and throw down the money to help one of the best albums of the year get memorialized on a dead format.
Something I’ve been meaning to get around to since the conception of this blog is to give more attention to that which was released years ago. To date, I’ve focused much of my efforts on covering current music, while at most giving a passing mention to the bands that pre-date those to which I refer. From this point forward, the Looking Back posts will cover releases from bands that have become otherwise forgotten, or at the very least overlooked in the sea of currently active bands in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas. I will try my best to include a scan or decent photo of the front/back cover of the releases, as well as my own personal rip of the album in question. Of course this will not always be possible, but we will deal with that when the problem arises. First up:
It looks like 1996 was a pretty good year for the bands involved, though nowhere near as busy as the year prior for Manhattan’s Truck Stop Love. In 1995, the band released their well-received country, rock, and punk-tinged debut full-length How I Spent My Summer Vacation, as well as the often overlooked Fuentez the Killer EP that contained a cover of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart.” In the year of this release, Lawrence three-piece Action Man made their debut with Adventures in Boredom on both compact disc and 10″ vinyl. The two crossed paths with this split, and it also served as one of the last releases from either band.
At the link provided, you can find one track from each band recorded when they were essentially in their prime, or at the origins of their eventual demise depending on how you view their timelines. “Nothing Left to Start” clocks in at three minutes, and is a slower-paced but no less riff-heavy offering than much of their material to date, while the three-and-a-half minute “Pool or Pond?” showcases what was to become Chris Tolle’s signature style that made his next band The Creature Comforts such a locally loved act. Both songs are exclusive to this release.
Download here: http://www.mediafire.com/?6whs9vwhs44dis5
For those of you expecting one of my history lessons in this post, I will not leave you wanting. Truck Stop Love on this recording was headed up by Rich Yarges and Jim Crego (of TV Fifty, who replaced Matt Mozier — later of Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers). Yarges and Crego both went on to live in the greater Minneapolis area, which makes sense given their affinity with bands from that area in their songwriting. The rhythm section of the band was given its strength from Brad Huhmann, who went on to play in Onward Crispin Glover and Lushbox shortly after the band parted ways, and who more recently can be seen in Red Kate and Knife Crime.
Drummer Eric Melin, formerly of the Moving Van Goghs, saw success once TSL split with Ultimate Fakebook, and is now in The Dead Girls. Fakebook recorded a cover of Truck Stop’s song that you see listed in this post, and it appeared on the band’s 1999 split with The Stereo (which you can find at a blog worth reading here). TSL played a reunion show about eight years ago, but it will likely never happen again for various reasons, not the least of which being that the members don’t even live in the same climate these days.
Before Action Man became known for their poppy, Chris Tolle-supplied power chords, there was a short-lived band called Five-0, with AM’s Steve Buren and Randy Fitzgerald (of Dave Dale’s post-Micronotz jaunt Joe Worker) playing in a three-piece with John Harper (originally of the Micronotz, later of other mainstays such as The Kelly Girls, with Fitzgerald and Dale). Buren also played with Randy’s brother Ron in classic Lawrence punk bands Brompton’s Cocktail and The Hayseeds (the latter was an additional Harper band).
As I’ve already detailed in a paragraph here, Tolle has been known in chronological order as being a part of Rise, AM, The Creature Comforts, The Belles, Olympic Size, Early Reflections, and most recently has been self-releasing some recordings under his own name. Five-0 more or less morphed into what was to become Action Man, and rumor has it that Harper was initially game for the band, but decided to bow out after a handful of practice sessions, never having recorded or performed live with the trio. Upon Action Man parting ways, Tolle started the Creature Comforts with J.D. Warnock (with whom he played in Rise), who also filled in as a second guitarist for some later Fakebook recordings and live performances.
Disclaimer: the album included in this post was attained and ripped by the author, and all pictures or scans present were taken by author unless noted. Should a party involved in the release of the album feel their work is not fitting of digital documentation and prefers it not be freely traded among those without access to the physical product, the author will comply in the removal of the link with little question. Thank you for reading.
Entering the RecordBar around 10:00 last Friday, one could not walk through the narrows without rubbing shoulders amid those throughout. The venue was particularly crowded for an all-local lineup, though as the night raged on, the audience noticeably waned from a college-aged demographic to a weekend warrior vibe. As though it were filled with drunken Cinderellas, the place all but cleared by midnight, save for some table or booth clusters and a pack of patrons standing near the patio door.The night opened at 10:05, as The Sawyers launched into a 40 minute set of No Depression alt-country lifted from the altar of Tweedy and Farrar, with some elements of honky-tonk thrown in for good measure. The band is led by local songwriter John Greiner, and is backed by Chad Rex on guitar. Rex fronts The Victorstands and previously played in Colorado’s own No Depression purveyors Armchair Martian with St. Joseph, MO, natives Jon Snodgrass and Steven Garcia, the latter of whom now plays in KC powerpop trio Deco Auto. Betse Ellis of The Wilders played the fiddle at stage right, and Chris Wagner (most recently of punk trio Hipshot Killer) filled in for the group’s recently departed bassist. Jonathan Kraft, a sound engineer who has spent time with SSION, and in another life, played with Florida screamo band Kite Flying Society served as the drummer. That was a mouthful, but I thought it necessary to document how varied the backgrounds are of the five members that shared the stage.
