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In Review: The Year 2012

Hello there! As you can tell from the glaring vacancy between the last post and this one, I haven’t really written much in the last six months. It’s a new year, and with that I’d like to continue to entertain the twelve three people that read this website. I haven’t really been able to make the time for writing, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t kept my ears open for great things happening in our fair city. There was such a considerable amount of good music to come out of the metro that I find it difficult to cut the selections down to a top five or ten. With that, I present you with Riot On The Plaza’s ABCs of 2012, a few dozen bands with great releases, many of which went largely unnoticed.

A is for Anakin, who released an astounding space-rock debut, instantly aligning themselves with the likes of HUM, Shiner, and Failure. The band recorded and released Random Accessed Memories before even playing their first public performance.

B is for Black On Black, a raging hardcore punk trio so humble they don’t even want to charge you for a download of Help Yourself, the LFK band’s six-track debut. Take a listen to “No Good So Far” above.

C is for CVLTS, edging themselves into the #1 spot with the internationally released Realiser, an aural oddity rife with tape loops, improvisation, and drastic mood changes. Hear “Wamego Fluff” above.

D is for Droves, who are the uncomfortable pitch blackness to the warm glow in which Soft Lighting allows the listener to bask. Bryan Cox and Michael Protzmann collaborated on an EP released last year. Listen to “Belial” above.

E is for Expo ’70, the perpetually recording project of Justin Wright. Beguiled Entropy pushes the number of his releases to the area of around fifty, and “Mark of the Rising Mantis” exemplifies what I like best about his music: a feeling of hopelessly drifting through space.

F is for Fiat, a fusion trio who blend classical, jazz, and rock together to form a very different kind of beast for the local music scene. The group released Returns over the summer, not so much an EP as a “bundle” of songs that stand on their own.

G is for Ghosty, who continue to please with well-crafted pop rooted in the ’60s and ’70s. “Joy In My Sorrow” is only one of the many stand-out tracks available on their self-titled release.

H is for High Diving Ponies, whose summer release of Suspended in Liquid received an unjustly quiet response from others in the area. The band will be releasing a split double cassette with Rooftop Vigilantes in the coming weeks.

I is for Is It Is, a band that shares with the High Diving Ponies a guitarist in James Capps, who also provides the vocals for the oblique shoegaze present on their debut, Hollyhocks.

J is for John Velghe and The Prodigal Sons, who at their fullest are comprised of nearly a dozen immensely talented musicians from the metro area. “Bloodline” is the first track on Don’t Let Me Stay to prominently feature a horn section.

K is for Katlyn Conroy, who released the three track sampling of Savannah > Jacksonville during the summer under her performing moniker of La Guerre. Listen to closing track “Lights Go Out” above.

L is for Lazy, an ever-evolving and always entertaining group of Kansas Citians who set fire to any semblance of their former selves with the release of Obsession, nine songs of filthy sounding lo-fi punk.

M is for Minden, who left us all in the dust by moving to Portland on the eve of releasing their debut full-length, Exotic Cakes. It was written and recorded here in KC, so as far as I’m concerned this little glam pop gem still deserves inclusion.

N is for No Class, who released their sophomore LP on Canada’s Deranged Records over the summer. Keine Klasse II piles more anger on the band’s already wholesale pissed off hardcore punk.

O is for Osiris-1, the name under which glitchy hip-hop producer Rick Mauna releases many of his recordings. This untitled album was recorded with inspiration from his then still in utero child.

P is for Power and Light, a Euro-inspired synth pop collaboration between Nathan Readey and Ghosty’s Andrew Connor from which I hope to hear much more than a three song EP in 2013.

Q is for The Quivers, an unabashedly retro rock band that draws from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, pop, and motown. The track above is from the band’s debut EP.

R is for The Roseline, the ongoing project of Colin Halliburton and one of the best alt-country acts the metro has seen since Buffalo Saints dissolved. Vast As Sky is the third and likely most expansive album the band has released to date.

S is for Soft Lighting, the ’80s-influenced synth project of Bryan Cox. Slow Motion Silhouettes took me by complete surprise, and on multiple occasions it could be heard blaring from my car’s stereo while I was driving around at night. It’s that kind of record, I guess.

T is for Thee Water MoccaSins, a local supergroup of sorts, who self-released their towering debut From the Rivers of Missouri and the Banks of Fear and currently only get around to playing shows when Billy Smith is back in town from his current home of NYC.

U is for UMBERTO, Matt Hill’s monstrous creation that made a return to form last year with the release of Night Has a Thousand Screams, a score which was made to coincide with a 1982 horror film.

V is for Vital Forms, whose breadth of sound on their demo EP ranges from dark electronic beats with complementary vocals, to the chunky riffed dream pop you can hear in the track above.

