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Middle Of The Map: Day Three Wrap-Up

The third and final night of the second annual Middle Of The Map Festival was coming to a close. I had no choice but to make it the most ambitious day possible. I flew solo most of the day, which gave me ample time to venue-hop and catch both local favorites and make some very surprising new discoveries. Just a short twelve hours after Mission of Burma ended their closing set at RecordBar, I was right back at the strip mall venue, sliding into a booth to drink overpriced mimosas during The Record Machine’s daytime label showcase.

If necessary, Minden could have forced an early sunrise with radiant indie-pop that is simultaneously glamorous and affably disheveled. Singer Casey Burge sashayed around stage in metallic spandex, and when I spotted two girls in the audience dressed in kind, I expected some audience participation during the band’s opulence advocating “Gold Standard,” but no– they were but ordinary hipsters. I had a bit of a realization during Minden’s set. The band is well on their way to greatness, and even have a potential for “household name” status. It’s just such a damned shame that they hit their ceiling in KC, and feel they must move away to Portland to prosper as musicians.

Next up for the day show was Katlyn Conroy’s newest project La Guerre (though she was formerly billed under her own name). Conroy on her own has an undeniably saccharine voice, and when those pipes are laid over the blithely uncomplicated rhythm of her own keyboard and a backing band, creates a wholesome naïvety that holds the key to the fluttering, electronic-based twee in which she prevails. Conroy also performed at the festival with Cowboy Indian Bear, a great Lawrence-based group that is only further enhanced by her contributions.

Maybe I had a little mimosa buzz by the time Akkilles gathered their arsenal of members to begin playing folksy, acoustic guitar led arias, but I wasn’t much of an audience of David Bennett’s when they began. The multi-layered pop was admirable, but I chose to bid my adieu to the RecordBar and head over to the day show happening at Riot Room, where Cherokee Rock Rifle were tearing up the patio stage. Frontman Dutch Humphrey is obnoxious, offensive, and sings abhorrent lyrics while holding his rifle-turned-mic stand out to the crowd with little subtlety as to it being a phallic symbol. The crowd loved it, and so did I. Dutch Humphrey supplies an unquestionable arrogance that makes a frontman worth watching, and the southern-fried rock n’ roll delivered by the rest of the band with respectably day-drunk precision imprints the groove on your skull for hours afterward.

Fast forward a few hours, and the evening shows are kicking off in succession all across Westport. Maps For Travelers opened up the Riot Room (inside, this time) and the crowd was already teeming with people excited for the bands to come. Most importantly, the band performing that very moment should not be ignored. The four guys on stage played until the sweat rolling down in their eyes blinded them, and then played even more. The influences of the band are a bit curious, but their live show is executed with the ferocity of a young(er) Hot Water Music and gives plenty of nods to the various projects of Walter Schreifels and Jonah Matranga in the process.

I saw The Casket Lottery perform in the exact same venue, almost to the exact day one year prior for last year’s festival. But the last time I really watched the band was just a few months shy of ten years ago, when I was completely infatuated with them in my youth and they were still touring on their Survival is For Cowards album. The Casket Lottery was a trio of Nathan Ellis, Stacy Hilt, and Nathan “Junior” Richardson back then, but these days (as in, on their forthcoming album) they have expanded to a five-piece that includes Brent Windler (Sons of Great Dane, Anakin) on second guitar, and Nick Siegel on keyboard. “Nostalgia” was without a doubt the word on the lips of all those in attendance, as the group cranked through old and new material alike as if they never missed out on those six or so years of not being an active band, and only aroused the appetite for things on the horizon in a comeback done so, so right.

Although Reflector released a split 7-inch with The Casket Lottery in 1999, the record only served as a crossroads for the two, as TCL had a sole EP at that point, and Reflector was on the eve of issuing their last recordings as a band. Performing only their second reunion in the last decade, guitarist Jared Scholz was joined by Harry Anderson on bass and Jacob Cardwell on drums to rehash old songs that while musically on point in their arithmetic, lacked the familiar near-squawk of Scholz, replaced instead with a softer crooning while exhibiting songs from Where Has All the Melody Gone? As noted by Scholz early on in the set, the last time they shared a stage with both The Casket Lottery and following act The Appleseed Cast was 14 years ago, at a Halloween party.

At this point, Riot Room was quickly filling in with those awaiting venue headliners Coalesce and Fucked Up. I chose to forgo the lingering stench of beard sweat, and ran over to Firefly to catch Fourth of July play to a modestly sized audience. The brothers Hangauer (Brendan and Patrick) provided the guitar and bass, while the brothers Costello (Brendan and Brian) furnished an additional guitar and the drums necessary to fuel Brendan Hangauer’s creative outlet. The crowd was small, but the number of mouths in the audience that knew every word to every song (even those yet to be released) were far greater than any other band at the festival thus far. The quartet sounded impeccable, and their jaunty pop clattering off the lavish furniture of the speakeasy was not entirely disjointed from the scenery.

