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.
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.
Earlier this week, I missed out on seeing The Casket Lottery play their first non-festival KC show since their decision to be an active band once more. I caught the group back in spring as part of the Middle Of The Map Festival (their second year as a performer) which happened to be at the same venue they played on July 8th with Anakin and In the Grove. I forgot how quickly time has passed since then, as the band’s new label No Sleep Records just posted the pre-order for the band’s new 7″ record (with multiple colors for the nerds). The Door EP features the title track on one side, with “My Father’s Son” as a b-side. The EP is a precursor to the upcoming full-length, Real Fear.
Any who were familiar with the band in their former life will note that there has been not much change in their sound since the last release nearly a decade ago. The songs still ride heavily on the bass of Stacy Hilt, drums of Nathan “Junior” Richardson and the miraculously un-aging vocals of Nathan Ellis, but with a revamped lineup the founders are now joined by Brent Windler (Anakin) on second guitar, and Nick Siegel on keyboard. You can stream the a-side and title track from The Door below.
For two excruciatingly long years I have waited for new music from Lawrence fuzz-pop group Radar Defender. It was some time in 2010 when their Sleep Dreaming Mammal EP completely took me by surprise, and now the trio of Scott Burr, Austin Snell and Tyler Snell (all of whom previously played together in Aqua-Symphonics) are on the eve of releasing one of my most anticipated albums of the year in a matter of weeks.
The first single from the new full-length Satellites and Airports is “Animal,” an unsurprisingly buoyant song that channels less Kim Deal and more Matt Suggs in the lo-fi heydays of Butterglory. Check out the stream below.
My interest in local composer Bryan Cox has been steadily growing since the beginning of the year. It’s not enough that his ’80s-centric sleazefest Soft Lighting has released Slow Motion Silhouettes, one of the most catchy albums of its type in recent memory, but on the side he also fronts New Savages (click here for a download). New Savages as a band stand on their own to create more concentrated and energetic grooves in opposition to the gently flowing, mood-oriented tunes he himself creates, the end result of which is the perfect soundtrack to a summer night drive — I’ve proven this theory on multiple occasions.
Cox has spent the time since SMS dropped recording new material, but in the meantime only releasing scant remixes of others’ work (Suicide, Brothertiger). Now just a few days into a sweltering July, Soft Lighting gives us a new five-song EP under the title Glamour Shots, with a video in tow. The new songs don’t depart much from the full-length, but much of the EP has a washed out sound, making the beats at times more aloof than the vibrancy with which Silhouettes packs its punch. Below, watch the video for “So Good,” from the new EP. The video isn’t quite NSFW, but it contains things like caressing, dudes kissing, neon lights, and other things that will freak out the squares.
I’ve spent more than enough ink (or pixels, rather) going on pointless diatribes about the poor turnout at the venues I frequent. It’s a pointless battle, that much is clear — but I’ve had an epiphany that it’s no longer about the quantity of people, but the quality. It’s a goddamned shame when I’m one of eight people in a room watching a band who is neither bar staff nor a member of another band, but if those other seven people give those performing their undivided attention and a little respect, I’d gladly take that over the alternative. Even if one of those people is experiencing a paranoid high and demands I start referring to him as Gary in lieu of his actual name, and another wants to talk at great length about government conspiracies between bands.
Yes, there was a weird crowd in the room for the start of local ‘danger pop’ stalwarts High Diving Ponies. In the back, a group of college-aged girls inexplicably garbed in cocktail dresses began peddling sample shots of a new liquor (which was swill) to the people scattered about the room. On stage, Josh Thomas crooned morosely through wet vocal processing while hitting chords on his powder blue Stratocaster, his hair covering most of his face for the duration of the set. James Capps provided additional guitar effects, frequently pushing up his glasses and leaning down to adjust the pedals at his feet between moments of refrained thrashing. Alheim Amador remained poised behind Capps, standing statuesque save for the movement from his hands to give the necessary pulse through which the much more animated Justin Brooks finds alliance as the drummer. Brooks plays effortlessly behind the kit, offering up technically driven syncopated rhythms while making unintentionally humorous facial expressions in the process.
The set was in part made up of songs from the Ponies’ most recent release, Suspended in Liquid (album opener “Ersatz” has also been a recent set opener), though material across the band’s discography appeared throughout. Thomas has an often employed quiet-loud-quiet vocal technique he has been using since the days of Bodisartha and Spidermums, which he applies to the chorus of many songs in a strained, purposely off-key yelp that is washed over with effects in a conscious salutation to early ’90s grunge and the seminal underground counterculture with which it came. HDP is not a grunge band, just like they are not a shoegaze band, or an indie rock band, though all three of those subgenres have given the quartet the influences by which they define themselves. Although they are still honeymooning on their newest album (released about six weeks ago), the group has never been one for patience — a new album can likely be expected by the time the weather gets to be below the triple digits we are currently experiencing.
