Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chris Smither- Don't Call Me Stranger

Farewell, stranger.

"I ain't evil," pleads Chris Smither. "I'm just bad."

I relate all too well to Smither's amorous moan on "Don't Call Me Stranger." Neither of us are reluctant to express life's difficult truths.

While Smither has been issuing albums since 1970, too many have featured fussy productions that get in the way of his memorable songs and exceptional guitar playing. Thankfully, the relatively sparse Time Stands Still, out today, avoids the pop trappings that have marred a few of his previous efforts.

Just as significantly, Smither's grizzled voice is more convincing than ever. Smither turns 65 in November. He's never been better.

See for yourself on his current tour. And this EPK about the making of Time Stands Still is fascinating.

Trainspotter alert: With today's post, Smither joins Howard Iceberg and Ike Turner as the only artists to have been featured twice at There Stands the Glass. If you're keeping score, that's 823 posts over almost four years.

Here's my love letter to Tesla.

The Astounding Eyes of Rita is the wonderful title of the new album by Anouar Brahem. Get a taste here.

"I think Ron Ron might be Kansas City’s breakout mainstream rapper," writes Jason Whitlock. I relish the rare occasions when I agree with the sports columnist.

Kansas City Click: Matt Otto plays Jardine's on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: The Republic Tigers

I'm still awed when I hear the hit version of "Buildings & Mountains" by Kansas City's the Republic Tigers. The song's shimmering production is absolutely brilliant. Their live shows, however, have been a different matter. I've considered them boring and borderline inept. What I caught of Saturday's outing inside the Beaumont, however, was fantastic. While they're still not exactly dynamic, a perfect sound mix and gorgeous lighting complemented a vastly improved approach.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Review: Motorhead

I like to bodysurf for hours on end when I make it out to the Pacific Ocean. It's a liberating experience for this Kansan. Inevitably, however, I'm distracted by something on the beach and a rogue wave takes me under.

I'm flipped topsy-turvy and my head is repeatedly battered against the ocean bed. I know that I must find the surface to survive but a malicious undertow holds me under.

When I finally crawl back to the shore my ears are ringing and I'm vomiting seawater. It's excruciating but exhilarating.

Full immersion in a Motorhead concert is much the same. It's like a painful ritual cleansing. Thursday night at the Midland Theater was no different.

Because the Star and the Pitch have great reviews and incredible photos, I'm posting this shot of the lobby. The sight of metal fans in the lush confines of the Midland always amuses me. Incidentally, the frantic crush of angry fans at the narrow door to the smoking area provided my first genuine scare at a concert in a couple years.

Some people get colon cleansings. I go to Motorhead concerts.

Kansas City Click: See the previous entry's recommendations.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: The Perez Hilton Presents Tour

As an obsessive jazz fan, I'm accustomed to seeing shockingly meager audiences. Even so, I was horrified when I stepped inside the Beaumont Club Wednesday. Less than one hundred people were on hand for the free and well-publicized Perez Hilton Presents Tour stop.

Did I mention it was free?

It wasn't as if the spectacularly successful gossip blogger put together an esoteric bill of avant-garde jazz artists. Even with headliner Ida Maria dropping off the tour, Hilton offered an appealing lineup.

Good times were there for the taking.

While he's undeniably lightweight, Eric Hutchinson is likable enough. A spontaneous song in which he mocked the size of the audience was genuinely funny.

I loved the first three minutes of the exuberant showing by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head but the joke became tired in a hurry. By the time they played their signature song I'd lost the will to live. But that's just me. The other 87 people in the club were digging it.

Semi Precious Weapons looked and sounded almost exactly like this. I laughed with them, not at them. Yet I just didn't have the heart to stick around for Ladyhawke. And the free energy drinks I was pounding had my stomach in knots.

What's to be learned from this fiasco?

Are Hilton's readers not music fans? (That's a safe assumption.)

Is an association with the gossip blogger a career killer? (Maybe. I saw a couple hundred people sing along to all of Hutchinson's songs at a 2008 gig. That number was reduced to a couple dozen young women Wednesday.)

Would most people rather sit at home rather than go out to see a free show consisting of unfamiliar acts? (Apparently so.)

Are Hilton's curatorial skills questionable? (I don't think so. While they lack star power, all four bands still on the tour are true to Hilton's unique sensibility.)

Thanks for trying, Perez. Let me know if you'd like me to recommend a few jazz acts for your next tour.

