All of a sudden, you can't swing an underemployed drummer in this town without walloping a music festival. In April, the first annual indie-band-centric Middle of the Map Fest was held. This Friday and Saturday, the locally organized but nationally minded Kanrocksas Music and Camping Festival comes to the Kansas Speedway, bringing with it the likes of Eminem, Muse, the Black Keys and the Flaming Lips. And next week, you can hear Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp and Neil Young at Livestrong Sporting Park, where Farm Aid has elected to hold its 2011 gathering.
Fine fests, all of them. But none offers the diverse local breadth of The Pitch Music Showcase, now in its 10th year. By wandering down to Westport and paying a measly six bucks, you're allowed to stroll from venue to venue and feast upon a hearty buffet of hip-hop, rock, country, electronic, jazz, and a number of other genres that contain hyphens. It's like going to Shoney's. Or, no, it's like eating at a buffet at Shoney's if the food were good. Wait. Is Shoney's still in business? I'm realizing now that it's been a long time since I've seen a Shoney's.
You know what? Disregard the Shoney's analogy. Here is another fact about this year's Showcase: We've added RecordBar to our roster of venues, and because it's a little hike from the Riot Room-Foundry-McCoy's hub, we've got the KC Trolley traveling back and forth between the two spots all night. The Pitch: Strongly opposed to unnecessary, time-consuming walking if it means missing dynamic local, live music performances.
Following is info about the bands playing the Showcase. We contacted every nominated act, and those that responded by deadline are quoted here. Read it, listen to the acts' Bandcamp pages, make a little itinerary for the evening if you so desire, and then show up August 4, ready to have a ball.
The Grisly Hand
What's good? "We are very close to finishing recording some new tracks. We are planning to release one or two 45s with double A-sides. Double the fun! We're also playing Livestrong Sporting Park in September. ¡Ole!"
What do you think you sound like? "I think we're comfortable with Americana. We also enjoy the country-soul label. We definitely have a little soul."
Anything else? "After a couple drinks, we decided to buy a saw and start our own sawmill."
What's good? Released self-titled EP in December 2010. Released singles for "Forest Chorus" and "Pocket Song" in spring 2011. Played Wakarusa Festival earlier this summer.
What do you think you sound like? "A six-piece rock band with elements of folk and pop."
Anything else? "We're not going to do a free-form jazz exploration in front of a festival crowd."
At The Pitch Sponsor Lot: THE COLUMNS
Bill Sundahl has been a staple of the local scene for years now, having played with popular acts like It's Over and the Afterparty. He's also a mover and shaker, organizing the recurring vaudeville variety show the Donkey Show and putting together the annual Crossroads Music Fest. These days, his primary music outlet is the Columns, an Americana act with a vibrant brass section.
The Pitch: What's new with the Columns?
Sundahl: Oh, just changing horn players like underwear. Writing some new music. Gonna do some recording toward the end of the year as soon as I get some of these new songs arranged. We've been rearranging some of our older stuff to make it more dance-y and uptempo. It'll be more horn-driven.
Who will be playing horns at the Showcase, then?
Nick Howell will be playing with us at the Showcase, but Josh Williams is the new horn guy. They'll both be there, actually. Nick's busy with a lot of other bands, so Josh is stepping in.
How else is the new material different?
It's written more with the listener in mind than, I guess, my own self-image. [Laughs.] I tend to write more autobiographical lyrics, but I've been working the last year or two to get away from that, have it be more stories and in-general topics that don't have anything to do with me. I think if you get too personal with your lyrics, fewer people can relate to it. So the goal is to write music you can dance to while enjoying the story. Tell tales, dance, have fun.
Still with a rootsiness to the sound, though.
Yeah. Guitar, bass, drums are still the core of the band. We do the songwriting and arranging, and then we bring in the horn guys whenever we can. Usually, I'll have a horn line written, and then they come in and make it better.
When's Crossroads Music Fest this year?
September 10. We were talking about doing a two-day fest this year, but we're sticking with one day for now.
What acts are you excited about locally these days?
Well, I love the Grisly Hand. Always. And then I've been hearing a lot of good things about this band Quiet Corral. Haven't seen 'em yet, but I'm excited to.
Also nominated: Oriole Post, Sons of Great Dane
Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company
What's good? "Our most recent album, When the Spirits Move Me, came out last fall. We've also recently been playing with Marty Smeller and Ryan Land of the Blue Boot Heelers on steel guitar and drums. That's been a blast!"
What do you think you sound like? "Real-live county music. We play authentic, whiskey-soaked, two-steppin' honky-tonk. If you think you don't like country music, it's probably because you've never heard real country music. Come out to a show, and if we can't get you out on the dance floor, I'll buy you a drink."
What's good? "We're releasing our Live at Liberty Hall DVD next month with Mudstomp Records. Also been doing some Mudstomp showcases all over the Midwest this summer."