Prior to the show, I was puzzled at the billing of a mysterious and presumably local band called Shy Guys. I can appreciate the reference, but hoped there was some kind of confusion as there was already a KC band with a very similar name. At the very least, I hoped that the band would live up to the nerdiness their moniker would suggest. I was relieved and elated upon seeing Konnor Ervin enter through the door to the side of the stage, which confirmed the band performing tonight would in fact be the Shy Boys. The trio recently changed their name from The I’ms, and this would be their first performance using the new name, not to mention only their third or fourth time performing these songs in public under any name. Ervin joins Kyle Rausch (with whom he also plays in The ACB’s) and his brother Collin Rausch, with whom Kyle played in The Abracadabras at the same time Konnor’s Dr. Woo morphed into the first lineup of The ACB’s.
Full disclosure, I’ve been not-so-privately geeking on Shy Boys for more than a few months now, and to be effectively surprised with a performance from them completely made my night. Amid the occasional set troubles (Collin’s vocal volume being the primary issue) the trio placidly soft-rocked their way through a set of charming indie-pop (“Keeps Me On My Toes,” “Justine,” “Bully Fight”) with an ear placed securely in the ’60s, all three contributing to the harmonization of the vocals. The members played musical chairs with their instruments, with Kyle and Konnor frequently trading between drums and bass — it should also be noted that Konnor has only recently had a cast removed from his wrist and forearm. I had the rare occurrence of getting the giddy spine tingles felt only when experiencing something special, and though Kyle told me after their set that they are still trying to find their sound, what ever they are doing sure as hell works.
Omaha quartet Dads closed out the night with thirty minutes of brash, distorted garage-punk fueled by a wurlitzer and the vigor of youth. From what I could tell, almost the entirety of the set consisted of tracks from the band’s lone album, An Evening with Dads. Alek Erickson (bass) and Vince Franco (guitar) traded off vocals during the set, each of them wildly howling their words into the microphones while exerting a constant force of tightly packed powerpunk anthems into two-minute bursts. While Erickson played most of the set with his glasses resting on the tip of his nose, occasionally convulsing in spurts of energy, Franco would retort at his turn by sneering his lips against the mic, locking it in place with his mouth and forcing a mid-pitched bark of the lyrics from his gut. Behind them, a bespectacled Max Larson unassumingly bashed away on his kit, while Alexandra Hotchkiss played a keyboard which rested barely two feet off the ground on top of an amp for the entirety of their time on stage. The band was done before midnight, which is a rarity for the venue.
Hey! Before you go away, you might want to check out the bands that I’ve been ranting about on this page. Check out the streams below.
Lawrence native Jim “Dandy” Martin is the driving force behind the psychedelic electronic music released as Cloud Dog. Though hardly ever absent of any amount of contributors, the aesthetic of the sound and the aboriginal image presented is all the idea of Dandy himself. Just this past weekend, the group played a release show for the new album Realms, and plan on releasing a remix 7″ and cassette later this year.
You can expect to find a review of the album here sometime soon, but in the meantime you can get a sampling through the Bollywood influenced “Temple Step” in its proper music video streaming below.
At some point between his scheduled Friday performance for which he never appeared and Sunday afternoon before KC Psychfest’s third and final night, Brock Potucek was unearthed from a hazy slumber to open the evening as South Bitch Diet. In place of the bedroom lo-fi Potucek records, often imparted with nonsensical spoken word voice-overs, he instead used crudely wired sequencers cast across the carpet on which he sat. Cords gushed like a fountain from his devices, spreading in a tangle in front of the wealth of resources he bore. The Lazy front man produced a meandering array of sounds that amassed over a nearly 20 minute arc, becoming periodically abridged before once again gaining strength. Upon completion, an encore was requested by the meager audience, to which he complied with a shorter, improvisational piece.
Yesterday, I made reference to how just hours before they were set to play, guitarist Jeremiah James chose to depart from Be/Non in pursuit of other musical interests. James is a fickle man, having also been a part of (and subsequently disbanded or moved on from) Elevator Division (in which he used the last name of Gonzales), Lovers in Transit, and Mannequin Skywalker, in addition to performing as a part of the live band for a variety of others. The new project from James is known only as Yuo, and experiments with idiosyncratic electronic programming only transiently similar to a select few the venue hosted over the weekend. Floating background loops were carefully pressed into his sampler, becoming planar with the vivid colors of sound he created through a white Fender bass, Moog synth, and an Alesis MIDI controller.
