Tuesday, December 21, 2010

my favorite live shows of 2010: kansas city edition

last year in 2009, mid year i was trending well on the number of bands i saw and shows i went to so i set a goal to see 250 bands and happily accomplished it. yes, i track everything and i'm very ocd when it comes to this kind of stuff. i went into 2010 and didn't set any goals, i just wanted to see what happened. the year started off with a bang that ended up really shaping the entire year.

it was january 8, 2010 at czar bar on a night when it couldn't have been 5 degrees outside. but inside the venue it was hot as hell. i had no idea what to expect when i went to the first "Mark Lowrey vs. Hip Hop" show. no one knew what to expect, not even the guys on stage.

that show opened my eyes up to a lot of things... more hip hop, it showed me a new side of jazz and it started a few pretty good friendships. it was a crazy night and i'm really happy i didn't let some weatherman scare me into my home that night. i owe a huge thanks to the crew on stage that night.

that's how it started, with a bang. it's ridden a really big wave all year. this year i was able to see over 515 bands and catch about 275 shows. yeah, sometimes i forgot where my apartment is, fortunately it's near the record bar.

the list below recaps in a twitter friendly format my favorite 20 shows of the year in kansas city. i've paired my text with a poster from the band i saw that night. a few of the posters are for the local shows, otherwise i picked the coolest poster available.

here goes...

20 10/04/10 Wye Oak/Mountain Goats Bottleneck
a heavy 1-2 punch of a band I've wanted to see for a long time, then a band that simply caught me with my guard down.

19 9/11/2010 Hearts of Darkness Crossroads Music Fest: Crosstown Station
it was the anchor to the best crossroads music fest yet, the line stretched down the block and was 1 in, 1 out for 2 hours.

18 02/02/10 P.O.S./Dessa/Steddy P Jackpot
i finally got to "find the beauty in the bass line" and hear some of the smartest hip hop going from doomtree.

17 03/21/10 The Appleseed Cast Record Bar
we left SXSW early enough that morning for me to make it back for this show, 12 hours later I walked in during the first song of the set on their Low Level Tour.

16 05/11/10 Rodrigo y Gabriel Uptown
two people and their guitars with no words, but plenty of encores.

15 10/18/10 Frank Turner Crosstown
no idea what I was walking into here, but I think I found the illegitimate son of Billy Bragg.

(clearly not a poster, but a great photo from Slimm of Abby, she's a force!)
14 01/18/10 Tiny Horse Record Bar
it was the first time I'd heard Abby's voice in a long time, that voice could fill the biggest of rooms.

13 04/04/10 VV Brown Record Bar

one song in and you knew she'd be a star, now I see her on MTV as I'm changing the channels.

12 07/26/10 The Dodos/New Pornographers Liberty Hall
one band had trombones hooked up to a loop, the other had Neko Case.

11 11/06/10 Cherokee Rock Rifle Apocalypse Meow III: Riot Room
already part of one of my favorite days of the year, Apocalypse Meow, CRR swept me away right before what I was drinking did.

10 10/08/10 Gardening, Not Architecture Riot Room
this delicate singer songwriter nestled into a night of loud and with pretty lights.

9 12/6/2010 Lucero Bottleneck
this show was so good i had to come home and edit this list, they played for 2 plus hours with 6 songs in the encore, ben's soul spilled out a little bit.

8 01/08/10 Mark Lowrey vs Hip Hop (round 1) Czar Bar
this show opened me up to so many things in the local scene, it hardly seems fair that I deserved it.

(unfortunately, most TOOL posters suck, so none shown.)
7 06/24/10 Tool Sprint
Maynard, lights, Maynard, video screens, Maynard, lasers, Maynard, wicked seats.

6 01/17/10 American Catastrophe Davey's
Shaun said they were putting away some of their older songs after the set that night, happy I was there for the send off.

5 11/02/10 Russian Circles Riot Room
the drummer reached inside all of us that night and shook out our souls, so intense.

4 09/21/10 Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Midland
that night all of KC's music community gathered amongst a smattering of others to see the new James Brown, in heels.

3 04/21/10 Roman Numerals/Phoenix Uptown
for RN getting a stage they deserved due to a volcano in Iceland and watching Steve break a string 3 minutes in... and the light show of the Phoenix.

2 10/17/10 Sufjan Stevens Uptown
I will never forget the 25 minute journey, the voice and that production.

1 04/22/10 Jonsi Liberty Hall
their music, Sigur Ros, is my religion and he may very well be my pope.

the one thing i want to pass along about this year, and it's something that everyone in the local music community already knows, EVERY night of the week in kansas city or any metropolitan area there is great music being made. all you have to do is read a little bit, look at a website, follow the right person on twitter or friend the right person on facebook and your eyes can be opened to all sorts of awesome. i know it sounds hallmarky, but it's true. next time you plop down $250 to see bon jovi's hair realize that would get you into 35 shows at local venues in kc and almost all of them can sing better than that guy and a few of them even have better hair that guy... and once again, we come full circle back to mark lowrey.

Monday, December 20, 2010

my top 20 favorite albums of 2010

(it was time to dust off this blog for "best of" season)

the mandatory plot line of a "best of" post/article/story is to say if it was a good/bad/important/lame year in music. i think it's too hard to cast those stones. i'm a "favorites" kind of guy, more than a "best of" guy. i realize if you're a rock/hip hop/country fan you may want to stab me after browsing my list. if you're an indie/shoe gazer/post rock fan you may want to text me and hang out.

don't get me wrong i listened to all the same hip hop albums that everyone else did: kanye (there are 2 great songs there), big boi, the roots and cee lo (congrats on your hit song with a bad word in it, rebel). and you know what, i'd rather listen to steddy p's album "style like mine" from 2009 before any of them. yep, #kcpride.

so here are the fruits of my labor. i plowed through 260 plus albums this year. it was a little less than last year, but that's because i was living in bars all year seeing live shows. i always like to point out, of my top 20, i didn't know 9 of the artists before the year began but they won a spot.

here you go...