What do you think you sound like? "High-energy bluegrass. Or punk meets bluegrass. Psychobilly, trash grass, cowpunk."
Anything else? "We're trying to put an end to the stigma that bluegrass is only for old people or hippy bastards. It's for everyone who can drink and drug and party like a bitch!"
What's good? "Just released a new album, The Wilders (our 10th), on Free Dirt Records in June. We've done two U.K. tours already this year. Did the Shetland Folk Festival (five days of all-night shows and after-hours jamming) and the Bath International Music Festival. Went throughout Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Leaving for a Northwest tour in early August, including appearances at Pickathon and Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival."
What do you think you sound like? "The Wilders sound like they've been playing together a long time, but still edgy and more than just country or Americana or bluegrass."
What's good? "Just got home from a two-month tour in Europe and a two-week tour in Colorado. We've got six CDs out on Squirrel Records, the latest being Homemade Haircut."
What do you think you sound like? "Katie Euliss on upright bass, vocals, piano and banjo, and Mike West on guitar, banjo, mandolin and vocals. Tough, funny, high-octane songs about interstates, pinball arcades and true love."
Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders
What's good? "We play four or five nights a week around town. We're probably one of the more active bands in the city. We're working on our third album. It'll be spring before I get the damn thing mastered and finished. I'm writing the last couple songs, but about half the album's recorded."
What do you think you sound like? "It depends on the venue. Probably like Waylon Jennings and Gregg Allman eating jambalaya."
Mary Bridget Davies
What's good? "We've been hitting the blues-festival circuit pretty hard this summer and been able to main-stage with national acts at the Blues From the Top Festival in Winter Park, Colorado, and the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Currently recording our debut album at West End Studio with engineer Brendan McReynolds and with the expert help of the Good Foot's Tim Braun. Expecting a release in early fall."
What do you think you sound like? "One hell of a good soulful time."
What's good? "Just released my solo debut record, Runaway, on Germany's Ruf Records. I've been touring with a group called Girls and Guitars, which consists of myself; Cassie Taylor from Boulder, Colorado; and Dani Wilde from the U.K. Touring Europe, North America and Australia later this year."
What do you think you sound like? "Bluesy but with a swampier, rockin' edge."
Excited about any particular acts at the Showcase? "All the nominated blues bands. And I'm excited about all the young bands coming up in Kansas City. We have a lot of young kids right now who are starting to play the blues. I think it's important for that to be recognized and supported."
What's good? "We've been playing together 13 years this September. Our fifth and latest CD, Hold on to Me, has been out for about 10 months. It was recently No. 1 in Missouri and No. 6 in the United States on roots-radio charts. Look for our next release this fall, recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis."
What do you think you sound like? "Timeless — swinging jump blues in the Kansas City tradition, mixing in some New Orleans, Memphis and early jazz influences. Our original material keeps the music moving forward and relevant while also honoring our musical heritage. It sounds like a party you want to be right in the middle of."
Also nominated: Levee Town
What's good? "Just had a tune drop on Jon Kwest's Moombahton vs UK Hardcore compilation. Forthcoming track on Heartbreak's second Moombahsoul compilation. Always cranking out edits and remixes. The biggest thing I've been investing time and effort into is a big-time moombahton monthly at Luna on the last Friday of every month. It kicks off August 26 with Dave Nada, the Moombah don, as our special guest."
What do you think you sound like? "Hopefully, the future. I like to sound versatile more than anything."
Anything else? "Pretty sure you will keep seeing me grinding for KC as long as I can keep breathing."
What's good? "Lumberjack Soul LP is out now. Currently on tour in Germany and Austria, where I am known for my singing."
Sheppa of Nomathmatics
What's good? "Three mixtapes and two new remixes will be released before August 14. I'm involved in two monthly parties: Beauty Magic, which consists of a beauty bar, cotton candy and a J-rave environment, making this party always crazy fun; and BODY2BODY, my moombahton/discoton party."
What do you think you sound like? "A combination of moombahton, blind disco, tropical bass and Papa Smurf."
Anything else? "Rumor has it that Sheppa of Nomathmatics will be part of Oprah's Favorite Things this year!"
What's good? "Recently dropped a long-awaited monster hit with MC Zulu called "Badman Bounce." Also, recently dropped the third installment of my Global Bounce mix series, which you can find on my SoundCloud page. Watch out for Trimangle, a new group consisting of myself and the homies from Barbaric Merits."
What do you think you sound like? "An eclectic Persian conga riddim made from spare robot parts, modulated through my sub-bass atom smasher. Oh, and it's danceable."