Distorted against the art installation and screen towering behind Phil Diamond, scenes from a familiar Disney film were projected. From amplifiers placed about the room, the melody from Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” was heard, soaked through with the synth with which he was tinkering. As Scammers, Diamond hunched over his equipment, playing the same measure until looped, then slowly wove through the crowd with a cordless mic. After stoically making two rounds singing a verse of his own creation, Diamond returned to the front where he would walk up to those standing and extend his hand. “Do you trust me?” he would ask, before pulling them out from the mass. The thumping bass, drum machine and inherently upbeat rhythm gave those singled out no excuse but to dance along, and the songs heard will be released on his new album, Magic Carpet Ride.
As Surroundher, Sterling Holman stood in front of the audience for the third time in as many days. Each act in which he performed was more euphoric than the last, with the final being the most aurally impressive of the three. Abstract rhythms and breaks pulsated with an IDM sensibility while Holman was awash in colors complementary to the sounds he engineered. In unison with jazz, electronic-based ebullience, and an unspoken respect for hip hop production, the final performance was hours shorter than I would have preferred. On the night of the performance, Surroundher released an intrepid collection of his first three albums, all available in a beautifully screen-printed LP jacket. Yes, the man has three entire discs worth of what was heard, and I was too foolish to grab one the moment he began tearing down his gear upon completion.
As a composer, Matt Hill has the ability to create some rather chilling portraitures through Umberto‘s obsession with the macabre. With a performing live band, however, he often devises a humorous farce that could leave some unsuspecting attendees perplexed, at the very least. For one night only, Umberto became The Folk Implosion, and surely I can’t be the first one to suggest The FOKL Implosion as the name of their tribute. My ears perked up when I heard the warbly synth, and I had my assumptions the moment I heard the distinct bass line for “Natural One,” but until the rest of the band came in I thought it may have been an homage at best. What resulted was a 25+ minute version of the band’s lone charting single, and the entirety of their slot. Phil Diamond convincingly mimicked Lou Barlow, but he told me after the set that he was hardly familiar with the song.
The final act of the festival was one of only two musicians performing that does not currently reside in the Kansas City or Lawrence region. Bloomington, IN, native Dylan Ettinger finished out a relatively psych-free evening with one final blast of ’80s influenced synth pop. The bespectacled Ettinger stood over a folding table covered in keyboards, synths and other tools with which to modify and skew the sound he created. His approach taken to the subgenre was simplistic at most, but at the end of it all, a mind-melting set of complexity wasn’t really what I or the crowd wanted. What they did want, though, was more saxophone. The set was opened with a sax player standing to Ettinger’s right, but through most of what followed he enthusiastically danced along to the music while still behind his mic stand. A group of people started to yell out “Pump up the sax!” until he finally made another appearance, and it certainly ended the night on a high note.
For the final night of the festival falling on a Sunday, the crowd hadn’t dwindled too badly. After the live music stopped once and for all, people began to congregate in the entry area and on the sidewalks in front of the space. As far as I’m concerned, the weekend was a success. If not in attendance, then in the quality of people I met and the nonstop music I witnessed over the course of three nights.
A final thank you to Leah O’Connor for the wonderful photographs she took at the festival. See the rest of her shots here.
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.
Nestled within the confines of the Strawberry Hill neighborhood in Kansas City, KS, the FOKL Center flourishes in a space marked with little more than the four letters which make its namesake. Formerly the Tienda Latina market, the large display windows that face the street at its corner perch give a view of the precarious intersection at 7th and Central, a crossing which I found out that night is the antithesis of pedestrian friendly. Inside the building, the floors remain tiled with the featureless squares of vinyl that once provided footing for those acquiring their weekly groceries. These days, the floors support the traipsing, dancing, and stomping influenced by frequent art installations and live music performances.
The idea of a music festival in its basest form is daunting to all parties involved. The bands are kept on a tight schedule of loading and unloading heavy amps and road cases filled with who knows how many pedals, wires and gear, perpetually waiting for their brief moment to give what crowd there is little more than a sampling of their work, then tirelessly haul that same equipment back out to their van. The venue and those volunteering to keep things on track are constantly kept on their feet by unexpected malfunctions throughout the course of the night, and deserve commending for keeping their sanity intact through it all. Lastly, the audience themselves are inundated with a variety of musical choices, asking themselves if they should see band A, B, or sometimes C, D, or E.
