Friday, May 31, 2019

Concert Review: Nashville Pussy, Guitar Wolf and the Turbo A.C.'s at Knuckleheads

I ain’t never scared.  But as I surveyed the audience of about 250 from my perch on the upper deck of Knuckleheads’ outdoor stage on Thursday, May 30, I realized I may have been the most feeble person at the venue.  Every member of Nashville Pussy, Guitar Wolf and the Turbo A.C.’s is capable of knocking me out in seconds flat.  The bikers, the dude in jorts with a glorious mullet and even the 90-pound Guitar Wolf superfan could also have easily made quick work of me.

I didn’t pay the $20 cover charge to get beat up, so I minded my p’s-and-q’s with another sober pal.  The conventional punk band the Turbo A.C.’s were eager to please, but Guitar Wolf didn’t bother with niceties.  The storied Japanese trio played 45 minutes of confrontational noise.  The band took the stage to “Cretin Hop,” but Guitar Wolf sounded less like the Ramones than the sort of cacophony made by Keith Moon and Pete Townshend when they trashed the Who’s stage sets.  While Seiji has led his band for more than 30 years, he often played as if he never bothered to learn how to play guitar.  Needless to say, I loved every moment of Guitar Wolf’s debilitating anarchy.

My pal repeatedly insisted Nashville Pussy is “so badass.”  Rather than risk him tossing me over the railing, I heartily agreed with his enthusiastic assessment of the headliner.  The longstanding quartet exemplifies everything rock and roll should be: sexy, dangerous, defiant and subversive.  Yet Nashville Pussy’s stubborn insistence on musical competency and actual songcraft meant that the night belonged to Guitar Wolf.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May Recap

Top Five Performances
1. Alisa Weilerstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Inon Barnatan and Colin Currie- Folly Theater
My review.
2. Cardi B- Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
My review.
3. Colter Wall- Madrid Theatre
My Instagram clip.
4. Der Lange Schatten- Blue Room
My review.
5. Combo Chimbita- RecordBar
My Instagram clip.

Top Five Albums
1. Jamila Woods- Legacy! Legacy!
“Are you mad? Yes, I’m mad!”
2. Flying Lotus- Flamagra
My review.
3. Tyler, The Creator- Igor
"Put it in park."
4. DJ Khaled- Father of Asahd
My review.
5. Michael Fabiano- Verdi & Donizetti
It bumps in my whip.

Top Five Songs
1. Mavis Staples- “One More Change”
I feel like going home.
2. Samantha Fish- “Love Letters”
Invisible ink.
3. Luke Combs- “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
Stuff that works.
4. Purple Mountains- “All My Happiness is Gone”
Staring into the abyss.
5. The Get Up Kids- “The Problem Is Me”
Don’t I know it.

I conducted the same exercise in April, March, February and January.

(Original image of Der Lange Schatten by There Stands the Glass.)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Album Review: Flying Lotus- Flamagra

I hit play on Flying Lotus’ Flamagra at exactly 11 p.m. Thursday, May 23.  You’re Dead! was my favorite album of 2014 and I’d waited four years and seven months for the follow-up by the man born Steven Ellison.  My initial reaction to Flamagra was excruciating.  I felt as if FlyLo was simply being weird for the sake of being weird.  I lamented the absence of proper songs during my second pass.  If the third time wasn’t quite the charm, I finally began to comprehend the album’s intent.  Subsequent playthroughs have delighted me.  Flamagra is a cosmic funk album as interpreted by jazz-minded musicians.  The album sounds as if Chick Corea is jamming with Funkadelic on a zero-gravity, low-oxygen rocket to Mars co-piloted by William Burroughs and Elon Musk.  One more thing: the wavy visuals for each song on Spotify suggest a strong drug orientation, but I can attest that Flamagra provides a mind-blowing experience for sober listeners.  “Black Balloon Reprise” is the most conventional track.

I reviewed a performance by the German trio Der Lange Schatten at Plastic Sax.

NPR created a 65-minute overview of the ECM component of the 2019 edition of the Big Ears Festival.  I was in the audience for the Carla Bley Trio and Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin sets featured in the program, but I opted to catch Nate Wooley’s appearance rather than hear the Avishai Cohen Quartet a second time.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Album Review: Craig Finn- I Need a New War

The National’s I Am Easy to Find is a tiresome slog.  I understand why fans insist there’s plenty to admire about the overbearing project, but I’ll turn to the latest release by Craig Finn if I’m inclined to listen to a new collection of sad sack songs by an aging rocker.  The Hold Steady’s front man sounds as drunk and exhausted as ever on I Need a New War.  With the glory days of the Hold Steady in his rearview mirror, Finn confronts the predicaments of middle aged Midwesterners struggling to keep it together on his grim solo album.  More direct and less bloated than I Am Easy to Find, I Need a New War hits uncomfortably close to home.  I need to keep away from sharp objects as I listen to depressive songs like “Grant at Galena”.