W is for The What Gives, who will appear on this list regardless of their not being an active band in over a decade. Futureman Records dug up some unreleased sessions from the Lawrence lo-fi indie rock/pop group and finally let it be heard by the public.

And in lieu of an X, Y, or Z, I will post a list of honorable mentions:

Capybara‘s Dave Drusky, Coke Weed X‘s self-titled debut, Discoverer‘s Tunnels, Dry Bonnet‘s Seeds EP, Gemini Revolution‘s self-titled effort, Jorge Arana Trio‘s Mapache, Levon Realms‘ Other Time Period, Loss Leader‘s First Assembly, Mouthbreathers‘ Die Alone single, Prevrat‘s Intelligent Discontent, Radar Defender‘s Satellites and Airports, Sundiver‘s Vicious EP, and Surroundher‘s triple CD debut.

I hope you take the time to check out the bands above, they all deserve a listen. What are a few I’m looking forward to in the year ahead?

New ones from The ACB’s, The Dead Girls, and Fourth of July, and the debuts of Bloodbirds, The Conquerors, Radkey, and Shy Boys.

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Dry Bonnet EP available online, cassettes on the way

Lawrence garage rock quartet Dry Bonnet have been playing shows in and around their hometown for the last year, frequently sharing the stage with The Conquerors, Mouthbreathers, and other locals that make an otherwise throwback sound completely their own. Outside of the band, the members keep busy with projects like The Roseline (a band in which both Tyler Brown and Seth Wiese play), Sex Tapes (in which Ben Kimball plays with members of The Spook Lights, Fag Cop, and The Spread Eagles), and Rooftop Vigilantes (another band in which Wiese performs). It should be mentioned that drummer Nic Kotlinski performed in the late, great Coat Party as well. The four songs contained on the Seeds EP are original to the release, though prior to this the band’s only other output was a submission to Replay Records’ Cheap Beer compilation, wherein they shared a slab of wax with most of the other bands mentioned in this paragraph.

Stream the EP below, and keep your eyes out for a cassette in the next month or so.

KC Psychfest: Day Two Wrap-Up

In the basement, Lawrence native CS Luxem commenced night two rather promptly at 7:30. Christopher’s voice resonated through the crowd as a sheet of plywood lay propped up behind him showing mundane footage of parades, soft news programming and other things that looked as though they were pulled from a VHS tape hidden in a shoebox for 20 years. Luxem’s songs are quirky without seeming dishonest, and he sings with an earnestness that even provided stability to a brief, poppy allusion to The Temptations’ “Get Ready.” His set up was simply a guitar and bass that he switched between, and a canopied box in front of him on which he placed his hat and a string of lights. The hat concealed the little amount of gear he had, but multiple times throughout the set he was seen switching a backtrack cassette in a player to his left.

John Bersuch and Sterling Holman are a two-piece named Import/Export, and play divisively concordant instrumental rock that borrows only in part from an ideology of jazz meters and a subscription to constant innovation in an evolving music landscape. Bersuch sat behind the kit, expertly facilitating rhythm to keep time while Holman’s guitar sliced through stagnant air with unorthodox vibrance. The songs were distinctively raw in their composure, and were played with an equally coarse tenacity. Within the primordial soup of their songs was a loosely woven anatomy that minute after minute redefined what I previously thought of them through my experiences of listening to only the two-dimensional recordings they provide as some kind of archaic offering, which only served to whet the appetite. In short, they kicked my ass.

I’m almost at a loss for words when attempting to explain the performance from Carnal Torpor. The set opened simply enough (considering the event), with a group of shirtless guys assembled at various stations around the room. A little over half the normal crowd could even gather around due to the tower of junk in the middle of the room that at first glance appeared to be nothing more than a hoarder’s wet dream. On one end of the set up, Colin Leipelt stood quietly and almost entirely shrouded in darkness. On the other, J Ashley Miller sat at a desk scattered with old keyboards and other sound modifying devices. Microphone in hand, Drew Roth paced menacingly back and forth at the front, a wooden assemblage dominated most of the area between the members and the conglomeration of things obscured some almost entirely from sight.

What followed could only be described as primal. The noise created by the group was little more than that, and only assisted the immediate experience the audience was thrown into. A tapestry of vaguely pagan equilateral symbols was draped across the wooden structure, and installed on either side was a wheel that had sporadically placed pegs extending from its outer edge, resting on the strings of guitars strapped into the piece. While Roth would sparingly shout and growl things that could not be understood, Miller remained seated, each note played causing his face to contort, his head and body would twist into disturbing positions, and he would open his mouth and stick out his tongue like a feral being. Roth took pause to pick up a jar of molasses, empty it into his hand, and then began ceremoniously wiping it across his shorn scalp, cheeks, chest, and arms. He then grabbed a sheet of aluminum foil, and with the same paralyzed features tore pieces off and stuck them to the parts of his body recently made adherent.

