Doris Henson's farewell show last Friday at the Record Bar sucked. It sucked because it was the band's last show, and it was happening in 2006 with just two records and a couple of biggish tours under the belt and not in 2026 on the second of two sold-out nights at the Uptown Theater, a la the Get Up Kids, who were more influential but not as original and great as Doris, the fuckin' heartbreaking bitch.
If you didn't know Doris Henson by last Friday, then you'll never never never know her, because you'll never have seen the band live, and, unless you listen to the CDs really, really loud — no, not even then. (See the video link for more.) Anyway, I'm tired of repeating myself about this band as far as summations go, so if you wanna know how I've always felt about them — and to gauge a sense of my own disappointment — read this.
Some of my other favorite things about the band:
- Those buzzing, mid-range guitar lines on songs like "A Dark Time for the Light Side of the Earth" that thrust into your ears live like cattle prods dipped in white chocolate.
- When I first heard them, which was on a compilation CD out of some Dallas-based booking agency (possibly before I even moved up here), I thought Doris Henson was an older, female solo artist. The song was "Cows," off the first album, White Elephant. I sent the Dallas booker an e-mail saying something like, "I like Doris Henson, but she sounds kinda like a crazy old lady who lives in a house infested with crystals and cats."
- I have a couple of artist friends who don't go to many shows but always wanted to see Doris play and got really excited about going down in front of the stage and rocking out like monkeys.
- The Half-Price Books companywide ad campaign that used Matt Dunehoo, along with local MC Approach, as models. It pissed some people off, but I thought it was pretty funny.
- The photo galleries on the band's Web site — they made me long to be in a band like that. Nothing beats a good candid photo diary with hilarious captions — in that department, Wes was the man.
- That they could have a bald guy with a Har Mar Superstar mustache and a wardrobe of button-up short-sleeve shirts playing trombone onstage and still rock balls.
- "Sidestepping" — that song should be on every jukebox in town.
So, why did they split? Well, in the end, it was because Dunehoo quit. "As far as I'm concerned, my heart's not in it any more, and I'm ready for a change," he told me on the phone today.
Wes Gartner, the drummer, said something slightly different, when I talked to him last Sunday at the Record Bar's one-year birthday party. He told me they broke up "mainly because Matt and I had major personal rifts after living together and playing in a band for five years." Shortly after telling me this, Gartner was onstage, waving his shirt over his head and performing unsolicited backup dancer duties for a karaoke-singing Steve Tulipana.
When I told Matt how his roommate, Wes, had cited their friendship struggles as the reason for the breakup, he said, "My reasons for needing to stop doing this band have nothing to do with my relationship with any one person."
So, it's evident that there are problems between Matt and Wes. The good news is the band will soon be finished with its third album. They have no label on which to put it out, of course, and wouldn't be able to tour even if they did, but we can probably expect a local release... maybe with a listening party at the Record Bar? And a topless dance routine provided by Wes!?
Dare to dream.
What a day. I haven't been out in three nights, and I feel hungover from not being hungover. It can happen.
But I'm still catching up on all the shows I saw last week.
First, then, cheers to Cat Simpson, who's making good on her promise to help the Grand Emporium — that beloved son of the music scene who went flamboyantly gay at age 38, after a long marriage to the blues — get its local music cred back. Last Thursday, she brought Jon Yeager, Olympic Size and American Catastrophe to the Emporium stage and set them up with a cozy, curtained lounge in the back, with complimentary wine and snacks. She even tied a few black-raven American Catastrophe feathers to things. (What were those things, though? Condoms? Beheaded Barbie dolls? Memory fails me.)
Few bodies were in the club when Yeager fired up, but I noticed right away that the sound in the room was better than I'd heard it before. Especially when close to empty, the redesigned Emporium had been tormented by loud, muddled sound echoing off its slate floors. New partitions between the stage room and the bar may have been the answer. Yeager played a chunk of songs off his upcoming album, Foi (that's French, boi), the first thing he's recorded with his newish live band, which desperately needs a backup-band name. Maybe "Jon Yeager and the Mink-Coated Lovehammers" or "and the Leathermen" (which would require a costume change) or "and the Tuna Bumsteads," which is a kind of hot sandwich my mom used to make. I'll give �em the recipe. Or some chaps.
