As of press time, the world had not ended. But 2012 is not yet over. Can any of us say with any degree of certainty that a comet will not crash into Earth on New Year's Eve and destroy Ryan Seacrest's Times Square New Year's Eve countdown — oh, the humanity! — and life on this planet along with it? We cannot. Nothing is certain. Do you hear me? There is no certainty in this life! We know nothing! Do you understand what that means? Do you? Do you?
So in addition to stockpiling basic necessities — bottled water, Toaster Strudels, the 2011 ensemble romantic comedy New Year's Eve — I've spent the last week stockpiling memories. Specifically, memories of the past year in local music: the shows, albums and songs that made 2012 a year worth living for music fans in the Kansas City area.
More specifically, these are not my memories but the memories of the folks around town who make our music scene tick. (Special thanks to Pitch contributors Berry Anderson, April Fleming and Leslie Kinsman for helping me gather them.) What will our local musicians, venue owners, label types and promoters remember about 2012? Read on. And see you in 2013 (probably).
Mike Alexander (Hipshot Killer, John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons, Starhaven Rounders)
Best show: Swans at the Beaumont Club, September 19. "I showed up a few minutes into their first song, which was just chimes and vocals at first, and I'm thinking, 'This isn't going to be that loud.' Man, was I wrong. When the entire band kicked in, my jacket actually filled with air being moved by the PA. I felt like I was being knocked over by the music. And then they kept that up for two hours. Also, seeing Tiny Horse finally, after many failed attempts on my part, at the Sandbox at Vinyl Renaissance on 39th Street."
DJ Sheppa (Body2Body, Beauty Magic)
Best show: Big Freedia at the Riot Room, July 22. "From start to finish, Big Freedia — the queen diva of New Orleans bounce — had the crowd eating out of her hands. I've never seen the Riot Room so packed with sweaty bodies jumping around like crazy."
Runner-up: Lemonade, with Le1f (with Sheppa and Norrit) at FOKL, June 9. "There were amazing atmospheric projections over a haze of fog at the Lemonade/Le1f show. I walked away wanting more. I also was glad that I got to experience it in a venue that does so much to help foster and give a platform for local creative talent."
Sean Hunt, aka Approach, Lawrence rapper
"I saw some pretty impressive things this year musically, but one thing that stuck with me was seeing Radkey at the Lawrence Field Day Fest. They have a fan for life.
"Also, the Kansas City beat scene is about to explode. I was living out in California for four years, and I got to witness firsthand the rise of producer-focused club nights such as Low End Theory (Daddy Kev, Flying Lotus, Dibia$e, Samiyam, etc.) and Funkmosphere (Dam-Funk) in L.A. It's nice to come back home and see showcases like Sucka Free and Elegant Knock give underrated production masters from the KC-Lawrence area — Lenny D, DRPLUS2, Dan Matic, Osiris-1, Barbaric Merits, Morri$, Starjammr — a place to showcase their skills."
Sheri Parr, owner, the Brick
"The first show I booked for 2012 was with the amazing cellist Helen Gillet, from New Orleans. Other New Orleans bands followed over the year — Mike Dillon, Yojimbo and Vagabond Swing — and all put on fabulous shows.
"And Golden Sounds Records! I love them. My favorite event of theirs was in April for Record Store Day [with Spirit Is the Spirit, La Guerre, Fullbloods and Soft Reeds]. Also, seeing Mr. Marco's V7 play a polka version of Billy Idol's 'White Wedding' made me so happy."
Jody Hendrix (Them Damned Young Livers)
"2012 got intense for me personally, as I took over the booking for Club 906. There were a lot of naysayers spouting off about how live music wouldn't do well in the Northland. I think we proved them wrong with several amazing shows. At the top of the list is the COA/Mac Lethal show on October 12.
"Another personal highlight for me was The Pitch Music Showcase. It was where I first saw Radkey. They're the best new band in KC, hands down."
Lori and Doug Chandler, owners, Take Five Coffee + Bar
"There was no conflict between the two of us over which two experiences this year really struck us as transcendent. One was a show at the Brick on September 5: Snuff Jazz and the Mike Dillon Band featuring Carly Meyers. We had no idea who Carly was, had never heard of her. Wow, what a wonderful freak. She just tore the room to rubble with the wacky energy and intensity of both her dancing and her trombone playing. A perfect foil for someone like Dillon.