20 Stars - The Five Ghosts

more great lilting tales from the Canadian songbird and Broken Social Scene contributor Amy Millan and other band mates.

19 Frightened Rabbit - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

whiskey soaked Scots put together another good batch of songs of longing and desperation, someday people will know their name.

18 Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy Of Love

loud chick rock shaken at you from Carol van Dyk, similar in vibe to local scene heros from the '90s, Frogpond but they're Dutch.

17 Lissie - Catching A Tiger

midwestern singer songwriter with a really good back line that won me over at SXSW, not your typical coffeehouse girl.

16 The Album Leaf - A Chorus of Storytellers

Jimmy LaValle's San Diego ambient synth rock returns to my favorite albums list, just like in 2004 it's a solid collection of soundscapes.

15 School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire

shoegazer electro pop from identical twins from NYC and another dude, not long after their fall Record Bar gig one of the twins left the band.

14 Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring

indie chamber folk kids from Portland return to my list after their 2008 album, great arrangements of voices and strings.

13 Cowboy Indian Bear - Each Other All The Time

local Lawrence indie pop boys on The Record Machine label teamed up to make a great album, with more good to come with the addition of Katlyn Conroy.

12 Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

"best of" darlings team up for another great album full of memorable songs, if they wanted to they could be as big as U2.

(this video is a youtube version, to create your own, which is AWESOME, go here http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com


11 Tracy Thorn - Love & Its Opposite

better known as one half of Everything But The Girl, here standing on her own this Brit pours out painfully beautiful songs.

10 Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

midwest indie folk rocker puts down the lyric book and picks up a Casio, or five and goes experimental and it's surprisingly successful.

9 Glasser - Ring

newcomer Cameron Mesirow put together an album filled with airy-synth beats she calls "post-pop" that plays out almost like one really long track.

8 Mimicking Birds - Mimicking Birds

3 guys from Portland that won over Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, got on his label then opened for MM, they're better than MM.

7 Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Brooklyn based quintet pushing out really catchy sythny pop beats with pretty decent lyrics to boot, this has been in heavy rotation for 10 months.

6 Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

these Jersey boys need to go on a US tour and open for The Hold Steady, they share the same feist, grit and drum beats.

5 Sleigh Bells - Treats

it sounds like you ran into the studio, turned every knob and switch to 10 then laid down vocals, it's loud and from just 2 kids from Jersey.

4 The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

music in its simplest form, a man with a voice you wish Dylan still had with his guitar making music, he's a Swede but I bet he likes Nashville.

3 Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

she's the girl next door version of Beth Orton, more approachable, less elusive and not so broken hearted yet, she's only 20.

2 Gonsi - Go

remember that Icelandic volcano that disrupted the world in April, Eyjafjallajökull, Jonsi is the voice of that volcano.

1 The National - High Violet

there's something about Matt Berninger's voice and the darker arrangements coming from the two sets of siblings backing him, they're responsible for my #1 album of 2008 and the decade, love them with me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

50ish shows on the radar - MAY concert calendar

(from my facebook page) the april calendar sparked some interesting conversations, so let's do it again. here's a look at may. 3 shows i'm

really geeked about: may 15 hip hop vs Mark Lowrey at Record Bar, the HUGE 3-day event at Riot Room from 5-20 to 5-22

and then Eluvium on may 28 at the Jackpot. going to be another busy month.

5-1 Sonic Spectrum Spring Fling with Hammerlord/The Pedaljets/Sons Of Great Dane at Record Bar
5-1 Truckstop Honeymoon at R Bar, the new restaurant in The Bottoms
5-1 Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship (NE)/Boo & Boo Too/High Diving Ponies at Replay
5-2 Arrington Di Dionyso's /This Is My Condition/The Conquerors at Record Bar
5-2 Joshua James/Cody Wyoming/Sara Swenson at Crosstown Station
5-3 F***ed Up/Rooftop Vigilantes/Dark Ages at Jackpot
5-3 Pearl Jam/Band of Horses at Sprint
5-4 The Record Machine Presents Switched On with Max Justus & Motorboater at Czar Bar
5-4 Stardeath & White Dwarf / Cloud Dog Jackpot Saloon
5-6 Unknown Hinson- Knuckleheads
5-7 Belle Whether- Midwestern Music
5-7 Kirsten Paludan/Margo May at Record Bar
5-7 Gil Mantera’s Party Dream/Harlem/The Rich Boys at Riot Room
5-7 Found Footage Festival (David Cross and Others) The Granada
5-8 Appleseed Cast/ Colony Collapse/The Caves at The Bottleneck
5-8 Vi Tran & The Pacific Americana Band at the Brick
5-9 MURS/Sick Jacken/STEDDY P. & DJ MAHF at Jackpot
5-10 Goochi Boiz, Bleach Bloodz at Riot Room
5-10 Converge/Coalesce/Black Breath/Lewd Acts/Canyons at The Bottleneck
5-10 Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek at Midland
5-10 Ben Hoppes/Madhappy/Scratch Track at Record Bar
5-12 Red Elvises Knucklehead's
5-12 Neil Hamburger Record Bar... See More
5-13 Reverend Horton Heat/Cracker/Split Lip Rayfield at Crossroads KC
5-13 It’s True (NE)/Katlyn Conroy & The Wild and Wooly/Karma Vision at Replay
5-13 Howard Iceberg/The Scott Moyer Band early show at Riot Room
5-14 Cowboy Indian Bear & Noise FM CD RELEASE PARTY at Granada
5-14 Soft Reeds/It's True at Czar
5-14 Phantogram/The Feverbell/Walking Oceans at Riot Room
5-14 Matt Pond PA/Bobby Long at Bottleneck
5-14 Roseanne Cash at the Folly
5-14 Kip Winger- Lucky Brewgrille
5-15 MARK LOWERERY VS. HIP HOP at Record Bar
5-15 MO CHAINSAW GRASSACRE: Big Smith/Mountain Sprout/Deadman Flats/and more at Crossroads KC
5-15 Nomathmatics at Riot Room
5-16 Hooligan Record Swap Meet 10am-7pm at Beaumont
5-16 Carrie Rodriguez/Jim Lauderdale at Knuckleheads
5-16 Conan at Midland
5-16 Drag the River at the RecordBar
5-16 Mastodon Liberty Hall
5-17 Violent Soho/The Architects/Fists Up! at Riot Room
5-18 Grisly Hand/The Magpies at Daveys
5-19: The Sexy Accident at the RecordBar... See More
5-20 to 5-22 Local Artist Overthrow 2 at Riot Room
(5-20 Day 1) - Grisly Hand, Cowboy Indian Bear, Its True, The Caves, Sam Billen, DJ Clockwerk
(5-21 Day 2) - Audiovox, Pet Comfort, Sleepy Kitty (Ex Harvey Danger), Thieves, Bleach Bloodz, The Noise FM, Troubador

