Rock for Cheetah benefit, KJHK's Farmer's Ball winners, Shiner, Nullset, and Discs.

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Rock for Cheetah benefit, KJHK's Farmer's Ball winners, Shiner, Nullset, and Discs.

"There are a lot of different benefits for a ton of different things, and by no means is this a Save the Children of Kosovo type of thing," acknowledges Paul Krowas, speaking of Rock for Cheetah -- a benefit at El Torreon Saturday, April 29, which he put together. "It's more like, 'Hey, what can local musicians do to give a little something back to a guy who's really helped a lot of people out?'"

That guy is Jim Strahm, who sometimes goes by the nickname Cheetah and was recently diagnosed with cancer. With his job at Midwestern Music, Strahm cemented ties with many in the local music community, not only through the store but also from a stint with The Saddlemen.

"Jim has really helped a lot of people out over the years. Last minute just before a show, somebody's amp explodes, and Jim has always been there to grab a guitar off the wall, say, 'Here you go. Use it,' fix stuff, give people a good deal on equipment -- just sort of generally been there to support a lot of local musicians over the years," Krowas explains. "He's one of those guys who's never really been in the spotlight, but he's always been behind the scene helping out a lot of local musicians ranging from rock and roll and punk rock bands to bluegrass to jazz to everything. He's really got his hands in with a lot of different people, so there's a lot of good, strong, local support for him."

Such as the members of Johnny Black and the Assassins, Parlay, and The Hefners, all of whom have been gracious enough to donate their time to play the show. Out-of-towners The Chickenhawks are on the lineup too, and even though Strahm's a stranger, the Iowa-based group will recoup only expenses for the trip. Making the gesture even nicer is that the bands were already booked before Rock for Cheetah actually became Rock for Cheetah, and they've since agreed to forgo payment.

"It was just going to be a regular show, and then I found out Jim was sick, was undergoing some chemotherapy, and so forth, and came up with the idea of trying to put together a benefit show," says Krowas, who also plays in Johnny Black and the Assassins. "I realized, 'Well, I've already got a show booked; let's use this show as a benefit.' I spoke with the bands that are on the bill, and all were willing to handle doing it as a benefit show. Our band and Parlay are all very close to Jim, so it was kind of a natural fit."

So as not to throw too dark a cloud on what promises to be a great show, Strahm's co-workers are all optimistic and say that all things considered, he's doing fine.

Gold star for sharing
It was mentioned two weeks ago in this space that at KJHK's Farmer's Ball, a three-night battle of the bands at The Bottleneck with first prize being the coveted opening slot at Day on the Hill and recording time at Red House Recording Studios, there could only be one victor. Well, scratch that. When the results were announced on April 22 during the final evening of the contest, which saw Sturgeon Mill, Electronimo, The Co-op, and Esoteric pitted against one another, the latter two bands discovered they'd be sharing the honors. Not only does this mark the first year Farmer's Ball has resulted in a tie, but it's also the first in some time that the winners haven't veered toward the indie-rock side -- The Co-op representing hip-hop and Esoteric doing the hardcore metal thing.

Rather than fighting over the booty, the groups had already entered into a gentlemen's agreement, says J.J. Mesmer, one of The Co-op's many members. "We kind of worked something out ahead of time with Esoteric because they didn't want to do Day on the Hill, and we have our own studio, so we said, 'Hey, if we win, we'll give you the studio time, and if you win, give us Day on the Hill.'"

For those who may wonder why Esoteric wouldn't want to join Rex Hobart, Proudentall, Jesse Jackson Five, and The Urge at the KU-sponsored campus event on Saturday, May 6, guitarist Cory White explains, "We'd have to play, like, at noon, and we didn't want to do that too much. We just don't think Day on the Hill is our scene." Esoteric will instead make somewhat of an afternoon appearance at Replay Lounge for an early show with Wormwood and Derailer on Sunday, May 14.