Inside at the Foundry: MORRI$
One of the main dudes behind Lawrence party collective Team Bear Club, Phil Canty (also known as Morri$) is a consistent DJ presence locally. He also makes his own beats and is working on a record with Greg Enemy. But while the music Canty personally creates is dreamy and ethereal, he spins less heady music behind the decks: Waka Flocka Flame, Lil B, Spice Girls. In the next month, you can catch him at the Eighth Street Tap Room, Gusto Lounge and the Union of Westport.
The Pitch: How long have you been doing what you've been doing?
Canty: Bear Club started in 2008, and we've been building since. I started DJing really hard around 2008, 2009. I'd always been DJing before, but not nearly as often or as focused. I've been making beats for about six years.
What are some sounds you've been feeling lately?
I've been working to add some more juke influences. I went to New Orleans a couple weeks ago, and apparently they're doing this fusion of yacht rock, which is undoubtedly the whitest music, like Michael McDonald, mixed with bounce music, which is just gutter-ass, hood-ass New Orleans music. It's really crazy. But when I heard that, it fucked me up, so I guess we're going to try to use some of those influences. At least bounce. I mean, I love yacht rock, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to put that into my sound.
What's new with Team Bear Club? Talk about the way you approach those parties.
The vibe of Bear Club parties is hedonistic. And I think people connect with us on this level where we don't play anything we play for pretension. I happen to really enjoy a lot of pop music, so we do a lot of that. So I think the combination of that, along with all of our personalities, really lends itself to people being a bit more free than they are at other parties. I'll tell you this much: When people hear the combination of music we play, they know what to do. There's never that moment where people are standing around and they're not really sure how to dance to the music. People are bent the fuck over, sweating, taking their clothes off — doing what they should be doing almost immediately.
Editor's note: At press time, Morri$ had canceled his Foundry show. He remains a nominated act.
Also nominated: Ataxic
What's good? "We released a five-song EP on January 1, 2011, called Fake Figures. It can be downloaded for free at Bandcamp. We're planning another five- or six-song EP this fall."
What do you think you sound like? "A blend of indie and electro. Darker musical tones blended with hopeful lyrics. We're kind of morphing the sound again. We've added a live drummer to the band. We hope to be like a Radiohead-type band, meaning that we blend the electronic sounds with acoustic sounds in a way that's unique. We hope to be more daring, and experiment with new sounds and spaces on the next recording."
What's good? "Got a new EP coming out in September called Signs and Wonders, which will sound like a cat scratching the back of a water buffalo while carrying a turnip falling into the sun. Also working on getting a band together to make things a little wilder."
What do you think you sound like? "The music you'll hear while flying your custom Hoverbike into the light at the end of the tunnel."
What's good? "Sport, my fuzzy summertime debut LP, was released via the Record Machine in June, and it's awesome. Motorboater is in the works of becoming a full-time performance team with drum machinists, drummers, drummees and projectiles. If you caught the LP-release party at the Union, you know what I'm talkin' about."
What do you think you sound like? "A muggy night out in the greenest park with your cute girlfriend and some ice-cold beverages."
Saharan Gazelle Boy
What's good? "I will be releasing a full-length album at some point this fall, for sure. I will be collaborating with a ton of KC music folks for the new album."
What do you think you sound like? "Saharan Gazelle Boy sounds like what you remember hearing but not what you actually heard. It's very closed — the music was written in a cramped, hot bedroom during one of the happiest times in my life. All of it exists in that place and nowhere else."
What's good? Full-length Etc. was released in May, followed by a two-week tour of the East Coast and Canada. The band also shot a live, one-take music video outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with Love Drunk Studio.
What do you think you sound like? "The best thing you've ever heard mixed with the worst thing you've ever heard."
Anything else? "We may not win the award, but we are emerging and excited for the future. And we're playing the Riot Room the day after the awards ceremony."
Root and Stem
What's good? "Our first full-length is coming out at the end of August, recorded at the studio at 24th Street and Southwest Boulevard. No tours booked yet, but we play around Kansas City all the time — RecordBar, the Beaumont and the Riot Room."
What do you think you sound like? "Americana roots rock."
The Latenight Callers
What's good? "We've released a six-song EP and are currently recording a second six-song EP to be released in the fall, possibly on vinyl. We recently collaborated with Tony Ladesich on a music video that was just released and can be found on our website, thelatenightcallers.com. Heading out to San Francisco in January for the Film Noir Foundation's Noir City festival."
What do you think you sound like? "We've been called 'the house band at David Lynch's pool party' and 'noir a go-go.' Basically, imagine Ella Fitzgerald singing for Massive Attack in a black-and-white detective movie."
Vi Tran Band
What's good? "Debuted with Goodbye, Summer EP this past spring and will release a full-length album, American Heroine, in late 2011 or early 2012, followed by its full-length companion piece, The Butcher's Son. Band members Vi, Katie [Gilchrist], Sean [Hogge] and Madison [DeCamp] host a weekly cover-song chill session, every Thursday at Czar."
