Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Mac Lethal at the Riot Room

I watched a woman's head bounce off the floor of the Riot Room last Friday night. A minute or two after her hard fall, she was aggressively making out with the guy who had propped her up against a wall. I wondered about the different ways the two of us were experiencing Mac Lethal's performance.

Maybe I'm reading her all wrong, but I suspect the woman is the type of Mac fan who shouts along with his atrociously juvenile mashup of "Party In the USA" and ICP's "Miracles." While I love "Pound That Beer" as much as the next red-blooded Midwesterner, I'm just not amused by gratuitous disses of Fergie and Soulja Boy.

Geeks like me would much rather hear the detailed grammar lesson offered Saturday. Mac also did extended off-mic verses that wouldn't have been out of place at a highbrow poetry reading. He's definitely reached an artistic crossroads.

"My new album sounds like this song all the way through," he recently commented at YouTube.

I can't wait.

BGO informed me that Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle and Theotis Ealy performed at a Thanksgiving blues dance in Kansas City. I'm deeply distressed that I didn't hear about it until after the fact.

The ACBs' new video makes me laugh out loud. (Via The Pitch.)

I like the low-key trailer for Reach's forthcoming mixtape.

The drama inflicted on Deerhunter's Bradford Cox reminds me why I no longer even consider sharing approved music at this site.

What it's all about.

Kansas City Click: Lonnie McFadden entertains Tuesday at Jardine's.

Angela Hagenbach is featured at the Spirituality and All That Jazz concert Wednesday at Unity on the Plaza.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass. I didn't bother taking a photo Friday because so many fans were filming the show. Yet not a single video has been uploaded to YouTube.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Nicki Minaj- Pink Friday

All Kanye, all the time.

Kanye West has dominated discussion among my music-oriented friends and within the There Stands the Glass compound all week. I can't remember the last time everyone seemed to be simultaneously obsessing over the same artist.

A couple friends, S. and C., suggested that I find time to give Nicki Minaj's new album a chance. I was skeptical, not because she looks like this, but because she failed to impress me both times I've seen her perform with the Young Money crew.

Even so, Minaj's features on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are excellent. And her album proves that those flashes of greatness aren't flukes. While Pink Friday isn't as ambitious as MBDTF, the extremely entertaining project contains the same sort of game-changing pop thrills as Gwen Stefani's 2004 solo debut.

Just as Minaj assumes different personas in its songs, Pink Friday's sound constantly changes. During "Blazin'," which samples the Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)," Minaj references heroin and West name-drops Nolan Ryan. I don't get it either, but I love it. The hit "Your Love," on the other hand, is a straightforward throwback to mid-60s Motown-style pop.

It's not all nice. The extreme raunch and rage of "Roman's Revenge" overwhelms me. Why is Eminem so angry, anyway? Similarly, the presence of will.i.am and the apparent adversary of this site (rhymes with "steak") is annoying. The first time I hear these songs in a club setting, however, I'll probably come around.

While Pink Friday is not quite in the same league as MBDTF, it's at least as noteworthy as anyone has a right to expect from the long-overdue comeback album by the great Missy Elliott.

Yet another Kanye West enthusiast, Joel Francis, previews Friday's Black Friday jazz-meets-hip hop concert.

Kansas City Click: Mac Lethal returns to the Riot Room on Friday.

My favorite Usher song will undoubtedly be on the set list of Saturday's concert at Sprint Center.

Myra Taylor and the Wild Women of Kansas City perform at Jardine's on Sunday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Ugly Bright Wholesome Reality

Laundry detergent- $11.99. Toothpaste- $4.74. Deluxe version of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy- $13.99. Loaf of bread- $1.99.

I have nothing against Target, but my heart broke this morning as I purchased a physical copy of Kanye West's new album from my neighborhood mass merchandiser. As I wrote yesterday at Plastic Sax, my town doesn't have an independent record store that stocks much new music. So Target it is.

My actions, furthermore, confuse me. I noted earlier this month that I already have a digital copy of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And Pitchfork's perfect ten notwithstanding, I don't like it nearly as much as, say, Graduation.

I guess I love Kanye even more than I imagined.

Bluesman Smokey Smothers has died.

Two Midwestern music industry veterans named Steve have new music blogs. Here's Steve Pick's new site and here's Steve Wilson's new effort.

I reviewed a recent Brandon Flowers show. It was fine. I caught Os Mutantes the next night. It was life-changing.