I selected the top ten concerts of the summer for The Kansas City Star.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Friday on My Mind

A friend was dumbfounded when I admitted that I had yet to listen to the new release by one of his favorite bands when we met on Friday, May 17.  He couldn’t get his head around the fact that the National’s I Am Easy to Find ranked twelfth in my ranking of the day’s offerings.  I didn’t mean to give offense.  As an ecumenical music obsessive, I’m invariably intrigued by dozens of the hundreds of albums that are issued every week.  Back when I made minimum wage, I could only afford to buy a single album a week.  The streaming era means that every Friday is a bargain-priced holiday.  Ranked by my level of initial interest, a listing of 47 albums released on May 17 follows.  Bitter disappointments and wondrous surprises are always part of the fun.  My assessment will obviously change as I listen to each release.  I’m also sure to discover several additional titles that are currently under my radar.  It’s a good thing my ears rarely tire.

My Preliminary Ranking of Albums Released on May 17, 2019
1. Tyler, The Creator- Igor
2. Brad Mehldau- Finding Gabriel
3. Linda Oh- Adventurine
4. Injury Reserve- Injury Reserve
5. Dave Douglas- Devotion
6. DJ Khaled- Father of Asahd
7. Theo Croker- Star People Nation
8. Hot Suede- Hot Suede
9. Seba Kaapstad- Thina
10. John Zorn- The Hierophant

11. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram- Kingfish
12. The National- I Am Easy to Find
13. Wu-Tang Clan- Of Mics and Men
14. Nil Ciuró- Inwards
15. Jimmy Webb- SlipCover
16. Yolanda Kondonassis- American Rapture
17. Megan Thee Stallion- Fever
18. Jerusalem Quartet- The Yiddish Cabaret
19. Duckwrth- The Falling Man
20. Slowthai- Nothing Great About Britain

21. Rahsaan Patterson- Heroes & Gods
22. Michael Fabiano- Verdi & Donizetti: Opera Arias
23. Jimmie Vaughan- Baby, Please Come Home
24. Josephine Wiggs- We Fall
25. Tanika Charles- The Gumption
26. Turkuaz- Afterlife Vol. 1
27. Ozark Mountain Daredevils- Heaven 20/20
28. Albrecht Mayer- Longing for Paradise
29. Institute- Readjusting the Locks
30. Umphrey’s McGee- Anchor Drop Redux

31. Joanne Shaw Taylor- Reckless Heart
32. Various artists- Sad About the Times
33. Carly Rae Jepsen- Dedicated
34. Larry Fuller- Overjoyed
35. Olden Yolk- Living Theatre
36. The New York Philharmonic- Soloists of the New York Philharmonic
37. Aseethe- Throws
38. Wreckless Eric- Transience
39. Mary Stallings- Songs Were Made to Sing
40. Steel Pulse- Mass Manipulation

41. Martin Outram- Viola Fantasia
42. Rammstein- Rammstein
43. Sam Cohen- The Future Is Still Ringing In My Ears
44. Preston Lovinggood- Consequences
45. Jonathan Dove- The Orchestral Music of Jonathan Dove
46. The Head and the Heart- Living Mirage
47. The Cash Box Kings- Hail to the Kings!

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Another One

“We the Best Music!”  DJ Khaled is ridiculous.  Yet because the hip-hop svengali is in on the joke, I laugh with him rather than at him.  Khaled’s Father of Asahd suffused me with unqualified joy as I drove through Kansas City with the windows rolled down today.  Hearing titans like Cardi B, Nas, Post Malone and Beyoncé rap and sing on state-of-the-art beats accentuated the gorgeous spring day.  The project’s only real flaw is yet another weak Chance the Rapper track.  Aside from providing further confirmation that Chance lost his mojo more than a year ago, Father of Asahd is indeed “another one.”  The star-studded “Holy Mountain” opens the album.

Tyler, The Creator is a weirdo.  That’s hardly news.  Yet with the release of his new album I finally understand that he’s also a card-carrying music nerd.  Every track on the breakup-themed collection Igor seems to be based on either a dusty R&B song or a vintage pop nugget.  His radical remakes of oldies pay homage to the past even as they break new sonic ground.  Here’s “Earfquake”.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Concert Review: Alisa Weilerstein, Sergey Khachatryan, Inon Barnatan and Colin Currie at the Folly Theater

While I was tempted by several other noteworthy concerts last Friday, I opted for the auspicious quartet of cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Sergey Khachatryan, pianist Inon Barnatan and percussionist Colin Currie at the Folly Theater upon discovering that almost every seat in the front row was still available a few hours prior to showtime.  The ticket I purchased in Row A provided 130 intimate minutes with the classical music luminaries.