What do you think you sound like? "Melodic pop, folk, rock, romance, trade paperbacks, wheat fields, sea salt. Pacific Americana."
What's good? " 'Swift Way On' 7-inch single. 'Get Clean' 7-inch split with Soft Reeds. Upcoming East Coast tour with Soft Reeds."
What do you think you sound like? "Smooth, eccentric jamz."
Anything else? "We are for sale."
What's good? "Released Dissonant Sea in February. Our final show as Auternus is August 12 with Grandfather, Maps for Travelers and In the Grove, at Czar."
Editor's Note: :(
What do you think you sound like? "An instrumental/ambient band that mixes layered textures with dense distorted passages."
Any last words? "We've had a great run over the last couple years, but it's time to move on to other things. We feel like we've accomplished a lot with the support of our friends and fans, and can't think of a more fitting end than to be nominated for a Pitch award. We are all very honored."
What's good? "Twelve-inch, full-length Realiser coming out in mid-August on Amdiscs, and a 7-inch, short-run, lathe-cut vinyl, split with EarthMasters, out in August. We're leaving for Europe in a week for three weeks. We're playing at Goldrush festival in Denver on September 16."
What do you think you sound like? "Minimal synth, spectral forests, fractal neverlands, hypnotic psychedelia, opiate dreams."
Anything else? "CVLTS is pronounced 'cults.' "
Monta at Odds
What's good? "Released Unsuspecting on Upstairs Recordings in June and have a live EP scheduled for release at the end of August as a free download. Currently creating two compositions to accompany Barry Anderson's new visual installation pieces for a showing in Los Angeles in July."
What do you think you sound like? "Psychedelic soul, including a blend of dub, space rock, electronica and '60s cinema. Our live show has been described as a visual and aural head trip laced with an animal urge to freak out. We use a jazz approach to reinterpret our songs so that we capture the core of it, but let the details run different courses each time."
What's good? "Most recent releases are a 7-inch called Freeze! on Not Not Fun and a cassette called Welcome to the Chill Zone on Solid Melts. Also have a 12-inch one-side record called Final Exit coming out soon. Recently toured in Europe."
What do you think you sound like? "Electro-satanic."
What's good? "We just released our first full-length album, Pizza Power. We recorded it at our house, which is also called Pizza Power."
What do you think you sound like? "A band of lost boys that has managed to turn pizza into music with a psychedelic twister of experimental pop incorporating three-part vocal harmonies, Beach Boys on acid, tribal drumbeats, alien hovercrafts, garage-rock leftovers, drone wizardry, Motown wannabes, the-Beatles-are-our-grandfathers, stuffed-animal birthday parties, church of malt liquor kids, colored light show, kaleidoscopic no-nos."
What's good? "Working with Lawrence producer Johnny Quest on our Lonely Hearts Club project. We have an EP coming out in August. My other group, Three the Hard Way — myself, Jo Cool, JL (of B.Hood) and J.P. the City Native — also has an EP coming out, Sofa King Awesome."
What do you think you sound like? "I think my music is just about having fun and enjoying life. We only get one, so we gotta live it up as much as humanly possible. I think my music reflects that."
Editor's Note: At last year's Showcase, Newman had the best rap diss of the night — it was something to the effect of "you're just mad you still work at Minsky's."
What's good? Released album Ron DMC earlier this year.
What do you think you sound like? "Hip-hop getting it on with insanity at Motel 6 at 4 a.m. Just a few trillion neurons trying to make music in my head all day."
Who are you excited for at the Showcase? "Stik Figa, mayne."
Editor's Note: The Pitch selected "Caked Up," a Stik Figa remix featuring Ron Ron, for Best Song in the 2009 Best Of issue.
What's good? "Releasing a project, Crown and Coke, with my friend and KC producer D/Will on August 16. My solo full-length, Figa of Speech, will be out early next year, hopefully. Been consistently working with D/Will, in addition to Oddisee, Greg Enemy and Michael 'Seven' Summers."
What do you think you sound like? "I wouldn't describe my sounds. I like to leave that up to the listeners. However it make you feel is good to me. I make music simply because I can't afford a therapist."
What's good? "I just released my newest album, The Fountain of Youth. It's my most danceable album to date. Put your dancing shoes on! As far as collaborations go, Mac Lethal and I have been trying to get our schedules to align. I also have a band called the Phantastics. There's 10 members."
What do you think you sound like? "Soul-driven electronic rap. Intelligent lyrics with avant-garde influences and deliveries. As far as comparisons go, people have said my music is a combination of Andre 3000, Deadmau5, NERD, Tech N9ne and Lupe Fiasco."
Outside at the Riot Room: REACH
Few local hip-hop figures are as respected and established as Stacy Smith, aka Reach. His raps are positive and socially conscious, and he eschews flavor-of-the-week beat trends, hewing closely to a refined sound that draws from jazz, soul and R&B. The Pen Pusha Mixtape, released earlier this year, is another album of smooth but powerful hip-hop from a man who's obviously in the game for all the right reasons.
