Season to Risk, The Essays, and The Zone's benefit concert.

Around Hear 

Season to Risk, The Essays, and The Zone's benefit concert.

Headlining a concert has its perks -- the headliner draws the largest crowd and gets to play a set unencumbered by time constraints. But this prestigious honor also comes with a substantial risk -- namely, that one of the openers will steal the show. And though Season to Risk acquitted itself nicely Saturday night at The Hurricane, singer Steve Tulipana admits that Captured! By Robots might have been the hardest act he's ever had to follow.

"We've always tried to play with interesting acts," Tulipana says. "Be/Non did an amazing set recently opening up for us, and we once played with (chainsaw-wielding militant lesbian punks) Tribe 8, who put on quite a show, but they played after us."

Among the highlights of Captured! By Robots' one-man, three-robot show: the friendly, tambourine-playing Ape Which Hath No Name's kindly reassurances to enslaved multi-instrumentalist JBOT; the incredible percussion-playing DRMBOT0110's shouting down of a noisy fan with "Whatever, human heckler"; and the between-song banter from the human-hating contraptions, which sought to humiliate JBOT in front of his peers. However, the night's biggest laughs came from the group's gentle jabs at the local heroes. The string-plucking GTRBOT666 began singing Season's "Mine Eyes" in a high-pitched robotic wail, reasoning that because the headliners refused to play the song, he had to improvise, while the drumming 'droid eerily instructed Season to Risk to play "Mine Eyes" or die.

"I had heard that he had heard of us, but I had no idea he was going to say those things," Tulipana says. "It was pretty cool. After the show, we discussed doing a split 7-inch single. He would cover 'Mine Eyes,' and we'd do one of their songs."

Although that release might be far from completion, Season to Risk leaves Saturday, November 25, for the Blasting Room recording studio in Colorado to begin work on its latest album, which will be its first on Owned and Operated, the band's new label. The group will engage in a two-week recording session, then return home to put the finishing touches, such as segues and sequencing, on the disc. Traditionally Season to Risk has taken much longer to put its records together -- the band once devoted a whole summer to the task, though Tulipana notes that its members were "living on major-label money" at the time. But the singer says he has few concerns that the group won't meet its deadlines, citing the sparkling reputations of the Blasting Room's producers/engineers Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton.

Judging by the crowd's response to Season to Risk's dense, hard-driving new compositions, hometown fans will greet this record warmly. "I was pretty stoked," Tulipana says of seeing the dancing and vigorous head-nodding inspired by his tunes. "I was really nervous, because we haven't played a lot of those songs, and there's a lot of experimenting with different sounds, but I was very happy with how it turned out."

Season to Risk even offered its own performance-art element. Perhaps seeking a recount after its album-title proclamation that Men are Monkeys, Robots Win, the group distributed complex ballots that made the Palm Beach puzzlers look like simple check-yes-or-no affairs, urging concertgoers to choose among Season, Captured! By Robots, and warm-up act National Fire Theory. It's likely that Tulipana's group earned top honors, but the results will never be known -- the vocalist expressed his election angst in a novel way, placing the ballots in a bucket and setting it ablaze.

As I Read My Essays
Although hip-hop heads undoubtedly were disappointed when Deltron 3030, the collective responsible for the year's most innovative album, chose to fill Run-DMC's slot at a gig in Los Angeles instead of making its scheduled stops November 14 at Recycled Sounds and The Granada, fans at these venues got to witness the freestyling skills of a local group that had, for the most part, confined its flows to the house-party circuit. The Essays, which fits eight MCs and a DJ, Ranmecca, under its umbrella, represented Kansas City to the fullest as impressed onlookers from coastal crews Ugly Duckling and People Under the Stairs took note.

At Recycled Sounds, three representatives from The Essays worked the mic -- Clever Reverend, who hails from Florida, Amen, a one-time Los Angeles resident, and Vertigo, a KC native. After showcasing tunes from their first EP, Idiom, these lyricists solicited the audience for subject matter, then wove the results (human beings, aliens, respect for women) into impromptu rhymes.

When constructing their lyrics in a more conventional manner, members of The Essays tend to focus on "personal revolution," Amen says. "That's the first step. Inner revolution can be as political as a direct assault at the heads of money."

Musically, the group mixes implied acknowledgment of hip-hop pioneers with a forward-thinking approach and modern beats. "We try to keep it as underground and authentic as possible," Amen explains. "At the same time, we want to keep it innovative, because a lot of these underground groups are just doing the same old, old-school shit. We're trying to break new ground while maintaining our ties to the past and remembering our history."

The Essays are scheduled to drop their full-length debut in January 2001. In the meantime, fans of underground hip-hop can catch a showcase of up-and-coming local performers, including Approach, Mac Lethal, Hip-Hop Addicts, Co-Op, and Sincere, at The Bottleneck on Friday, November 24 in Lawrence.

Zoning Out
It's easy to take excellent reference material for granted, but real people toiled to produce dictionaries and the yellow pages, and devoted supporters of local music work to maintain the extensive band directory, up-to-date calendar, and always-entertaining message board at The Zone (www.thezone.org) as well as to plan the organization's free-to-college-students Monday night showcases at the Grand Emporium. Monday, November 27, provides a prime opportunity for area musicians and fans to thank these behind-the-scenes scenesters by attending a Zone benefit concert.

"We appreciate the outlet for local music and know that (they) do it for free, and that every bit counts," says Brannock Device guitarist Jeremy Schutte. Joining that jam-punk trio on the bill are The Capsules, which features Shallow's songwriting nucleus, Jason and Julie Shields; recently revived angular-guitar-pop purveyors Q; and New York-based singer/songwriter Paxton.

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