Kansas City Click: Abel Ramirez' weekly Tuesday gig is now at Ari's Greek Restaurant.

The Soft Reeds play the Brick on Wednesday.

Dave Stephens is a perfect choice to lead the band at the Plaza lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

A True Word: The Flatlanders at Knuckleheads

While I'd seen Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock perform separately on several occasions, I'd never seen the three on stage together. Along with about 250 other geezers, I paid over thirty dollars to see The Flatlanders on Wednesday. Since both The Pitch and The Star reviewed the show, I'll just add a few personal notes.
*"He looks old," I gasped when I first spotted Gilmore. "He is," a friend replied. Gilmore is 65. I had no idea...
*If Johnny Cash possessed, as has been suggested, the voice of God, Jimmy Dale Gilmore has the voice of an angel.
*I don't know what Paul Cebar was doing there, but it was a treat seeing the one-time regional draw again.
*I'd forgotten that Butch Hancock's "If You Were a Bluebird" is one of the greatest love songs ever written.
*The opening set by Colin Gilmore, pictured here, failed to win me over. He's more James Taylor than Townes Van Zandt. There's no shame in that, of course, but it didn't work for me.
*I'll accept that no one played the saw, but leaving "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown" off the setlist was blasphemous. Just for that egregious omission, I'll link to Mudhoney's version.

True Womanhood posted a new song at SoundCloud. "The song is almost entirely made up of samples we made by clanging pieces of metal around in a mile-long sewer tunnel + bass guitar, 808 drumz, and vocals- all run through a severely malfunctioning tape delay," writes the band's Noam Elsner. The band's forthcoming album was reviewed at There Stand the Glass last month.

A fine Tompkins Square label sampler is available as a free download at Amazon. Charlie Louvin, Frank Fairfield, Ran Blake and Michael Hurley are represented.

Jazz musician and composer Harry Whitaker has died. Roy Ayers' "We Live In Brooklyn, Baby" is one of his best-known works. Smalls Records offers a detailed biography.

Kansas City Click: Cowboy Indian Bear team up with Making Movies at the Record Bar on Friday.

Classical pianist Alessio Bax performs a free concert Saturday at the Folly Theater.

Alaturka returns to Jardine's on Sunday.

Crosscurrent pays tribute to Lennie Tristano at Jarndine's on Monday.

(Original image of Colin Gilmore by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Twenty Favorite Kansas City Music Venues

Tim Finn compiled a list of his favorite music venues yesterday. Although I conducted a similar exercise four years ago, both the landscape and my memory bank have since shifted. I couldn't resist posting an update that includes both existing and shuttered clubs.

My friend Chris likes to say that your favorite show can't be in an arena. I tend to agree. I've excluded all large rooms from my list. I included Lawrence venues mostly because my world was turned upside down at The Outhouse.

There's no such thing as a perfect venue. Take my top pick. The sound is spotty, the cover charge is often alarmingly high and patrons have a tendency to yammer incessantly. Even so, Knuckleheads is unique. It has a nice staff, offers cheap man-cans and maintains a solid, if somewhat monochromatic, calendar. (And there's this.)

1. Knuckleheads
2. The Outhouse
3. Parody Hall (both locations)
4. Milton's (Main Street incarnation)
5. The Grand Emporium
6. The Record Bar (Drum Room in same location included)
7. The Hurricane/The Riot Room
8. City Light
9. The Jackpot
10. The Blue Room
11. Jimmy's Jigger
12. Nightmoves
13. Jardine's
14. The Lone Star
15. Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club
16. Crosstown Station
17. The Crossing
18. El Torreon
19. Guitars & Cadillacs
20. BB's Lawnside BBQ

Ces Cru's new video is an extended shout-out.

Kansas City Click: The Flatlanders perform at, ahem, Knuckleheads on Wednesday.

While I ordinarily detest songs about marijuana, I've succumbed to Eric Church's "Smoke a Little Smoke". He'll sing it Thursday at the Independence Events Center.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blame It On My Youth

I occasionally experienced anxiety attacks night terrors as a child. The room spun and a sonic whirlpool rushed through my head. I'd suppressed forgotten these incidents until I first saw Mark Southerland twirl a hose connected to a saxophone during a Snuff Jazz performance. The effect recreated the nightmarish sound that once terrified me.