Upon blindly covering areas of his torso, Roth grabbed a conch shell and began vibrating his breathing into it like a didgeridoo, then climbed atop the wooden tower, grabbed a weighted string and intermittently swung at a cymbal standing up front. While this happened, the band played on in discordant drones, flashes of electronic bliss scarcely shining through like the calm during a storm. The wheels were put to use by Miller and another, who spun them by hand, each peg hitting the strings of the guitar and causing a rigid, never-ending power chord while hands moved up and down the neck. The imagery I’ve laid out may be a bit overwhelming, but there’s more. After a bull’s horn full of honey was passed around to those willing to drink from it (germaphobes unite), Roth emptied the rest onto his head and grabbed an audience member.

He picked up this person and held them in his arms for a moment, then dropped them down on his knee as though he was breaking their back. While the man was still in a daze, Roth ripped off his shirt, threw him on the ground and strapped a gag into his mouth. He grabbed a giant, red gummy worm and, acting as though he was pulling out the man’s intestine, began eating it. Once the music began climaxing, the man still lay on the ground with his eyes closed, Roth moved on to close out their set with some other grunted words which I could not make out. The set ended, and there was a discernible pause before a tempered applause began to come from the crowd, likely because everyone, like myself, was standing with their mouths open in shock after what just happened.

Back upstairs, Tim and Heather Goodwillie conceived an at times harsh realm through the constantly fluid daymare of Goodwillies. The project was helmed by Tim, a Los Angeles native who has performed previously with (VxPxC) and Thousands, both endeavors who like Goodwillies released stretching sound structures almost solely on CD-R and cassette. The husband and wife stood, apoplectic, for the duration of their allotted thirty minutes, the constantly moving visuals pouring over them like an unspoken tertiary member whose purpose was only to invoke a sense that could stray the mind from the agitation being ingested by the ears. I took a brief moment during their set to back against a wall and close my eyes, as only then the subtle melancholy of their ambience could truly be appreciated.

It’s not my intention to denigrate any of the artists from the festival, but something about Andrew Plante‘s set didn’t quite sit right by me. I could make a cheap dig at Sunn O))) and their propensity to voyage into guitar-driven pieces of full-blown, single layered ambient drone, but then that becomes a blanket insult for a handful of those playing, which is neither fair nor intended. I can only provide critique based on the merit of his set alone, and though it did not strike my fancy (more of a time and place thing, really) he certainly enamored a number of those in the crowd. Alone in a spotlight, Plante stood. Though he was nowhere near motionless, his set still fell flat to this observer. He ended the set rapturously, by extending his guitar into the feedback field of his amp, providing the only time, however brief, that the sounds became anything other than monochromatic.

In addition to being the most populous band to perform at the festival, the seven people who stood and represented The Conquerors turned out being likely the most popular band as well. By the time they started, half of their scheduled time had already gone by — and by the time they ended, the night was a full thirty minutes behind schedule. Set times are of no consequence when you have the main room congested with the closest thing to a full house as possible. It also doesn’t hurt when you play crushingly kaleidoscopic psych rock that leaves a sear on the brains of all those in attendance. Their more ample songs could get a throwaway comparison to Thee Oh Sees, but the overall verisimilitude of their craft is an admirable drawing from an era spanning well that they come by honestly and keep riveting through impressive execution.

Now that the night was already thirty minutes behind, the flow of the evening just seemed a bit… off. After a large portion of the crowd spilled out into the street and onto the smoking patio, Lawrence five-piece Karma Vision tore into a pop-filled thirty minutes of their own, wherein they played songs adversely different from those heard above. With the exception of bassist Danny Barkofske and drummer Rachael Mulford, the band seemed entirely listless and detached from the rest of the room. Musically, though, every member was on their game throughout renditions of songs from the band’s quickly growing discography. A highlight of their set was the buoyant “Teeter Totter,” whose organ intro is unmistakable and was one of the few songs which got the rest of the band to move more than normal. I believe I may have even seen a smile or two.

Festival organizer Dedric Moore and his brother had already played before, with both being in Monta at Odds, and Delaney also performing in Twofaced with Sterling Holman (who himself was set to perform once more before the festival ended). I’d cry nepotism if every band the guys participated in wasn’t incredible and wholly different from the last. Enter Gemini Revolution, the Moore brothers’ foray into a downplayed psych more modern, but no less moody, than the soulful Monta. The brothers kept an off kilter electricity of guitar and keyboard centric rhythm between them, but Mika Tayana’s drumming spotlighted some fantastic irregular temporal patterns that ultimately gave the trio the concentrated backbone necessary in order to complete their set as one of the primary stand-outs from the entire weekend.