The first ever Kansas City Psychfest made a good choice in staggering the musical acts so that while one is playing on the ground level, a band is setting up in a second performing area in the basement. In theory, when the first band finishes, the second band begins playing minutes later, providing an almost seamless night of music. There really is no better way to have a dozen artists play in the same building in one evening, but when put in practice the difficult task is given of deciding whose set you should break from to take a piss, get some fresh air, or grab a bite to eat.
The evening of music was kicked off at 7:00 with Thee Devotion performing upstairs. The local five-piece with an affinity for fuzzed-out ’60s and ’70s funk (with a nod toward The Sonics), white pants, frilled shirts, and platforms just released a new record and played some of it that evening. Davin Watne spent half the set with a pastel-colored guitar around his shoulder, and the other half peacocking around his performing area, all while giving a surprisingly on-point falsetto, wherein the stories were about ladies, sexiness, and other things one would expect from the kind of music they play. Such a performance was ultimately lost on a small, motionless crowd that wasn’t yet prepared for that kind of energy.
The duo that followed contrasted as much with the previous act as the dark basement from which the sounds emitted did with the luminosity of the light sculpture in the room above. Delaney Moore and Sterling Holman performed a set of improvisational drone as Twofaced, each settled adjacent from each other in the corner of the room. Ropes of intertwining red and blue light lay at their feet, providing the only other glimmer in the room barring the projector immersing the corner in fragmented images and video displays. The forms dancing on the walls were not so much influenced by the sounds coming from Holman’s guitar and Moore’s table of gadgets, but the aimless movements created a haphazard kinship with the wandering intonation they produced. The project has recorded together, but at this time none of it has been made public.
Upstairs, Brandon Knocke stood alone behind a case piled high with keyed instruments, eyes ceaselessly darting from one piece to another while everything above his waist instinctively bobbed in rhythm with the synth-heavy electronic music he creates as Discoverer. The tracks Knocke displayed began as sharp, bare-boned beats with a few sequencer knob turns, then were gradually piled upon until the initial raw beat was only an undercurrent to often soaring panoramas of groove conscious streaks that gnawed at a vintage aesthetic. Discoverer’s last output was 2010′s Build a Base, but a brand new album is expected to be released later this year. Knocke can also be seen and heard as one half of Parts of Speech, whose approach to ’80s centric synth pop is strewn with sleazy fuzz and overdubs.
Among the three musicians that make up the Jorge Arana Trio exists decades of experience in crafting fast-paced compositions with erratic time signatures. As a founding member of Pixel Panda, Arana is no stranger to the precision required in constant time changes, though with the Trio he is able to venture into avant-garde jazz experimentation. Most songs may feature a calculated mashing of keys or a meticulously plucked guitar, backed with bass and drums played with accuracy just as severe. Violinist Chaski Zapata joined mid-set to further accentuate the sheer veracity one can achieve through adherence to training. Final side note: it’s a bit odd that Jorge would play immediately after Discoverer, as Trio drummer Josh Enyart played with Knocke in the band Latin, which also contained Evan from Minden, and John from Sundiver, but I digress.
It was around 9:00 when my body reminded me I was going on over eight hours with nothing but an afternoon espresso as fuel, recently ingested beer trying to start a cage match in my stomach notwithstanding. As I mentioned above, the single downfall of nonstop live music is making the decision to skip out on a band to nourish oneself. By no fault of their own, Restless Breed ended up being that band, though had my hands not been shaking I undoubtedly would have enjoyed their set. In the few minutes for which I was able to stick around, I was enthralled by a trio versed in the kind of traditional psychedelic rock made popular by Vangelis years before his “Chariots of Fire” days. Under layers of woozy, synthesized programming by Tom Romero was a straightforward style displaying a fundamental example of exemplary songwriting.
After grabbing some questionable street tacos from a little place down the road and nearly getting hit by a car (full disclosure: it was my fault) I walked back into the basement with but a single thought in my mind. I hate smoke machines. Better yet… I abhor them, I loathe them, I unequivocally revile their very existence. As much as I wanted to stay in the room while Yam played, I got pushed out by a rapidly forming sinus headache and watched from afar. It was already proven earlier in the evening, but one need not encompass all things psychedelic in order to be welcomed into the fold of artists calling the venue home over the next few nights. While the trio displayed an unmistakable talent with composition synchronicity, an assumption of Will Christie’s influences would better lie on someone else, though their roots are assuredly planted in rhythmic eccentricity.