Last night's Snuff Jazz recital was doubly intense. Guest artist Brian Haas, keyboardist of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, echoed Southerland's sound effect on a melodica.

I now know how to manage the onset of vertigo, so the combined effort of Southerland and Haas hardly phased me. They did inspire, however, thoughts about the relationship between age and music, especially in terms of jazz.

I'd spend the previous night listening to the incredible Deborah Brown. (Here's the Star's review.) About 150 people caught all or part of Brown's performance. Their median age was a relatively youthful 45. The median age of the audience of four-dozen at the Record Bar on Sunday was an even more encouraging 30.

I'm constantly wringing my hands about what will become of jazz once the original fans of artists ranging from Stan Kenton to the Crusaders succumb to old age.

Kansas City is loaded with scores of promising young jazz musicians, yet it's not uncommon for them to play for small audiences consisting of people three times their age. The jazz kids even have a hard time convincing their friends and romantic interests to attend their gigs.

That's why I invest so much hope in acts like Haas' Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and in the artist I call The One. I also wholeheartedly approve of the crossover attempts of The Bad Plus, Vijay Iyer and Brad Mehldau. The efforts of Kansas City-based forward thinkers like Hermon Mehari and Mark Lowrey are even better.

If innovative projects like Black Friday don't succeed, I'm afraid that jazz faces a truly nightmarish future.

Henryk Gorecki died November 12.

Want to see me smile? Play most any ten-second snippet from the new Girl Talk album. Seriously, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore if you don't download All Day immediately.

Credentials Hip Hop interviews former Kansas City, Kansas, resident Mad Marlon. I miss the guy.

Now that she sounds a bit like Shakira, I'm going to have to start paying more attention to Lykke Li.

Kansas City Click: Jazzbo entertains Monday at Jazz.

Tim Whitmer has a weekly Tuesday gig at Accurso's.

(Essay cross-posted from Plastic Sax. Image of Brian Haas performing with Snuff Jazz by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That Ain't Country! (And I Don't Care)

Reba sang Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy" on the CMA Awards. And I liked it.

There's really no point in railing against last night's celebration of the bland, homogenized lite-rock that passes as mainstream country music today. It is what it is.

And as my admiration for Reba's crossover move implies, I'm not a purist. The blurring of genres interests me. Now that I've learned to stop worrying about categories, it doesn't bother me that the members of Lady Antebellum might never have heard of Waylon Jennings. I admire their craftsmanship in much the same way I'm able to dispassionately dissect the work of John Mayer and Kenny G.

The only "country" artist I actively loathe is pictured above.

I'm not kidding- I really did watch last night's broadcast. I was glad to see Mac McAnally win musician of the year and the Zac Brown Band take the Best New Artist award. (I saw both perform in Kansas City earlier this week.) Dierks Bentley's bluegrass-inspired song was decent and Loretta Lynn's spot was nice, but the only thing that I found truly compelling was Miranda Lambert's spirited cover of John Prine's "That's the Way the World Goes Round."

I appreciate the new Tim Finn essay that bears the headline "Abundance of concerts proves KC is country music country." The brand new album by Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Company, incidentally, is very good.

I don't know when I'll get around to reading it, but I'm sure that Joe Posnanski's new treatise on Bruce Springsteen is worthwhile.

Kansas City Click: Matt Otto returns to the Blue Room on Thursday.

Paddy Keenan and John Walsh perform at the Irish Museum and Cultural Center on Friday.

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society headline Saturday's metal show at the Uptown Theater.

LeAnn Rimes' career to date has been a disappointment, but she still has that voice. She performs at Johnson County Community College on Sunday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sonia Pottinger, 1931-2010

For reggae fans, at least American reggae fans of my generation, a recording's producer and the corresponding record label are often just as important as the name of the artist. The names Scratch Perry, Duke Reid, Trojan Records, Sly & Robbie, Beverley's Records, Island Records, King Tubby, Coxsone Dodd, Studio One, Leslie Kong and Byron Lee often serve notice as to the style and quality of a production from reggae's so-called classic era.

Sonia Pottinger and her Gay Feet, Tip Top, Rainbow and High Note labels are also significant names from that period. Pottinger died November 3. Culture's excellent Trod On album features Pottinger's production. Listen to the title track here. She also oversaw recordings of raw ska and countless obscure but wonderful sessions.

Pottinger's Wikipedia entry indicates that she purchased Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label in 1974. This stunning compilation contains some of my favorite music of all time. (Do yourself a favor and listen to the 30-second snippets.)