Next up (I'm moving fast here, sorry), Olympic Size set itself in motion, albeit slow-motion, like a frond wavering in a fishtank inside the apartment out by the airport where you're about to die alone. The big news with this band is that Dave Gaume has stepped in on bass; erstwhile Belles frontman Chris Tolle has left to join — rumor has it — Blackpool Lights, where he would replace the recently departed Thommy Hoskins, who, I have heard, wants to return to his Buffalo Saints. If that made no sense, then pat yourself on the back: You're not a scenester! Anyway, Olympic Size still sounds great, thanks mainly to its frontpeople — Kirsten Paludan and Billy Smith — not leaving the band and instead singing their hearts out and nailing harmonies without even looking at each other.
Last up, American Catastrophe had to play without its drummer, who had come down with something nasty and possibly flesh-eating. Instead, or perhaps just additionally (who knows why?), Laura Frank, matron of the Pistol Social Club, joined them on saw. Acoustic Catastrophe was no acoustic catastrophe, but I'm more a fan of its horse-whippin', bounty-huntin' sound, music that moves while it growls, so I didn't stick around very late.
But the point was to be at the Emporium. The drinks were cheap, the lights were dim and the people were nice. There's no reason not to welcome it back to the local scene — in fact, I demand reasons to go there at least twice a month. Get on it, Cat.
Last night was the first that I've spent at home in about a week, so I've got to dredge hardcore through memories of the past, I don't know ... five? ... concerts I've seen, starting with...
International Playboys, Season to Risk and NoMeansNo, Wednesday, October 4, at the Record Bar.
This was the best night of rock I've seen in KC in at least a couple of months. No one's heard of the Playboys, which is a damn shame. It's not surprising, because real, pure rock and roll is about as popular these days as chimpanzee humor. They hail proudly from Missoula, Montana, and I discovered them accidentally when I came across an abandoned copy of their second album, Sexiful, in my office over a year ago (they have a new one out awesomely titled Snake Blood Hangover). I tossed it in the CD player and the first strains of "The International Playboys Get a Bottle of Wine, Go to the Beach and Get Fucked Up" set my eyebrows on fire, and the mid-song change to a funked-up Zep stomp scraped my forehead off with a metal spatula. The rest of the album rocks along the same lines. Your girlfriend will hate it. Snake Blood's a bit choppy by comparison — it sounds like they got trashed before recording it then twisted back up on speed to get it done. Still good listening, though, especially when you're trashed.
Live, the International Playboys cook. Singer Monty Carlo has a voice like Bettye Lavette crossed with Bon Scott, all wail and gravel behind his woodsman beard and shaggy head of curly locks. They all dress dapper — slacks, ties, vests — but they're from Montana (not LA or Brooklyn), so it works for them. Some other dude was the only other person out on the floor the entire show, but that didn't stop the 'boys from pummeling through their set and tearing the stuffing out of a cover of the Who's "Young Man Blues" to close the show. There is so, so much to be said for rock that ignores everything that happened in music after about 1969.
Then again, the next two '80s-'90s-bred bands on the bill tore it up, too. First was the annual Season to Risk reunion. Last year's StR party fell on Halloween, and the band members wrapped themselves up like mummies. This year, there were no costumes — save singer Steve Tulipana's sweet aviator mirror shades — but there was plenty of monstering around. Being a transplant to KC, I'm not too familiar with StR's catalogue, but most everyone in the suddenly huge crowd knew all the jams. Westy (DJ, scenester) and Cruz (DJ, scenester, Esoteric frontman) even got to enjoy screaming into the mic a few times from the pit.
What struck me about the show was how relevant Season to Risk still sounds. If they had just started up and were all mid-20s, they could probably have the exact same run they had ten years ago. I get CDs from indie labels all the time — especially of late — that totally mine the post-hardcore genre that Season stood atop in its day: frequent rhythmic changes; skronking guitar; atonal, guttural vocals; and hard, hard beats. It's good when you're in the mood, and if there's any bit of savagery lurking in your breast on a bonny spring day at the park, it'll bring it out and you'll attack and eat someone's dog. Also, your girlfriend hates it.
