More than any other current group, Fourth of July has woven itself into the tapestry of the town; it is hard to imagine Lawrence without Fourth of July," we wrote back in May, in a review of the band's recent album, Empty Moon.
That praise now reads like a jinx: Brendan Hangauer, the band's songwriter and frontman, is moving to San Francisco, and Fourth of July is more or less hanging it up after a decade.
"It was just kind of the right time," Hangauer says. "My aunt runs a print business in San Francisco, and they had an opening. My brother, Zach, works for her — it's kind of a family operation. I think everybody in the band was kind of ready for a change. I've been in Lawrence for a really long time."
Hangauer is moving soon — "I'm on the college-town schedule where the leases are all up August 1," he says — but will continue performing and recording. He has half an album's worth of songs done, and plans to work with some fellow Lawrence expats living in the Bay Area.
"I don't know if I'll still call it Fourth of July or what," he says. "Dri [Adrianne Verhoeven] and her husband are out there. He produced her Extra Classic album, and it sounds so great and full and lush, so I'm hoping to work a little with them. The general idea right now is to try to bring Dri's voice into my songs, start playing shows out there, work with people I know."
We Midwesterners have a chance to see Fourth of July before the move, at its annual namesake July 4 show at the Replay. The quartet will kick it off by playing its debut album, Fourth of July on the Plains, all the way through. "We're going to play for, like, two hours probably," Hangauer says. "We're going to play basically every Fourth of July song. And we'll rotate guests in — Suzie [Suzannah Johannes] will do a few songs. It'll be kind of a free-for-all."
The following evening, July 5, Hangauer performs a solo set in Kansas City, at 1819 Central (as does 1,000,000 Light Years, the electronic project of Hangauer's brother, Patrick Hangauer).
"We've been really lucky in Lawrence all these years," Hangauer says. "But San Francisco is just a way bigger market. If we could have the success in San Francisco that we've had in Lawrence, a lot more people would hear the music."
A request posted on kcdiy.info two years ago for a last-minute venue space on Independence Day became the acting catalyst for the first Mother America Fourth of July block party on the West Side.
Two years later, Rita Brinkerhoff, Tim J. Harte and Ruby Hanson are wrapping up the final details for their third annual block party, to be held Thursday between 4 p.m. and midnight on the north end of the neighborhood, near 16th Street and Madison. Fifteen artists, including Nature Boys, Expo '70, Metatone and Heartfelt Anarchy, play back-to-back sets. The party is a DIY affair that's open to anyone who might wander onto the dead-end street (and be respectful of the neighbors).
"It's a block party, so if it's not fun for the neighborhood, then we don't want to do it," Brinkerhoff says. "This year we're going to give them [the neighbors] our cellphone numbers so they can call us."
In addition to the birth of our nation, the party celebrates a 10-CD boxed-set release by Mother Russia Industries, a record label started by the trio of organizers. The box runs $20 and includes a collector's bandanna; a limited-edition MRI screen-printed poster; and jams from the Brothers Zoto, DUNGEONMASTER and Blondie Brunetti.
"Everyone plays for free, no one gets paid for doing it, and we don't make any money doing it," Brinkerhoff says of the party. "We spend lots of money doing it because we think it's super-fun."
Another band performing at the Mother America shindig is Sneaky Creeps; one of its members, Andrew Erdrich (also one of the founders of Bread KC, the micro-financing organization that supports various local creative endeavors), recently collaborated with arts-and-culture zine The Bohemian on a compilation of local music. It's called the No Coast Compilation, and it's an excellent survey of Kansas City's underground music scene. Black House Collective, CS Luxem, Scammers, Dark Ages and Lazy are among the 24 acts represented.
Says Erdrich: "I used Midwestern Audio [a comp released in 2012 by the Midwest Music Foundation] as a counterpoint when I was putting it together. The bands on that comp already get a lot of exposure locally, and there's plenty of other great bands in town doing cool stuff that I wanted to throw attention to." (The Bohemian issue accompanying the No Coast comp came out back in May, but you can still find it at a few places in town, like Prospero's Books. You can also e-mail the folks at the Bohemian.)
Erdrich also shares that the Bohemian is working to start a music festival, tentatively scheduled for October 12 outside the City Ice Arts Building, near 21st Street and Campbell.
"We've been meeting pretty regularly about it," he says. "We worked on the budget the other day. The concept is that there'll be 24 bands in 24 hours. It'll be mostly local bands, but we want to work some touring bands in there, too. My idea is to include a lot of these bands from the comp, and then bring in two or three bands from out of town that would fit with the local bands but also draw a crowd. Somebody like the Men or a K Records band, maybe."
Speaking of the No Coast comp: It features "So Good," a track from Akkilles, the slow-paced psych-pop project of local dude David Bennett. That song also appears on Something You'd Say, Akkilles' debut album that was officially released last Tuesday. We've had it on our turntable for a few weeks now, though — totally digging its Deerhunter vibes.
Bennett has put together a full band, and they'll party down this Saturday at the Brick to celebrate the release of Something You'd Say. (Joining him are Margo May and the Caves; May also has a new release, a country-tinged collaboration with Doby Watson called Watson and May.) See y'all out there.