An ocean of fans awaited the eclectic and electric indie-rock band, Hippo Campus. From the first glitchy synth tone to the final guitar strum, every eye in the room was locked on lead singer Jake Luppen and Company, and not a single pair of feet stood solitary.
The pure joy in the room was palpable instantly. This kind of joy was syrupy sweet and painted the walls pink and purple and perfumey like cotton candy and summer nights.
The band opened with the melodic and sultry “Bambi,” which was barely audible through the shrieks and shouts and emotions of radiant love. Next, fan-favorite “The Way It Goes” lit up the crowd like the night sky on the Fourth of July and New Years combined. Fans sang and danced to every word and basked in the warm heat enveloping the crowded room, as guitars loudly jangled.
Through the entire set, through “Doubt,” through “Simple Season,” through “Suicide Saturday,” through “Buttercup,” the airy sugary vibe in the venue hung thick in the air, suspended by the bright red, blue, pink, and violet hues of light beams.
This warmth kept fans down sweaty and damp down to their t-shirts even after they wandered out into the sub-zero degree temperatures outside. For that night, for those hours, the world outside seemed like a beach, and the music sounded unlimited.
The great Kansas City indie-rockers Hembree are specialists in all things catchy and creative. Constantly evolving their sound and enveloping new styles and genres, their new single, “Culture” takes massive leaps into unchartered territory, and the result is exhilarating and fresh.
Long known as one of Kansas City’s gems, Hembree are no rookies to the scene. The group graced NPR’s list of “Slingshot Artists” last year. While infusing catchy rock music with slick synths and jangly guitar riffs, lead vocalist Isaac Flynn lays down relatable and poignant lyrics.
Flynn explains of the song: “These days we put so much emphasis on things that lack actual significance. Everything is urgent and I wanted to try to capture this urgency in a song and question what we prioritize. It’s about taking the time to stop and reflect; to think for yourself and establish your own opinions. The song also touches on the lengths people go to for status and power. There’s the realization that these qualities don’t actually equal happiness. Thus, ‘ the king of the culture is never really free…’”
Hembree’s latest offering, “Culture” features hip-hop rhythms, ear-worm melodies, and veteran-level song-crafting. It’s readily apparent that these guys are onto something incredibly exciting in 2019.
The band plans to release their album, House On Fire via Thirty Tigers on April 26.
Here’s a not-so-hypothetical hypothetical. You’ve worked all week. You’ve slaved at your laptop, you’ve been in and out of meetings, and your boss has been riding you like Seabiscuit all. week. long.
You, the weekend warrior- you, the one who works the desk– YOU deserve to dance.
This Saturday night in Kansas City, two of indie-rocks’ most dancey acts will be playing rock music. And it will be loud, and it will be fun, and it will be carefree. And you should be there.
Joywave and Sir Sly are on the bill, and both have experienced huge levels of success, on record and in concert. Both have played festivals and shows around the world, and specialize in making booties move.
Joywave has been playing high octane rock music since 2010 and hail from Rochester, NY. The group brings an electric vibrancy of sound with slick guitars, heavy drums and bass, and catchy as hell vocals. Lead singer Daniel Armbruster provides a sort of nerdy charm to his performance and guitarist Joseph Morinelli absolutely shreds licks down.
Don’t miss “Destruction” and “Somebody New” for optimal dancing tracks that are guaranteed to make you forget about your week.
In addition to Joywave, Los Angeles indie-rockers Sir Sly will open the show.
Sir Sly’s sound pulses with electronic synthesizers and chest-rattling bass. Their songs hit like a dart to the head- they STICK IN THERE.
Sir Sly has made a big name for themselves cutting up the club scene and pretty much touring constantly for years. They’ve proven to be formidable in making crowds eager to sing and dance along with their catchy tunes.
The National’s music is notoriously depressing. Their music paints the picture of despair, heartbreak, and sorrow- so much so that “Sorrow” is the title of one of their songs. It’s the kind of music that can bring tears to your eyes. Luckily for me, and the attendees of their October 7th Kansas City show, it was pouring rain out, so nobody could tell I was crying.
Indie-rock vets from Cincinnati, the National, strode through Kansas City and brought their saddest record to date, Sleep Well Beast, with them. These downtrodden tracks found dancey life under a shroud of furiously beating down rain. Under the veil of wet, and cloaked by plastic ponchos, the crowd let loose in musical freedom of expression and euphoria.
The National’s show could best be described as the world ending all around us, so why not dance? Singer Matt Berninger often found himself striding into the crowd head first, standing on chairs, holding onto peoples’ heads for stability, and throwing beers around- just generally being a wild ball of chaos in a fiery rainstorm.