Here is probably the best place to read some background on NoMeansNo. They're touring in support of their latest, All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt, which is their tenth full-length. So, yeah, they been around awhile, and they're still weird and not tired — or tiring to watch, unless, that is, you keep trying to start a mosh pit the way I did. I figured, hey, these guys have worked their asses off for 20 years and have seen some wild shit go down at shows; let's surprise them with how hard we can throw it down here in KC. (And, yeah, I mighta been a little tipsy). The band's older fans (mostly dudes) would neither participate in the mosh or move away from the front row, but they would give me a good shove from time to time, sending my sweaty body across the floor and into someone else who was standing still. At least Lethal D and a really cute, short girl with freckled arms were into it with me.
And I hope NMN bassist and lead singer Rob Wright appreciated our efforts. Sweating profusely, he had the look of a very satisfied, very drunk old man whose face is permanently twisted by constantly grinning at all his own twisted thoughts. His two partners in the Vancouver band — Rob's brother John on drums and vocals and Tom Holliston on guitar — also looked the part of men who were into punk before it became fashionable because they were outcast geeks in high school and now they're shorts-and-Converse-wearing rock gods. Their set must have spanned well over an hour, and I was beat before they finished, guzzling ice water in the back and running my hands through my sweat-soaked hair. They took their punk-grounded experimental, jazz-fused hardcore as far as it could go and still rock — only once did they go a little too far and sound like Primus.
I left satisfied and sobered up enough to drive, and I passed your girlfriend on the way out. She looked cranky.
Big news, folks. The Hurricane is reopening. The owners of Jerry's Bait Shop have bought the place and intend to turn it back into a "raw rock bar" like the Hurricane of yore, according to my source. There was also mention of the owners not wanting to host hip-hop, like the old Hurricane did (with both good and bad results). They've scheduled a Halloween bash for October 31 with the local emo/grunge/metal bands National Fire Theory, MWK, Red Line Chemistry, the Effects and This Alibi.
You'll remember a buyer wanted to turn the place into a posh Plaza bar. But that fell through sometime over the summer, reasons we have yet to uncover.
For their part, the Jerry's guys sure seem excited. I just spoke with Justin Collet, the marketing and sales director for the Bait Shop, and he practically blasted my ear off with the declaration, "It's the return of rock!" He said Jerry's' owners (John Kelly and Mike Rounkles) want to restore the 'Cane to its glory days before DJs and hip-hop arrived, when it was a club "for musicians, by musicians." They'll also be booking "top national acts."
I went out to the Bait Shop in Lenexa a couple times -- once for this column and again for this one (the Night Ranger has been to the one in Lee's Summit). As I often do, going there was about getting drunk and getting someone (or myself) naked. I half enjoyed and half loathed the experience and reported on it with a mixture of admiration and ridicule. That's why you love me, though, isn't it?
I won't be a cynical bastard about this, though. It's great that local music will again be heard at the Hurricane. Bless the Jerry's guys. If it turns out to suck, we'll let them know.
TONIGHT, TONIGHT, TONIGHT
If you're down at First Friday, stop by the brand-new Phenom men's clothing store. It used to be BBlaze, which was on 39th Street, but it moved to the Crossroads — and we welcome it heartily. Browse the threads and listen to beats provided by Sike Style and Miles Bonny.
Record Bar Doris Henson's final (*sob*) show, with the upcomingly great Republic Tigers
Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club Tenderloin, tonight and tomorrow. Again, I repeat.
Mike's Tavern Full Day Affair and Mach Rocket 3000. Pop from St. Louis versus WTF? Sounds pretty fuckin' rad, man!
Five reasons to see Cyndi Lauper tonight at the Uptown, according to a writer who saw her play St. Louis last night:
1. The night before her show, she was spotted in town at sorta-scuzzy gay bar called The Complex, exciting pretty much every person there and inciting a phone chain that got one of my friends out of her pajamas to get there.
