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Teens of Style: Car Seat Headrest brings back that high school feeling

Will Toledo, the driving force of indie-punk band Car Seat Headrest released eight albums and three EPs before breaking out with 2016’s Teens of Denial on Matador Records. On this album, Car Seat Headrest hit the femoral artery of powerful indie rock and punk, which illuminated them to the heights of the year’s best albums.

Their ascension to rock star status was fully apparent when the band took the stage. The crowd was ready to head bang, and from the first song played, that’s exactly what they did. As Toledo strummed through the opening riff of “Fill in the Blank,” the band kicked into gear and charged through the song with intensity.

Toledo, who is tall and slender doesn’t come off as much of a rock star, but as the best rock stars usually do, as soon as he played his guitar, the image was the last thing concerned. The rawness of his voice, the crystal clearness of his lyrics, and the fervor with which he plays guitar scream lowkey indie rocker who maybe spent too much time on the computer. But it’s on the computer where Toledo got his start in 2010, uploading music to indie/ DIY platform Bandcamp.

Any songs off of Teens was a surefire hit. “Unforgiving Girl” was a massive party starter that got feet moving early in the set. From there, Car Seat charged through “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” and a dark and brooding cover of David Bowie’s massively dark and brooding title track to his final album, “Blackstar.”

The culmination of the evening was hearing, possibly one of the top five tracks this year, “Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales.” The song starts out with gentle lyricism before picking up the pace, and barreling into a powerful, hands-in-the-air, crowd-chanting chorus. If you ask me, Car Seat could have showed up, played this song, and left, and I would have loved every second of it. Seriously, this song is SO good. Please, give it a listen if you haven’t. It will change things for you, or at least worm it’s way into your top 50 tracks of 2016.

Finally, the band closed out the set and tore the roof down with “Connect the Dots” culminating in a nice little moshpit. It was especially awesome to see so many high school kids, no doubt in the midst of their awkward emo phase, just like me, dancing and jumping along to music like this.

With the current path to success they’re on, I’m eagerly awaiting news of a new Car Seat Headrest album. All the pieces are there, the fans are coming building by the hour, and the music is undeniably great. A fantastic live show is just the cherry on top.

 

 

Lil Uzi Vert lights up Kansas City

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Photo Credit the homie Skyler Brown Photography

“Lit” is a word casually thrown around nowadays, like how to describe a bar is on any given night, or when you find out someone brought queso to the party. But if the Lil Uzi Vert concert this Wednesday at the Uptown could be described accurately in one word, “lit” would absolutely be it.

When I got to the venue, there was a collective mass of people easily 1000 deep waiting, seemingly all day, for doors to open. Once this happened, these troopers, mostly composed of high school aged kids, didn’t relent a molecule of their excitable energy. For three hours, these kids gave everything they had to openers and DJs, spinning the same generic hype rap tracks you’d expect (Commas by Future, Antidote by Travis Scott, etc. you get it) [Side note: “Father Stretch My Hands” is a surefire way to hype up a crowd, no bones about it.]

I’m still taken aback by these fans raging as hard as they did to songs they could hear on Spotify. It became evident that it wasn’t the songs hyping them up though, it was the inevitability of them about to see the hottest young name in hip hop right now, Lil Uzi Vert, the 22-year-old from Philadelphia.

Right off the bat, Uzi blasted through the absolute banger “Do What I Want,” instantaneously starting the party. The crowd bounced up and down with hands in the air like one collective bunch. It was like there was a trampoline in the pit and all of them double-bounced at the same time. The lights and music surrounded them in an effervescent glow. Their energy compiling with their fellow youth and feeding off each other’s hype.

Lil Uzi played through all the hits, and all the crowd favorites. When he played his biggest hit to date, “Money Longer,” there was a unanimous sing-a-long to every. single. word. Uzi could’ve sat in a LazyBoy and drank hot cocoa while this group of fitful youngins shouted his words to the sky. Uzi’s cantankerously twitchy beats and whopping bass shook the place and made me thank my lucky stars I remembered ear plugs. [Side Note: This concert made me feel older than the old man in “Up”]

It was a remarkably short set for Lil Uzi Vert. If my count is right, he only performed for a total of 35 minutes, and only eight songs, which whizzed by in a blur of energy and turnt-up-ness. He played the songs the crowd wanted to hear, but I think everyone could have been down for another 30 minutes at least. Every song he sang, the crowd sang back every word. Every song was met with dozens and dozens of camera phones in the crowd, documenting every move of this 5’2” giant of hip hop.

