For most folks, the Pitch Music Showcase is kinda like a baby South by Southwest. You bounce around from bar to bar all night, trying to cram in as many musical acts as possible, and maybe taking advantage of the bit of free booze offered at the sponsor tent. The night is heady and frenetic. But that's never been my experience. As a show of support to the cause and my employer, I always volunteer to be the emcee at one venue all night. This year, I spent virtually my entire evening at McCoy's.
too early for a song about killing zombies?" McCue asked the crowd
about halfway into the set. "We've got four of 'em!" Hovering behind
the stage-area tables during most of the set, I noticed many a first
time Bear Fighter listener beaming as McCue went on about undead world
domination and mid-apocalypse love-making. And although an early
Showcase performance slot can be unforgiving, the band rallied a
sizable crowd of dancing supporters. I joined for the final two songs,
which included a bluegrassy, tongue-in-cheek ode to J-E-S-U-S.
deemed Sexiest Musician in its 2008 Best Of issue. He's nominated among the singer-songwriters in this year's Pitch Music Awards, but he
performed with various members of his ensemble. The floor was pretty
empty as the long-haired Martin strummed his acoustic guitar and
crooned to the accompaniment of conga drums. Martin's folksy pop songs
reflect a vague world music vibe and should totally be on the checkout
shelf at Starbucks. Unfortunately, the turnout was affected by the
early set time, and maybe the fact that frequent Martin-collaborator
Mark Lowrey (Best Jazz Solo Artist nominee) was performing around the
same time outside. But those who did catch Martin and co. were in for a
real treat at the end. The rollicking song "Tumbling Down" featured a
jazzy bassline, lots of "bah bah bahs," guest vocals by singer Shay
Estes and a percussive breakdown that had the whole ensemble stomping
and slapping and Martin blowing into a whistle. Whew!
next two bands to play at McCoy's were obviously the venue's most
anticipated acts of the night. The whole stage area filled up, with
I overheard a few male murmurs about the all-female Softee being soft
on the eyes. And that's true, but it's not the whole truth. I've never
seen Softee play to a small, unenthused audience, and it's because the
band makes the catchiest pop with just a hint of a retro vibe. Some
girl in the crowd described it as "California surf pop," and I think
that's about right. The only thing I wrote
down about Cowboy Indian Bear are the words "V necks and ambience." I'd
never listened to the band before, but the amount of sound the three
guys produced amazed me. I can't wait to listen to a record.
caused a total atmospheric shift. Hipsters flooded out of the building
and were replaced (although not in the same volume) by dreadlocked
hippies, who instigated a dance party with the band's first strains. I
was intrigued but ready for a change of scenery, so I slipped out of
McCoy's ever so briefly and headed for the Beaumont Club, because clubs editor Berry Anderson had texted the following missive: "Holy fuck,
Come quick!" I only caught about two songs but the image and sound of
Hammerlord singer Stevie Cruz wailing into the mic amidst a crushing
wall of metal is burned into my brain.
old school country music like I've never seen in Kansas City. The
sharp-dressed young duo evokes cowboys like the original Hank Williams
with their slicked-back hair, super tight pants and classic barroom
twang. The only evidence that these guys are of the 21st century is the
sag in Lee's ears where he must have once had spacer piercings. When
low-voiced Lee broke a string, I guiltily seized the opportunity to
sneak back to the Beaumont, where I'd agreed to meet friends following
my emcee duties and Pet Comfort was gearing up to play.