2. She did an a cappella version of the Goonies theme song, seemingly impromptu.
3. She played the dulcimer(!) for "All Through the Night" and "Time After Time" (the latter being my favorite song).
4. Stories she told included how she scared Bob Dylan after they all recorded "We Are the World" (her imitation of Dylan backing away from her was priceless), a daydream that Davy Jones of the Monkees knocked her up, and why she doesn't dye her hair anymore: because she has a kid in school and doesn't want to be the "freakazoid mom."
5. Her voice sounded really damn great, and she danced like a Muppet, mostly in her bare feet. She also played 15-20 minutes longer than her set time.
Record Bar Nomathmatics (sexy DJs doing �80s and new wave) vs. Unknown Pleasures, a Joy Division tribute featuring some dudes from another band
The Brick Lovers in Transit, Republic Tigers and Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk (now with Harry Anderson, ex-Golden Republic, on bass)
Davey's See above.
Mike's -- Stem Cell Awareness show with the ACBs, Abileen, the Brisbanes, and Gang of Hours. All singing, all rocking, all stem-celling.
Or go see Cursive in Lawrence, where all the cute Nebraska dames'll be looking for a smart boy like you to buy them a vodka cranberry.
I'm off to my pedicure, love. I promise that soon, I'll produce a riveting diary entry on how marvelous the International Playboys, Season to Risk and NoMeansNo were last Wednesday at the Record Bar.
Ta ta. Don't drive intoxicated, and don't eat all the cucumber sandwiches before your auntie gets to them.
When I got to the Record Bar last night about a quarter to 10, Rex Hobart had just finished, and most of the sizable, mostly seated crowd didn't look ready for a conscious hip-hop throwdown. Jay Zastoupil, booker for P. Ott's Sunday nights, Last of the V8s guitarist and El Torreon associate (that's my best guess at what his non-existent title would be), immediately materialized and gave me hell for repeatedly dissing El T's bathrooms. He threatened to give me a swirlie. I knew that would lead to making out, so I said OK, but he was only kidding. He's a crazy guy, that Zastoupil. He suggested our next Best Of issue (you no doubt already have this year's issue, out today, draped over your toilet tank — specifically, the one upstairs that I took a crap in when you had me and Dante Hall over for dinner last week — as you read this) be devoted entirely to him.
"Best Chiefs Player" — Jay Zastoupil!
"Best Place to Meet Intelligent Women" — Jay Zastoupil!
"Best Gay Bar" — Jay Zastoupil!
That kind of thing. I'd go for it. It'd save us a lot of work.
But anyway, most of the people in the bar were white and not very hip-hop looking. (There was even a table of mentally handicapped women enjoying some dinner — they would later end up in the photo booth, close to midnight, getting girly and snapping pics, which was one of the neatest things I've ever seen. I should have asked them if they wanted to be my weeknight entourage.) The show had to go on, though, and a rolling out of beats signaled the beginning of the set by Deep Thinkers. They were the only local group on the bill, which I figured accounted for the absence of many KC scene regulars. Brother of Moses paced the stage, his dreads wadded up in a giant brown hat that looked like a mail bag ("letter for you, bitch!"), while Leonard D. Story, aka Lenny D, aka Edward Furlong (not really) made the music part happen. A crowd gathered, and a B-boy uprocked by the pool table, which may or may not have made the guys playing pool uncomfortable.
Next, the Galapagos 4 crew took the stage, and the quality of beats immediately dropped — or rather the sound quality of the beats. I'm not sure if it they were being intentionally lo-fi, but the Thinkers sounded better. However, the G4s made up for it with some pretty soulful rhyme slingin', capitalizing on some of the members' southside Chicago heritage. It's not necessarily posing to live vicariously through a streetwise MC. That said, I do not encourage anyone as white and male as I am to flap his arms over his head at a hip-hop show. You either look like a dork, or look like you're trying to make fun, like when you accidentally slip into a bad Chinese accent at Bo Ling's and the server hears you.