When Uzi kicked into “You Was Right,” the night went from lit to a completely new level. I’d call it legendary, if I didn’t want to save that word for something a little more, proven. However, seeing someone like Lil Uzi Vert performing his heart out to the most eager and hungry crowd I’ve seen in a long time, was pretty legendary.

Lil Uzi Vert is on a totally insane level of success right now. He’s barely been in the game and he’s already won fans out of so many people, and influenced countless more to do music like him. He’s an inspiring figure. He’s a showman who hasn’t even begun to hit his true stride. This kid could be one of the biggest names in pop very soon. Only time and continued success will tell, but what I do know is that to see him at this point in time, with the hype surrounding him now, It was a show I’m incredibly glad I went to, even if I felt like a geezer with a prosthetic hip.

Kansas City shook it for the man of the year

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On a Monday night, in one of Kansas City’s most pristine venues, The Midland Theatre, about a thousand kids were screaming at the top of their lungs about “titty-ass hands in the air.” I’ve never, ever understood what Titty-ass hands are, although the mental images seem to do the job. Regardless, Schoolboy Q’s “Man of the Year” shook the venue’s floor.

If you’re looking for a man of the year, look no further than Schoolboy. After releasing his superb Blank Face LP earlier this year, Schoolboy has been on a one-man wrecking crew tour. Hitting cities around the country with the intensity of a caged bull being released onto the streets of Compton, which is an accurate depiction of Schoolboy as a rapper.

Notoriously representing Hoover St. in one of Compton’s grittiest projects, Schoolboy has seemingly seen it all, and done it all. He’s been in and out of the clink. He’s dealt drugs. Been shot at and shot back at his foes. So when the dude raps, you FEEL it.

One of the most palpable proofs of this energy is on the crew-cut “Tookie Knows Pt. 2” When he charged into this song late into his set, there was this eerie sense that anyone in the building could catch a case just by listening to this hard-as-F*** song. It’s one of those songs that you could imagine bumping while cruising down the streets late at night, looking for trouble.

Schoolboy’s music is a depiction of the streets and his upbringing, but it’s also a portrayal of where he is currently, and where he will be in the future. He raps about dealing with the ties of the life behind him, and trying to make good on his promises to his new life to be a better father and man in general.

However, none of this sentiment stops these songs from hitting harder than a baseball bat to the dome. “Gangsta” and “Yay Yay” sound like bricks falling from the sky right into your ears. There is so much raw intensity in these tracks. The crowd fed off this intensity and formed mosh pits to fester the energy even further.

Of course, the bangers just kept coming throughout Schoolboy’s almost two-hour long set. “Hands on the Wheel” received incredible reception, and one of the hardest hitting tracks off his newest album “Groovy Tony” was rapped almost entirely acapella, and it was almost more hype than with the beat behind it.

Opener Joey Bada$$ provided the essential 90’s boom-bap soundtrack to set the show off right. Opening with “Christ Conscious” and diving into a set rife with crowd pleasers like “Waves” off debut mixtape 1999 and closing with his massive new hit “Devastated,” Joey killed his set. It’s great to see that fans are still receptive to real East coast hip hop.

The show was everything you could want from a rap show, down to the intermission DJ spinning all the hits you would expect (Antidote, F*** Up Some Commas, Panda.) Schoolboy did the best he could with a Monday night show and delivered a performance that solidified his already right reputation as the man of the year.

 

Jimmy Eat World have gotten older, but pop-punk is still young and reckless

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photo by Reid Stein

Jimmy Eat World’s debut album came out in 1994, the year of my birth. In the  22 years that have followed, lots has changed, but if one thing has remained the same, it is that pop-punk is still alive and well.

To a nearly sold-out crowd at Lawrence, KS’s Granada Theatre, the sight of Jimmy Eat World front man Jim Adkins was like water to the thirsty. The miraculous applause he received while strutting onstage, holding his iconic Stratocaster was reminiscent of a crowd full of kids, of all ages, eagerly waiting to see their favorite band do something special, and that night, they did.