Dali, Night Like A Thief, Tambourine Club, Cloud City, Vehicles, DJ 2Live Cruz
(5-22 Day 3) - In The Grove, Waiting For Signal, Heroes & Villains, Be/Non Synthesized, Sons Of Great Dane, Actors &

Actresses, Latin, The Model Congress, John McKenna Band, Seafarer, DJ Robert Moore (Sonic Spectrum)
5-21 Hidden Pictures/Miss America at Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence
5-21 James Taylor/Carole King at Sprint
5-21 Martin Sexton at Crosstown Station
5-21 early - Oriole Post/Margo May/The Blackbird Revue at Record Bar
5-21 late - Reach/The Floozies/Mouth/Hip Hop Jam Session at Record Bar
5-21: Ray Price/Billy Joe Shaver/Dale Watson/Dallas Wayne at Knuckleheads
5-24 Free State Revival/Tiny Horse/Andrew Anderson at Record Bar
5-24 Nice Nice Replay Lounge
5-26 Mary and the Giant/Adam Acuragi/Ben Summers at Record Bar
5-27 Brannock Device/Stoll Vaughan/Mother Culture at Record Bar
5-27 Molly Gene- Davey's Uptown
5-28 Eluvium at Jackpot
5-28 Paper Bear/Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship/The Belated/Radio City/High Diving Ponies at Riot Room inside
5-28 Mr. History/Zap/Restless Breed at Riot Room outside
5-28 Glitch Mob at Conspiracy Room next to the Uptown
5-28 Victor Wooten Band/Spoonfed Tribe at Crossroads KC
5-30 Maxwell/Jill Scott at Starlight
5-31: The Good Foot at the Riot Room

Sunday, March 28, 2010

sxsw 2010, it was the best week ever.

here's my sxsw wrap up.

it was my 2nd trip to sxsw. last year was my first and we were there for 4 nights. this year we were there for 7 nights. and perhaps more importantly, next year we will be there for 4 nights. 7 nights is WAY too long.

the fest was amazing. i managed to catch 76 bands in 23 different venues over the 7 days. not all of those are full sets, but if you've been to sxsw you know how it works, arriving early to see the band you really want to see and discovering new acts along the way as you wait for a set change.

by far the coolest thing this year was running into so many kc folks on the streets and hanging with kc folks at the shows. also, a big thanks to my roommates shannon, jimmy and harper (and blake and buchholtz). another big thanks to josh, steve, billy, rhonda, mary, abby, chris, john, sheppa, emily, nic, jake and everyone else i may have forgotten and all the kc bands that made the trek. kc represented in a huge way down there and i know plans have already begun to make next year even bigger.

here's a rundown of the shows i caught.

McAlister Drive pure volume house
Shinobi Ninja pure volume house

The Good The Bad latitude 30
Nat Jenkins latitude 30
Chris Shefflett latitude 30
Beans on Toast latitude 30
Smokey Angle Shades latitude 30
Supernovas latitude 30
Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. latitude 30
Billy Bragg latitude 30 (i got to meet Billy Bragg!)

Johnny Flynn pure volume house
Jakob Dylan & Neko pure volume house
Shunda K beauty bar inside
Shondes beauty bar
Pomagranates beauty bar

Brazos (solo lead singer) hilton lobby
Basia Bulat galaxy
Rural Alberta Advantage emos outside
Broken Bells parking garage
Mynameisjohnmichael mohawk outside
Small Black mohawk outside
Anni Rossi mohawk inside
Toro y Noi mohawk inside
Washed Out mohawk outside
Dan Black mohawk outside
Besnard Lakes mohawk outside
Lucy and the Popsonics vice
Zoe Keating central presbyterian
Balmorhea central presbyterian
Sharon Jones/Dap Kings stubbs
Men malverde
jj malverde
Sleigh Bells malverde

Frightened Rabbit hilton lobby
Lou Barlow galaxy
The Low Anthem galaxy
The Middle East galaxy
Black Prairie galaxy outside
Dum Dum Girls french legation museum
Holly Miranda french legation museum
The XX french legation museum
Sarah Jaffe st david's
Miles Kurosky emos outside
Rogue Wave emos outside
Efterklang buffalo billiards
Marina & the Diamonds lamberts
Nomathmatics canvas

John Hiatt hilton lobby
Courtyard Hounds hilton lobby
Lissie beauty bar
Joe Pug beauty bar
The Low Anthem beauty bar
Ben Nichols beauty bar
This Will Destroy You pure volume house
The Honey Brothers pure volume house
Freelance Whales galaxy outside
An Horse galaxy outside
Local Natives galaxy outside
Fashawn mohawk outside
Frankie Rose mohawk inside
Grass Widow mohawk inside
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart mohawk inside

The Middle East convention center
Tiny Horse canvas
Beautiful Bodies canvas
Mother Culture canvas
Restless Breed canvas
Cowboy Indian Bear canvas
Cherry Tee Parade canvas
Frightened Rabbit french legation museum (this was my favorite set at sxsw this year)
The Sandwitches mohawk inside
Turbo Fruits mohawk outside
Surfer Blood mohawk outside
The Oh Sees mohawk outside
The Hood Internet karma lounge
Electric President karma lounge


poster by Public Domain
matt at publicdomaindesign.com

Sunday, January 17, 2010

t-minus two months until sxsw

it's only two months away! here's a few more artists to check out when you're in austin.