"A Jay-Z song was on!" I'm under the spell of Miley Cyrus' latest hit. (Tip via C.H.)

Farewell, Arthur Ferrante.

I didn't have an app to verify what my ears were telling me, but I'm almost certain that the pre-show music at a recent Mars Volta concert was an old Renaissance album.

Kansas City Click: I can't wait to hear these immortal words again at the Midland Theater on Thursday: "Our name is Motorhead and we play rock'n'roll."

Missouri is on the classic rock bill Friday at Starlight Theater.

"The Show" on Saturday is Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh at the Scottish Rite Temple.

On Sunday, Booker T. plays Knuckleheads.

(Original image of Semi Precious Weapons by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Country Baptists- Long Meter Hymn


The foundation of many of the blues' hoariest cliches is this out-of-print document. The object of obsession for many blues fans for decades, the recording combines spoken word with field recordings to make a case for The Blues According To Alan Lomax. This selection features a piece by "country Baptists" and a discussion between Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson. The formalization of blues mythology begins here.

Local baller Paul Shirley rates a "What's In My Bag" feature at Amoeba.

This video on in-store display tips from Strange Music is just as hypnotic as watching Bob Ross.

Like the Republic Tigers? Jump on this free download from Soft Reeds. It includes an intriguing version of "Buildings and Mountains."

Kansas City Click: Heaven help me- I actually adore this video by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head. They're part of the Perez Hilton-related tour that touches down Wednesday at the Beaumont.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hollis Brown- Show Love

No more love.

How I wish Hollis Brown was the house band at my neighborhood tavern! My quality of life would improve significantly. The New York City-based act provides the perfect soundtrack for throwing back drinks, shooting pool and just hanging out with friends. I'd actually rather have Hollis Brown playing down the street every night than many better-known and more accomplished like-minded acts. I'd feel compelled to listen intently to Son Volt. I'd get overly involved in the interactive material of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. The Bottle Rockets would be too intense. And I'd probably be tempted to pick a fight with Ryan Adams or with Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows. Instead, the post-Blonde On Blonde sound of their sold self-titled debut album makes Hollis Brown the ideal band to hear two or three nights a week. Here's the video for "Show Love." Cheers!

I know nothing. After I dissed it last week, Mac Lethal's new novelty song has proceeded to rack up 55,000 views in six days. Additionally, Mac has reportedly secured at least one date opening for the The Streets. Congratulations, Mac- it's a good thing you're not listening to me.

Henry Threadgill's Easily Slip Into Another World was the first album that made me realize that jazz could still be viable and interesting. I'm incredibly excited about his first new release in years. A couple tracks from the October release stream at Destination Out.

I spent the better part of last Thursday night monitoring Brother Ali's Ustream discussion. Has there ever been a better time to be a music fan?

I'm really proud of the work I'm doing at Plastic Sax.

Kansas City Click: Sait Arat plays percussion Monday at the Czar Bar.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: James Christos at the Riot Room

Like a traumatized man who delays disclosing an alien abduction incident because he's unsure of exactly what transpired, I've put off coming clean about an out-of-body experience I had last month at the Riot Room.

A transcendent performance by James Christos blew my mind. Alcohol was involved, so I'm still not entirely sure what happened. Thankfully, documentation of the event exists. I took the pictures posted here and there's a brief video of the show. I was so enthralled with Christos' manic "Punk Rap" that I was devastated when he said his allotted time had ended.

The audience booed as a group of musicians began to crowd Christos off the stage. What jerks! Christos asked the guys if they'd riff behind him during his closing song. They complied. It quickly became apparent that it was a prearranged setup. Christos fiercely rhymed with the backing of the rock band for another fifteen minutes. It was an entrancing surprise.

Why bring this up now? Christos returns to the Riot Room tonight for the Black Clover pre-party.

George Harrison fans need to hear the new three-song A Mystic's Robe EP by Ghosty.

I'm reluctant to risk losing my status as Bob Dylan's 43,501st biggest fan, but I have to point out that the sound of his new Christmas album is beyond perverse. Seriously, it sounds as if he's groaning over a backing track that was originally intended for Regis Philbin.

I never listened to Peter, Paul and Mary albums so much as I was subjected to them. Still, this reading of "Early Morning Rain" sounds pretty great right now. Mary Travers died yesterday.

I developed an even deeper loathing of the nouveau-hippie scene when I saw Karl Denson's Tiny Universe perform last summer. Still, their new album is really good. (Tip from AZ.)