The Pitch: What's new in your world?
Reach: My next project will either be the live album I recorded at RecordBar in April 2010 or the new stuff I'm recording with a producer out of New York named Marco Polo. I'd say he's one of the bigger underground producers in the country. I'll have a song on his newest compilation production album; right now, it's looking like I'll be alongside guys like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Large Professor on that.
You recording here or there? What's the new material sound like?
Recording here, in a studio called Live Dreams that's over off 85th and Wornall. The new stuff definitely bears some resemblance to what I've done in the past, but Marco Polo's beats have a particular flavor to them. It's mostly boom-bap type stuff, but very dynamically put together.
You also perform frequently with [Afrobeat/funk act and fellow PMA nominee] Diverse. How do you view your role when working with that group?
I think it's like being another part of the band. I look at my voice as an instrument. It's kind of like being a soloist. My voice is just another horn or something. It's all about giving more energy to the music.
Who are you looking to catch at the Showcase?
I'm excited about seeing Dutch Newman with a live band, which will include some of the cats I've been playing with lately, like Reggie B and Johnny Quest. I like the combination of DJ elements with a live band. And then I want to see Ataxic at the Foundry.
Ataxic will be your DJ, too, right?
Right, just me and Ataxic. He's been my only official DJ since I started. We haven't done too much the past year because I've been doing more live stuff. But he's one of my best friends, so when we get the opportunity, we like to play together.
Fourth of July
What's good? "Working on a new full-length album. Lots of upcoming local shows, hopefully touring when the album is done."
Who's in the band these days? "Brendan 'Stylish Ways' Costello, Brian 'Bronco' Costello, Brendan 'The Tangerine Man' Hangauer, Patrick 'Poopy' Hangauer. We are two sets of brothers."
What do you think you sound like? "We sound like what it feels like to be alive right now."
What's good? "We're working on a new EP that will be released in the fall. The next thing we have coming up is a few showcases at the CMJ Festival in New York City in October."
What do you think you sound like? "Unthinkably extreme professionalism."
Anything else? "We're shockingly professional."
Thee Water MoccaSins
What's good? "We started this band as a bet, a challenge to make up a band and a set's worth of songs in four days. Nearly two years later, we've managed to hone those semi-improvisations into a full set of some really fun and eclectic psychedelic dance-pop songs. Currently in the studio with Chris Cosgrove — we can't wait to share the recording with you all."
What do you think you sound like? "We call it fractal pop."
What's good? "We are getting ready to release a mixtape of sorts featuring B-sides, collaborations and alternate-language versions of our record in August. We've hit the road pretty hard the last few months — I think we did about 40 dates. Right now, we're organizing some international stuff that should be fun."
What do you think you sound like? "I'm not sure how to describe what we sound like, but I know what I'm trying to accomplish. I'm trying to steal the most genuine Afro rhythms from Latin America and write interesting songs based on that foundation."
Also nominated: Heroes and Villains
Barclay Martin Jazz Ensemble
What's good? "Our latest release is called Pools That Swell With the Rain, released last September. I'm writing for the next record right now, but in the meantime, there's the release of the feature-length documentary film Rise and Dream, for which I wrote the soundtrack."
What do you think you sound like? "A little pop, some folk, a bit of world music, and just enough improvisational elements to remind you of jazz."
What's good? "Working on a jazz project to be recorded in Paris and another big non-jazz project with local Kansas City musicians. We're doing another 'Diverse Plays Michael Jackson' on October 28 at RecordBar, with the same lineup we had in April."
What do you think you sound like? "Original jazz music influenced by a mix of styles, including hip-hop, R&B, funk and gospel."
Anything else? "We're excited about Reach's nomination because he is an artist we work closely with."
Hearts of Darkness
What's good? "We're very close to finishing a second recording. No title yet. Recent shows include opening for Huey Lewis and Snoop Dogg."
What do you think you sound like? "If heaven had an anthem."
Anything else? "Not a lefty in the bunch."
Also nominated: The People's Liberation Big Band
JAZZ SOLO ARTIST
What's good? "My last release was The Gates BBQ Suite, which went to No. 4 on the national jazz airplay chart last year. I'm currently working on music for the grand opening of the Kauffman Performing Arts Center on September 17. I'll also be performing The Gates BBQ Suite there on September 28 with the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Band."
What do you think you sound like? "Fresh swing. When you come to hear us, we will wash away the dust of everyday life from you."
What's good? "Working on a jazz project to be recorded in Paris and another big non-jazz project with local Kansas City musicians. We're doing another 'Diverse Plays Michael Jackson' on October 28 at RecordBar, with the same lineup we had in April. [Diverse is the jazz act in which Mehari plays trumpet, with Ryan Lee (drums) and Ben Leifer (bass).]