Over the duration of the band’s time on stage there was very little audience interaction. I don’t require a story when watching a band play live — and there are many artists that don’t really know when to shut up and play — but at the close, I was left wondering if there exists a tangible album that could be purchased, and remained without answer as nothing of the kind was mentioned.
Author note: I’d like to apologize to those reading this as a casual music follower. What you are about to see in the next two paragraphs is nothing short of conspiratorial six degrees of Kevin Bacon nerding out. If you can’t keep up, feel free to skip through it. I won’t take offense.
John Velghe (née Evans, as the man took his matrilineal surname for the stage to stand apart from the other musically inclined Evans’ in the area, of which there are apparently many) was joined on stage by the full-band form of The Prodigal Sons. Tonight, this included Mike Alexander, who as of this writing plays punk with Hipshot Killer, country with Starhaven Rounders, and Irish rock with Blarney Stoned. Alexander has done everything short of playing the part of Neil Schon in a Journey tribute band. Wait, what’s that? Oh, he has totally done that as well, and will undoubtedly be forming a new band by the time you finish reading this sentence. Chris Wagner pulled a double shift on bass, and in addition to playing with Alexander in a band now mentioned twice (not to mention the Revolvers), provided the rhythm section for Velghe in The Mendoza Lie, a post-Famous FM/Saint Jude band that had a backbone provided by Dan Dumit, who is still billed as a drummer for the Sons, though he did not make an appearance on this night. “Go-Go Ray” Pollard sat behind the kit, and is a nationally recognized performer who has served as the touring drummer for a few major label bands which, if mentioned, would sully the anticipation that you as a reader have surely built about this lineup.
But wait, there’s more. On trombone was Mike Walker, who played in the well-received, though tragically defunct Olympic Size (with Wade Williamson and Kirsten Paludan, both of whom play in Alexander’s Starhaven Rounders) as well as The Maytags, a “neo-dub explosion” led by Zach Phillips of the Architects and The Gadjits, of which Alexander was also a part for some time. On saxophone was the illustrious Sam Hughes, also seen as part of the seven-piece horn ensemble in Afrobeat jazz sensation Hearts of Darkness. Additionally, Hughes was in good company with Walker as a five-piece horn section on the most recent release by The Hearers, a country-spanning membership whose horn section can also be seen in various pairings in the jumpin’ and swingin’ Grand Marquis, roots reggae group The New Riddim, soul revival band The Good Foot, and almost any other act in town requiring some brass. Last, but certainly not least was the talented Hermon Mehari on trumpet, who moonlights in the Diverse trio, playing compositions that pay homage to the 18th & Vine sound that put Kansas City on the proverbial jazz map long ago.
Whew. Now that I have that out of the way, let us continue with the live performance. The band played an hour-long set that alternated from the full lineup that I made a passing reference to above, to an electric four-piece with the addition of Betse Ellis lending her fiddle and vocals. I spoke with Velghe briefly before they began hauling their gear up on stage, at which point he acknowledged his twenty year musical crush on Ms. Ellis, so for her to contribute those talents to a few songs (“Assume the Ground”) from his upcoming full-length, Don’t Let Me Stay (to be released on Lakeshore Records, the label that brought us The Belles‘ Omertà), must be a thrill. The set meandered very little from a full-bodied country-tinged Americana rock with strong horn presence (“Blood Line”), but the instrument changes were plenty.
Acoustic guitars and mandolins replaced electric Telecasters and hollow-bodies for portions of the set (“Stage Inside the Main”), and near the end, the full band took the stage once again for what Velghe referred to as a part of the set in which they will be playing some songs in the key of Paul. Following this, he plucked the opening notes to The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which they played at the Sonic Spectrum tribute series for the ‘Mats at the same venue nearly a year ago. The lone song that saw Velghe without a guitar around his shoulder was a set closer of The Jam’s “Town Called Malice,” which brought a little less excitement from the crowd than one would think, but it was a fitting end to a very energetic, if instrumentally attention deficit set.
Whether by choice or by chance, the lineup thus far had built up to a swelling climax that could have potentially come crashing down if someone closed the night and was not prepared to hand the crowd their asses on a plate of rock (don’t let that imagery slip past you). Lucky for the audience, Katy Guillen (of The B’Dinas) took the stage and dished out a three-course meal of ass (already regretting that metaphor) and Go-Go Ray was there to serve as the second musician of the night to pull in some overtime. Taking a look at the two of them on stage, an obvious reaction would be to assume you are about to hear something of the White Stripes or Black Keys variety, both two-piece bands who built their reputation out of playing stripped-down blues rock in their own, weird ways. Well, you would have been wrong to assume that, and should be ashamed of yourself.
The reality is that the assumption is not a complete fallacy, but the sheer force with which Katy and Go-Go exerted sound as a two-piece, with Ray given the chance to show off on extended drum fills, and Guillen slinging out fast-paced blues riffs while the two kept in perfect stride with one another was something impressive. The two jammed a full 45 minutes until the house lights came up and the bar was ready to start kicking people out into the cold, and then they played one more song even after that. The two-piece is expected to release an album in late March, and a new one from Guillen’s full rock band is due out in the near future as well.
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: