Pitch Music Showcase Guide 

AVANT/EXPERIMENTAL Malachy Papers When your preferred style of music reached its peak during the Pendergast era, it might seem hard to bring anything new to the table. But for the ever-evolving Malachy Papers, a band that's been churning out new tunes since the late '90s, KC jazz is anything but a memory. By mixing the best of the genre's founders with modern-day experimental sounds (its most recent album, The Wind Cries Malachy, seamlessly fuses John Lee Hooker, Usher and Captain Beefheart), the band has taken the city's musical legacy far past its roots. www.malachy papers.com

Superargo Few electronic acts bring it the way Superargo does each and every time he plays. Adam Jeffers' mixes are wild — computer-based squeals, blips, spins and screeches back up totally unexpected samples from defunct local bands and major tabloid celebrities (i.e., the Olsen twins' "Gimme Pizza"). But he doesn't stop there: Each show has its own custom-made video and overhead projections that feature the antics of Superargo and his secret sidekick, Skullface. You'll never see anyone rock a laptop nearly as hard. www.superargo.com

This Is My Condition We're sick of people talking about multitasking — as if surfing the Internet while talking on the phone warrants praise. This Is My Condition's sole member, Craig Comstock, would take all of these people to task; there is no word for his brand of busy. Strapping a guitar to his drum kit and inching in on the mic, he uses his whole body to create intense, speed-driven metal reminiscent of bands like Hella (except, holy shit, it is just one guy!). His off-the-chart energy routinely pulls people away from the bar to stare in amazement, then gets them to rock out and dance. www.thisismycondition.com

Onemilliontinytinyjesuses In The Matrix, the soundtrack for a robot-dominated universe sounded suspiciously like Rob Zombie and Rage Against the Machine. In the real matrix, however, the rush of all those green ones and zeros passing by sounds exactly like the blips and pings produced by noise-rock duo Onemilliontinytinyjesuses. Armed with nothing but Catholic smocks and Voltron-era helmets, the Jesuses create experimental electronica that can be intricate, pulsing or delicate, sometimes all in the same song. www.onemillion tinytinyjesuses.com

Namelessnumberheadman Having seized the DJ-electronic trophy in 2004, Namelessnumberheadman conquered again after those categories split, taking home last year's electronic award. Now it pursues the genre trifecta in the newly instituted avant-experimental category. NNHM describes itself as a "futuristic, lo-fi space pop" trio. It achieves that sound with colossal drums, gently haunting guitars and many, many synthesizers. Its new album, Wires Reply, already recorded and mastered, appears in September — welcome news for fans who didn't grab the group's previous releases before they fell out of print. www.name lessnumberheadman.com

BLUES/SOUL Levee Town Still relatively young in those tough chronological markers known as "blues years," Levee Town has quickly become a band with beaucoup regional hook-ups. This summer, the band finishes a new CD, produced in Springfield by local roots guru and Morrells founder Lou Whitney. Its roster boasts not only the best blues name in town (guitarist Brandon Hudspeth) but also an always-smiling drummer, Jan Faircloth. What's more, Levee Town hosts about 57 blues jams a week, including nights at Blayney's, John's Deck and Winslow's at the City Market. www.leveetown.com

D.C. Bellamy For a Chicago native, guitarist and singer D.C. Bellamy fits like a glove into the Kansas City blues scene. Growing up on Chi-town's musically storied West Side, Bellamy spent his youth learning to play the guitar by listening to Elvis on the radio, and he paid mention to the talent in his own family. (The late Curtis Mayfield was his half-brother.) For the past half-decade or so, Bellamy has blessed KC with his own teachings, thanks in part to his band, America's Most Wanted. www.dcbellamy.com

The Brothers Green Not many blues bands channel Outkast as comfortably as they lean into deep Delta blues, but, in the tradition of the North Mississippi All-Stars, the Brothers Green do exactly that. Singer Sterling Brown's voice, as wizened and gruff as Ted Hawkins', can, like his James Brown-elastic face, bluesify a tune such as "Aquemeni" or invoke the passion of growler Bobby "Blue" Bland, making a simple hurting song into an encyclopedia of emotion. With the support of the other Greens, the whole thing feels sanctified. http://brothersgreenmusic.com

Billy Ebeling Whether alone or with the Late for Dinner Band, Billy Ebeling serves it up. That's why, when we see him coming with his bald head and accordion, we don't turn tail and run (as we might at the sight of his make-believe alter-ego, Karnov the Polka Slayer) but rather reach for the nearest beer and, if available, bowl of steamed crawfish. Also a great guitarist and harp player, Ebeling won last year's trophy but wasn't able to accept it because he was playing a bar gig in Lawrence. We missed him, sure, but we wouldn't have gotten in the way of a hardworking bluesman. Ever the nightfly, Ebeling has even written a children's book called Lay Down Lullabies that comes with a CD of sweet songs that would make Paul Simon want to be a kid again. www.billyebeling.com

Ida McBeth It's easy to forget how long Ida McBeth has been doing this. The reigning queen of Kansas City soul recently took the stage at her 35th high school reunion (that'd be Wyandotte High School — and stop with the math already), and in addition to her national-anthem-singing duties (most recently drafted by the T-Bones), she's stayed busy playing both small venues and bigger festivals. Like the Wild Women of Kansas City before her, McBeth has the ability, within eight bars, to make us glad that we live here. www.idamcbeth.com

COUNTRY/ BLUEGRASS Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys Living in Buffalo, New York, for several years, Rex Hobart made his long-distance relationship with Kansas City work by charming hometown crowds during sporadic visits. Now he's back and compensating for lost time, hosting the Honky Tonk Supper Club every Tuesday night at the Record Bar. At the same venue, Hobart serenaded Valentine's Day diners, selecting tracks from his four albums (2005's Empty House being the most recent) as well as covering classic country artists such as Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Tom T. Hall. www.rexhobart.com

The Wilders With a new album, Throw Down, and a festival schedule that has them traveling from Buffalo, Wyoming, to Boring, Oregon (with multiple campgrounds, truck stops and whistle stops in-between), the Wilders have taken their old time full-time, crisscrossing the country as their day job rather than the between-the-clock-in kind of employment. With singer Ike Sheldon and fiddler Betse Ellis throwing in more and more of their own songwriting, the Wilders don't just make the traditional stuff sound like their own; they now officially own it. www.wilderscountry.com

Buffalo Saints People tend to push comparisons onto the Buffalo Saints, drawing the dotted lines to the Jayhawks (their harmonies are similarly wonderful), Son Volt and Ryan Adams. The Saints sometimes are a clear, clean hybrid of deep Nashville country and Nawlins humidity. Then again, they're sometimes just a delightful country-tinged pop band. Mostly, they are who they are. The Saints' willingness to pull out the pedal steel or trombone, plus their tales of regular-Joe melancholy, makes them work for alt-anybody. www.myspace.com/buffalosaints

The Gaslights The Gaslights play country music from a mythical place, a site carefully drawn in songs of theirs such as "Sundays and Interstates" and "Lines and Wires." Lately, they've also taken to spreading the Americana urge as hosts of regular roots jams. Chris Meck's guitar draws those highway lines with the kind of ringing guitar that Nashville left behind decades ago, Abigail Henderson's singing fills every molecule of a bar's cigarette smoke, and the band's new rhythm section (Jon Stubblefield and Quentin Phipps, formerly of the Bad Ideas) pushes hard enough to make the Gaslights a reasonable fit in the rock category. www.thegaslights.com

Split Lip Rayfield Most of Split Lip Rayfield's recent press has been devoted to member Kirk Rundstrom's battle with esophageal cancer and a series of benefit shows to help pay for treatment. This attention, though not necessarily wanted, reflects how much Rundstrom (and, of course, the band itself) is loved by the community. It's no wonder — Split Lip's energy, furious string speed, four-part harmonies and unparalleled live assault leave everyone wanting many more years of its bluegrass to look forward to. www.splitliprayfield.com

DJ/DANCE Oz McGuire After three years of Thursday nights at Jilly's, Oz McGuire ended his successful Soundsystem collaboration with turntable partner Fat Sal last November. Dancers didn't have to wait long before his blend of Brazilian beats and hip-hop resurfaced in fresh surroundings. McGuire has teamed with his brother, Joe, on "Afro-licious" Saturday nights at Louise's in Lawrence, and he spins exotic rhythm-driven cuts on the first Thursday of every month at the Record Bar. Sadly, McGuire's local gigging days are numbered; he's preparing to move to San Francisco. www.myspace.com/ozmcguire

DJ Just Well, it's about time Mike Just got some love. The quiet, diminutive, heavily tattooed DJ has controlled crowds for years, most famously at the late Hurricane, where he built a reputation as a skilled deck hero who could get the floor bouncing without throwing down strings of no-brainer club hits. Now he has set up shop at Karma, where his parties rage like 1960s Paris, only with a heavy spread of modern-day Midwestern sex and grit (thanks to the lusty crowd). Though you'll find him mixing chaste '80s dance hits with sweaty crunk bombs live, DJ Just also puts in his time at the lab, cooking up instrumental hip-hop, gnarly electro and other layered, experimental beats you'd be more likely to hear in the background of a film than over the PA of a dance club. www.myspace.com/djjust

DJ Sku Before you step into the alternate universe of Corey Aguilar —known onstage as DJ Sku — it's important to know what to expect. First of all, vinyl isn't a solid. It will bend, blur and change shape before your eyes, but it won't break. Second, watch where you're standing. Sku has a tendency to turn everyone on his stage — including Approach and Mac Lethal — into gods on the mic. Finally, get some perspective. If you think all DJs in Kansas City have turntable skills on par with Sku, then you must not get out much. www.myspace.com/djsku

DJ Ataxic We'll miss Kabal, especially its Saturday night turntable sessions with DJ Ataxic. For the past six years, the member of the Soul Providers DJ crew has built a sturdy reputation for keeping crowds in good spirits without resorting to a Top 40 roll call. His selection and precise needle work have earned him opening slots for hip-hop icons such as Prince Paul and LL Cool J. Whether he's pumping up the Sunday night crowd at the Peanut or providing live backup for Reach, Ataxic is sure to be in top form. www.djataxic.com

Bill Pile What you may not know about the man behind booking and promotions company Umove.netBill Pile, aka Billpile (hey, if you've got the name, why not run with it?) — is that, well, he's kind of an oddball. When we asked him to send a photo, we got pictures of: (a) him as a kid, (b) him in a mullet wig (which you've probably seen), (c) a cat named Woob, (d) a sorta regular snapshot, and (e) a shot of him passed out over a toilet in a clown wig and a McDonald's shirt. Talk about windows into the dude's life. It takes all kinds, no? Pile has been an influential spinner on KC's dance scene for years, throwing down live at Kabal and Blonde and producing his own epic house tracks at home. This year, he's the only real representative from the house/EDM crowd, so if you like beats that draw a line from today's trendy clubs back to '70s Detroit, give him your vote. www.djbillpile.com

FEMALE VOCALIST Kirsten Paludan (Olympic Size) Nominated last year on the strength of her performance in the ethereal shoegaze outfit Olympic Size, Kirsten Paludan established herself as a solo standout with 2006's eclectic, folk-informed solo debut, Princess in the Tower. That disc departs from the coffeehouse crowd with world-beat rhythms, an irresistible seductive streak and untamed guitars. Paludan writes for Olympic Size as well, contributing the spellbinding "Say Goodnight," which has become the group's signature set-closer. She gigs regularly with her cover band, the Metropolitans, demonstrating a multioctave versatility that she doesn't feel the need to exercise in her own material. www.myspace.com/olympicsize

Anna Cole (Anvil Chorus) Forget her voice; onstage, Anna Cole is a force. Sitting at a keyboard, she manages to writhe, shake and pound out the music — all while looking totally hot. But about that voice ... the crescendos and emotive quality of her band's music require that she whisper, moan, yowl and belt without abandon. Her devotion has also become impossible to question — she's given up real estate (and its paychecks) to devote time to touring and writing songs. Top that off with a mop of red curls, and you've got one seriously slick frontwoman. www.myspace.com/anvilchorus

Kim Anderson (Flee the Seen) Kim Anderson gets as emotionally vulnerable as any local singer, gesticulating passionately as her rich, raspy voice betrays her repressed tears. Anderson isn't always so unguarded in her delivery, though her lyrics are unwaveringly inspirational. When she starts shrieking about following dreams, every syllable landing like a judo chop, it's the equivalent of a burly coach bellowing, "You can do it!" The words communicate confidence, but the volume telegraphs the dire consequences of insubordination, making fear the main motivator. www.fleetheseen.com

Kristen May (Vedera) If you've heard Vedera but have never seen the band live, you might be surprised to learn that such an enormous voice could come from someone as small as Kristen May. Then again, you'd also be a fool — Vedera's live show is one of the best in the city, largely because of May's enthusiastic stage presence and fiery delivery. You'd also be too late — May's so impressive that the band has already surpassed the local level and is in the middle of a nationwide tour. www.vederamusic.com

Abigail Henderson (the Gaslights) The Gaslights' Abigail Henderson is a belter, plain and simple, and every phrase she sings conveys multitudes of moods. Whether she's delivering stories of anger, sadness or lust, she bites off words like hunks of Hubba Bubba and blows them up into something much bigger. Henderson seems possessed by the spirit of traditional country's road-weary gals, someone like Wanda Jackson or Tammy Wynette, and her ability to growl, gulp and twang make every modulation she throws herself into a delight. www.the gaslights.com

FOLK/ROOTS Drakkar Sauna Wallace Cochran is a strange fellow. When asked recently what was in store for his avant-country-folk duo, Drakkar Sauna, he spat out: "Are we breaking up? Are we relocating to Shanghai in 2007? Do we have a new album coming out? Are we back together yet? The answer to all these questions is: Yes. Probably. I think." Riiight. Vague, perhaps, but it's this offbeat sensibility that informs his and partner Jeff Stolz's approach to their music. Old-timey on the surface, the songs, sung in harmony and often topped with a foot-pounded beat, tell mysterious, complex and often hilarious stories. http://drakkarsauna.com

In the Pines On paper, the concept behind In the Pines — mixing acoustic guitar and bass, drums and a 1940s pump organ over viola and violin — is a bit perplexing, to say the least. In practice, however, it's a breath of fresh air for Kansas City music. Its earthy, backwoods melancholy breaks new ground and gives voice to the downtrodden Appalachian living inside each of us. www.inthepinesmusic.com

Kasey Rausch Kasey Rausch plays intimate front-porch folk, reciting simple, evocative lyrics about her surroundings in warm, twangy tones. Rausch travels the Midwest so often that she's always discovering new inspiration — "Parkville," for example, likely kills during her gigs at that city's River Rock Coffee Shop. Accompanied by upright bass, percussion, fiddles, mandolins and backup vocalists, Rausch appears regularly at the Brick's Rural Grit Happy Hour and guest-hosts the Record Bar's Honky Tonk Supper Club when Rex Hobart tours. She plans to release a new record before her September appearance at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. www.myspace.com/kaseyrausch

The Afterparty If the persuasive powers of a younger, sexier Bob Dylan (or the collective charisma of the Band) had been used to corral a bevy of talented backup singers, The Basement Tapes might've sounded a lot like the Afterparty's gorgeously messy meanderings. With the Brunettes providing vocal support, Josh Mobley's fantasy-world keyboards pumping the nuance, Danny Fischer's lyrics going wherever they want, and the entire Mad Dogs and Englishmen costume rack apparently at their disposal, the Afterparty, part jug band, part dream soundtrack, is one of the most original bands around. www.afterpartykc.com

Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers Compared time and again to the works of heavyweights Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg, the music of Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers possesses a timeless quality that makes listeners wonder what kind of man has led a life that could yield such material. Dodge and his Horsefeathers (named after one of Lawrence's favorite cocktails, whiskey and ginger ale) also have time on their side — 2006 marks their 11th year of breaking hearts (hooch being the only cure) with their country- and soul-flavored roots rock. www.arthurdodge.com

HARDCORE/METAL The Esoteric It might be easier to count the number of times a member of the Esoteric hasn't won a Pitch Music Award than to total the victories. With a lineup that has included former members of Coalesce, Reggie and the Full Effect, Theta and Today Is the Day, it's pretty tough not to cover the spread. Individually, each member of this Lawrence metal machine is a freakin' technician in his respective area. Together, they're downright dangerous. www.the-esoteric.com

Moiré An ultra-heavy scene fixture since 1997, Moiré lost longtime frontman Waylon Callahan last year. Paul Kelley, who was recruited in 2002 to work the sampler and provide backing vocals and windmill dreadlocks, took over as lead singer, and the band's brutality remained undiminished. In February, Moiré took Best Metal Band honors at the region's Heavy Frequency Awards. Later this month, the quintet unveils Public Execution, its latest collection of dual-guitar barrages, tooth-loosening drumbeats and ominous growls. www.moiremetal.com

Sidewise What's the best way to keep your local metal or hardcore band from sounding like every other local metal or hardcore band? In the case of Sidewise, the secret's in the instrumentation. By blending '80s-era synths into a wall of thick, layered guitars, the Lawrence six-piece has crafted a sound that doesn't shy away from experimentation. But don't worry — there's still enough ball-busting vitriol here to bring down a small army. www.sidewisemusic.com

The Leo Project With hearty, tuneful vocals and melodies that swell without bloating, the Leo Project ranks among the area's most rock-radio-ready bands. That material from the group's just-released debut, The Burning, could coexist on a playlist alongside Nickelback doesn't mean mainstream fans are its target audience, though. Leo Project guitarists Nic Trotter and Tyler Lyon incorporate brusque hardcore riffs and complex progressions into accessible song structures, establishing an inventive signature sound fully capable of converting the uninitiated. www.theleoproject.com

The Sound and the Fury Sometimes it happens. A band gets nominated for a PMA, then splits up. The nomination then becomes an in-memoriam salute. Of the bands to have faced this sobering situation, the Sound and the Fury is among the more deserving. Quite possibly the most charismatic and accessible (yet still ass-kicking) band to come out of the Kansas City metal scene, Fury produced the kind of desperate, angry, compelling music that reminds listeners that making music is about more than just making music. It's no wonder fans practically broke down on the band's online message board, writing things such as "This news seriously makes me sick to my stomach. I've loved you guys since I first heard that Alter Ego demo tape when I was about 12 years old." Frontman Jeff Wood's voice had enough rage and hurt in it to reach not only disaffected teens but also jaded thirtysomethings, so it's a good thing that he's pressing on with solo acoustic shows. The band, though, will indeed be missed. www.thesoundandthefury.com

HIP-HOP Approach If KC had a hip-hop ambassador, Approach would carry the flag. For more than 10 years, the Lawrence native has handed out rhymes in his own smooth, laid-back way, using a live-jazz-and-funk style years before Jurassic 5 and Atmosphere introduced the idea to the underground's collective consciousness. But Approach's biggest contribution to local hip-hop goes far beyond his music — it's the way he has helped unite a scene that's just now starting to get the attention it deserves. www.myspace.com/approach

SoundsGood Aside from releasing a newly titled version of Biscuits and Gravy in Japan and performing a smattering of local gigs, the duo behind SoundsGood spent most of 2006 apart. Joe Good's Hi, May I Help You mix gave us a taste of his future solo and Backwoods Brothers projects. Miles Bonny kept busy honing his production skills and gave us a reason to Feel Sexy once a month at the Hangout. Together or separately, both continue to play a substantial role in bringing high-quality hip-hop to both sides of the state line. www.yourfavoritegroup.com

CES Cru Two long years have passed since the fist-pumping debut from CES Cru. Nonetheless, Ubiquitous and Godemis are still two of the freshest MCs out there. Along with a slew of live appearances, including dates warming up for Aceyalone, the duo earned head nods of approval from B-boys and punk rockers alike at this year's KC Hip-Hop and Punk show with their rapid-fire delivery, aggressive lyrics and rugged beats. If Cru's recent performances are any indication, the follow-up to Capture Enemy Soldiers will have been worth the wait. www.cescru.com

Mac Lethal Mac Lethal's long-awaited 11:11 still lacks a release date, but the profoundly charismatic MC has flooded fans with satisfying diversions in the meantime. In April, Lethal released Love Potion 2, a 16-song standout that he describes as an "11:11 companion." He brought underground hip-hop to commercial radio with The Jump Off, his Sunday night stint on KRBZ 96.5. And he upstaged headliner Atmosphere at the Beaumont Club in May, unleashing freestyle rhymes, amusing non sequiturs and classic lines while playing hip-hop-scotch with a dizzying barrage of beats. Lethal resumes his tour with Atmosphere this fall in Canada. www.lethalville.com

Archetype Archetype set a new standard with Bleed for Them. Its funk- and soul-heavy sophomore release, which was distributed nationally by Datura Records, was proof that hip-hop can be complicated and danceable at the same time. Jeremy "Nezbeat" Nesbitt's carefully layered beats were the perfect complement to Isaac "ID" Diehl's unbridled flow. Along with the album's release party (which also premiered Nesbitt's new LP with indie rock group Blackout Gorgeous), the duo opened for Ugly Duckling and recently took the stage at the Wakarusa Festival. www.myspace.com/archetypesite

JAZZ Bobby Watson Despite our city's place in jazz history, there really aren't that many honest-to-God heavyweights in these parts, musicians who are recognized by critics and fans on an international level. Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, a graduate of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and a professor at UMKC, is one of the few. With a brilliant mind behind the horn, Watson makes his sax a good-lovin' woman: It cooks, sings, cleans, makes sweet love, then smacks folks upside the head when they least expect it. www.bobbywatson.com

The Grand Marquis It's no accident that the Grand Marquis also received nominating votes in the Blues/Soul category — on the right night, the group would get a nod or two in the Country category, too. What the Marquis understands is that moment in the late '40s or early '50s when rhythm and blues, blues, jump blues, jazz — even Bob Wills' western swing — were close enough in spirit to share musicians, backbeats and wardrobes. Speaking of wardrobes, there's not a band left in KC that can out-vintage the Grand Marquis — especially the hats, suits and drummer Lisa McKenzie's delicious threads. www.grandmarquis.net

Snuff Jazz Technically, Snuff Jazz is less a band than it is a project to prove that music can pretty much go anywhere. At a typical Snuff Jazz show at the Brick or Y.J.'s, for instance, you'll almost certainly encounter longtime compatriots and founders Mark Southerland and Bill McKemy ravaging horns and detuning the bass (respectively). You also might run into guitarist Eugene Chadbourne deconstructing standards, nonstandards, and the notion of music itself. While you sip your yard beer or down your shot in relative peace, beware — your records may never again sound the same.

Angela Hagenbach Angela Hagenbach is quietly (and officially, if a few recent concert posters are any proof) becoming one of Kansas City's main divas. That's not to say she's difficult; rather, she has seemingly mastered jazz — big band, torch songs, Latin music, even Portuguese pronunciations and syncopation. She also makes each listener feel like the only person in the room. And with her own label, Amazon Records, she's at the leading business edge of keeping KC jazz viable. www.amazon records.com/hagen bach.html

Megan Birdsall With this year's release of her debut CD, Track 13, Megan Birdsall has been doing all right. The CD pushes what might be expected from a jazz vocalist by covering not one but three Beatles tunes (including a terrific version of "Dear Prudence)," "Tell Me Something Good" (a live highlight) and two gorgeous Joni Mitchell tunes. Birdsall, at the ripe old age of 28, is equally comfortable with standards such as "Love for Sale" and "Miss Otis Regrets." As long as she's willing to stay in town, the next jazz generation has a chance. www.meganbirdsall.com

LATIN Makuza Makuza, UMKC's relatively new Latin jazz combo, benefits from a pair of wonderful mentors — sax legend Bobby Watson and drummer Doug Auwater — who help shape its Afro-Cuban sound. With native Chilean Pablo Sanhueza providing the percussion and award-winning pianist Mark Lowery swinging the piano lines, the group has been a highlight at the region's jazz gatherings, including the UMKC Jazz Festival and Rhythm and Ribs. The players are young, sure, but they know how to make people push closer and dance.

Sons of Brasil Not to knock a good thing, but when your town is known for its legendary jazz, a lot of those bands can start to sound awfully similar. That's not the case with Sons of Brasil. By incorporating the upbeat, samba-influenced styles of — you guessed it — Brazil into the Kansas City jazz template, the Sons have created a sound that's anything but the usual. It's a taste of Rio that you just won't find anywhere else in the city. www.stanton kessler.com

Son Venezuela For more than a decade, the 10-piece known as Son Venezuela has been showing the Midwest what real salsa music is all about, thanks in part to its hip-shaking live shows and memorable albums. It's no surprise, then, that almost every Latin band that emerges from this area tends to draw immediate comparisons with the group. Which must be tough, really, because Son Venezuela's bongo-pounding, high-energy shows have set the bar very high all across the central plains. www.sonvenezuela.com

Mafia Norteña Mafia Norteña knows all the corners of the corridos, (story songs) of Mexcio's accordion-driven norteña music, but its specialty is narcocorridos, songs of drug traffickers from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border who, like the bad guys in Westerns, are always way more interesting than their white-hat counterparts. The opiates are harsher, but narcocorridos aren't that far removed from "The Long Black Veil" or "Folsom Prison Blues," and Mafia Norteña's tales are delivered in ways that have won them fans on both sides of the border. www.mafia-nortena.com

LIVE ACT The Architects See ROCK/POP

Doris Henson See ROCK/POP

The Esoteric See HARDCORE/METAL

The Litigators (the Pink Socks) It's hard not to feel wiped out after watching Jeremiah Kidwell perform. As the harmonica-wielding frontman of the Litigators, recently reincarnated as the Pink Socks, he brings back the bravado and stage presence of rock legends such as Chuck Berry, Elvis and Mick Jagger (in their prime, of course). No matter what moniker he's working under, Kidwell is determined to leave you drenched in sweat from his tireless showmanship and his band's R&B-infused brand of garage rock. www.the litigators.net

Bacon Shoe With lyrics such as I grew up in Lee's Summit, where no one's got your back and a stage show that features two MCs and a guy in a bulldog costume, Bacon Shoe is a slightly more ironic, infinitely more fucked-up version of Reggie and the Full Effect for the hip-hop crowd. Could this be KC's next Rhymesayers sign-on? Probably not. But once you get past all the poop-joke rhyming and the beef with Kenny Rogers, the Shoe is some surprisingly likable shit. www.mindsundercover.com

MALE VOCALIST Matt Dunehoo (Doris Henson) With his rail-thin, mop-topped looks and swaggering stage presence, Doris Henson frontman Matt Dunehoo is a dead ringer for a young Mick Jagger — without any of the lecherousness, of course. Dunehoo's singing style is a world apart, though. Soft, honey-soaked vocals and thought-provoking lyrics stand in stark contrast to the ringing guitars crashing all around him. It may be the trombone that separates Doris Henson from the crowd, but it's Dunehoo's voice that makes the band memorable. www.doris henson.com

Thom Hoskins (Buffalo Saints, Blackpool Lights) Thom Hoskins is one of those singers (and guitar slingers) who seems to show up everywhere. His voice is both subtle and subconsciously invasive, and it's easy to hear why so many bands want him around. Whether delivering rough-hewn stories for the rootsy Buffalo Saints, unapologetic harmonies for Jim Suptic's frustration rock in the Blackpool Lights, or brittle pop for the Belles (with whom he no longer performs full time), Hoskins has the talent to write and carry the tune himself and make other people's songs even better. www.myspace.com/buffalo saints, www.blackpoollights.com

Andrew Connor (Ghosty) The rest of Ghosty's lineup may have changed — and changed frequently — over the past half-decade, but singer and spiritual founder Andrew Connor has remained the same. Well, maybe "the same" isn't a fair assessment. Since the band's inception, the saccharine-voiced Connor, a talented musician with an ear for the avant-garde, has taken his pet project from a lo-fi two-piece to a deeply layered musical experiment that's never shied away from risk-taking. www.ghostymusic.com

Brandon Phillips (Architects) Once a snotty-voiced teen paying homage to his school-bus driver, Brandon Phillips evolved into a smooth ska crooner and then, on the Architects' first album, a ruggedly soulful rock-and-soul revivalist. On this year's Revenge, his experience-frayed voice gains gravity and urgency, as though a minister known for genially spreading the gospel started passionately exhorting his congregation about an impending apocalypse. Phillips' serrated shouts never grate or distract from the song structures because his band plays furiously enough to make his intensity seem entirely appropriate. www.architects-rock.com

Shaun Hamontree (American Catastrophe) The Nick Cave and Tom Waits comparisons fly left and right whenever American Catastrophe frontman Shaun Hamontree's name comes up. But let's get it straight: The guy's Manilow to the core. Just kidding. Hamontree's rusted-pitchfork bellow could summon demons from hell to trash the Copacabana and impregnate all the women with devil spawn; when he drops the bear growl and begins belting, he sounds like Satan's got a hold of his leg and is pulling him down. Perhaps most impressive, however, is that Hamontree is one of the only lead singer-guitarists in town who can conduct an absolutely killer show while seated in a chair, sweating into a bullet mic like a wounded preacher the whole time. www.myspace.com/amcat

NEW ACT American Catastrophe American Catastrophe leader Shaun Hamontree's voice sounds like it's been soaked in bourbon and aged with cigarette smoke. His low drawl could distract from any other instrumentation, but he is backed impeccably by the subtle work of Eric Bessenbacher on drums and Amy Farrand on bass and vocals. The sparse arrangements, sprinkled with slide guitar and heavy with effects, complement the bizarre lyrical narratives that Hamontree spins. Last year marked the band's first release, Excerpts From the Broken Bone Choir, finally pressed after two years of painstaking recording. Here's hoping we won't have to wait that long for the next one. www.myspace.com/amcat

Anvil Chorus None of this year's nominees are quite the happy accident that has become Anvil Chorus — nor are any quite as sexy. Slapped together at KC's first Band Scramble in 2004, the drawn-from-a-hat quartet has recently haunted venues all over the area. By turns urgently percussive and sparsely atmospheric, Byron Huhmann's and Brad Wicklander's take on the bass and drums (respectively) sets the mood for Anna Cole's sultry voice and chilling piano. Anvil is in the process of recording its debut full-length — no doubt the dark and brooding release will be a pants-dropper. www.myspace.com/anvilchorusmusic

The Bad Ideas As a self-described "band full of workin' folk," the four guys behind the Bad Ideas are the personification of barroom honky-tonk. By dispensing with the overproduction that plagues the genre's mainstream, the Ideas strip country music down to its two most important elements: solid musicianship and honest songwriting. Plus, if sawdust on the dance floor turns you on, the band's dance numbers, which feature perfunctory shout-outs to whiskey and Hank, will send your boots a-scootin' in no time flat. www.myspace.com/thebadideas

White Whale White Whale's moniker might not ring many bells, but its members' names do. Matt Suggs fronted the much-loved, long-defunct indie outfit Butterglory, and Rob Pope plucked bass for the emo-rtal Get Up Kids. Zach Holland and John Anderson played in the excellent yet lesser-known atmospheric act Thee Higher Burning Fire, as did Dustin Kinsey, who also strums guitar in the New Amsterdams. The quintet's confident, captivating debut, WWI, released on July 25 (Merge), recalls postpunk projects, piano pop, Roxy Music and early R.E.M. more than it does any of its venerated tributaries. www.myspace.com/white whalemusic

Blackpool Lights If the saying "It's not the years — it's the miles" holds any credence, the members of Blackpool Lights must be ready for retirement. In its brief history, the band — assembled by former Get Up Kids guitarist and singer Jim Suptic after that band's breakup — has endured lineup changes, label shifts and Billy Brimblecom's cancer. But only one year later, the band looks stronger than ever, having just released its first album, This Town's Disaster, on its own label, Curb Appeal Records. www.blackpoollights.com

PUNK Ad Astra Per Aspera For years, Ad Astra Per Aspera has been looking for a strong label to support its albums. This year, that goal was finally realized when the band announced that Sonic Unyon Records would release Catapult Calypso in October. Perhaps labels had been wary about how to classify the band, whose peaceful instrumental moments are sometimes interrupted by screaming (yet beautiful) chaos. Not quite punk, rock or metal, Ad Astra is completely unforgettable. www.adastraperaspera.com

The Ssion Sex-crazed dance romp the Ssion keeps its penchant for extravagance at the fore. Leader Cody Critcheloe used to create backdrop animation by hand, and the group has spent countless hours assembling costumes and props for its raucous live shows (once featuring a "blood"-filled effigy of Tori Amos). But the crazy theatrics would be for naught without the perfect accompanying music, something provided by rock babe Rachel Helm's clawing blues riffs. Critcheloe remains the sleaziest man in local rock, strutting and yowling like a young Lou Reed, and partner in punk Laura Frank provides the Karen O.-like female foil. Art kids do know how to rock. www.ssion.com

Super Black Market No matter who wins the prize, Super Black Market is without question Rookie of the Year. Whereas so many in its class (see a list of the bands on this year's Warped Tour) still wail about girl trouble, Super Black Market just wants to be pissed or get pissed (or both), then rock out. The band's debut, Will Sell Anything, shows a sharp-toothed pack of young men who aren't too happy about American culture, particularly the music industry, and who aren't afraid to lash out with cutting guitar riffs and hardcore screams that would tear the flesh off Henry Rollins' face. But rather than adopt a kind of punk piety, the band knows that a "Belt of Scotch" and "The Right Chords" are important, too. And when you hear "We'll Make Your Ass Dance (to the Death Beat)," dude, watch the fuck out. www.superblackmarket.com

Shotgun Idols Technically, Shotgun Idols play gritty garage rock, even if they increase the velocity to street-race proportions. What makes this group punk is its live show. Frontman Tim Nord's hilariously unhinged, often off-color onstage banter alternately engages and enrages audiences, even though the offended usually start laughing in spite of themselves after a few songs. Amy Farrand's badass stage presence and filthy blues riffs can turn even jaded barflies into cowering supplicants. The Idols have been hibernating for a while, which only means they'll be filled with ursine fury when they finally emerge from their cave for the showcase. www.shotgunidols.com

Flee the Seen Flee the Seen's 2006 debut full-length, Doubt Becomes the New Addiction, opens with the 45-second track "Celebrate the Static," all air-raid guitars and banshee wails. The band's frenetic live sets often start with this song, during which band members jerk their bodies like possessed androids. After the initial jolt, Doubt delivers 10 melodic, hopeful hardcore tunes, with singers Kim Anderson and R.L. Brooks swapping screamed encouragements. Onstage, the band's constant motion ensures that even its catchiest, most sweet-natured songs sweat. www.fleetheseen.com

ROCK/POP The Roman Numerals The Roman Numerals form a sturdy bridge between angled indie rock and throbbing underground club music. The savagely catchy postpunk quartet is best seen opening a show at the Record Bar, which singer-bassist Steve Tulipana and keyboardist Shawn Sherrill co-own. With riffs that jostle listeners like violent waves, keyboards that whisper like the receding tide and drums that demand movement, the Roman Numerals usually outshine the headliners. Most of the band's recent shows have previewed tracks from the album due in September on the local label Anodyne. www.the romannumerals.com

Doris Henson Before Doris Henson hit the scene, the trombone hadn't sounded cool since ... well, the trombone never sounded all that cool, really. Enter Mike Walker, the hippest 'boner we've ever seen. With Walker's help, the five-piece Henson has become the best non-ska horn band in the city, dishing up heaping helpings of low-key vocals — courtesy of boyish lead singer Matt Dunehoo — over hook-laden guitar pop. Throw in a killer album (Give Me All Your Money) and a calendar full of shows, and you have one of the hardest-working bands in the city. www.doris henson.com

Ghosty When a member of the Flaming Lips gives his seal of approval to your band, you've officially become something. In the case of Lawrence's Ghosty, that distinction came in 2005, when Lips frontman Wayne Coyne lent his voice to the final track on the band's melancholy masterpiece, Grow Up or Sleep In. But in the four years before rock's quirkiest three-piece gave its thumbs-up, frontman Andrew Connor and company were already creating some of the Midwest's most lush, decadent indie rock. www.ghostymusic.com

Minus Story Minus Story has been absent from its Lawrence stomping grounds lately. Its nationally released Heaven and Hell EP and No Rest for Ghosts LP have kept the indie-rock quartet in high demand. Recently returning from a set of dates with John Vanderslice, the band is getting ready to record its next album. (There's also a Jordan Geiger solo project in the works.) With its upcoming European tour called off, plan on seeing a lot more of Minus Story in the months to come. www.minus-story.com

The Architects Having weathered numerous injurious record-label relationships (mostly in its previous incarnation as the Gadjits), the Architects could have spewed bilious self-pity on 2006's Revenge. Instead, the group funnels its angry energy into emphatic statements of resilience. Every enormous drum thump and bass quake, every guitar snarl and yowled chorus, every note of this exhilaratingly efficient 35-minute album defiantly announces the Architects' undiminished vitality. The band's maximum R&B might not have registered with the West Coast Warped Tour witnesses it encountered this summer, but regardless of crowd size or setting, the Architects' members play as though their souls were at stake. www.architects-rock.com

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