Ólöf Arnalds

any friend of Sigur Ros is a friend of mine. she plays a mix of Icelandic folk mixed with coffee house music. good stuff.

Azure Ray

together again! Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, two great singer songwriters from Omaha are getting their old group back together. should be a beautiful set.


on one of the more mysterious labels right now Secretly Canadian Records, this should be an experimental and weird, but good time.

Kat Edmonson

a good mix of jazz and pop from the girl next door. she's from austin, so it could be a good turnout.

Deer Tick

good, raspy-voiced indie folk and alt-country type stuff. front man, John McCauley's got one of those voices that can capture you.


they are a danish group that sounds like Sigur Ros at times and Grizzly Bear at others. if these guys get to play in Second Presby Church venue it could be a special night.

Electric President

if this really happens i'll be so happy. their self-titled album from 2006 was awesome and then they disappeared. it's good mix of folk, pop and electronica; three magic words when used in the same sentence make me really happy. these guys were on the Morr label, every artist on this German label is amazing too.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

once over: "contra" by vampire weekend, release date jan 12

i loved the first release from vampire weekend. it was a self-titled release in 2008 from the four students from columbia university. it had a sound that i hadn't heard for a long time. i'd say the closest thing i could relate it to was paul simon during his "graceland" and rhythm of the saints" days.

i'm not saying it was a classic like "graceland" is, but who knows in ten years how "vampire weekend" will be viewed.

with their new album, "contra", before pushing play i was expecting a repeat. thinking a lot more of the same. happily, it sounds like their sound in the two years since their last release has got deeper. the lyrics are a little tighter. the music's a little more open. some of the songs feel a little synth-ed up and even some dabblings in electronica. i can dig that.

if you had a chance to see these guys live at liberty hall in lawrence on 9/11/08 at their amazingly packed and sold out show you know they look like four boys plucked from cul-de-sacs in the neighboring suburbs. nice, and clean shaven, this album feels more skinny jeans and PBR friendly. it's got more of a hipster, indie vibe to it and that's fine. i mean, they did all go to columbia, i think hipster flows through the water fountains on that campus.

if the last track of the album, "i think ur a contra" is any indication of the direction of this band, you know the same way a franchise film leaves you hanging knowing there will be a sequel, vamprie weekend's third album will be their best. it's a mix of grizzly bear and the antlers. i know a lot of bands are heading down that road right now, but that road's one of my favorite streets in town.

favorite track: "horchata"
here's a video from a live show, but overdubbed is the audio from the album. this being the second week of the year, in the bleak of mid-winter so to speak, this song really makes you remember summertime. a feeling we could all use a little of in kansas city right now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

it's only tuesday, but let's talk about the weekend

this weekend may offer 2 feet of snow and some other polar bear friendly conditions, but you need to crawl out of your cave. there's WAY too much cool stuff happening for you to stay home and watch another "jersey shore" marathon on mtv.

FRIDAY NIGHT - your agenda
what: Mid America Manifesto: Music Poster Design and Printmaker Showcase
where: 1819 Central Gallery + Event Space
when: the gallery opens friday, january 8 at 6:00 pm. it will remain on display until march 4
more info here.

the gallery will feature concert posters from some of your favorite local and national bands and probably some of the bands you are in. the Alacartoona poster above is by GravityInk who will be at the event.

what: Michael Byars gets the "Tantrum" treatment at the Westport Coffeehouse Theatre
when: Friday, January 8 from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm
more info here.

the good people of the Tantrum improvisational troupe have been looking for a sacrificial lamb to start the new decade with - guess who? our favorite KCUR Morning Edition host, Michael Byars. it should be a good and hilarious time.

what: Brannock Device, Howard Iceberg and Grisly Hand at Davey's Uptown
when: Friday, January 8 at 9:30 pm
more info here.

THREE great bands all under one warm roof.

what: Mark Lowrey vs Hip Hop at Czar Bar
when: Friday, January 8 at 10 pm
what it all means: Lowrey and Brandon Draper will be playing jazz vs the freestyle hip hop stylings of Les Izmore (hearts of darkness), Sephiroth, Vertigone, and Swayzorblades

SATURDAY NIGHT - your agenda

what: The Old Canes, The Caves and Cowboy Indian Bear
when: Saturday, January 9 at 10 pm
what it all means: back in 2004, one of Tim Finn's favorite albums of the year was "Early Morning Hymns" by The Old Canes. in 2009 they re-emerged and are now signed to Saddle Creek. the video above shows the creation of their newest album from 2009, "Feral Harmonic".

additionally, it was one of my favorite albums of the year in 2004 and the lead singer, Chris Crisci is the lead singer of my beloved, The Appleseed Cast.

what: screening of the film, "The Room" and SH3PP@MA+ICS (Nomath/Botnet Hive) at Czar Bar
when: Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 9:05pm - till 3am (yep, now open till 3am)
more info here.

come for a screening of the cult classic film and stay for beats by SH3PP@MA+ICS (Nomath/Botnet Hive) & IGGYBABY (Botnet Hive).

Friday, January 1, 2010

my favorite shows of the decade in kansas city - 23 of them

all these lists, when will they end? well, pretty soon. this list is a list i tried to avoid making. however after reading over all of the lists submitted on tim finn's (one of my favorite people in the world) back to rockville blog i was motivated.

the lists there were heavy on kemper arena and sprint center shows. i've said it a hundred times, your favorite band should never play sprint center, or whatever large box arena in the city you live. if your favorite show can happen in the bottleneck, in a room that can hold 400 people, where the artist walks through the room to get on stage you're guaranteed a more intimate show. and in many cases you can meet the band at the merch table or by their van (notice i didn't say bus).

so, with smaller venues in mind, i give you my favorite shows of the decade from kansas city and lawrence in the order they happened.