"The other was at our place, Take Five Coffee + Bar, on August 9, with Parallax. What an amazing band Stan Kessler has put together to showcase some of his more adventurous compositions. It's Stan on trumpet, Roger Wilder on piano, Bill McKemy on bass and both Ryan Lee and Brian Steever on drums. Ryan and Brian are two of the most talented and creative young drummers anywhere. And being close friends and roommates for years, they seem to share the same brain, tossing grooves back and forth and finishing each other's sentences musically. This night was Ryan's last in town before moving to Albuquerque to teach at New Mexico State, so everyone was especially 'on,' and the show was riveting from the first note to the last."
Molly Gene (One Whoaman Band)
"The best show I saw in KC was at the Riot Room for Larry and His Flask — raw energy and a packed house. The best moment happened at one of my shows at the Slap-n-Tickle Gallery. There was a pregnant burlesque girl dressed as a cow. She was twirling her udders around and eating a hamburger. I laughed so hard. I knew I was in the right place."
Brock Potucek (Lazy, South Bitch Diet)
Best shows: "FOKL hosting Light Asylum (November 4). Total last-minute planning. They said that it was the first DIY show they've played in two years. Great turnout. KAW Collective, another KCK spot, had a short run of great touring acts that I booked, like Molly Nilsson from Germany and Frustrations from Detroit. They are getting a new space, so more goodies to come. And King Tuff and Nü Sensae at Replay Lounge — two great bands for three bucks. Lazy got to play with King Tuff earlier this summer, and it was cool to meet back up. He [King Tuff] is wearing a Peggy Noland 69 jersey daily now."
Robert Moore, host, Sonic Spectrum
"My favorite nonlocal show was Shearwater at RecordBar — amazingly intimate show. My favorite local show was the Dealer's Choice Sonic Spectrum tribute, a sort of birthday present to myself and listeners. Some of the finest musicians in KC covered many of my favorite songs by other artists. Steve Tulipana performed Iggy Pop's 'Endless Sea' with Mark Lowrey and Jeff Harshbarger. Soft Reeds covered Devo's 'Gates of Steel.'
"Best reason to be excited about the KC scene: Radkey."
Bryan McGuire (the ACBs)
Favorite show: "Dirty Projectors at the Granada in July. They had the sound dialed in, and the crowd was hanging on every note. It doesn't hurt that their new album is really good. I remember [frontman] David Longstreth being pretty funny, too. Runner-up: the Nerves, the Plimsouls and the Beat at RecordBar in March. Outstanding songs played loud and loose."
Favorite song: "Haim, 'Forever.' They played after us at this tiny bar at South by Southwest, but I missed it because I volunteered to get the van so we could load out. But everyone who saw them was blown away. There were days over the summer where I couldn't stop listening to this song. Runner-up: Ross Brown, 'Small Victories.' A song that's entirely familiar and yet unfamiliar the first time you hear it. I love it."
Phil Diamond (Scammers)
"Umberto doing Dire Straits' 'Walk of Life' repeatedly for 47 minutes at FOKL was pretty crazy."
Steve Tulipana, owner, RecordBar
Highlights: "Successfully promoting the Swans and Xiu Xiu show at Beaumont Club on September 19. Kansas City proved to me that they have great taste and open minds and ears by attending one of the heaviest, loudest and most intense shows I've ever seen.
"The turnout for Shearwater at RecordBar on February 6 was incredibly disappointing, but the performance they gave to the nonexistent crowd was transcendent, so much so that I bought every one of their LPs on vinyl that night. Their latest album, Animal Joy, is on my top-10 list for 2012. Brilliant and impassioned.
"One of my favorite moments in local music was attending the Making Movies CD-listening party for their new album, A La Deriva, one of the best local albums put out this year. The band performed a few of the songs off the new album, stripped-down and acoustic. It was a treat listening to Enrique Chi tell the stories behind not just the recording of the album but the songs themselves. A very memorable and intimate performance at Czar."
Mat Shoare (the Empty Spaces)
Best shows: "The MidCoast Takeover showcase at South by Southwest. The Caves' Duplexiaville album release. And Radiohead at the Sprint Center in March."
Terry Taylor (Hammerlord)
Best album: "Troglodyte, Don't Go in the Woods. On their second album, Trog proves once again that Kansas City metal is alive and well. Everything from the songwriting to the production is grade-A, top-notch. They prove that even sasquatches from the Midwest can churn out an incredibly technical powerhouse of a record. Fans of metal should pick this up today."