An MC named Qwel was the centerpiece of the Galapagos 4 group, and he knew how to rap, despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that he looks like Mike Walker (far left) from the soon-to-be-undone Doris Henson. Qwel had no trouble getting the crowd down front into his palm, but lots of people hung back at the bar. We needed more local cats hyping the crowd. Sku, Approach, Miles Bonny, Edwin Morales, Negro Sco and one or two others were there, but that was about it.
It was a shame, then, that only a few Kansas Citians got to see what was, for me, the most musically mindblowing hip-hop performance ever. It was brought by an LA-based MC named Busdriver and his backup-band-in-a-DJ, Caural. Busdriver wore hot pants, his fat wallet prominently and probably unintentionally displayed in his back pocket, and a small Run DMC t-shirt — read: he was dressed like a hipster, not a gangster, but, boy, could he spit. His style was akin to machine-gun dancehall-reggae-style toasting -- but not full on, just a hint of jerk sauce in the stew — broken by pauses for call-and-response, repeated declarations and absolutely stunning caterwauls into a secondary, effects-laden microphone. You couldn't understand his words, but the guy was a living, sweating instrument, a human amplifier with no head room left on the gain. The slight, white Caural, who gingerly worked on a glass of red wine throughout the performance, kicked a vicious array of sounds out of a laptop and various gadgets — I didn't see a turntable on his table, but he played a lot of his iron-clad beats and basslines with his fingers on a drum machine. Cartoon, the Bar's off-duty doorman, described Caural as "Pete Rock meets Aphex Twin," and he was pretty much right. The DJ's mix of bangin', trippin' and some whole other prog shit, combined with Busdriver's solar flare flow keep me up the whole time. I was not bored for one second. And I wasn't alone. There were many wide eyes in the crowd.
The night's unlucky headliner (though no doubt some people were ready for some more laid-back shit) was Pigeon John, all charm and cool. His name alone indicates that he doesn't take himself too seriously, and his performance revealed him to be self-deprecating but also musically alert, hence the presence of a live drummer onstage along with a DJ. At the same time, I wasn't at all interested in "throw your hands in the ayerr" and "make some noise" bullshit — I had just been fire-kissed by the gods of truly innovative music, and no matter how fun and groovy Pigeon John was, I just couldn't relate. I couldn't bring myself to care about all the girls who dissed him in middle school, for example, to whom one of his songs was vengefully dedicated. Just so damn conventional, you know? Funky, but conventional. That has value at certain times, but once you've seen the other side, it takes some kind of carefree trip to get back, and I ain't had it yet. Gimme a beer.
Before I left, I learned that someone had broken all the glass out of the Record Bar's front door. I hope it wasn't my entourage's fault, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Warm enough for you, Kansas City? The idea of an Indian Summer sure sounds romantic, but the reality of it is rather wretched. Why must we poor Midwesterners suffer climate change so acutely? Alas!
As if to add to the misery, it's pretty much official now that Doris Henson is breaking up. The band will play its last (oh, please, let it at least be "tentative") Friday night at the Record Bar with the Republic Tigers. As soon as I find out what contentious falling out brought on the band's demise, I'll let you know.
Last Thursday, I attended the Deadboy and the Elephantmen show at the Record Bar, and they were so bad that a woman cut herself with a razor blade. Actually, for her, it was probably the reverse — they were so moving, she had no better way of expressing herself than carving up her flesh and bleeding on the floor. Had I any sort of edged weapon, I would have been tempted to use it on myself to relieve the pain, because the show was pretty lame. Because Deadboy records for Fat Possum, I expected the old-school, scuzzy blues-rock that the revered label is known for. Instead, what I got was coffeehouse Nirvana played to a young, metal-oriented crowd, many of whom stood on chairs through the unusually quiet show. And then a chick cut herself: a big horizontal X across her chest and somewhere else that caused blood to drip down her arm. After the doorman, Cartoon, led her out, she stood outside, bleeding and trying to look cool.
And then the band played "Wave of Mutilation" by the Pixies. I'm not kidding. I suppose you old punks are used to the sight of blood at rock and roll shows, but it skeezed me out. And the Record Bar's just not that kind of place. Who cuts themselves in a bar where you can buy a pizza?
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