The group's members aren't likely to trim their long manes anytime soon, nor will vocalist Steve Bentley start rapping his lines instead of singing them. Darkside is an old-school metal band, delivering chunky riffs, intricate solos, and an intimidating dose of swaggering attitude. However, the group's outdoor show wasn't a gratuitous display of machismo, like the soon-to-be-hospitalized shirtless Chiefs fans captured on camera with their fingers frozen in the "We're Number One" position. Instead, this was "Heavy Metal With a Heart," a benefit organized by Hickey to benefit the Kansas City Homeless Shelter, the Hope House, and the Harvesters Food Network.
"We played the shows outdoors to show what the homeless go through," says Hickey, who performed at a second concert later the same afternoon at the Hooters in Independence. "It turned out well. We got a half truckload of clothes, two barrels of food, and two boxes of toys."
While he notes that the result made it all worthwhile, Hickey admits that planning and executing the shows was "a pretty stressful ordeal." He had difficulty convincing clubs to host the event, so Hickey persuaded his employer, Hooters, to provide the venue. However, further frustration followed, as Hickey was unable to generate a response from radio stations. When the truck he planned to use became unavailable just two days before the show, Hickey considered scrapping the event. "I just came very close to saying 'The hell with it -- what's it worth, who's going to appreciate this?'" he recalls. "But I sat down, calmed myself down, and went ahead and made it happen."
Darkside plans to enter the studio in early 2001 to begin work on a new record. In the meantime, fans can catch the group's unreleased songs, which Hickey says incorporate a thick, Fear Factory-style groove, at the Filling Station in Grandview on Saturday, December 30.
Carry On, My Native Son
When Father Vince Rogers asked Kansas singer Steve Walsh to appear on Remember the One, a benefit CD for his St. James Catholic Church in St. Joseph, Walsh requested only that he be able to select the song. With permission granted, Walsh belted out an appropriately classic-rockin' tune, the John Lennon/Yoko Ono chestnut "Happy Christmas," with arena-ready bombast, and a choir of St. James schoolchildren chimed in on the chorus. Walsh, who attended St. James, appears only on this song, but other noteworthy St. Joseph-spawned musicians, such as violinist Terry Brock, guitarist Mike Coman, guitarist Richard Girard, and vocalist Faith Girard, contributed their talents to numerous tracks. Coman and the Girards penned the album's original offerings, including a lyrical tribute to It's a Wonderful Life, while the St. Joe supergroup also tries its hand at such standards as "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "O Holy Night."
Walsh's contributions to St. James' effort to purchase new books and repair its Michigan Avenue building didn't end with his single track on Remember the One. He'll also appear at St. Joseph's East Hills Mall at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, December 26, adding to the congestion at the city's lone shopping center on the year's most popular day for product returns. After joining forces with the children for another round of "Happy Christmas," Walsh will stick around to sell and sign CDs.
With its endless strings of seasonal lights and unique shopping options, the Plaza attracts quite a bit of attention come Christmastime, a phenomenon that bassist/singer Jem Razz lampoons with the single "Plaza Tourist." In addition to poking fun at the "Ken and Barbie" suburbanites who go on "safari to the city," he also gives a jolly Razzberry to such Plaza mainstays as pedestrians who walk against traffic, carriage rides, and the venerable trolley. Razz's satirical social commentary goes down easy thanks to an infectious reggae backdrop, which he crafted with help from such local musicians as guitarist Brian Ruskin, drummer Chip Sage (of Buddy Lush Phenomenon fame), and singers Alan White, Lesa Monet, and Lisa Salman, who coo the tune's catchy chorus.
After receiving favorable response from KKFI 90.1 listeners, Razz has taken "Plaza Tourist" to the source of its inspiration, playing the song at Fedora's. "We managed to get a chuckle out of them there," he reports. "Some people are able to laugh at themselves, though I've noticed not everyone is. Sometimes I see people sitting there with nothing to say. I think that the reference to pretense catches them, because maybe they see themselves as pretentious. But we're all pretentious in our own ways at different times, if we get honest with ourselves."
"Plaza Tourist" opens with bells, which Razz, as the tune's wacky-voiced narrator, identifies as the sound of the passing trolley. The addition of the bells was a studio epiphany. "During the session I'd found this really nice bell," Razz says, "and I told Chip, 'Let's just set it up, and if you use it, you use it.' He started fiddling with that bell, and then I couldn't get him to turn loose of it. So I just started talking about the trolley bell, and we went on that tear."
This project has inspired Razz, Ruskin, and Sage to reunite The Audience, a trio that went on hiatus when Ruskin spent time in Austin, Texas. That group is now at work in the studio, but until the forthcoming EP is released, "Plaza Tourist" is available through mail order at P.O. Box 6697, Kansas City, MO 64123 for $4.95 postage paid.