I dipped out of Firefly a bit early to catch my second wind with an espresso (after the day show, it was a wonder I was still standing), and passing the vast swaths of festival goers lined up outside the Beaumont and Riot Room only further affirmed my decision to head down into the chambered depths of the Union to catch the remainder of The Devil‘s set. The Lawrence quartet of Mike Teeter, Natale Collar, and Sara McManus is led by Taylor Triano, and pummeled out a filthy, stoner rock answer to the question “what would Janis Joplin sound like today?” — part performance art-punk, part unforgiving noise rock.

The Oklahoma by way of Lawrence band Mansion wreaked a towering ruination of doom metal upon the audience with a face-liquefying decibel surely outlawed across much of the country. Almost entirely instrumental, the songs were time-traversing expansions of momentum with a metronomic backbone rhythm the only thing keeping the audience from devolving into throat-tearing creatures straight from the pages of a Lovecraft novel. Whether they played one forty-minute song or ten four-minute incantations, I have no idea, but their opus could soundtrack the apocalypse.

While others were drinking the kool-aid of festival hype bands, Cleveland’s mr. Gnome were creating a fan for life in what amounted to little more than a dreary cavity carved into the basement of an old Midtown building. Through the entirety of the weekend, I watched bands that varied from pretty good to great, to even some old standby favorites, but this duo pushed sound from their speakers fit for an orchestra of musicians, and seemingly with little effort. Nicole Barille’s technique was a spastic array of hummingbird-paced guitar strumming culminating in a medley of genres and influences, and drummer/pianist Sam Meister’s work behind the kit was so robot-esque in its accuracy it’s a wonder he didn’t exhaust himself halfway through the set. I’m kicking myself not for watching them, but for even considering the possibility.

The second group of Oklahomans to climb behind the guard rails that create the makeshift stage at the Union, Broncho played a set covering most of their debut album Can’t Get Past the Lips. The band left the room a sweltering mess of sticky bodies after laying out a sound akin to The Stooges, The Exploding Hearts, and leagues of other punk bands with era-defining attitudes from the ’70s, ’80s and today. Frontman Ryan Lindsey can also be seen as part of Starlight Mints, and joined the defunct OK band Cheyenne after their album was released by The Record Machine, whose owner Nathan Reusch curated the entire festival.

Phantom Family Halo brought their traditional stoner psych in from Brooklyn, and played an ultimately forgettable set that was doomed from the start, crammed between two of the better bands of the night. The band took a backseat to most of the room’s conversations at the time, and with every other venue having already closed their night out by that time, it was inevitable that the crowds would gather and the overflow would begin to gradually fill the room. Which it did, for a short while.

Acid Mothers Temple began at 2:00 in the morning. Had they started at their planned start time of 1:30, they may have gotten an extended set, but due to city regulations, the sound was cut off after only 40 minutes, so that the place could be vacant by 3. In the short time the Japanese psych saints played, I stood on top of someone’s road case (sorry) that was tucked away in a cement support pillar’s corner, and closed my eyes for most of the set. Not because I was tired, but because the band’s free-form space prog was a sensorial trip for the mind and body, and removing one of the senses was the only way to heighten that of one that was more important at that time.

I spoke with the band’s road manager/translator after the place had been cleared out, and he confessed that although the prints available for the tour stated it was to be the last tour, the reality was it is only their last tour of 2012. Well played.

The final tally for the weekend concluded with 25 bands having been watched, seven venues attended, a boundless number of beers resting in my belly, and a revolting number of sleep hours lost. Don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s in store for year three.

 

This review was written for Lost in Reviews.

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And Post #50 Goes To… the Revolvers

Fifty posts. It’s been a long road to get here, and there were times I thought the day would never come. But here we are! I thought I would use this special occasion to discuss one of my favorite bands to ever come out of the Kansas City music scene: none other than that which was known as the Revolvers.

This is a band I hold dear to my local music heart, so much so that it would be out of my character were I to go one chance without heckling the former members for a possible reunion (before you get your hopes up, it has been all but confirmed as downright implausible). There have been times when I’ve gone weeks at a time with having their lone full-length on repeat in my car, singing along to every single word as though I were rehearsing for KC music karaoke. Now that I write that out, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

The core of the Revolvers was vocalist Justin Petosa, guitarist Mike Alexander and bassist Chris Wagner. The three essentially grew up together, and formed a band in the mid ’90s as a youthful outlet to play Ramones-driven pop-punk with a lyrical prowess that elevated above many of the more popular bands of that era. In the years they were an active band, the Revolvers seemed to have gone through an average of one drummer a year, the previous one leaving typically for no more than artistic differences or conflicts of scheduling.