“Bloodbuzz, OH” and “Graceless” were racuous showstoppers, while “Dark Side of the Gym” and “I Need My Girl” brought all the soaked, plastic-wrapped lovers to a slow sway.
“Fake Empire” as a closer is always a staple for the National, and in these politically heated times, Berninger said “This wasn’t written for these times, but it might as well have been.”
For the encore, “Terrible Love” lit the fuse and “Mr. November” blew the place to smithereens. Amongst the rubble, we all rose our voices together in harmony to sing along to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.”
A beautiful night full of the ups and downs, crazy emotional rampages and quiet embraces that make up a life. Maybe that’s why the National’s music is so sad— it’s relatable. It’s us, it’s life, it is what it is. At the end of the day, whether wet or dry, happy or sad, we can all say that the concert meant something to us.
Who knew that three Jewish sisters from Los Angeles could perform one of the best rock sets of 2018? Uh, I did. It’s 2018, get over it.
(I really considered not making that my intro sentence, but I’m basically writing this for myself, so screw it.)
Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim strutted through Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre on May 10, and instantly blew the roof off the place with high octane, highly danceable rock music.
HAIM have been rocking since 2013, and creating some of the best on-stage banter in the music scene today. Their catalog, full of catchy, bold, and awesome indie-pop tunes translate to a live setting so perfectly, these three sisters are IMPOSSIBLE to dislike.
Starting off with the unstoppable one-two-three punch, also known as a PERFECT COMBO in Mortal Combat, “Falling,” “Don’t Save Me,” and “Little of Your Love,” rocked through the venue and got everyone’s feet moving. Even the coolest cucumbers in the room, those who came to the show, not to dance, but to look cool, quickly got pickled in the power of dance.
The hits kept coming throughout the impressive almost 2-hour-stunner. “My Song 5, “Walking Away,” and “The Wire,” kept the temperature of the room at about 200 degrees. I say that, because I sweated through my shirt whilst dancing. Totally. Fucking. Worth it.
HAIM’s power goes beyond the music. They are cool, funny, strong, and profoundly talented musicians. Their music hits you hard in the soul and reverberates through your bones, forcing you to dance. It is highly emotional and shoots through your heart like that scene in Pulp Fiction.
If you get a chance to see these amazing women live, jump at the chance. And if their opening act Lizzo finds herself in your area, GO. Don’t ask questions, just go. You’ll be glad you did.
There are places and times to best experience music, music heard in its’ prime environment and ambiance. For example, it’s a well known fact that AC/DC is optimally listened to while driving 45 mph down a vacant road, dirt preferred. Beach House is best heard at, you guessed it, a cabin in Colorado in the dead of winter.
As for Issaquah, Washington indie-rock legends, Modest Mouse, the optimum viewing experience led about 6,000 music fans to the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City on Friday, May 10.
What tricks does a band that’s been rocking consistently for about 26 years still have in store? It turns out, a lot.
The band came prepared with 9 members on stage, including two drummers, horns, and theatrical violins and an upright bass. Isaac Brock and Co. really came to impress.
And impress they did! The band came out absolutely swinging with “Dark Center of the Universe” from long-time fan favorite album, The Moon and Antarctica.
The band kept going through hits played liberally from their five most recent albums. Some of the most viciously fun songs played were “Dashboard,” “Lampshades on Fire,” “Cowboy Dan,” and of course, “Float On.”
The surge of people I saw sprinting up towards the stage, to take a selfie during “Float On” was just astonishing. There was a security guard, whose only job, was to prevent people from taking selfies near the stage, AND HE COULDN’T HANDLE THE RUSH! I tried to keep tally, but lost track.
But still, can we just reflect on how good that song is? And how good this band is? I mean, everyone has heard of Modest Mouse. They’ve been around for 30 years! But they’ve kept every bit of excitement, experimentation, and catchiness for their entire career. They never receded away, and never backed down.
Modest Mouse continue their tour through mid-October, (impressive, right?) and will be coming to Wichita on the 21st. So, check them out. You’ll be glad you did.
On Thursday night, I attended my third concert in three days. A rowdy Jack White show and an intense JPEGMAFIA/ Injury Reserve show preceded my finale of the trifecta, a syrupy sweet indie-pop set from Alvvays.
After the week I’ve had, my ears, knees, and sleep schedule may never recover, but it was a perfect week. All I can say is thank god for Alvvays.
The Toronto dream-pop group played the most pleasant, lovely, catchy, impactful tunes I’ve heard in a long time. Beneath clouds of light and warm blankets of guitars and bass, Alvvays swooned and serenaded a sold-out crowd at the RecordBar into pure bliss.