I caught the Branford Marsalis Quartet on Saturday. Here's my review. I saw the Zac Brown Band for the first time on Sunday. Here's my review.

I stunk on ice at music trivia at the Record Bar last night. The answer to one of the name-that-artist sound clips was this band. I guessed Kyuss. Wrong again.

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a human being.

Kansas City Click: Todd Strait sits in with Steve Rigazzi at Jardine's on Tuesday.

Amy Farrand hosts her weekly variety show at Davey's Uptown on Weirdo Wednesday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Legend Recognize Legend: Lazerbeak & Kanye West

Lazerbeak- "Let It Go" (video)
Kanye West- "Runaway" (video)

One of the two albums I played last night stirred my soul. The other one was a bitter disappointment.

The pointillistic pop of Legend Recognize Legend, the new album by Lazerbeak, came as a shock. The member of Doomtree is best known as one of the elite producers of the hip hop underground. Forget all that. Legend Recognize Legend is more akin to the epic psychedelia of Super Furry Animals. Fans of popular indie rock acts ranging from Arcade Fire to Phoenix will find a lot to like in Lazerbeak's latest.

Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy isn't out yet, but it's not difficult to find. (Don't worry- I'll buy a physical copy when it's officially released on November 22.) West is, of course, brilliant. No popular artist of the past decade made more interesting or enjoyable music. I named Graduation my top album of 2007. And MBDTF's "Power" is one of the best songs of 2010. Taken as a whole, however, it seems as if West has finally succumbed to his own hubris.

The stark sonic contrast between the two projects is striking. West has access to the world's best talent and the resources to clear any sample. Yet MBDTF sounds inferior to Legend Recognize Legend. Hey, Mr. West- you should reach out to this guy.

It's no surprise that the lyrical content of the two projects is also dramatically different. I experience Lazerbeak's album as a rumination on God. (But that's just me.) Kanye's album is about- what else?- himself. (But that's just him.) Both albums are packaged with a DVD. Lazerbeak offers a low-budget but (mostly) creative video for every track. West, God bless him, directed a portentous 34-minute film. Compare and contrast above.

It's possible that I'll tire of Legend Recognize Legend and warm up to MBDTF with additional listening. I hope so. The world would be a lesser place with a watered-down West. Even Lazerbeak, I suspect, would agree.

I will always love "Whitney Houston". That's the title track of Hidden Pictures' new EP.

A few of my peers are less than pleased that U2 is skipping over Kansas City on its stadium tour next summer. I'm far more upset that The Fleshtones' current tour doesn't stop in KC.

Kansas City Click: Reggie B appears Thursday at the Gusto Lounge.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I love Colt Ford. He does his thing Friday at the Beaumont Club.

Apocalypse Meow-related events are taking place all weekend but Saturday's multi-artist bill at the Riot Room looks the most appealing to music lovers like me. Tim Finn explains.

The Record Bar hosts the CD release party for The People's Liberation Big Band on Sunday.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

P.O.S. Is, In Fact, Ruining My Life

This is why I do it.

"P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life" is more than an ironic song title. It's my story. I attend live music events night after night. Classical, country, hip hop, jazz or metal- if it makes me feel alive, I want to be there. Continually going out takes an emotional, financial and physical toll, but I have no regrets.

The grainy fan video shot last night at the Jackpot in Lawrence captures a bit of the magic provided by the Doomtree collective. I truly love the Minnesota misfits. Here's why:
Dessa is an "undiscovered" superstar. Watch.
Lazerbeak is a borderline genius. Watch.
Mike Mictlan is a live wire. Watch.
Cecil Otter is a modern-day Neal Cassady. Watch.
Paper Tiger is a production wizard. Watch.
P.O.S is way ahead of the curve. Watch.
Sims always impresses. Watch.

Doomtree is on tour in the United States and Canada through December 11. Go.

I caught Max Weinberg's second set on Sunday. Here's my review. On Saturday, I attended Hammerween, a concert featuring Hammerlord, Troglodyte and five other extreme metal bands. Here's my review.

Walter Payton, jazz bassist and father of Nicholas, has died.

Kansas City Click: Russian Circles return to the Riot Room on Tuesday.

Trumpeter Hermon Mehari plays Jardine's on Wednesday.

(Original image of P.O.S. by There Stands the Glass.)