What do you think you sound like? "Original jazz music influenced by a mix of styles, including hip-hop, R&B, funk and gospel."
What's good? "Released my first solo CD, Mark Lowrey — Live at Jardine's, in November 2010. I've played well over 300 shows this year, most frequently at Jardine's, the Phoenix, Café Trio and Sullivan's. In May, I did 'Mark Lowrey vs. Hip Hop III," the final in a series of shows experimenting with free jazz and freestyle hip-hop."
What do you think you sound like? "I like variety. My heart is in jazz music, but I enjoy playing a wide variety of styles and sounds."
Also nominated: Mark Southerland
At the Left Hand of God
What's good? "Currently recording our second release. Looking forward to Hammerween II, which is going to be one of the biggest metal shows of the year."
What do you think you sound like? "Our music is kind of an amalgam of all different types of metal. It's somewhat technical but still manages to attract the average listener with catchy choruses and groovy breakdowns. The song structures range from simpler verse-chorus styles to the more progressive I-will-repeat-nothing style. Our main focus as a band is to write good music that we all like and love to play."
Faster Than Hell
What's good? "We released a record online this year, but there's no physical album yet. People can download it on ReverbNation. We're planning a CD and video release for it in September, we hope. Gas prices are too high right now, so we want to work on stuff, get the CD done, then hopefully gas prices get better and we can tour. There have been a few Internet radio stations that have picked us up, and we're selling in Australia and New Zealand. We'd like to boost those sales and get a tour out there."
What do you think you sound like? "We've taken our influence from Clutch and White Zombie, but we all come from metal and rock backgrounds. It's a bunch of different things mixed together. We've been classified as stoner rock."
What's good? "We are all pretty excited about the new material we are writing and feel it is really pushing the boundaries of our musical abilities. We put out our second CD, Wolves at War's End, about a year ago. And Hammerween is a Halloween event we started last year that went really well. It's a way to get some of KC/Lawrence's finest metal bands together for one night to celebrate Halloween."
What do you think you sound like? "Always the million-dollar question. We have been told we are the new school of old-school thrash metal. I'll take it."
Inside at the Riot Room: CHEROKEE ROCK RIFLE
Cherokee Rock Rifle burst onto the scene earlier this year with ...And the Plains Are Burning, a searing, soul-scraping EP ripe with grungy guitars, thundering percussion and the captivating vocals of frontman Dutch Humphrey. The band is a newcomer, but the members are veterans, having played in local acts Sharp Weapons, Auternus, Sons of Great Dane and Atlantic Fadeout.
The Pitch: Tell us a band story that best personifies the group.
Dutch Humphrey, on a recent Riot Room show where he climbed to the roof of the patio and violated fire codes with a mouthful of Bacardi 151 and a Bic: We started playing 'Burn,' and during the bridge of our righteous jam, I took a mouthful of secret Satanic sky-fire liquid and breathed a pillar of white-hot sex-flame from forth my lips. The flame was roughly twice my standing height. The boys were just killing it beneath me. I couldn't even see them, but the crowd was sexy, dripping with sweat under a thermal July moon. At the end of the set, I popped a bottle of Andre from between my legs and sprayed the crowd because Tom Waits said it best: 'Champagne for real friends, real pain for sham friends.' "
How are you feeling about the state of the Kansas City music scene today?
Douglas Nelson, lead guitarist: Honestly, it's amazing. There are so many great bands crossing multiple genres. It seems that even though all these bands may have different sounds and backgrounds, you can put a show together with four bands that musically don't mix and it works. The great thing is that the bands support and respect each other. It's diverse, it's widespread and it rules."
Do you have a special set worked out for the Showcase? Any new songs that you might be performing?
Humphrey: Yes, we have a very special set worked out. We'll likely be playing the entire set in bathrobes or smoking jackets, and debuting a new song we just finished, entitled 'Loose Talk-Noose Talk.' "
Inside at RecordBar: FEDERATION OF HORSEPOWER
If Federation of Horsepower had its own air freshener, it would smell like gasoline, stale beer and general destruction. The band's brand of fast and sweaty hard rock is delivered hot and greasy by frontman Gregg Todt, who roars through sets like curtains on fire. Best in Rock at the 2010 PMAs, the guys in FOH generally haven't given a damn what people thought about them since 2003.
The Pitch: Explain the high level of intensity of Federation of Horsepower.
John Ferguson, bass: The music was generated from the friendships of the members and not the other way around. All of us have been friends with each other for over 10 years. I think, in a lot of cases, bands get together based upon reputations or recommendations, and the friendships grow as the band goes through the process of writing material, performing, recording, etc. In our case, the intensity we've managed to find stems from relationships that were already there. While there are some local bands that are more "over the top" or "in your face" than we are, I find the power dynamic of this particular lineup to exist in a more personal place that is the source of both our strengths and weaknesses. Short answer? I don't know.