1/20/00 our lady peace hurricane
i loved this band. they were at their peak, playing huge rooms but took the night off and played a tiny room and on top of that it was an all acoustic show.

8/4/01 the appleseed cast hurricane
this show was ground breaking for me. their album "low level owl: volume 1" was about to come out and it was my first time seeing the cast. even now, almost 10 years later i get excited for everyone of their shows. and the best part, they're from right here in kansas city!

11/27/01 u2 kemper
10 weeks after 9-11 U2 plucked all the heart strings in that building for 2 hours. it really was an amazing show.

3/9/02 nikka costa beaumont
the crowd was small, but mighty for this funk, jam rock, dance party. unfortunately nikka continues to fly below the radar but she deserves the big stage. book her at bonnaroo before phish and she'd be huge!

4/22/02 sasha and digweed uptown
out of the way haters. back in the early 2000s kansas city had a small, but loyal electronica scene. small shows happened every weekend in the craziest of rooms. when this show was announced, in that community, it was like the beatles were coming.

11/14/02 aimee mann liberty hall
aimee's ability to spoon out her soul and feed it to her audience is amazing. that night everything was perfect. she was on tour in support of hew new album, "lost in space" coming off of "bachelor no. 2" and her contributions to the "magnolia" film soundtrack had her at her peak and earning well deserved respect.

9/17/03 rem starlight
i was with great friends and we had just lost a dear friend a month to the date of that show. michael stipe said her name twice and dedicated "nightswimming" to her. it was amazing.

04/28/04 damien rice liberty hall
i'd built this show up in my head for six months and it lived up to the hype. he turned liberty hall into a library, so quiet and attentive. damo and lisa hannigan's vocals ripped through that place.

6/18/2005 matisyahu wakarusa
his heyday has certainly passed, but that night during his 3am set on the campground stage, musically it was like seeing snow for the first time. to see a hasidic jew in full garb, suit, hat, vest, and a profound beard beat boxing it was something else.

07/08/05 the album leaf jackpot
it was a show that brought out the uber smug and man were we a happy bunch. most of the time when you love a band you want everyone to know about them. you not knowing about this band is ok with me. i'll keep it for myself. that's how good it was. please come back.

8/23/05 the white stripes starlight
from the second row, during the second song i said to my buddy, this will be one of the best shows we ever see. and it was. i know bono thinks he's god, but i'd rather believe in jack white.

10/8/05 william elliott whitmore replay
it was $2 to see this show. $2. think about that. will sat on a stool in the corner of the replay lounge and it was like a friend playing in your living room, but a friend who sounded like a young tom waits.

2/18/06 NIN kemper
i was a fan of their music but didn't know what to expect. the production was crazy, scrim, huge projector, moving stage structures and perhaps bigger than all that trent reznor's expressed appreciation for his fans standing by him while he went through a crazy period of his life.

2/22/06 sigur ros uptown
the first time i saw them was five months before this show in minneapolis and it goes down as one of the best shows i've ever seen. this was equally impressive, but better it was in my hometown and i didn't need a hotel room.

5/22/06 imogean heap bottleneck
i've never seen the bottleneck so full and so hot. the walls were sweating. she was a fast, rising star and filled the stage with her musical trinkets and gadgetry and together the room lived her music. she came back six months later to liberty hall. it was equally impressive and equally full.

10/3/06 mew bottleneck
i had never heard of them and i'd only listened to them on cd for the first time on the drive from kansas city to the bottleneck. they had a guitar tech at the bottleneck. they brought in extra boards, extra lights, extra crew... madonna could have played they had so much stuff. once they fired it up it was beyond impressive.

03/31/07 explosions in the sky bottleneck
i had no idea how anyone knew about this band. then i learned about the tv show "friday night lights" and that the explosions impressively score every episode. then it made sense why the room was so full and so young. those guys filled the room with their musical thrashings for the most receiving of crowds. i was overjoyed to see a young crowd turn out like that to see an "instrumental" band, or a band that has no singer. they would come back later to the granada and do the same thing.

11/21/07 john butler trio voodoo
every once in a while kansas city surprises me. this was one of those nights. it was the night before thanksgiving which is a great night to go to the bars, but i was imagining a terrible night to go see an australian band at a casino that had never played in kansas city before. people showed up in droves! we were all treated to one of the best performances of butler's well known "ocean" that i'd ever heard.

05/05/08 the swell season uptown
less than 3 months after giving their acceptance speech for winning an oscar for the film "once" they came through town and filled the uptown with such a great love story. as impressive as the show was, was the sold out crowd that came out for the show. again, kansas city surprised me. their return show in 2009 was also another remarkable night.

09/05/08 this will destroy you jackpot
watching their drummer andrew miller is like watching "neo" in "the matrix". no one moves like that. his drumsticks are only sticks for a few seconds before they become shrapnel flying through the air. that kind of intensity pounded the walls of the jackpot all night. i love these guys.

05/11/09 manchester orchestra record bar
06/24/09 phoenix record bar
11/09/09 leonard cohen midland

you can read my thoughts on these shows in an older post HERE.

2010 to 2019 has some lofty goals. good luck.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 things to look forward in 2010 and other bits

2009 was great and as we are about to enter 2010 there are a few things to look forward to. musically, of course. let's discuss.

SXSW 2010 - march 17 - 21

my first trip in 2009 was the best week of my life. hands down. hoping for a repeat or at least as close to one as i can get this march. there's still time to make plans for you to go.

THE NATIONAL - new album, date and name TBD
the album has some HUGE shoes to fill as a follow up to Boxer, that album is on handfuls of "albums of the decade" list, including mine.

FRIGHTENED RABBIT - new album, march 9, "winter of mixed drinks"
they already released the first single and i heard it live this summer, it's great. the album's going to be more of the same, which is piles of awesome. hopefully they'll get some more recognition this time in the states.