I heard Barnatan’s every inhalation and each dramatic gasp and telling sigh emitted by Weilerstein.  I could also read the sheet music over Barnatan’s shoulder.  Ignoring the 200 people seated behind me in the 1,050-capacity theater allowed me to pretend that the event presented by The Friends of Chamber Music was a private concert intended solely for my benefit. 

Forty-four years after his death, Kansas City still isn’t ready for Dmitri Shostakovich.  An interpretation of the Russian composer’s Symphony No. 15 anchored the program.  Supplemented by two additional percussionists, that ish was lit.  Currie’s solo marimba (!) attack on new music composer Rolf Wallin’s absolutely bonkers Realismos mágicos was the zaniest thing I’ve heard in Kansas City this year. 

I mirrored the mournful expression of MacArthur genius grant recipient Weilerstein during Beethoven’s so-called Ghost trio.  Only Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” failed to move me.  A critic for The Washington Post felt differently.  The newspaper deemed the ensemble’s concert at the Kennedy Center on the previous night worthy of a review.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I reviewed a performance by Havilah Bruders and Paul Shinn at Plastic Sax.

Imagine a mash-up of Nina Simone and Kendrick Lamar.  “Basquiat” is among the songs on Jamila Woods’ Legacy! Legacy! that meet that lofty speculative standard.  I need to spend more time with the album before verifying that  it’s as good as Solange’s When I Get Home, my presumptive album of the year. 

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Kansas City's (Not So) Hot 100

While trying to devise an appropriate headline for the online component of my new audio feature about the Greeting Committee for KCUR, I toyed with the premise that the indie-pop quartet is Kansas City’s most popular band.  Is that true?  I dove into Spotify’s statistics to gauge how Kansas City acts past and present stack up.  The following ranking is based on the service’s monthly listeners metric.

1. Tech N9ne 2,789,000
2. Janelle Monaé 2,748,000
3. Puddle of Mudd 2,481,000
4. Count Basie 2,342,000
5. Kevin Morby 1,230,000
6. Pat Metheny 804,000
7. Melissa Etheridge 735,000
8. Bob Brookmeyer 538,000
9. Ben Webster 538,000
10. Charlie Parker 495,000

11. Oleta Adams 416,000
12. Coleman Hawkins 375,000
13. Dreamgirl 311,000
14. Lester Young 297,000
15. Krizz Kaliko 281,000
16. Burt Bacharach 254,000
17. The Greeting Committee 188,000
18. David Cook 181,000
19. Stevie Stone 179,000
20. Norman Brown 173,000

21. The Get Up Kids 167,000
22. Mac Lethal 159,000
23. Karrin Allyson 141,000
24. Ces Cru 137,000
25. Big Scoob 130,000
26. Big Joe Turner 127,000
27. Radkey 120,000
28. The Floozies 119,000
29. Gene Clark 114,000
30. Jay McShann 113,000

31. Bloodstone 95,000
32. Kutt Calhoun 93,000
33. Samantha Fish 87,000
34. Nicolette Larson 83,000
35. Making Movies 71,000
36. Iris DeMent 70,000
37. JL 69,000
38. Kevin Mahogany 67,000
39. Hembree 59,000
40. Me Like Bees 54,000

41. Danielle Nicole 53,000
42. Brewer & Shipley 52,000
43. Joyce DiDonato 51,000
44. Reggie and the Full Effect 47,000
45. 77 Jefferson 45,000
46. Julian Vaughn 45,000
47. Krystle Warren 42,000
48. Mackenzie Nicole 38,000
49. Miles Bonny 35,000
50. Madison Ward and the Mama Bear 31,000

51. Listener 30,000
52. Nathan Davis 28,000
53. Eldar Djangirov 27,000
54. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 27,000
55. Marva Whitney 26,000
56. The Anniversary 24,000
57. Joey Cool 21,000
58. Rich the Factor 21,000
59. Shy Boys 21,000
60. Chris Connor 16,000

61. Black Oxygen 15,000
62. Ubi 15,000
63. Various Blonde 15,000
64. Beautiful Bodies 14,000
65. Kelley Hunt 14,000
66. The Republic Tigers 12,000
67. Ha Ha Tonka 11,000
68. Coalesce 10,000
69. Jo Jones 10,000
70. Missouri 10,000

71. Shooting Star 10,000
72. Buck Clayton 9,000
73. Evalyn Awake 9,000
74. Bobby Watson 9,000
75. The Kansas City Symphony 8,000
76. Blair Bryant 6,000
77. Godemis 6,000
78. Kyla Jade 6,000
79. Julia Lee 6,000
80. Pageant Boys 6,000