Though they experienced the same hardships and tour mishaps that any band venturing out on the road is bound to confront, they stayed a frequent name in the local music scene until early in the 21st century, when after the release of their self-titled debut CD (and two self-released 7 inches before that) they slowly sputtered out and eventually stopped playing shows altogether. By the time the members parted ways, it was difficult for a conversation to be had among them.

All things eventually pass, and with time, conversations were had once more, and friendships grew more strong than they had been in the years prior. Justin decided to bow out of music, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of teenage-minded punks yearning for songs about girls, love and the eventual sorrow that comes from a broken relationship.

Mike, who before the Revolvers played in the Breakups, joined the final incarnation of the (at this point no longer ska) Gadjits before they became the Architects, in which he was the guitarist until parting ways to pursue other career interests, which led to he and Wagner forming Hipshot Killer in a reclamation of vigor and revival of their punk roots. In the interim, Alexander also performs with bands that play country (Starhaven Rounders), Irish rock (Blarney Stoned), and Americana (John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons).

Chris Wagner’s musical output beyond the Revolvers has included in part the previously mentioned Hipshot Killer and Prodigal Sons (wherein he performs bass), Velghe’s earlier project the Mendoza Lie (as a guitarist), the abrasive and metallic Hundred Years War (whose Jason Hall was also in The Secret Club with Wagner), indie rockers Jackie Carol (with members of The Casket Lottery, The Believe It or Nots, and Proudentall), and The Glitter Kicks (featuring a post-Frogpond Tawni Freeland, music producer extraordinaire Ed Rose, and a rotating drummer including Kliph Scurlock of Slackjaw, Craig Haning of Moaning Lisa, and Chris Tolle of The Creature Comforts).

As mentioned, the band went through a variety of drummers, but on recording had Thomas Becker on the first 7 inch. Becker was serving duty in multiple up-and-coming bands in the area, including Nuclear Family and the earliest version of The Get Up Kids, but dropped them all to attend college in California. The second 7 inch and full-length featured drumming by Jon Paul aka Buddy Lush of the Buddy Lush Phenomenon, Sin City Disciples, and The Big Iron.

Enough with the word vomit. Now we get to the point: free stuff. Below, you can find a link to download each of the Revolvers releases, ripped to the best of my current capabilities. Listen, enjoy, and share with your friends a band worth celebrating. And if you see the guys out at a bar some night, try not to heckle them too much.

Album: She’s Out Of Your Life 7″ – download here
Label: Locket Love Records
Release Year: 1996
Track Listing:
Side A: She’s Out of Your Life / Never Said
Side B: Christmas Eve in June / Anjali

A forefront of melodic, classic pop-punk with hints of the ’60s pop the band leans toward in later recordings.

—–

Album: Marley 7″ – download here
Label: Locket Love Records
Release Year: 1996
Track Listing:
Side A: Marley / Marrianna
Side B: Ten Seconds Then / Far Between

You can hear the punk shell slowly begin to crack, giving way to a more musically-geared sound.

—–

Album: Revolvers CD – download here
Label: Locket Love Records
Release Year: 1999
Track Listing: All I Want to Know / Better Off Alone / There’s a Heart / Devotional / Marley / Annie / The Only One / Not Really Blue / New Depression / Standin’ Sadly / Torch / The Angel’s Share

The band’s final output, a much better production quality that features a fully fleshed out sound that is at once punk and pop, and better showcases the songwriting ability of both Justin and Mike. The album is a complex layer cake of melancholy, anger, hope, and a general malaise toward the growing up that one must eventually accept. The band’s style ranges from fast, straight to the point power-punk, to downtrodden, emotionally dejected songs that border on country. It’s a damned shame if you don’t grab this right now.

02/20/12: The Jealous Sound / Anakin @ Riot Room

The benefits of a 3AM bar that doubles as a venue are essentially void once you realize you must scrape yourself out of bed before the sun comes up the next morning for a rousing eight hours of subservience to the overlords without whom you would be penniless. Westport venue the Riot Room is guilty beyond doubt of taking advantage of their last call time, often pushing a live show back to a 10:00 start time or later. With a two band bill, I was dreading getting to the venue at 9:15 and gawkily mulling about for an hour or more before the first band started.

As luck would have it, local space rock group Anakin took the stage promptly at 9:30 to play what was billed as their very first live performance ever. Let me preface that last sentence by saying that the band recently released their debut, Kickstarter-funded full-length, Random Accessed Memories, have appeared on a HUM tribute compilation, and have merch readily available for purchase. To most, if not all, this logic would seem a bit flawed and a sure way to lose money before your band even gets a foot in the live music door. Don’t put your prejudice pants on just yet, though, as the members are anything but amateurs in the world of public performance.