Best show: "Pizza Party Massacre and Expo '70 at the Riot Room, November 17. I don't get out as much as I should, so I miss a lot of good local bands and shows. I am glad I was out this night. I had never seen Expo '70, and they really blew me away. Instrumental, heavy riffage, groove-rock that comes at you like a freight train. The guitar hooks really stick with you, and the drums and bass hold it together through each song. I was really impressed. I would like to see them do some kind of a concept record. I think they could tell a groovy sonic story through their music. It was a diverse bill that night. Pizza Party Massacre was up next. I am an old-school punk rocker, so I was really excited to see them play. They got up there and blew through 30 minutes of catchy punk. I think a lot of people in the audience that had never seen them were really impressed."
John Velghe (John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons)
Highlight: "Performing with the Prodigal Sons at Alejandro Escovedo's South by Southwest showcase at the Continental Club and doing a duet of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' with him was one of the best moments I experienced. I learned more in those five minutes than I have in over 20 years of playing. Playing music always reaffirms why I play it in this sort of self-feeding cycle. But playing that song with someone I've managed to be friends with so long — who I saw perform it over 20 years ago — was humbling and inspiring."
Mike Scott, DJ
Highlight: "Red Bull Locally Thrown at Crossroads KC [featuring Scott and DJ Spinstyles with Diverse; Making Movies with DJ Brent Tactic and DJ B-Stee; and Hearts of Darkness with Barbaric Merits]. Local DJs remixing local bands live onstage — hands down the most innovative show of the year."
Jackie Becker, Eleven Productions
Best shows: "Converge/Torche/Coalesce/Kvelertak/Mansion at the Granada, October 20. Basically the show was like being stuck on the open sea with one paddle. Totally organized bone-chilling chaos — the most beautiful kind. And to make it even better, Mansion ended up playing all three of their songs one final time at the Replay before last call. One of the greatest nights of metal in Lawrence ever.
"And the Flaming Lips celebrating Liberty Hall's 100th anniversary on July 21 and 22. I opted to watch the first show from just in front of the soundboard. Being bombarded with balloons, confetti and Wayne Coyne in a hamster wheel at such a small place was epic to experience — especially since, as concert workers, we usually watch the show from behind the soundboard, the production office or backstage while loading gear. The second night, I brought a friend to 'work' the show. He's a fan and was pretty much given the greatest backstage experience any band could offer: blowing up balloons, shooting confetti, getting water for the Dorothys, folding up the gigantic animal creatures. All while being within 10 feet of Kliph Scurlock's drumming. There's just nothing like it."
Enrique Chi (Making Movies)
Best shows: "Los Lobos at Knuckleheads, July 26. First of all, Knuckleheads is my favorite local venue. It feels like it is pulled from some movie. It represents how venues used to be run based on the owner's musical taste — Frank Hicks' taste, in Knuckleheads' case. The crowd here in KC really loves Los Lobos, and Los Lobos loves Knuckleheads, so it makes for a great night of music.
"Babies at Riot Room, November 23. I had just discovered their music a few days before the gig. They're fronted by Kansas City native Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls singer Cassie Ramone. The show was loud and sweaty, like a first-wave punk-rock gig. I really dig Morby's no-frills songwriting style.
"Ghosty's 'Sharpening Swords' is my favorite track from their 2012 self-titled album. I love the tones and intro chord progression under dark lyrical images: Playing the whitest blues with the sharpest swords. I think they made a great indie album."
Craig DeMoss (FOKL)
Best album: "Scammers' album Conventions. Filtered by smart satire and paradoxical nostalgia, it touches on many shared experiences, beliefs and feelings about Midwestern living."
Lauren Krum (the Grisly Hand)
"My favorite show of the year goes to Sharon Van Etten at the Riot Room. Her set was intense and gorgeous, and both she and her band were incredibly friendly. Helen Gillet's solo set March 3 at the Brick was gorgeous and mesmerizing. Mike Dillon, like Helen Gillet, will always put on a good show and did so in June at the Brick. Carly Meyers, the trombone prodigy, who's played with [Dillon's] band as of late, was celebrating her 21st birthday that night, which seemed impossible for a woman of her talents.
"In April, I saw the Owen/Cox Dance Group's Spring Performance at Union Station, and both the dancers and musicians (Brad Cox Ensemble) were top-notch. I always leave Owen/Cox shows feeling inspired, even though I can't dance."