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Looking Back #1: Truck Stop Love / Action Man 7″ Split

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:

Band(s): Truck Stop Love & Action Man
Album: Split 7″
Label: Spot Records
Release Year: 1996
Track Listing:
Side A: Truck Stop Love – Nothing Left to Start
Side B: Action Man – Pool or Pond?

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

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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.

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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.

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02/10/12: Katy and Go-Go / John Velghe + More @ RecordBar

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 BellesOmertà), 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.

Noteworthy upcoming locally supported/headlined shows

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.

Early Reflections: Another New KC Supergroup

Earlier this year, local media outlets were beside themselves with the arrival of the new band Minden. The band, composed of members of Kelpie, the Button Band, Buffalo Saints, and other Lawrence acts from the last 5-8 years, was consistently being labeled as a supergroup. I really had no idea why they received this label, but the members have all been a part of musical projects I respect, so I took the term with a grain of salt. I’ve just learned of a new local band that encompasses the term “supergroup” in its truest form.

Christopher Tolle has been active in the Lawrence and Kansas City music scenes for nearly 18 years, from his work in Rise, a high school band that is better off staying in the past (though the lineup also featured a young J.D. Warnock), and Action Man (a band that, if I can remember my history right, started as an offshoot of Five-0 called The Hayseeds, and even had John Harper in the lineup for the earliest days), to the locally seminal Creature Comforts and his primary project for the better part of the last decade, The Belles. Tolle has been a wellspring of great music output for half of his life, and is sure to continue this trend with his newest band, Early Reflections.

Joining Tolle in his newest endeavor is Andrew Sallee of Namelessnumberheadman on guitar, vocals, and wurlitzer. Sallee and the rest of NNHM formed the band when they were living in Shawnee, OK, a small town about 45 minutes east of Oklahoma City, and though the band went through a few different names (Hipster Dufus, The Fauves) before settling on the one that stuck, they essentially found their name when they found a new home in Kansas City a little over a decade ago. NNHM have been dormant for the last few years, but popped up this past winter to play an anniversary show at Recordbar.

Next up in Early Reflections is guitarist/vocalist Bill Latas, best known as one of the founding members of iconic Kansas City grunge/rock band Outhouse. Outhouse played a reunion show at Recordbar earlier this year, but Latas has been staying musically active in a funk/rock and occasional tribute group known as Perpetual Change. Coincidentally, Outhouse co-founders Brad Gaddy and Shawn Poores, as well as Go Kart‘s Larry Groce have been active in their new wave/’80s tribute band called The Zeros.

Brian Everard is the resident bass player in the band. He is currently known as a member of both The Belles and Blackpool Lights, but was in The Creature Comforts as well, meaning all four of his most recognized bands have either been with Tolle, or a member of The Creature Comforts (drummer Billy Brimblecom is in BPL, as well as a range of tribute bands with CC guitarist Warnock).

Rounding out the lineup and further proving the incestuous nature of local music, we have drummer and audio engineer extraordinaire Chris Cosgrove. The list of bands he has been in is dwarfed in comparison to the amount of artists he has worked with in the studio, but the most notable act he was in was the early ’90s math rock quartet Zoom, who themselves played a reunion (or four) earlier this year, one of which was at Recordbar (I see a growing trend here, no?), as part of the previously mentioned NNHM anniversary gig.

Early Reflections will be playing their first official show as a band on June 30th, opening for Meat Puppets at Recordbar. They have been playing unofficially as a more or less “Chris Tolle and Friends” band for a few months, though. One of their public performances worth mentioning is their participation in the recent Replacements tribute show, the lineup only a four piece of Tolle, Everard, Latas, and Shawn Poores. The Dead Girls, Chad Rex, John Velghe & His Prodigal Sons, and a cast of other area musicians appeared on the bill that night as well. Appearing with Early Reflections and Meat Puppets is a Belgian garage revival band called The Black Box Revelation, for fans of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It will be a night that should not be missed.

Weekly Music Download Round-Up #1

This will be my first installment in a weekly series of posts chronicling area bands and artists offering direct music downloads either for free or for a small fee (no more than $5). Releases included will typically be those that have been available for more than a few months, or albums from artists that are buzz-worthy but aren’t yet ready for their own dedicated post. There is a not-so-subtle theme in this one, see if you can catch on. And here we go…

The Caves – Fives Songs With… EP (2010) – First up is KC alt/indie-pop quartet The Caves, founded by Andrew Ashby and Jake Cardwell of The Belles (Ashby is also known for The String & Return), along with David Gaumé of The Stella Link. The band has been around for the better part of a decade, when they finally got a chance to release their first EP, and recruited Elizabeth Bohannon into the fold to play keys and lend a backing voice to the band’s previously all-Ashby vocals. The band plans for this to be the first in a series of three EPs, but there have been no updates on the status of future recordings. Download Five Songs for $5.

Hidden Pictures – Synchronized Sleeping (2011) – Next is Lawrence by-way-of Kansas City indie-pop group Hidden Pictures. The band has been the project of Richard Gintowt and Michelle Gaumé Sanders since its conception, and has featured a veritable who’s who of local musicians who have contributed for a short time then moved on to create something else. This album alone features the talent of four different bass players, three drummers, a cellist, a viola, trombone, and a saxophone. This album can be downloaded for only $5 and features six bonus tracks, the unreleased EP of Gintowt’s previous band, OK Jones.

Ghosty – Team Up Again EP (2010) – Ghosty has hit the rare distinction for a still-active local band, as this year marks the 10 year anniversary of the band’s first EP, though just like Hidden Pictures, it serves as Andrew Connor’s musical baby in that he has been the only constant through its lifespan. The band was formed when the Sioux Falls, SD, native met Richard Gintowt while attending KU, though Gintowt left the band early on to form OK Jones. Both pop heavyweights in their own right, Connor’s influences from Alex Chilton and The Beach Boys are much more apparent. This, and two others at the link, are available for free.

The ACB’s – Stona Rosa (2011) – Stona Rosa serves as the sophomore release from Kansas City’s The ACB’s. Their self-titled debut, itself a respectable mimic of In Color-era Cheap Trick with additional nods to Big Star and Badfinger, was completely obliterated when the group resurfaced in late 2010. Now with Andrew Connor’s Midas touch in tow, the band returned as a powerpop juggernaut, arguably releasing one of the best local albums of 2011, and sealing their position as one of the bands to watch over the next few years. The release is offered as pay what you want, but can be had for free if you wish.

Bonus: Billy Belzer – You Shouldn’t Have (2011) – If you’ve been keeping up, that links The Caves to Hidden Pictures through siblings, Hidden Pictures to Ghosty via college alum, and Ghosty to The ACB’s through Andrew Connor’s propensity to lend his talent to half a dozen bands at any given time. The family tree ends there for today, but as a bonus I am including frequent Ghosty contributor Billy Belzer’s solo debut, a release bringing in the talent of many area musicians, including, you guessed it, Andrew Connor. Connor and Belzer are also in Mary Fortune with Ghosty artist (and Connor’s wife) Liz Connor. Get the EP for $5.

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