While charging into the first power chords of “Bleed American” the crowd shuffled around and pounded fists in the air. The chorus was an elation of nostalgia and punk energy that set the pace for the entire night.

As the band chugged through their set list chock full of new songs off their soon-dropping Integrity Blues as well as crowd favorites, and even older, dusty deep cuts, one thing was abundantly clear- this band has retained their fan base, and deserved this packed house. They sounded really, really, really good.

Adkins still has that pop-punk spirit, bouncing up and down with eager excitement as the songs and the show evolved.

Finally, the culminating point happened, Jimmy Eat World played their classic hit from Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 “Pain,” and the venue blew up with with adrenaline. That song was like a burst of fire, with a steady stream of propane fueling the flames.

That energy continued through the encore which was all killer- no filler. “The Middle” took everyone back to their awkward teenage phase, and “Sweetness” capped off the night, with the crowd shouting every word and raising their hands in the air like survivors in the ocean reaching out for refuge.

Jimmy Eat World survives today for the simple fact that they’re an awesome band, but also for a deeper meaning. They exist today because people everywhere deserve a nostalgic blast from the past, that still holds up, and still makes us feel like we did in middle school, skateboarding home from being rejected by that girl we thought we loved.

Dancefestopia and the Utopia of Dance

There was a tsunami of color and bass washing over the tank-topped and bikini-clad masses at Dancefestopia. For three days, September 9-11, 2016,  they gave life back to music on the La Benite Riverfront Park in Kansas City.

“You come here, and you feel free to be whoever and whatever you are,” said James from Clinton, MO.

When I asked him why he came this weekend, he said, “you can’t get this anywhere else.”

True. When you arrive on location, there is this magnetism to the music. The treble blaring out of countless speakers, as bass shakes the ground beneath you. You see a mass of people, hands waving in the air, girls on shoulders, and in most accurate terms, a party. You just have to walk toward it.

The masses managed to dance through hours upon hours of dubstep, deep house, trap-house, and pretty much every iteration of “house” music there is. There on the banks of the river, under a shining sun, we raged.

Israeli dubstep phenom Borgore hit the stage at 7:40 p.m. and electrified with his hard-hitting drops. The harsh synths and pulsing drum and bass pulverizes your body in a way that forces you to wave your hands and bob your head.

Next came the screeching sounds and heavy rhythms of Bingo Players. Their style of EDM features crazy electronic waves of sound that invites a “stink face,” which looks like you just smelled something really nasty. Like you caught a whiff of fish, bass perhaps, right before it is dropped.

The crème de la crème of the evening though, was GRiZ, party starter extraordinaire, and a man who can demolish a building with the sound of his saxophone. If you thought for one second that saxophone and EDM don’t mix, listen to this guy wail away over joyous beats and infinite loops of sound. You’ll be convinced instantly.

Although the music lasted until 4:30 a.m., there would be more than enough music starting at noon the next day. I partied till about 1:30 before calling it an early night.

Back to the riverside for day 3 of Dancefestopia and spirits are high. The rave gods shined upon us and blessed us with a sunny and carefree Sunday. Right at 12 noon, Like clockwork, bass from the main stage hit my diaphragm like a chisel.

Spag Heddy, the Dutch dubstep artist, rampaged the crowd with some of the most electronic drops of the day, and left my head reeling.

It’s worth it to note that I appreciate all music. I will listen to anything. Metal, jazz, R&B, hardcore rap, Kenny G. I dig it all. That being said, none of those other genres are as taxing as EDM is in long duration. Maybe it’s just me, but it gets to me when I don’t see a single instrument all day. Not a drum, guitar, or bass to be seen, aside from GRiZ’s saxophone.

Sunday belonged to the unbelievable force that is RL Grime. He has garnered such a distinct and exceptional fan base over the past years, and it seems as though they all showed out for his set. Switching up vibes from deep house to dubstep to Drake remixes, he did it all. RL Grime’s skill to seamlessly fulfill what the party needs is what makes him one of the best in the business.