THE APPLESEED CAST - new tour playing old songs, february and march
local heroes (of mine) are getting ready to hit the road in february and will be playing in full TWO of my favorite albums of all time, "low level owl: volume 1 and 2." if this was ten years ago i'd hope that someone with power would be in the room at one of those gigs. these days people of power don't exist, so i'll just wish them a successful tour and hope they sell a ton of merch to pay the bills.

JONSI BIRGISSON (Sigur Ros frontman) - new album, march 23, "go"
my icelandic hero jonsi is putting out a solo album. not sure how "solo" it will be, but i'm positive it will be remarkable. i'll starting lighting candles in hope of a tour.

ALBUM LEAF - new album, february 2, "a chorus of storytellers"
i'm amazed that these guys aren't household names yet. and live, they put on a special show. maybe we'll get a tour too.

LILITH FAIR festival - summer 2010
obviously not an album, but a tour, but it should be great. kansas city isn't on their agenda yet, but the line will be well worth the drive.

JJ - new album, march 9, name TBD
this obscure band shall be obscure no more! properly signed to a label and currently lining up things for a new release. this album will be a sxsw darling and probably make it impossible for me to see them in austin a week after the album is cut.

JJ to tour with XX - spring 2010
hipsters get in line! should be a great time. the pairing only happens 7 times. not sure if i'll make it to a show, but the musical smugness in that room makes me happy.

WHITE STRIPES Documentary, march, "great white northern lights"
jack white was in one of my favorite movies in 2009, "it might get loud". perhaps in 2010 he'll pull a repeat with their tour documentary. they played tiny towns in crazy small corners of the world. the movie should be awesome.

other bits:
VAMPIRE WEEKEND - new album, january 12, "contra"
ARCADE FIRE - new album, may release, name unknown
THE COLBERT REPORT - more musical bookings
THE HOLD STEADY - hinted at new album in 2010, not much else known
CAT POWER - chan marshall drops some hints of a new album in late 2010
FLEET FOXES - heard in an interview, should have something out in fall 2010
BAND OF HORSES - new album, date TBD, "night rainbows"
PETER GABRIEL - new album, feb. 15, "scratch my back"
JOHN BUTLER TRIO - new album, date TBD, "april uprising"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

my top 30 favorite albums of the decade

in the previous decade i dabbled in music. this decade i lived in it. i suppose that's the difference between being a fan and an addict.

live music, studio albums, a music blog (RIP patchchord and now this thing), trekked all around this country, made lifelong music friends in kansas city and every where else, built up a ridiculous collection of music... so, i'm a little biased here, but i'll call it my favorite decade of music. i know those will argue that the beatles and the early rolling stones era were far superior but i'll stick with the first decade in the 2000s. i imagine myself and most of my music snob peers would have turned our noses to the music coming out of the radio back then and gone out in search of something else. the same way we do now.

putting this list together was a ridiculous process. you hide in a dark room holed up with your favorite album of the moment playing on your headphones and try and think back on TEN years. you check play counts on iTunes. you dig through stacks of cds. you flip through some vinyl. you think back to the albums that changed your life. that might sound silly, but if you're reading this blog, you probably "get it", i hope you do.

all these things in mind, i give to you my favorite 30 albums of the 2000s.

30 bachelor no.2 aimee mann 2000
29 one cello x 16: natoma zoe keating 2006
28 our endless numbered days iron and wine 2004
27 underneath the stars kate rusby 2004
26 wolfgang amadeus phoenix phoenix 2009
25 the sunset tree the mountain goats 2005
24 soviet kitsch regina spektor 2004
23 get behind me satan the white stripes 2005
22 silent alarm bloc party 2005
21 guero beck 2005
20 oh my god charlie darwin the low anthem 2009
19 hymns for the hopeless william elliot whitmore 2003
18 if you want blood mark kozelek 2001
17 the earth is not a cold dead place explosions in the sky 2003
16 give up the postal service 2002
15 the midnight organ fight frightened rabbit 2008
14 carnavas silversun pickups 2007
13 details frou frou 2002
12 kid a radiohead 2000
11 time without consequences alexi murdoch 2006
10 since i left you the avalanches 2001
i can remember where i was when i first heard this and the first person i called and dropped a "dude, you're not going to believe this album i just picked up" on.

9 i’m wide awake, it’s morning bright eyes 2005
from the lyrics, to the lo-fi production, to the guests, i think it's his opus.

8 young mountain this will destroy you 2006
the band name speaks volumes here, this will destroy you! it's not a title as much as it is a warning. brace yourself.

7 solace xavier rudd 2004
this album is responsible for airfare all around this country. xavier took folky, jam rock and incorporated the didgeridoo into it and gained masses of fans worldwide.

6 boys and girls in america the hold steady 2006
i was late to this party, and what a crazy, killer party it is. sex, drugs, rock and roll being preached at you from pastor finn.

5 the animal years josh ritter 2006
some of the finest songwriting i've ever heard is on this album. paste magazine agreed and named him one of the best, living songwriters.

4 low level owl, vol. 1 the appleseed cast 2001
this album pushed me towards a genre of music i never knew about. produced by ed rose, i have him and the cast to thank for turning me onto so many bands.

3 boxer the national 2007
i hate when people have a song as their cell ringtone, but my ringtone comes from this album. that's as big a compliment as i could ever give a band.

2 O damien rice 2003
this album came a long at a crazy time in my life and filled some holes. i've been fortunate to tell him that and thank him for that in person.

1 ( ) sigur rós 2002
not everybody gets it, but who wants to be everybody. grab your headphones, fire up the iPod and forget about the world. this album is so good, it hardly feels real.

Friday, December 18, 2009

my top 20 favorite shows of the year, kc and elsewhere

Some people go to Florida for vacation. Some people go to Chiefs games. Some people are in book clubs. Well, I hate Florida, the Chiefs are disastrous and I’m not much of a book reader, i like audio books. What I’m getting at is, while they are out doing those things, I’m at a show.

