After the second breath of his Lawrence country-tinged rock group The Only Children had a lifespan rivaling that of the Mayfly late last year, Josh Berwanger (The Anniversary) temporarily fell out of sights for the local music area once again. Yesterday, the songwriter revealed his new project that simply uses his own surname as the project’s title. Joining Berwanger is Ricky Salthouse (The Only Children, Cavaliers, and OK-based The Workweek and Sharktooth), Marc Benning (34 Satellite, Carrier), Jim MacPherson (Guided by Voices, The Breeders, The Amps – I know!), and Carly Gwin (The Workweek, Sharktooth).
The new project more or less picks up where his last project left, venturing into a stringy, spaghetti western lull with breathy co-ed vocals, and gives a nice taste of what may be to come from the band’s future studio recordings. Anyone who remembers and still listens in earnest to the early ’00s project Canyon from KC ex-pat Brandon Butler will no doubt enjoy what is heard here. No video to embed unfortunately, but you can stream it on the band’s facebook page, and it is suggested you do so post-haste.
Maybe it was the drink specials, or maybe it was the end of the work week. It could have been because four-piece The ACB’s recently had a Daytrotter session go live, even though it was recorded on a stop in Chicago last summer. Just as well, it could have been that both The ACB’s and opener Fourth of July are something of local darlings to corporate alternative trash station 96.5 The Buzz when they are allowed the weekly two-hour respite from playing Jane’s Addiction and Muse to air up-and-comers in the local music scene. Regardless of the reason, I’ve never witnessed The Brick get as packed as it was the night that two of the area’s best acts took the same Kansas City stage to display material both new and old.
Brendan Hangauer’s Fourth of July began their set at about 10:35, stripped down to a four-piece, free of the horns and keys that frequent their recordings and live shows. Joining him on stage was his brother Patrick on bass, and another set of siblings in Brendan and Brian Costello on lead guitar and drums, respectively. At its peak, the band’s lineup has grown to six people, with additional contributors, and in the early days the project was started as an outlet for Brendan alone. The band played a 40-minute set, during which songs that are normally meandering and melodic in their recorded direction were given a different focus, taking on a faster-paced jangle pop vibe which perfectly synced into the evening and the energy of the crowd.
There was a noticeable lack of Katlyn Conroy and Adrienne Verhoeven on stage, both of whom provided an additional charm on the songs to which they contributed on the band’s most recent full-length, Before Our Hearts Explode! Songs that were played in their absence received a commendable fill-in from members present, while others (“Bad Dreams (Are Only Dreams)”) were omitted from the set entirely. The band’s time on stage was spent frequently shifting between songs from the most recent record (the hyper-catchy “Self Sabotage”) and the first full-length, Fourth of July on the Plains (“Purple Heart”), but always kept a fool-proof musical theme combination: drinking and girls. Furthermore, new songs were played from a record (produced by Chris Crisci) that is expected to drop in 2012, and the band is adamant it will be their best yet.
The ACB’s began their set at 11:40. Last time I encountered the quartet in a live music setting, they all were dressed in drag (complete with smeared lipstick) for the Ultimate Fakebook-hosted Halloween show at the Bottleneck last October. I’m sure they were all very thankful to be able to play without worrying about getting a stocking run, and lord knows those heels can be a pain in the ass. The set has not changed drastically since then, with much of it focusing on their lauded sophomore album Stona Rosa, though they threw in debut album opener “You Did It Once” to appease the crowd. There is no reasonable explanation as to how singer/guitarist Konnor Ervin can hit the falsetto notes he does, but that single feat instantly sets the band apart from most others in the area, not to mention the group’s inclination toward hit-makers of former times.
My single complaint about the set is the speed with which the band plays “My Face.” It is arguably the best song on Stona, and is likely one of my favorite locally-released tracks in recent years, and deserves the same patience when played live that it was given in the studio. That said, I still must praise the harmonization and vocal trade-offs that take place during the chorus and that the pace is kept steady, if not sped up a beat or two. Besides playing staples from the newest album such as “Italian Girls” and “I Wonder,” the band played some more recent efforts like “Feel Winter,” a song which also appeared on the previously mentioned Daytrotter session. There was also a brief 30 seconds where they played Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me,” and we are all better off for that not having lasted longer than it did, even if their tongues were placed firmly in cheeks at the time.