A Pavement reunion? I'm there.

Kansas City Click: Allegedly, Biz Markie appears on the Power & Light stage Thursday.

The Black Clover party continues at the Riot Room on Friday.

I like Buckcherry. There- I said it. They're at the Beaumont Saturday.

Dave Stephens returns to Jardine's Sunday.

(Original images of James Christos by There Stands the Glass.)

Jim Carroll, 1950-2009


Jim Carroll might have saved my life. I was going through the obligatory Burroughs/Kerouac phase of my adolescence when The Basketball Diaries was published. It smacked the idea that hard drugs were somehow glamorous right out of my impressionable noggin. That he went on to have a fluke pop hit was only a bonus. The out-of-print Pools of Mercury from 1998 contains a few conventional songs but I prefer the spoken word bits like "It Goes." Carroll died September 11.

Are the Mars Volta the best live rock band in the world? Maybe. Here's my review of their concert Monday. This rough fan footage of the show is spot-on.

Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is this 90-disc Yo-Yo Ma box set.

It annoys me when Mac Lethal, a guy I respect and admire as an artist and like as a person, does stuff like this.

Kansas City Click: "Stout Irish rock" band Blaggards play Knuckleheads on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Review: Crossroads Music Fest

Maybe, just maybe, Kansas City is ready to host a major music festival. That was my thought after a full night of fun at Saturday's wonderful Crossroads Music Fest. Over two dozen local acts performed on five stages within steps of one another. If expanded to a three-mile radius, dozens of existing stages would be available to accommodate musicians from around the world. Why not have a SXSW or CMJ in KC?

Of the eleven acts I witnessed, five were particularly noteworthy:

1. Makuza- I'd only seen the self-described "Afro-Cuban, funk and jazz" act in jazz settings, so their electrifying set at Crosstown Station was a revelation. Alas, no one asked me to dance...

2. The ACBs- Could they really be worthy of comparison to Dwight Twilley and Matthew Sweet? They were on Saturday.

3. Hearts of Darkness- The de facto Fela tribute band provided the soundtrack to a joyous celebration.

4. The Pornhuskers- You've heard of the Sex Pistols? These knuckleheads could be called the Sex Idiots. Good times.

5. Quixotic- The performance ensemble isn't my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean I can't be awed by their incredible presentation. Hey, PBS! Quixotic are your next fund drive superstars.

I was so turned off by all the professional photographers fighting for position in front of every stage that I didn't touch my point-and-click Kodak. (This is a photo I snapped at a Hammerlord show earlier this year.) The outstanding work of Michael Forester and Lucas Hutmacher captures the night for posterity.

Regular readers of There Stands the Glass know that I've long harbored strong opinions about Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Kanye West. I'll say no more in this forum only because I'm terrified of Satan's minions "Team Taylor."

Kansas City Click: Hammerlord (pictured here) opens for Static X Tuesday at the Beaumont.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: Tech N9ne Versus Steddy P

I caught Tech N9ne at the Granada and Steddy P at the Record Bar Friday night. The two hip hop shows provided a mind-blowing study in contrast. Because I'm often accused of being Tech N9ne's most notable apologist, some haters will be shocked when I acknowledge that Steddy P's performance was far more interesting and enjoyable than that of the "Kansas City King."

I still love Tech N9ne. I'll never tire of classics like "Einstein." Having seen him perform over a dozen times, I've often said that the only missing element at Tech N9ne's otherwise outstanding concerts is the lack of a live band. That's a big part of why Steddy P bested Tech N9ne Friday. These are my notes.

Performance : Midway through his already joyous set, Steddy P was joined by a rock trio. It solidified his effort as one of my favorite performances of 2009. As always, Tech N9ne was solid. He's touring in Australia now and audiences there will see exactly the same show I witnessed Friday. Spontaneity isn't much of an option when you're working with prerecorded tracks.

Guests: Steddy P played host to many of the town's premier underground names- Approach, MilkDrop, Reach, Smoov Confusion, Royce Diamond and the Soul Servers were among the artists who were on the Record Bar's small stage. Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun was supported by Mr. Stinky and Irv Da Phenom. The highly-hyped Big Scoob didn't appear. The unexplained absence was rare for a Strange Music show. The label usually operates with refreshing precision.

Booze: Tech N9ne celebrates Caribou Lou. Steddy P sipped PBR from a can. Tech N9ne fans like to drink until they drop. I saw a beautiful woman at the Steddy P show scold a man for spilling a drop of beer on her blouse.