Finally, at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, I went to my last set of the weekend. The back-to-back set of Mayhem and Antiserum. At this point, I had heard so much dubstep that I couldn’t hear or see straight, but I’m pretty sure I saw people flying across the crowd like a beach ball at a Sugar Ray concert.

As I retreated to my car and relished in the silence, I felt a wave of euphoria wash over me. EDM festivals are fun because it’s 3 days of partying, but the moment you step into you house after an EDM festival is the best, because you survived, and that’s a feeling worth raging again for.

Photos credit: Sam Snead and Stephen Goodrick Jr.

Frightened Rabbit Amazes at Granada Theater

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For a foreign band whose lyrics are overwhelmingly sad, and usually focused around breakups, the energy was electric inside the Granada Theater for Scottish indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit.

“Thank you so much, we’re blown away that so many people care about us,” lead singer Scott Hutchinson said asimg_5110the band took the stage on Friday, September 9 2016.

His amazement was well-understood. The line to get into the venue wrapped around the block, and once inside, the Granada was packed wall-to-wall.

Frightened Rabbits delivered every song with palpable passion and meaning. By song 2, the band was soaked in
sweat. They opened with their latest single “Get Out,” which sounds incredible live. They then followed with a veritable combination of older songs like “The Modern Leper” and “Holy,” both of which were essentially sing-a-longs.

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This was the first show I’ve been to in a while where the interaction between crowd and band was so pure and amiable. Perhaps I’ve been in some less-than-gracious crowds before, but the audience on Friday night for Frightened Rabbits was unbelievably appreciative of the music they were hearing.

 

New songs like “Woke Up Hurting” and “I Wish I Was Sober” (didn’t I say overwhelmingly sad earlier) rattled the ground with reverberating synths and drums. The new songs sound full of innovation for the band. The incorporation of electronics is highly noticeable adds nice effect to the songs.

Any song off of 2007’s  Midnight Organ Fight was absolute fire. It was as if the crowd had been waiting 9 years to hear these songs, and I was within that company. Songs like “Head Rolls Off” and “Keep Yourself Warm” rocked even harder than I imagined they ever could.

The kicker was after the band stepped off the stage for the first time. Scott came back onstage alone with an acoustic guitar and played a couple songs, taking a request from yours truly for what was, in my opinion, their saddest song, “Poke.” Hearing those opening chords made me simultaneously joyous and devastated, and the lyrics were hard to handle. It was bizarre, in a way that smiling to emo music often can be.

Frightened Rabbits absolutely destroyed live, and they’re a must-see act for anyone who appreciates good music, delivered honestly and passionately.

Ra Ra Riot Roar at Liberty Hall

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Ra Ra Riot, an alternative-rock group hailing from Syracuse, New York managed to do the impossible this Wednesday night at Liberty Hall— to get a crowd full of college kids out of the library and onto the dance floor during a week full of exams and papers due.

And how could they not? The band features an eclectic yet harmonious mix of your common rock and roll gear- bass, guitar, drums- and adds in a little synthesizer and a lot of orchestral composition.

Ra Ra Riot’s incorporation of classical instruments into their indie-pop sound was a surefire winner with KU senior, Jessie Jacobe.

“They had a spectacular performance. I loved the use of violin and cello. The strings set them apart from other independent bands,” said Jacobe.

Year in and year out, Student Union Activities provides KU students and the public, with a real treat. They manage to nab a band or artist, before they hit meteoric success, and get them to put on outstanding shows in phenomenal venues (i.e. Chance the Rapper at Liberty Hall in 2013 and Vic Mensa at The Lied Center in 2015). These guys live up to their motto: “We’re the put on a show kind of people” and absolutely crush it. This was just another (achievement/success) in their long, impressive list of those.

Liberty Hall was the perfect venue for them. There were enough people there for the vibes to be energetic, yet limited enough to feel intimate. Not a face in the crowd drew their gaze away from the band as they cruised through explosive song after explosive song.
Everybody packed inside the warm venue seemingly brought their dancing shoes and were ready to get down with the fun. Songs like “Too Too Too Fast” and “Dance With Me” lit up the stage and the crowd alike.Led by Wes Miles’ charismatic persona and impeccable falsetto, Ra Ra Riot charged through a set list spanning their entire catalog from 2008’s The Rhumb Line to 2016’s Need Your Light. For fans like Sam Tenenbaum, senior, it was exactly what he’d be expecting and hoping for.
“I have followed this band for years and have always dreamed of seeing them in such an amazing venue and with such an incredible sound,” Tenenbaum said. “The enthusiasm that they played with was infectious and I felt like busting a move the whole time.”