The music that singer Molly Rankin and Alvvays produce from instruments and amps is emotional yet uplifting, powerful yet soothing. There is a general serenity throughout the room when they play.
I was fortunate to watch from a balcony, so I was able to see the entire crowd. Indie kids bobbed their heads in glee, smiles on every face in the audience. In fact, there’s a specific indie-kid bounce that happens during this kind of sweet poppy music, it’s like a bobble back and forth with head-nods to the beat throughout. I’m guilty of it too, and it’s just delightful to see. But how can you not dance to “Adult Diversion”?
The show was jam-packed with insanely lovely songs, with the band never even stopping to take a breath, let alone a sip of water. “In Undertow” led right into “Plimsoll Punks” and followed by “Lollipop” and then “Not My Baby.” Hit after hit after hit after hit!
“Your Type” got everyone’s feet moving and heads bobbing around. The song is fun to cruise to in a car, but sounds 10 million times better live.
The main entree of the night was “Archie, Marry Me,” which I wish never ended. Even now, as I’m writing this, some two-hours after the show, I wish I was still listening to “Archie, Marry Me” in that dingy bar. That song is perfect, and the performance of it was flawless.
Alvvays are already a big deal in the indie world, but while watching them crush their set with the precision of a Swiss wristwatch, I couldn’t help but think of them taking over the world. They have a phenomenal sound, incredible live show, and songs that could fit into a movie or a commercial, or a main stage at a music festival. The world is really Alvvays’ oyster.
If you can make it out to an Alvvays show, do it. You’ll be instantly taken away to a magical place where music heals and love is eternal.
It’s true, earlier in the day, Kanye West, nearly everyone’s favorite rapper, a man so instrumental in music and culture, proclaimed his love for Trump loud and proud. There are dozens of tweets about it, including, a picture of himself wearing a god damn MAGA hat. And not even Kanye could make that shit look cool.
JPEGMAFIA brings rage and relevance to his music. He busts shots at the alt-right, KellyAnne Conway, and the fucked-up status quo. That’s why he’s the most important rapper working today. He’s a veteran, outspoken, humorous and real, and is making some of the most interesting music out.
His beats skitter and pop, almost abstractly. Sometimes they’re dark and solemn. Sometimes they’re ignorantly violent and allow JPEG to go off on them. Peggy, as he’s affectionately known, opened his set with the Ol’ Dirty Bastard-sampling “Real Nega.” It’s basically ODB shrieking over tribal drums while JPEG spits serious bars all over the place. As soon as the song started, JPEG broke out into the center of the audience and let everybody get in on the moshing. There was not a single still body in the crowd, everyone was either jumping, pushing or both.
JPEG roamed the stage, the ledges, and the audience nonstop, interracting with fans who knew every single word, even the ad-lib sounds from his songs, (“Daaaamn, Peggy”) like a true rockstar. He even played all his own beats from iTunes, no DJ, no hypeman, just pure punk.
Although JPEG could’ve been the main course, in one of the most buzz-worthy shows since Tyler, the Creator/Vince Staples, Injury Reserve brought serious art to the stage next. Complete with LED screen, snow machines, and a hidden room underneath the stage (I wish I could properly describe this, but I’d write 200 words about it alone.)
Injury Reserve came with the tricks, but what struck me, more than the plastic money guns shooting fake Harriet Tubman $20 bills, was the immense talent in this rap group. Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey make some of the most lyrically and musically interesting music you haven’t heard yet.
They’ve been working hard since 2014, and have some of the hardest songs like “Oh Shit!!!,” “All This Money,” or sincere tracks like “Tktkv,” and “North Pole.” Ritchie performs with elegance and immense power. When he gets going, it’s like watching Mike Tyson wind up for a haymaker. He can spit with so much aggression while staying genuine and accessible. Stepa is just fresh as a pack of Extra.
Some of the songs these guys play need to be heard by the masses. “See You Sweat” is a bonafide hit and “Bad Boys 3”?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? THIS SONG KICKS SO HARD!
Injury Reserve and JPEGMAFIA are on a collision course with success, and they are 100% doing it their way. They are true artists. They’re not rocking Gucci or relying on drug-talk to sell to kids. They are genuinely some of the most talented rappers out today. It was fun moshing with them and 200 fans, but damn if it wouldn’t be unreal to see them play a 2,000 sold-out room. That’s where they’ll be soon. Word is bond.
When was the last time you looked out at a crowd of people at a concert and didn’t see one phone out? Not one person Snapchatting, nobody taking zoomed-in photos in between peoples’ heads. Not a single person checking the Boston Celtics score during the slow songs.