Justin Wright is typically renown for solo spacial compositions that span from five minutes to more than half an hour and can encompass any variety of emotions, from pure elation to unadulterated dread. This year, Expo ’70 has been collaborating with two other musicians, performing measured illustrations that paint an effigy in sonic momentum. When the normally soft-spoken Wright stands with a stack of amps to his back, he undergoes a lupine change surely brought on by the push of sound behind him. Pummeling is the only possible description for the force with which the music hits– a paradigm to the very word “loud.” I lament even having the knowledge that the three-piece band is only temporary, but I hope it can make an occasional resurgence for some live performances when the finished recordings are made public.

The morning of their performance, Be/Non announced that Jeremiah James had quit the band to pursue other interests. This interest included his new solo project under the name Yuo, which was to perform at the festival the next evening. Why he couldn’t wait another day to quit may remain a mystery, but the unexpected trio made due and played a great set. Brodie Rush is the driving force behind the band. Hell, Rush more or less is the band, and keeps a rotating cast of musicians on deck for when he feels too dormant and wants to switch things up, which admittedly seems to be pretty often. With an eyepatch adorned Ryan Shank on drums, Ben Ruth on bass, and a specially programmed astral projection behind them, the trio cruised through the sounds they’ve been focusing on since the release of the space-funk opus A Mountain of Yeses.

By the time I walked back to my car, I was a short five hours away from waking up and heading in to work. Reluctantly, I skipped the two closing sets from Vor Onus and Kevin Harris. I’m sad to have missed out, but I have zero regrets when it comes to things involving sleep.

Once again, thanks to Leah O’Connor for giving people something to look at on this page. See the rest of her great work here.

Further lineup announcements for KC Psychfest

I have been waiting more than a month to find out just who will be playing the inaugural KC Psychfest. Announced yesterday, the collective at the FOKL (556 Central Ave) will be presenting 30 bands in their space on May 18th and 19th (the website also lists the 20th as part of the event). Tickets are available now, single day passes for Friday and Saturday are $11 a piece, Sunday is $8, or you can get the all-inclusive weekend pass for only $21. They can also be picked up in person from Earwaxx Records, Zebedee’s, or Love Garden for you Lawrence folk. With record store day coming up this weekend, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to grab a pair for you and your closest warped-minded friend.

As initially announced, the weekend festival will not only include the sanity crushing sounds of various artists from the metro and beyond, but will also contain art displays in the gallery, and what is looking to be a pretty intriguing sculptural video installation. Unfortunately, no specific set times have been announced, but I expect they will be made public before too long. See the full list below. I’ve included links to music and notes where applicable.

KC Psychfest 2012 lineup:

Umberto (KC – Matt Hill is a former collaborator of Justin Wright’s Expo ’70)
Dylan Ettinger (Bloomington, IN)
Be/Non (KC)
Expo ’70 (KC)
Mr. Marco’s V7 (KC – Marco Pascolini is an unstoppable force)
Monta At Odds (KC)
Metatone (presumably KC, has collaborated with a local Balinese gamelan)
CVLTS (KC)
Karma Vision (Lawrence)
Goodwillies (KC)
The Conquerors (KC)
Gemini Revolution (KC – members of Monta at Odds)
Vor Onus (KC)
South Bitch Diet (KC – side project from Brock Potucek of Lazy)
Box The Compass (KC – no website that could be found)
Plante (KC)
Sounding The Deep (KC)
Restless Breed (KC)
Import/Export (KC – one of the many John Bersuch projects)
Scammers (KC)
Kevin Harris (St. Louis)
Surroundher (KC – a project of Sterling Holman of Import/Export and Sky Burial)
Discoverer (KC – side project of Brandon Knocke from Parts of Speech)
Thee Devotion (KC)
Carnal Torpor (KC – project of J Ashley Miller from SSION)
Jorge Arana Trio (KC)
Twofaced (presumably KC, but no website could be found)
Yam (KC)
CS Luxem (KC)
Yuo (presumably KC)

FOKL Center presents KC Psychfest

Kansas City, KS, gallery space FOKL (556 Central Ave) will be hosting the first KC Psychfest this spring, on May 18th and 19th. The full lineup has not yet been announced, but the press release reveals that it will be a two-day multimedia festival featuring psychedelic bands, live VJs, and visual artists from the KC Metro and Midwest.

Thus far, the only bands featured on the bill will be KC mainstays Expo ’70, CVLTS, Goodwillies, Be/Non, The Conquerors, Monta At Odds, and Lawrence band Karma Vision. With a lineup like that, I’ll estimate that additions from Umberto, High Diving Ponies, and LAZY are to be expected soon, as well as what I’d guess will be a handful of decent touring national acts, and a few bands that just happen to be coming through the area this May that may be thrown on the bill for the hell of it. Keep an eye on the venue’s website for more info.

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