At the risk of sounding as though I’m giving one of the evening’s bands a bad review, Box the Compass played an overall adequate set of unmemorable rock needlessly pushing an expansion of time and space neither remarkable nor necessary. I understand that may sound overly critical, but had this band’s position been switched with Thee Devotion, the floor would have been a mess of drunken bohemians shaking their asses instead of a littered few with barely a head nodding along anywhere in the room. I only have this single, short set by which to judge the quartet, but the addition of vocals did not save them from the doom of sounding like anything more than a culture hungry band in any number of rock bars across the city. Furthermore, I can find no online presence of the group to seek out the possibility of giving them the second chance they deserve.
Following a trip down the wooden stairs to the basement, I encountered something very surprising. It wasn’t what I was hearing, though David Williams’ Sounding the Deep is wholly transcendental. I was taken aback by what I was not hearing. The exhaustive chatter of audience members during a subdued performance was nowhere to be found. In a cobweb-ridden basement with leaking pipes and spray painted walls I had found respite, and a near metaphysical experience with music that relied as much on the concrete walls for amplification as it did the delicately drifting hands that wrought the sounds from a guitar. The atmosphere was made further cerebral with padded drumsticks at times tapping a snare and gong, and an upright bass being slowly grazed with the bow of a man who looked as though he could crush me with his bare hands.
One of the many highlights of the evening was the fantastic Monta At Odds. Delaney and Dedric Moore have nurtured the project for the better part of a decade and continually expand their sonic horizons by adding or removing elements of jazz, funk, soul, dub, and an audible penchant for combing through endless boxes of long forgotten records. Depending on how the light catches them, they could be paying tribute in their own way to Ennio Morricone, or forging their own path through expansive creations that twist and turn through moods like a stereophonic bipolar. I’m unfortunately not familiar with the extent of their discography, but every note of their performance was a thrill, and I look forward to my next chance of seeing them.
Brock Potucek was nowhere to be found, so a planned performance from South Bitch Diet was replaced by the only half hour in the evening without any kind of music. In his absence, the next band to perform was Lawrence performance art weirdos Metatone. The group is headed up by J Ashley Miller, a local artist and contributing member of the prolific SSION, as well as Pewep in the Formats, and are just as quirky as anything else he has been involved in. Behind the elevated pitch of Miller’s voice and the syncopated plucking of his guitar was a group of musicians (including Mark Smeltzer playing a homemade, one-stringed fiddle) making the experience uniquely odd, and entirely undefinable in the placement of their sound. Metatone was equal parts indie pop, calypso, and folk, the result of which had the floor visibly bowing with each jump of the crowd in reaction to their animated set.
After spending the time that South Bitch Diet would have been playing making programming changes on a variety of sequencers, CVLTS began a droning set that was effectively cut short due to bass amp troubles. During their appearance, Josh Thomas remained kneeling on the rug that covered the corner of the basement, adjusting ambient tape loops and knobs to further heighten the intensity of the sound scape. Using his guitar through a floor full of pedals, Thomas provided a despondent tension that worked in opposition to the sensations released from the tapes. Nearby, Gaurav Bashyakarla had pushed two benches together to form a makeshift stand for his equipment, eliciting a piercing buzz through the air that idly glided until the eventual amplifier issues began the countdown to the piece finishing. I sat on the ground in front of Thomas, and once the sounds faded into a close, he looked up and shrugged, saying “That’s it.”
The final band to perform that night was the esteemed Mr. Marco’s V7, a group whose talent and vitality have made the band (and members) mainstays in the KC music scene for longer than I care to count. Marco Pascolini’s contributions to local music (Expassionates) are vast, but so are bassist Johnny Hamil’s (Pamper the Madman), and drummer Kent Burnham (many jazz, zydeco and rock bands), but all are outshined by the force of nature that is Mike Stover (Cher UK). Throughout the set, Stover would trade back and forth among a theremin, a mandolin, and a lap steel guitar as necessary, but the first two were the most prevalent. V7 is another band that defies definition, and anything you could label them as wouldn’t do justice to the extent that their sound reaches, though there were a few mentions of Captain Beefheart during their set. I was fighting sleep by the time they closed the night at nearly 2:00, but I’m very thankful I stuck it out to see the impossibly fast “Sweet 5,” followed by a bossa nova set closer.
Huge thanks to Leah O’Connor for stepping in and taking some amazing pictures. Check out the rest of her shots from the evening here.