Bock back
The record has been out for two weeks now, but Kansas City has been forced to wait patiently for nationally known-but-still-local-act-to-us Shiner to find a break in its hectic touring schedule to make it back home for a proper CD release party for Starless. That day will arrive when Shiner plays The Hurricane on Saturday, April 29, during a four-day respite, before the band gets right back on the road.

"We've kind of been gearing up for this, and we're going to hit it hard this year," says bass player Paul Malinowski. "We haven't been gone for eight weeks for a long time; usually we've just been doing three-week jaunts. It's been three years since Lula Divinia came out, but we've still been touring, so it's definitely time for a new record."

And Starless is a record more than a year in the making, though the process started out with something of a bad omen. "We went to track our drum tracks in Champaign, Ill., at a place called Pogo -- that's where Hum did their last record. We played a show the night before, but the show was in Belleville, Ill., and we drove afterwards through really thick fog. We got to Champaign at 6 in the morning and realized that our trailer had come off on I-70," Malinowski recalls. "We got all the way there, and it was a three-hour drive, and we lost it, like, probably 50 miles away from Belleville."

Not surprisingly, when Shiner found the remains, it wasn't in the best of shape. "When we realized the trailer was gone, we didn't know where it was and how many people were dead because of it," Malinowski says. "We ended up driving back -- and the highway patrol located it and got a tow company to come get it -- and gathered up all the shit. The trailer was ripped in two pieces, but all our gear was fine."

Besides that near-tragedy, Shiner had to find a new label for Starless. "It was supposed to come out on Zero Hour out of New York. When it (the label) folded, we had to kind of scramble to find somebody else to put it out. We talked to a bunch of different major labels and just decided to go ahead and put it out on a smaller label, Owned and Operated Recordings. It's owned by The Descendents, and I'd known those guys for a long time through Season to Risk. They were psyched to put it out and kind of got the ball rolling really quick," Malinowski says, adding that the additions of drummer Jason Gerken and guitarist Josh Newton to Shiner's lineup made a big difference. "It's definitely different. It's a lot more mature, there's a lot more textures going on, more concise songwriting, but I think it's still undeniably Shiner."Null-ified
"I've got the page up and I add more songs almost every day," reports Keanon Liggat of his newly launched Internet radio station, Nullset, available at www.haloshifter.com/ nullset. There you can enjoy everything from The Get Up Kids to Tears for Fears and System of a Down to Billie Holiday -- all from the comfort of your personal computer.

"Listening to the radio at work used to be an option when you could listen to something that was better than the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears," says Liggat, referring to KLZR's format change last fall. "So after that, about 90 percent of the people (in a Zone forum discussion) said something about how they would just stick with their CDs at work."

That looks good on paper, but in practice it can quickly become as tedious and monotonous as modern rock radio. Thus, Liggat took matters into his own hands and started corralling his wealth of MP3 files and CDs into a site that would eventually become Nullset -- a station whose variety easily outpaces any station with the word "Mix" in its title.

"I grew up in the '80s at roller rinks and at the pool in the summertime," explains Liggat of his fancy for any song ever eligible for a John Hughes film. "That music was really natural and really diverse, so you can hear some new-wave Devo soundalike or some near-classical music with people singing over the top."

"You can relive things, like the roller rink, especially," explains Liggat, though such memories, particularly those related to couple-skating, are not exactly painless for him. "That was just elusive. It's not that it's hard to do, I just couldn't ever do it. I was an okay roller skater, but I was like 6'3" when I was 13 years old."

Ouch. Those interested in helping Liggat heal his gawky-teen wounds with song are encouraged to submit their MP3s and CDs to Nullset, or you can go see his band, Haloshifter, at any number of upcoming shows, including Davey's Uptown on Thursday, May 4, or Gee 2000 on Sunday, May 28. -- J.J. Hensley Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at thenote@excite.com.

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