The Folly Theatre, Players Association, Jeffrey Lee and the Pale Moon Kings, Drag Queen, Grand Punk Railroad, and The Creature Comforts.

Around Hear 

The Folly Theatre, Players Association, Jeffrey Lee and the Pale Moon Kings, Drag Queen, Grand Punk Railroad, and The Creature Comforts.

Lee's Summit-born guitar hero Pat Metheny, touring with a trio for the first time in seven years (he's on the road in support of his 26th album, Trio '99-'00), might not recognize the Folly Theatre when he enters the venerable building on Tuesday, October 10. After closing for the summer to undergo a $2 million renovation, the Folly reopened in style on September 23 -- its 100th birthday -- with a performance by tap-dancing legend Gregory Hines. The venue's carpeting and upholstery now sport warm colors instead of dingy green, and the intricate decorative sculptures on the walls, which had been done a disservice by the previous single-color scheme, now stand out in all their glorious detail after having been highlighted in gold trim. In addition to its redone roof, the Folly also boasts a new spacious lobby, new curtains, and a new stage floor.

The turn-of-the-century building had nearly become a parking lot. Executive director Douglas Tatum notes that it was slated for demolition in the late '30s and mid-'70s. But downtown commuters' loss was classical- and jazz-music-lovers' gain; the onetime burlesque joint kept the dynamite at bay on both occasions to remain what Tatum describes as "one of Kansas City's great success stories." However, it needed more than cosmetic changes to remain a relevant entity and not merely a monument to persistence and past glory, and the Folly received some sorely needed behind-the-scenes assistance with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Metheny, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Bill Stewart will be the first to benefit, but their show, a coproduction between Grand Emporium guru Roger Naber and Avalanche Productions, doesn't mark the true start to the Folly's jazz series. In keeping with the centennial theme, the Folly plans to present a yearlong educational overview of various styles of jazz, ranging from ragtime to jelly roll to the hot jazz of the roaring '20s to a nod to Kansas City's swing scene (starring Jay McShann) to be-bop, post-bop, and contemporary sounds.

Booty Calls
Nelly's "Country Grammar" might have surpassed Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" as the jam that sets clubgoers in motion, but that doesn't mean pairing bouncy beats with lyrical odes to the rump has gone out of style. Cuts such as the Players Association's "Booty's Off Da Wall" are guaranteed to hype up any party, and for visual proof, look no further than the single's video, which was filmed at the Lawrence club Tremors. While amazingly endowed dancers shake their groove thangs, rappers ATL (the Money Maker), LOC, and Scole'on urge Girls/strip down to your panties and bras. It's a bit racy, but ATL, president of Kansas City, Kansas-based label Money Making Records, takes pride in the fact that the Players' songs are profanity-free and radio-friendly. He's also justifiably pleased with the tune's inescapable keyboard-laced beat, which he crafted in his 24-track all-digital studio.

"I did the beat late at night," he says. "Sometimes they just come like that. You can sit back and try to put a song together, but when they come to you, that's when you know they're hot. We haven't had any problems with this song not being hot." Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta have been warming up to "Booty's," with Dirty South hip-hop heads feeling the track's laid-back flavor as well as the lyricists' drawls. Records have also been moving at a steady pace in St. Louis and both Kansas Cities, but don't look for booties to be bouncing off the wall of local venues while the group stands on stage. The Players Association still feels skittish about local shows after having participated in the May Day Beach Concert, which was canceled (partly because of a bottle-throwing incident) before headliners, such as Nelly, took the stage. However, those willing to travel to see the Players play can catch them at the Expo Center in Rock Island, Illinois, October 14 on a bill with southern hip-hop heavyweights J.T. Money, Three-Six Mafia, and Miracle.

Swing Dance with the Devil by the Pale Moon Light
While the groups that scored 15 minutes of fame during swing's most recent brush with mainstream slink back into sweaty clubs to play for their faithful, life goes on as usual for the vintage acts that weren't called into the spotlight. "We used to do a lot of swing-night things, but now they don't do those anymore," says Robert Wood, soprano/alto clarinet player for Jeffrey Lee and the Pale Moon Kings. "That just means we have to be a bit more assertive on our end to get the gigs. You can't just let a fad control your booking."

Besides, as the Kings' debut CD, Ghees, Muzzlers, and Copperhearted Rats, proves, straightforward swing is just one part of the group's arsenal. In fact, its best tunes are slow, smoldering blues numbers and high-powered jump-blues ditties.

Wood, who handles the band's booking, says having to account for eight members has caused him some anxiety. However, all the Kings' men likely have cleared their schedules for the crew's CD release party at the Replay Lounge on Thursday, October 5, and for its next gig at the Jazzhaus on Friday, October 13.

God Save the Queen
As the buzz surrounding a recent appearance by Drag Queen at The Hurricane suggests, area alt-rock scenesters are craving concerts by the mischievous quartet. However, the group's upcoming show at Davey's Uptown on Saturday, October 7, offers more than a chance to hear material from the band's forthcoming record. It allows fans to help singing Queen Jessica Delich pay mounting medical bills related to care for her 2-year-old daughter, Tallulah. "She has severe development delay and a severe seizure disorder," Delich explains.

Word of Delich's plight spread through the music community, and soon a dazzling local lineup came together for "Tallulah-palooza." Rodina, The Honky Tonk Kings, Robico and the Death Ray Angels, Parlay, Hollis, Cretin 66, and Go Kart all volunteered their services for the concert, which starts at 5 p.m. Other attractions begin at noon, with a bikini car wash spicing up the early afternoon and an auction featuring prizes, such as Chiefs tickets and tattoo gift certificates, starting at 4 p.m.

Grand Slam-dancing
Punk purists are usually of the opinion that bands just don't play 'em like they used to, but a quintet of esteemed local rockers is providing evidence to the contrary. Grand Punk Railroad stars Season to Risk shouter Steve Tulipana, Gunfighter guitarist Jason Blackmore and bassist Jim Armbrust, Pornhusker drummer Bill Guilfoyle, and former Rust ax man John Dennison. All of these musicians were weaned on punk rock, and now that their current groups are getting to be "so much like a job," in Armbrust's words, these thirty-somethings have returned to their roots. Armbrust says the green group will eventually craft some originals and ditch its lawsuit-baiting name, but it will be all covers all the time when Grand Punk Railroad samples such American bands as Black Flag, Social Distortion, and the Misfits at Davey's Uptown on Saturday, October 7.

Comforts Zone
Given the number of unfortunate breakups this year by bands whose mantles had been decorated with handsome glass trophies, it might be tempting to formulate theories about a "Klammies jinx." However, The Creature Comforts, who racked up three awards in 1999, have completed an impressive new full-length release, which the band will unveil at The Hurricane on Saturday, October 7.

Further tempting fate with 13 tracks, the Comforts start the album with a spirited "1,2,3,4!" but instead of immediately kicking out the Elvis Costello-inspired pop jams, the quartet establishes a slower tempo with sprinkled pianos and low-key vocals. Mostly mellow (keys, breezy backing vocals, and acoustic strumming play essential roles), Teaching Little Fingers to Play suggests that the Comforts' ability to write memorable melodies remains intact, though the hooks now politely invite listeners into the songs instead of tugging insistently. And such gems as the easy-going "Fact or Folly?" are likely to entrance crowds, so The Creature Comforts should again be a strong contender for the coveted glassworks.

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