81. The Rainmakers 6,000
82. 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians 5,000
83. The Kansas City Chorale 5,000
84. Bennie Moten 5,000
85. Trampled Under Foot 5,000
86. The Casket Lottery 4,000
87. The Marcus Lewis Big Band 4,000
88. Fat Tone 3,000
89. The Life and Times 3,000
90. Behzod Abduraimov 2,000

91. Calvin Arsenia 2,000
92. Mess 2,000
93. Radar State 2,000
94. Shiner 2,000
95. The Architects 1,000
96. Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys 1,000
97. Info Gates 1,000
98. Walter Page’s Blue Devils 1,000
99. Logan Richardson 1,000
100. Virgil Thomson 1,000

Notes and caveats:

*My listing- the product of three hours of racking my brain for every consequential artist from the Kansas City area- almost certainly contains several glaring omissions.  Yet before you call me an idiot for overlooking an artist, be advised that many ostensible hometown heroes are streamed by only a few hundred users each month.

*The number for Charlie Parker includes his separate listings for the Charlie Parker Quartet, the Charlie Parker Quintet, etc.  I also combined multiple entries for Count Basie, Pat Metheny, Bennie Moten and Ubi.

*Spotify updates its statistics daily.  The numbers for artists with popular new releases such as the Get Up Kids are sure to change dramatically in the following weeks.

*I recognize that the listening habits of Spotify users don’t necessarily reflect overall music consumption.  Even so, it’s among the most accurate gauges of what’s actually getting played.

*Although Eminem was born in St. Joseph, he’s not considered a local. Besides, his 28,811,000 monthly listeners make everything on my list look like a pitiful scrap.  (Khalid is currently the #1 artist in the world with 49,685,000 monthly listeners.)

*Sevendust has 1,055,000 monthly listeners, but only vocalist Lajon Witherspoon lives in the Kansas City area.

*So, is the Greeting Committee (#16) currently Kansas City’s most popular band?  Kinda sorta.

*EDIT: I’m arbitrarily boycotting Topeka artists. Here are the numbers on four notable Top City acts: Kansas- 5,362,000, Origin- 24,000, Youngblood Supercult- 21,000, Stik Figa- 7,000.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Album Review: PnB Rock- TrapStar Turnt PopStar

My dreams are often set in airports, subway stations and on highways, but last night my unconscious placed me in the role of a fashion photographer on the red carpet of a music awards show.  That’s the surprising power of PnB Rock’s tellingly titled TrapStar Turnt PopStar.  On the surface, the glossy synthetic rap album differs little from the recent work of Juice Wrld and Travis Scott.  Yet the empty musical calories of rudimentary songs like “I Like Girls” taste so good that I can’t tear myself away from the hallucinatory project.  “Middle Child” is the best track.

I reviewed the Flyover festival at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater for The Kansas City Star.

I grade the 2019-20 season of the Folly Jazz Series at Plastic Sax.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

The immaculate sheen Kneebody applies to songs including Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and the Band’s “King Harvest” on By Fire fills me with so much rage that I want to throw bricks through the windows of shiny performing arts centers.  RIYL: Snarky Puppy, transcribing solos, Sting.

Had I not seen Rhiannon Gidden and Francesco Turrisi preview the album at the Big Ears Festival in March, the duo’s enthralling intercontinental folk collaboration There Is No Other would almost certainly have struck me as insufferably twee. 

I hope album narrations catch on.  Mark de Clive-Lowe offers insights into his latest release for the 21 Soul label.

(Original image of a highway fire by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Blame It On My Youth

My Twitter feed was inundated with posts about Kind of Blue and Time Out for International Jazz Day yesterday.  Refusing to play into the hands of cynical marketers and self-serving institutions, I didn’t write any replies.  Yet the clickbait posts soliciting answers to questions like “which jazz records changed your life?” prompted me recall becoming a discerning jazz enthusiast in the 1980s.  Then, as now, my ears were open to all genres, so jazz albums had to be just as exciting as groundbreaking music by the likes of the Clash, Prince, Public Enemy and Talking Heads.  The ten albums on the following list that I purchased as new releases in the 1980s met that standard.  Without these titles in my life during that formative decade, I may not have made a lifelong commitment to jazz.

1. Jack DeJohnette- Special Edition (1980)
2. Pat Metheny- 80/81 (1980)
3. James Blood Ulmer- Free Lancing (1981)
4. Miles Davis- Decoy (1983)
5. Wynton Marsalis- Black Codes (From the Underground) (1985)
6. John Zorn- The Big Gundown (1985)
7. Ornette Coleman- In All Languages (1987)
8. Henry Threadgill- Easily Slip Into Another World (1988)
9. Bobby Watson & Horizon- No Question About It (1988)

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

(Original image of the Tennessee Theater at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, by There Stands the Glass.)