Did you do any tours this year? Record an album?
Troy Van Horn, guitarist: I wouldn't call it a tour, but we made a run in Texas (Austin, Houston, San Antonio), which culminated in a white-knuckle ride through an ice-coated Oklahoma. We've been recording our second album since February 2010. Who do we think we are — Boston?
What is Federation of Horsepower's place in the Kansas City music scene?
Kriss Ward, drummer: We kinda feel like we're not really part of it. Over the years, we've been gradually playing on the road more than in KC. Our brand of rock is a dying form. We're old guys playin' old rock.
Cowboy Indian Bear
What's good? "We just recorded a Daytrotter session. Also, we've been working pretty hard writing for the new album — we go back into the studio with Josh Browning next month. Been touring pretty relentlessly of late: Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma have all had a Cowboy Indian Bear sighting in the last month, and we'll be touring down to south Texas and back next month."
What do you think you sound like? "Hmm ... pop songs with a dense and hazy edge, full of harmonies."
What's good? "We put out a full-length, Stona Rosa, earlier this year. Did a two-week tour of the East Coast back in June, and we're recording another album starting in August."
What do you think you sound like? "R&B girl groups from the '90s."
Anything else you'd like to share? "Nothing will stop us from losing this four years in a row."
What's good? "Synchronized Sleeping LP released in April 2011. We have a Daytrotter session on the books for August."
What do you think you sound like? "Indie rock? Indie pop? Good music? If words like 'fun' and 'catchy' are bandied about, we're usually pretty happy with that."
Anything else? "We're excited to get the best of our sibling rivalry with the Caves, and to go all Imma let you finish when Cowboy Indian Bear inevitably wins our category. Also, we ghostwrite all the ACBs' songs."
What's good? "We will be putting out a bunch of singles in the coming month or two. Then, on October 11, you can expect Capybara's second full-length."
What do you think you sound like? "For the longest time, we described ourselves as 'sunmusic' because we had to write a description for MySpace. How dated does that sound now? I may as well be talking about releasing our album on laserdisc."
Anything else? "Yes. Jared doesn't have texting on his phone, Darin hasn't done laundry in two months, Joel keeps messing up the rice when he attempts to cook it, and Mark's shorts are too short these days."
What's good? "We opened up a string of shows in mid-July for the Get Up Kids. We released an EP, Five Songs With the Caves, last year. We're currently finishing up an album tentatively titled Duplexiaville. Release date TBA."
What do you think you sound like? "Dream-pop folk/rock."
Excited for anything specific at the Showcase? "[Caves member] David [Gaumé]'s sister, Michelle, is in the band Hidden Pictures, which is nominated in the same category as us. It's tearing the family apart."
What's good? "Our full-length LP just came out on Sorry State Records, and we're working to have a new EP out before the end of the year. Playing an all-ages show with Iceage (from Denmark) and Mouthbreathers August 3 at the Jackpot. After that, some shows around the Midwest: Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee."
What other bands are you excited about locally? "Mouthbreathers, Sucked Dry, Kicked In, White Slave, Der Todesking, No Class, No Master. All our friends' bands."
What's good? "We have an EP recorded that will be released when we get paid enough money to put it out. We're hurrying to get it out as soon as we feel like it. The sticker guy just released our limited-edition decals. Available wherever my truck is. Collaborations? We mainly collaborate with shame and unemployment."
What do you think you sound like? "Ideally, Hearts of Darkness."
What's good? "We released an LP on Deranged Records out of Vancouver [British Columbia] at the end of 2010. After July, we will take a break from playing KC shows to concentrate on recording new material, but there is always a possibility of playing weekend out-of-town shows. We were offered assistance in setting up a European tour, and we were also asked to play the 'Fucked Up Weekend' in Toronto. It just depends on money, vacation time and passports."
What do you think you sound like? "If unibrows had knuckles to drag."
Also nominated: Weekend Dad, Mouthbreathers
What's good? "Our fourth album, Truth, is coming out this fall.
What do you think you sound like? "Lovers-rock reggae."
What's good? "Headed back into the studio this fall to work on our next release. Playing the deck at Californos for KCRUF III."
What do you think you sound like? "Psychedelic reggae rock."
The New Riddim Band
What's good? "Working on our debut full-length album, which should be released this fall. Playing the Kansas City Reggae Uprising Festival August 26 at Californos."
What do you think you sound like? "We sound like Jamaican rock and roll with a Kansas City twist."
Anything else? "We are ragers."
Also nominated: SeedLove
What's good? "We just released our debut full-length, Better Run of Bad Luck, this May. We have videos in the works, and we're planning on releasing stand-alone singles later this fall."
What do you think you sound like? "It's a female-fronted rock band. Any words I would use to describe it beyond that aren't going to mean anything to anyone else."