“Suckers” sounded fantastic live. With it’s harmonious chorus, the chugging synth beats and stunning vocal performance by Miles, it’s a blazing hot track.

The Ra Ra Riot show was lively proof that you can bring college students out of dormancy and into a dancing fury with just a few sweet bass licks and some funky synth-lines.

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Read the thing at KJHK.org

Tycho Trances in Kansas City

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LAWRENCE, KANS. – September 23, 2016

There’s something mystical about San Francisco band Tycho. When they play their instruments, something miraculous happens- creating sounds that can lift the spirit to such great heights.

Tycho sounds like a combination of Explosions in the Sky and The xx. Purely through their instruments, no vocals, they can tell stories, emote feelings, and fill the space with melody in such an uplifting way. Each song tells a new emotion. Each chord change follows along in the story they’re unfolding.

Yet there is a mysterious quality to this kind of music. There are no lyrics, and thus, you must make up your own story. It’s kind of like reading on of those Choose Your Own Adventure books, except with infinite possibilities.

“Awake” is a song that contains this simple yet poignant guitar riff that fits like a glove into the rhythm and sounds like magic. It’s mood music at the highest caliber. It doesn’t match your mood, it creates a new one.

“A Walk” sounds like a dream. It begins with blossoming synths and atmospheric sounds swirling, and then evolves into a break-beat rhythmic seemingly out of thin air.

There are moments when you feel suspended in this huge ocean of sound swelling around you. The bass rattles in your legs and you can feel it in your hair. If you hold up your hands, you feel sonic vibrations. It feels as if you’re in a different world.

Before the show, I spoke to an audience member who claimed this was his first concert ever. Joplin, Mississippi

Pittman responded, “It’s the music, man.”resident Keegan Pittman has lived his 21 years of life without seeing a concert before Sunday night. As somebody who attends concerts on a fairly regular basis, and has been to more than I can count, my first question was “why did you pick Tycho in Kansas City on a Sunday as your first concert ever?”

The music of Tycho brought this man hours from home for his first concert ever.

If that isn’t miraculous, I don’t know what is.

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Tycho Review KJHK 90.7

Mutual Benefit Slows Things Down at Love Garden

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LAWRENCE, KANSAS – September 24, 2016

 

Love Garden Sounds is the definitive Lawrence, KS establishment. It is a proprietor of the weird, curator of the interesting and supplier of the best records you can find in Kansas. So where else would you expect to find a stripped-down, sit-on-the-floor style Mutual Benefit show?

Mutual Benefit is known for creating some of the most extraordinarily mellow songs about love.Their angelic sound and delicate lyricism and singing is the kind of music you pair with rainy days, peaceful sitting by the water, or reading.

In the back of Love Garden, three amplifiers and a kit of conga drums sat waiting, as did about twenty Lawrence locals. Together we sat on the floor, and watched silently as singer/songwriter Jordan Lee and his band mates performed a stripped-down set full of sad songs and beautiful melodies.

Their tranquil songs feature just as much instrumentation as Bon Iver or Sufjan Stevens, but the magnitude is toned down just a pitch. Instead, singer Jordan Lee creates mini-symphonies and tiny picturesque landscapes in his music.

“Advanced Falconry” features a banjo, a symphony and sleigh bells, as well as Lee’s piercing and heart-shattering lyrics. When the band plays the song live, as they did on Monday night, it barely creeps out, as if in a faint whisper. The music sounds as delicate and peaceful as a single snowflake against the night.

At one point, Lee said “We’re from New York, and it’s amazing when we come to towns and see that people care about us,” and he thanked the in-awe crowd after every song. There was so much mutual respect between the band and audience, that it seemed we were as lucky to be hearing these songs as they felt to be performing them for us.

For everyone in the store that night that got to sit on the floor, it was an experience none of us will forget anytime soon.

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Mutual Benefit Review KJHK 90.7

photo cred the homie Doug Bybee