Jack White played a killer set at Providence Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, Kansas on Tuesday night and cruised through nearly two hours of White Stripes classics, a Dead Weather song, and plenty of raucous cuts from his three solo albums.
But not a single audience member caught a quick flick on their iPhone 6 because Mr. White likes to kick it old school. Of course the man who essentially jump started the analog revolution and revived vinyl records as we know it, would implement a strict “no-phone-policy.” Every audience member stuffed their phones inside a Yondr (trademark) pouch, which allowed for zero-access until unlocked by a staff member while leaving the venue.
The slight sensory deprivation of not having your phone in use is daunting at first, but ultimately gives way to a very delightful concert experience. Coming from a short, 5’6″ kid, I have seen many gigs from the screen of someone’s smart phone in front of me. I’ve also politely wondered, “WHEN WILL YOU WATCH THIS FOOTAGE?! ENJOY THE SHOW!”
So there we were, thousands of fans, eyes glued to the pale guitar god, as he shredded his six-string so hard that jaws dropped. Jack White plays his guitar so well, it almost sounds like it’s not a guitar. It almost sounds bad, you know? Like he’ll be ripping a solo, and it’ll be like, all the wrong notes, but I think that means he’s playing all the right notes? He’s like a jazz musician of rock- it’s the silence in between the notes that matters.
White played a tremendous amount of songs off his new album, Boarding House Reach, which is not bad, but it’s also not great. It’s very much an average album. He kicked things off with the rowdy “Over and Over and Over.” That song definitely kicks ass. Then he segued into the equally awesome “Icky Thump.”
A standout moment was the tour debut of The White Stripes’ “When I Hear My Name.” This was the first time he’s played it since 2012. Fortunately, whenever a Boarding House Reach song would fall flat (like “Why Walk a Dog” and “Everything You’ve Ever Learned”) White could kick out a White Stripes song and have the crowd in his palm again.
You don’t entirely go to a Jack White show to see Jack White songs. You go to see White Stripes songs played by the man who wrote them! Nothing in the show sounded as good as “Hotel Yorba,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” or “We’re Going to be Friends.” Nothing got the crowd going more than “I’m Slowly Turning Into You.”
Then there’s “Seven Nation Army.” I could’ve waited in sub-zero degree temperatures for three days while my feet froze off, and I’d still jump around to “Seven Nation Army.” That song, will always and forever PUMMEL audiences. Everybody in the crowd, doing the Jock-Jams, sports-game chant along with White’s guitar. It makes your hair rise and elicit primal screams.
Jack White is a hell of a musician. One of the finest we have. But, man, how much do I have to pay to see a White Stripes reunion show. Not that “Sixteen Saltines” doesn’t rock, it does, but I’d sure love to see “Blue Orchid” live.
Check out Jack White when he comes to your town, or go see him at most music festivals this summer.
“Soundchecking is like being in a relationship, it’s all communication.”
Life is a learning experience. Every day, every challenge, every triumph- a lesson. Sure Sure has learned a lot in the past year.
The Los Angeles band went from living together in a shammy house to riding together in a van, touring North America. On their first national tour, they supported indie-breakout act Hippo Campus. Admittedly, they were just getting used to life on the road.
“Last time there were crushed peanut butter snacks on the ground and chocolate smeared on the seats, this time the van is very clean,” the band said in a phone interview I had with them.
The independent band has been working since 2014 and as one of the lyrics in “This Must Be the Place,” (which they phenomenally cover) they’re making it up as they go along.
When I talked to the band, they were surveying the sprawling plains of Idaho. As relatively bland as that may sound, they describe the scene with a brightness and such vivid colors that I actually imagine myself there with them, watching the miles of grass fly by.
Sure Sure is headlining a tour behind their new album Sure Sure. The album features poppy indie-rock with riffy guitars, punchy pianos, and fun lyrics and hand-clappy drums.
Some of my favorite tracks are “Friends,” “Giants,” “New Biome,” and “Hands Up, Head Down,” but there really are no bad songs on this album. They all have a charm to them that’s ridiculously infectious.
The music speaks for itself as the band continues gaining more and more fans along the road. They said they’ve made fans from Vancouver to San Luis Obispo and it’s been great seeing music lovers young and old come out to sing and dance and let go of their cares for a night.
“The shows have been really exciting and fulfilling.”
As a band, the sky is the limit. They don’t have plans to sign to a label anytime soon, because they’re learning everything a label does by doing it themselves. In the meantime, they’re just touring the country in their clean van, listening to AC/DC and enjoying the ride.