Fans: The Record Bar was a hipster haven. Demencha provides an representative photo gallery of the stylish scene. Conversely, many of Tech N9ne's male fans wear face paint. And a lot of his female fans wear next to nothing. A Steddy P fan is likely to have a Noam Chomsky tome on his or her bedside table. The reading material of a typical Tech N9ne fan gets no deeper than the instructions on a box of condoms.

Stacking Paper: Tech N9ne sold out the Granada. With 1,700 people at $31 a pop, the show's gross was over $50,000. Throw in t-shirts, V.I.P. packages and other merch and it was another hugely profitable night for Strange Music. On the other hand, less than 100 fans paid the $7 cover Friday at the Record Bar. And bless his heart, Steddy P told the audience that he'd give his new CD to anyone who told him that they couldn't afford it. That's not how they do it at Strange.

Kansas City Click: The Mars Volta play the Midland on Monday.

(Orginal image by There Stands the Glass. I forgot my camera Friday.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ivie Anderson- He's Tall Dark & Handsome

He's gone.

I was perplexed to see a Sophie Tucker compilation join Willie Nelson and Diana Krall at the top of jazz sales charts until a little research revealed that the New York Times recently published an enthusiastic review of the release by boutique label Archeophone.

I get excited whenever there's a brief flash of interest in bawdy saloon singing. Maybe, I think, someone outside of Kansas City will finally take notice of the great Myra Taylor. Although she recently turned ninety, Taylor is as scandalous as ever.

The risque "Tall, Dark & Handsome," recorded in Los Angeles in 1946, is included on this collection of material from Ivie Anderson's ill-fated career. The one-time Ellington associate was sleeker than Tucker and Taylor, but her sophistication makes the ribald lyric even more titillating.

Still wondering about Sophie Tucker? This is rich.

Hermon Mehari, who was featured at There Stands the Glass last week, makes a sales pitch for UMKC.

A giant among us, Arvo Part, turns 74 today. This piece stops me in my tracks.

It's no American Gangster, but the new Jay-Z is a lot better than I expected.

Kansas City Click: There Stands the Glass favorite Steddy P performs Friday at the Record Bar.

The Crossroads Music Fest goes down Saturday.

Guy Forsyth returns to Knuckleheads on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Exclusive Interview With ...music video?

Thanks, guys.

Tucson band ...music video? embarked on an extensive tour of the United States this week. Fans in markets including Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Nashville and Austin will hear material from their wonderfully winning album Now That My TV Has Wings I'll Never Be Lonely. It and Fireproof Your TV are available at iTunes. The nation's interstates and cheap motels may prove taxing, but they might be less grueling than enduring my silly questions.

There Stands The Glass (TSTG): Did you deliberately set out to find the most difficult, least Google-friendly band name possible?

Wes McCanse of ...music video? (MV): Yes, that was our goal since day one. But joking aside, no.

TSTG: Your music is very emotional. That's something that I don't always associate with electronic-oriented music. Am I listening to the wrong stuff or do you feel that your approach is unique?

MV: We've always felt we were a pop band that happens to be electronic and not the other way around. We think it's important for the listener and
ourselves to have a good song to listen to first and foremost.

TSTG: I love the lyrics to "The Little Boy On Fire"? Is it (dare I ask) autobiographical? Is there an overriding philosophy behind your rather unusual lyrics?

MV: No it wasn't autobiographical per se, but I didn't particularly enjoy practicing the piano as a kid. As far as a lyrical philosophy, I do try to blend fiction and non-fiction in my writing without making it too obvious.

TSTG: Does your music sound like it does because of- or in spite of- your base in Tucson, Arizona?

MV: I think Tucson has a very diverse music scene. We don't all sound like
Calexico or Giant Sand down here. I think our music is a byproduct of the
the music that we listen to. However, the music fans in Tucson have
definitely embraced our sound.

TSTG: Which is a bigger influence- Brian Eno or the Flaming Lips?

MV: Paul: The Flaming Lips. Wes: The Flaming Lips. Justin: Brian Eno.

TSTG: Should fans in Kansas City expect to see three dudes hiding behind laptops? What's your show like?

MV: Definitely not, we'll all be playing instruments. We don't rely on laptops
to make music, we do make our music using laptops though. Chicken vs. egg, right? We play traditional instruments like guitar, but we also play synths, samplers, and a slew of other gadgets that tend to intrigue the audience.