This year opened some new doors for me. I made my first trip to SXSW in Austin and will go every year going forward (several of my fave shows were in Austin). I also went to Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago, yeah, but won’t be going back to that one. My out of town shows were only a fraction of the shows I took in.

Yeah, so lots of bands were seen, heard and felt. The year should end with a tally of about 275 bands seen, here’s a list of my favorite 20 favorite shows.

20. Lisa Hannigan 3-20 at B.D. Riley’s Austin, TX – SXSW Day Showcase
19. Katie Herzig 10-10 at Crosstown Station, KC
18. Glasvegas 3-19 at The Mohawk Austin, TX – SXSW Day Showcase
17. ACBs with Ces Cru 2-14 at The Record Bar, KC
16. An Horse 4-25 at The Record Bar, KC
15. Green Day 8-12 at Spring Center, KC
14. Flyleaf 8-9 at The Beaumont Club, KC
13. Over the Rhine 8-18 at Crosstown Station, KC
12. Swell Season 11-30 at The Uptown, KC
11. Brandi Carlile 9-14 at The Beaumont Club, KC

10. Passion Pit 9-1 at The Lied Center, Lawrence, KS

I know this band will never come back to KC after the stage incident, but I really dug their show on KU's campus. Seeing all the 18 year old freshmen discover their new found freedoms a few days before the semester began made the show even more memorable.

9. Bela Fleck’s Africa Project 4-2 at The Uptown, KC

I’ve been a fan of African music since I first heard Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. Bela is a huge fan and traveled around Africa building a band of merry musicians and brought them to America to play for us. Thanks for doing that Bela.

8. The Hold Steady 3-20 at The Mohawk Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

If you haven’t seen The Hold Steady it’s like spending the night at a friend’s house in high school and waking up on Sunday morning and going to church, and realizing their church is nothing like the church you’ve grown numb too. Preacher Finn, preach on.

7. The Rural Alberta Adventure 3-19 at Central Presbyterian Church Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

The coolest venue in the coolest town at the coolest fest, these 3 kids had no idea what was in store for them. If you pull the spot in front of Grizzly Bear you’ll get a full house. And if you’re a good band, particularly playing in a church as it was, these fans will go forth and spread thy word. Then you’ll get signed to Saddle Creek records.

6. This Will Destroy You 3-18 at SOHO Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

To quote The Matrix, “I’ve never seen anyone move like that”, when I watch TWDY’s drummer I always remember that line. Wooden shards were flying above his head in this crowded, upstairs bar on Sixth Street. All music fans should see this band.

5. Manchester Orchestra 5-11 at The Record Bar, KC

This was a radio promo show and most of those are lame. Here’s a glaring exception. Andy Hull, MO’s frontman destroyed that room last night with his crazy range and with two full drum sets rattling the windows of the Record Bar for almost 2 hours.
Photo by Brittney Bush

4. Frightened Rabbit 7-19 at The Bottom Lounge, Chicago

In 3 years they’ll be at the Sprint Center (although I hope I’m wrong), so see them sooner than later. It’s a timid name for this Scottish indie rock outfit. Their lyrics will crush you. They’ll be back in the US this spring at SXSW and then a tour.

photo by Euan Anderson

3. Phoenix 6-24 at The Record Bar, KC

This was a Myspace (not-so) Secret Show. The line was the length of the shopping center at The Record Bar. It was about 92 that day and I waited 3 hours to get my bracelet to get in. It would have been worth a 10-hour wait.


My favorite moment of the year came in this Phoenix show. I got to see a band that I really like, in a bar that I love, in the smallest venue on their tour all less than 400 steps from my home. Really. The entire show had built up to this fever pitch that would explode during the song “1901.” Every refrain, as the crowd shouted back at the band, “Fallen, fallen, fallen”, well it was amazing. I know that sounds silly right now, but some of you get it and some of you were there. They stretched out the middle for a few extra chords as they teased us, anticipating the last verse of the song. Somewhere in that moment if felt like the roof was about to rip off the building. Everyone was hot, we’d been waiting all day/night and this was one of the songs the crowd came to see. The studio version of the song is awesome, but this live version was something else.

Photo by Todd Zimmer http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimfo/

2. The National 7-16 at First Ave Minneapolis, MN

I hadn’t been this excited to see a band for the 1st time in a long while and they didn’t disappoint. I can’t believe they’re not a household name yet. That night front man Matt Berninger took us all on a crazy trip with his deep baritone voice guiding us. Please come back to KC.

1. Leonard Cohen 11-9 at The Midland Theater, KC

After the first song ended I said to my buddy that “it’s so good it feels fake.” I had no idea how good this show would be. The dude’s 75 but as spry as any indie band kid skipping on and off stage. The production and musicianship on stage was remarkable and the crowd hung on every word. Thanks Mr. Cohen.

“Don’t know if we’ll pass this way again but it is our intention to give you everything we got tonight.” - Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

my top 20 favorite albums of 2009, it was a good time

Shoe gazer. Synthy-pop. Chamber-pop. Indie-electronic. Those aren’t sections of you’d find in a record store but those genres fill my iTunes catalog. As a true reflection of that, they fill my top everything this year, in this case my favorite albums.

I thought it was a great year for music. I think we’re still seeing a trend to the slow death of big label artists and more small and middle size acts standing up and getting some attention. Here’s to that continuing.

(in keeping with parlance of our times, I will attempt to summarize all of these albums in a Twitter friendly amount of characters, ‘cuz really how much time are you going to take to read this.)

20. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
For fans of: Handsome Furs and Throw Me the Statue

Great, indie rock folk trio out of Alberta. They put out this album independently, people fell in love with them and then Saddle Creek signed them and re-issued it. The deserve it.

19. William Elliott Whitmore – Animals in the Dark
For fans of: Lucero and Tom Waits

Dirty, whiskey soaked, throaty, voice of the American Revolution and the steam engine, yeah I said it. Everyone should know him before he disappears back into his horse farm in Iowa.

18. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
For fans of: Old Crow Medicine Show and Josh Ritter

An update on Americana with a bit of hipster wit. Nothing’s wrong with that. It’s got an old-rugged quality to it, like an old beat up, well loved acoustic guitar.

17. Ben Nichols – The Last Pale Light in the West
For fans of: William Elliott Whitmore and Lucero

The voice of an angel; a hung-over, dragged through gravel, suckin’ on a Marlboro, traveled cross the desert in a Western movie and then ordered a whiskey at the bar angel.

16. Handsome Furs – Face Control
For fans of: Wolf Parade and The National

A great album to get lost in, with some pretty smart lyrics upfront and some synthy hooks to back everything up.

15. Glasvegas – Self Titled
For fans of: My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain

I listened to this album for 3 months, constantly. Thought they’d be the next big thing, can’t figure out why that didn’t happen, but I blame U2.

14. Steddy P – Style Like Mine
For fans of: Tupac and Mobb Deep

I listened to more hip hop this year than ever, this really stood out and he’s from KC. The production on this album is top notch and some topical lyrics make for an interesting ride.

13. Bell Orchestre – As Seen Through Windows
For fans of: Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Arcade Fire

America’s still learning how to listen to modern instrumental music and by modern I mean not Classical. If only they realized most of the lyrics they heard were crap you’d think they’d embrace it.

12. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
For fans of: Neko Case and Imogen Heap

A voice that has me on my knees with a ring waiting in my hands. Smart lyrics, great beats and she even got some commercial appeal this year.

11. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self Titled
For fans of: Camera Obscura and The Antlers

NYC kids filled with drama and so much shoegazing, it’s perfect. Every verse comes off like a profound moment in each of their young lives, particularly in “Stay Alive”, great track.

10. Polly Scattergood – Self Titled
For fans of: Regina Spektor and Tori Amos

There’s enough drama on here to keep an audience of Tori Amos fans on the edge of their seats and then send them streaming to the merch table. Dark hooks and passion soaked lyrics, hopefully she’ll find love in the US soon.

9. Metric – Fantasies
For fans of: Stars and Feist

A great name for an album from the stunning Emily Haines. She does it again, bouncing in and out of some swoopy beats and she’s finally getting some deserved commercial recognition. Nothing wrong with getting paid.

8. The XX – XX
For fans of: Phoenix and Grizzly Bear

Male and female vocals are traded back and forth over a very hipster-friendly vibe as these Brits take you on a foggy, rainy, grey-sky trek.

7. Jonsi & Alex – Riceboy Sleeps
For fans of: Sigur Ros and Amiina

Sigur Ros frontman, Jonsi along with his partner Alex and longtime SIgur Ros contributors Amiina team up to make one of the most hauntingly beautiful albums you’ll ever hear. The music sounds like your favorite painting.

6. An Horse – Rearrange Beds
For fans of: Rainer Maria and Frogpond (both RIP)

This one blindsided me. Saw them open for the Appleseed Cast and it was the perfect pairing. Two Aussie kids hiding behind a silly name making simple indie pop music with femal vocals up front.

5. Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing
For fans of: Bright Eyes and Silversun Pickups

Most of these songs start in a veil and then unravel into this fist fight of double drum kits and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde lyrics. Who uses two drum kits? No one, but maybe more will now. These guys deserve a big stage.

4. Passion Pit – Manners
For fans of: Battles and Avalanches

I know Kansas City hates this band, but this album surpasses the hype. You can’t be mad forever KC hipsters. One of the best start to finish albums of the year. I bet Aphex Twin even likes this album.

3. JJ – JJ N 2
For fans of: Fever Ray and Passion Pit

JJ is this year’s unicorn. They’re an obscure, by choice, group that every music freak wants to know more about, hear more from and see live. I listened to “From Africa to Malaga” at least 10 times in a row once.

2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
For fans of: Mew and Daft Punk

This will be a “best of 2009” staple or darling. I could pour superlatives all over this thing. It’s all of my favorite things. Check out the track “1901” and tell me you don’t love it.

1. The Low Anthem – Oh My God Charlie Darwin
For fans of: The Avett Brothers and Bright Eyes

This album sounds like the ghosts in abandoned train yard or desolate railroad town got together to play their hearts out before going back into hiding. These three musicians gut their souls and it’s a beautiful thing.

michael byars and his weekly podcast - check out new tunes

my buddy and fellow music geek has a weekly music podcast. if you're up for some new tunes, check it out.

it's always a good listen and spans a good variety of musical genres.

click here to listen!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the appleseed cast on tour

in late february one of my favorite bands of all time will set out on a national tour. the appleseed cast. yes, i know they tour all the time. but this time they will be playing in their ENTIRETY the albums Low Level Owl: Volumes 1 and 2. really. what's next another sigur ros tour, a new album from damien rice or maybe for the first time ever mark kozelek will come to kansas city. until those or other miraculous acts happen, mark your calendar to attend.

unfortunately, their kansas city date is the saturday of sxsw so it looks like i'm headed up to omaha.

the full list of tour dates can be found here.

dates in our region:
03-13 Denver, CO - Hi Dive
03-15 Omaha, NE - Waiting Room
03-16 Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock
03-17 Dekalb, IL - House Cafe
03-18 Madison, WI - High Noon
03-19 Chicago, IL - Bottom Lounge
03-20 St. Louis, MO - Off Broadway
03-21 Kansas City, MO - Record Bar

check out these artists after the snow melts this spring

with snow on the ground last week, it's easy to already start looking forward to sunnier days. in addition to the sun, march and april bring with it some good shows to kansas city and lawrence. and as you are holed up this winter, you can study their catalog, and be their biggest fan in no time at all. except ani, her catalog of 20 albums or so might take you till next summer.

mark your calendar for these shows:
March 7 Black Joe Lewis at Bottleneck
March 27 Kevin Smith at The Midland
April 8 Delorean and Miike Snow at Record Bar
April 10 The Big Pink at Bottleneck
April 16 Ani DiFranco at Beaumont Club