Monday, August 10, 2009

Pitch Music Showcase Roundup: McCoy's, mostly

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 10:35 AM

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.

Click on the Bear Fighters for showcase slide show.
  • Click on the Bear Fighters for showcase slide show.

The night kicked off right on time with Country/Bluegrass nominees the Kansas City Bear Fighters at 8 p.m. The trio crammed onto the stage with a banjo, guitar, upright bass and lead singer Quinn McCue, who exhibits one of the most surprising body size to voice ratios in the city. At well over six feet tall with a broad chest and shoulders, McCue is one of the most imposing vegetarians I've ever met, in spite of his easy smile. (I once got mugged while in the company of his sister and then-fiance -- I'm convinced if he'd been there, the thugs wouldn't have struck.) However, something happens when McCue takes the mic. Instead of the bass or baritone you'd expect from a man of his stature -- and who doesn't sound a bit girly when speaking -- McCue sings in a sunny falsetto that you might think was coming from a woman if you weren't staring at him. 

This unexpected voice makes the Bear Fighters' acoustic front-porch songs with horror-movie themes all the more entertaining. "Is it

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.

Click on Barclay for showcase slide show.
  • Click on Barclay for showcase slide show.

The next act to come on was Barclay Martin, whom The Pitch

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

people overflowing into the sides of the bar for Softee and Cowboy Indian Bear.

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.

Midnight's band, the Irietions,

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,

ya'll! Hammerlord!

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.

Click on Adam Lee for slide show.
  • Click on Adam Lee for slide show.

Although with my emcee responsibilities, I didn't really have a choice, I'm glad I came back. Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company plays

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. 

After five hours of music, I decided to stop taking notes, though, and just bob my head and drink whiskey.

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