Nerd talk: While Brendan Hangauer has almost exclusively kept his songwriting under the Fourth of July moniker, the same can hardly be said for the rest of the band. As mentioned above, the newest album has voice contributions from both Adrienne Verhoeven and Cowboy Indian Bear‘s Katlyn Conroy. Conroy probably would have been in attendance had it not been for a prior engagement at The Bottleneck with her newest band La Guerre. Patrick Hangauer has not only collaborated with Verhoeven on her post-Anniversary project Dri (who have a surprising lack of crossover thrash songs), but also plays all instruments under his electronic alter-ego 1,000,000 Light Years. On that note, former FoJ guitarist Steve Swyers can be seen these days remixing and skewing others’ tracks under his Say My Name alias.
Patrick and Brendan’s brother Kelly still contributes to the band at times they require horns, keys, or additional vocal harmonies. Kelly has also worked with the Costello brothers in Save the Whales, an experimental Lawrence group whose permanent lineup is about as murky as Fourth of July’s; and White Flight, former Anniversary frontman (and ex-FoJ drummer) Justin Roelofs’ love letter to the extraterrestrial plane of existence for which he yearns. It should also be noted that Lawrence label Range Life Records has released output from most of the bands that you see listed in this section of the story thus far. If your mind has not yet melted, there is also former lead guitarist Andrew Connor, who miraculously juggles his time between Ghosty, Power and Light, and The ACB’s.
By comparison, the direct family tree of The ACB’s may not be quite as complex, but there is still some interesting blood lines that tie in with Kansas City music. About a year ago, Konnor Ervin formed a Belle & Sebastian and late ’60s psych-influenced pop band called The I’ms with Kyle Rausch and his brother Collin. One listen to the debut ACB’s album and one can instantly and correctly presume they were influenced by Cheap Trick. The sounds were not unfounded, as both Kyle and Collin were previously a part of rock/powerpop band The Abracadabras, which paid tribute to the ’70s powerhouse bands like T Rex, though to speak in more recent terms, both the Abras and the ACB’s could be compared at least in part to the sounds of Supergrass. Alternately, Kyle and Collin’s cousin Kasey Rausch has been a well-respected musician in the local bluegrass and Americana music scene for well over a decade.
September 15th will mark the unexpected return of Lawrence’s The Only Children to Kansas City’s Riot Room. The group quietly went on hiatus shortly after the release of their sophomore release, 2007’s Keeper of Youth, and even frontman and Anniversary co-creator Josh Berwanger has kept mostly low-key in that time, unassumingly working in his career as a high school basketball coach. The band has plans to head in to the studio soon to record their third full-length, likely with another revolving cast of musicians.
Opening for the band will be Casey Prestwood & the Burning Angels, the eponymous leader of which once played drums for Hot Rod Circuit and contributes to The Only Children. Also playing is Major Games, a trio best described as a grown-up mix of Lawrence’s Zoom and Panel Donor, and while it would be a stretch to lump the band in with the resurgence of twinkly riffed or reverb heavy shoegaze present in a variety of sounds these days, the members play a spaced out and prog-heavy sound of rock just begging for a conceptual full-length.
On the inverse, and decidedly not staying low-key is Anniversary co-creator Justin Roelofs, a man who has seemingly gone from being a mere mortal human to some kind of sentient, dimension-traversing being traveling the known realms of time and space. At least that is what the man would have you believe. Roelofs’ White Flight project is mid-way through a Kickstarter project for his new album, Pyramid of Light. I know not if he truly has the audacity to believe his project can get the over $12,000 in pledges required to succeed, or he created the entire project as a scheme to get people talking about his upcoming album. If he chose the latter, then he is without a doubt succeeding.
The project still has nearly a month left, but one who pledges can expect to get things such as “a 40 min. long sonic collage MIXTAPE made by White Flight in 2011, via mp3 download” for the lowest tier, or an “Amazing Crystal Quartz Necklace made by my partner Daughter of the Sun” for $111. Hell, for a meager $1,111, you can be so lucky as to receive “a CUSTOM larger scale sacred geometry painting, we can determine the image, color, etc. together via a phone conversation or skype session. Also I will share teaching on the I-Ching oracle in this conversation and teach you how to use it to make positive decisions in your life, if you aren’t already familiar with this system.” Sounds like quite a steal, that. Read the rest of the details from the project here.