Anything else? "Have you seen that honey badger video on the interwebs? We're like the honey badger."
What's good? "Wish we could tell you about it, but our label would like for us to not let out any information."
Who's currently in the band? "We will see at the [Pitch Music Showcase at] Riot Room."
What do you think you sound like? "The best band in KC to see while fucked up."
Also nominated: Rooftop Vigilantes, the Lucky Graves, the Conquerors
What's good? "Our latest release is Summertime Apples. We're working on a new EP, due out this fall."
What do you think you sound like? "Fifties rockabilly and rock and roll, with a little old-school country thrown in for good measure. Our shows are very high-energy. We're a very approachable bunch of guys. We can all run a 50-yard dash in under five seconds!"
Other acts you're excited about? "Dollar Fox — they've got a very happening sound."
Them Damned Young Livers
What's good? "Scheduled to release Live at Jody's Ramblin' Rose Rodeo Roadhouse in October. Our last two albums have been produced and recorded at Frankie Hickman Memorial Studio, which is our own little independent studio/label.
What do you think you sound like? "We've been labeled cow punk. Lots of people want to call us rockabilly. I tell them the only thing rockabilly about TDYL is a couple pompadours. Either way, we've got that Misfits/Cramps-era punk rock with strong hillbilly undertones. We're here because the stage is our outlet. We might be dead without it."
The Blue Boot Heelers
What's good? "Our self-titled debut CD came out in November 2010, and we're working on our second album. Currently booking a fall tour. Our band members collaborate with Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company, the Fall Down Drunks, Tinhorn Molly and the Fountain City Ramblers."
What do you think you sound like? "Classic honky-tonk with a serious edge. Ernest Tubb meets Hank Williams III. If it ain't about drinkin', fightin' or fuckin', we ain't playin' it."
Inside at McCoy's: THE SPOOK LIGHTS
This Lawrence garage-rockabilly camp act takes as much from B movies and trashy pulp novels as it does from Eddie Cochran or the 13th Floor Elevators. Going on six years now, the foursome has been making its bones playing live shows and bringing go-go dancers, costumes, and an astonishing level of energy and psychosis to the stage.
The Pitch: What do you think about playing the Showcase? Astounded? Flattered? Other?
[Frontman] Scary Manilow: We're excited about playing but shocked that we were nominated for the awards under the Rockabilly category, next to champs like the Rumblejetts and Them Damned Young Livers, who are true rockabilly bands deserving much respect. The start of the Spook Lights reflected the early explosion of rock and roll, but our current scary garage-surf-psych sound deviates from category.
What have you been up to in the past year, bandwise? You've got a new track up on SoundCloud — are you working on a new album?
If you've heard "Western Holiday" on SoundCloud, you're privy to the instrumentals for the first track on our new recording, which we love because it sounds like a dirgy cowboy horror song. It was written by [guitarist] Jetboy and will be on our full-length album that we're currently recording with Kyle Gowdy from Mouthbreathers. He also laid down "Summertime Confidential," a track that will be included on a Lawrence music comp being put out by the creative forces behind the Replay Lounge and Jackpot Music Hall. Also, we have a great new drummer, Charley Downey, who will join us for a Midwestern tour in late August. And The Galactic Jungle is our latest film project. It's in production right now, and it's a melodrama in space, complete with political conspiracies and girl gangs.
Any bands you're looking forward to seeing at the Showcase, other than yourselves?
We love seeing the Latenight Callers live. Between their sound and their presence, seeing them play puts you in the middle of a mysterious noir thriller. We feel akin to bands that make you feel as though you're in another world, and they deliver that in spades.
Also nominated: Miss Major and Her Minor Mood Swings
What's good? "Released my full-length, All Things Big and Small, last fall. I've laid down tracks for a couple new songs this summer and hope to round out a few more songs to release an EP later this fall. The EP I'm working on with the Pearl Snaps is with producer Mike Crawford, and we've got some really fun sounds coming out of that collaboration."
What do you think you sound like? "Sweet and gritty folk rock."
Anything else? "It gives me chills to play with my band sometimes. It's an incredible assemblage of top-notch instrumentalists, and I'm so proud to front them. They elevate my songs to a new level."
What's good? "On the EP last year, I played most everything myself, so it was genuinely a solo effort. On my new full-length, I'm working with a band, the Prodigal Sons. So while the new record is mined from my scraps and scratchings, I'm being enabled by some genuinely gifted musicians."
What do you think you sound like? "I'm in the midst of making a new record with a new band, so trying to describe what we sound like in this context is tricky because we're fleshing it out as we speak. When they come out the other end, the only thing I can hope for these songs is that people describe them as honest and compelling. People can concoct their own adjectives from there."
Also nominated: Jenny Carr, Kirsten Paludan, Patrick Deveny