I had no idea what I'd been missing. I love Speech Debelle. Thanks, Mercury Prize!

The BBC's tender portrait of Dave Brubeck is charming.

Bones! (Found via Lawrence.com.)

I remain completely smitten with We Were Promised Jetpacks, perhaps because I experience them as equal parts Arctic Monkeys and Mogwai.

Kansas City Click: ...music video? is joined by Tut Tut and Thee Water Moccasins Thursday at the Record Bar.

(Image by Joe Odea.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dub Syndicate- Drainpipe Rats


I was horrified when "Murder She Wrote" revolutionized the reggae scene in the early '90s. It represented everything I loathed about the direction the music was heading. Over fifteen years later, I wholeheartedly embrace the hit. Funny how that happens. One of the men responsible for updating- for better or for worse- the sound of reggae was Wycliffe Johnson, a.k.a. Steely. He died September 1. Here's a partial listing of his credits. And here's one of his typical productions. Steely played keyboards on the out-of-print 1983 album One Way System.

Meeting Laroo was an unexpected bonus at the Jacka's instore Saturday.

I attended Rock the Light last weekend. Here's my review. I was delighted that a Christian rocker captured the amusing schedule for a recent Lil Wayne concert at the same venue.

Kenny Diamondz' TwitPic of last weekend's White Linen Party starring Lyfe Jennings depicts quite a scene.

Even with a lineup that failed to featured a fresh "must-see" act, I had a great time (as always) at the 2009 edition of the Kansas City Irish Festival. If forced to choose, I suppose David Munnelly and his band of merry men were my favorite group.

My friend Michael Byars is the best music trivia player I've encountered. His fine podcast probably has something to do with his encyclopedic skills.

Kansas City Click: I intend to stay back home with my (new) Beatles and my Stones on Tuesday night, so I'll miss the Ruskin Quartet's gig at Chaz.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Artie Shaw- But Not For Me

No more.

Blue-haired big band fans are frequent targets of my wrath at Plastic Sax. Because they're so passionate about their favorite music- and because they have the money to back it up- they continue to dictate much of what gets booked at the various jazz series in my town.

Here's a difficult admission for someone of my generation: their music was great.

On the rare occasions I dip into the white sweet big band sounds of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Jack Teagarden, I find myself bingeing on the style. This enchanting 1945 track from Artie Shaw's orchestra shows why. It's one of 65 tracks on this wonderful collection. The intricate chart, Shaw's masterful clarinet and a horn section that includes Roy Eldridge (the band was integrated by this date) combine to create unbeatable dance music.

It's difficult to comprehend decades after the fact, but big bands were the popular music of the day and jazz musicians like Shaw were celebrities. Need proof? In addition to selling tens of millions of recordings, Shaw could boast that Lana Turner and Ava Gardner were among his eight wives. Can you imagine, say, Brad Mehldau marrying both Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba? I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Need more? Of course you do. Check out this elaborate video from 1939. You also need to get hip to "Nightmare", Shaw's foreboding and awesomely evil theme song.

"Heaven Only Knows" how much I love the new song and video from A.R.M. It features There Stands the Glass favorites Brother Ali and Budo.

Wonderful jazz pianist Eddie Higgins passed away. Here's his remarkable discography. Doug Ramsey wrote a nice tribute. (Tip via BGO.)

Saxophonist Joe Maneri died last month. I hadn't been familiar with him, but after listening to his music online, I realize that I'd been missing out on a wonderful talent. This, for instance, is dope.

I'm saving my initial session with the leaked Jay-Z album for the holiday weekend.

The Jacka is back in Kansas City. I plan to stop by during his appearance Saturday at 7th Heaven.

I'm really impressed that this weekend's Chicago Jazz Festival prominently features the likes of Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown.

I recall consciously skipping DJ AM's last gig in Kansas City. It's just not my scene. Here's good fan footage of what I missed.

Here's a new track from XTA-C, Kansas City's "Mr. So Heavy."

Kansas City Click: There's a startlingly enthusiastic buzz surrounding the Dandy Warhols' Thursday show at the Beaumont.

Nashville's Kat Jones joins Kansas City staples Howard Iceberg and Chad Rex at Prospero's Books on Friday.

You've never been to Santi Cali Gon Days? Remedy that situation Saturday. I'm sure there's an Eagles tribute band or some such but I usually bounce between a beer tent and the gospel stage.

The KC Irish Fest wraps up Sunday with the Elders.