The five gentlemen on stage have spent time in touring and recording bands like The Escape, Tablets of Orion (which later became Orion — two separate entities, both of whom had a submission on a Failure tribute compilation), Sons of Great Dane, and a recently revamped lineup of The Casket Lottery. The band wear their influences on the sleeve (and chest, as noted by drummer and co-founder Brad Chancellor sporting a Rentals shirt), and leading man Brent Windler quietly croons into the microphone like a Fantastic Planet-era Ken Andrews. The band played a 45-minute set and performed their new, 10-track album front to back, for better or worse.

I spoke with a fellow show-goer and we both agreed that we wanted to like Anakin a lot more than we actually did. Their set expectedly began a little rocky, by the bass guitar cutting out halfway through “Action-Reaction,” but they quickly recovered by following with synth-heavy cuts from the album like “Magnified,” “Abort.Retry.Fail,” and “Disconnect,” but I regrettably grew tired of the set about 30 minutes in. Not to say their sound is a novelty or a conscious mimic of elder bands that are in the annals of worship for fans of space rock, shoegaze, or even dreampop, but I came wanting just a taste, and left feeling I had absorbed more than intended, my senses on overload from the sheer onslaught of sound that came from the stage. Kudos to the band regardless for playing likely the best first gig I have ever witnessed, and for having a great album with which to back it up.

I may have been just a little too harsh on newly reunited Los Angeles natives The Jealous Sound in my recent review of their latest album, A Gentle Reminder. If their nearly hour-long live show is any indication, they still have energy to spare for a future album or three. Singer/guitarist Blair Shehan took the drunken revelers in front of the stage with a smile, and made references throughout the set to the now dwindling audience that remained about the last time they played in Kansas City. If anyone wants to date themselves, it was in early 2004 at the short-lived west bottoms venue The Spitfire, opening for Statistics and Engine Down.

The Jealous Sound effortlessly tackled a career-spanning set, with a few hiccups and false starts, but those that were there to see the band were not left disappointed. With the exception of set opener “Beautiful Morning,” which I referred to as “background noise from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy” in my review of the album, the entire set was energetic and was met with bouncing heads and people dancing in a way only acceptable in the privacy of their own homes. After playing the opening track from the most recent full-length, they jumped to the opening track from their last full-length (which is now sitting at nearly a decade old) and continued to jump between the two while throwing a few EP tracks in (“Got Friends,” “Priceless”).

By all accounts, the band had fun while on stage and worked with the audience they had. It’s an odd thing, but I’ve never been to a show at the Riot Room where the audience was larger for the headliner than the opener unless the header was also a local. You could chalk that up to the place being very representative of a certain sect of Kansas City music (a sound which some, or just myself, refer to as Riot Room rock, but that’s another story in itself). While a national headlining act may not have the pull of a local opener, I have repeatedly witnessed a small group of dedicated fans loudly requesting an encore from the headliner once their set ends. This night was no different, and after the band laid their instruments to rest and walked off the stage, Shehan decided to strap on another guitar to play a solo version of “Turning Around.”

The solo encore was met with inebriated approval from the group in front of the stage, at which point the rest of the band came back up to play one more song, “Naive,” from their 2003 full-length Kill Them With Kindness. The crowd was given a genuine thank you from the band, then the house lights came up and the group in front of the stage began to gradually stagger off, with a few individuals remaining behind to enthrall one another with slurred stories of how much the band meant to them at a certain point in their youth. Tabs were paid or further increased, and the patrons began to tightly wrap their necks in scarves in preparation of braving the outside weather. Some, like myself, were already bemoaning the workday that stood ahead of them in a matter of hours.

The Jealous Sound setlist:
Beautiful Morning
Hope For Us
Got Friends
Promise of the West
Perfect Timing
Abandon! Abandon!
Your Eyes Were Shining
A Gentle Reminder
The Fold Out
Priceless
Anxious Arms
Turning Around (Blair Shehan solo electric) – encore
Naive – encore

This review originally appeared on Lost in Reviews. All photos taken by the talented Matt Cook.

New album from The Casket Lottery on the way

The Casket Lottery, invigorated lineup in tow, is heading in to the studio to record a new album, making them a legitimately active band for the first time in more than five years, though their last release was 2004’s Smoke and Mirrors. The band has previously raised eyebrows by playing a few shows across the region opening for Small Brown Bike (members of whom were in Nathan Ellis’ Able Baker Fox project), but not before playing a full house at the Riot Room during Middle of the Map Fest back in April.

Second Nature Recordings has been mostly quiet these days, so the probability of the band going in another direction entirely is very possible.

Now, who do I have to talk to about a new Jackie Carol album?

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