Tag Archives: kcmo

Drive By Truckers Cruise Through Kansas City

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When taking photos of a rock show, it’s easy to be distracted by the band. These are the guys that are on stage, shrouded in fog and lights, slinging the expensive equipment, creating the sound. But there’s a moment, when you turn around, and take a look at the real rockstars: the fans. The folks who worked hard day in, day out, to buy a ticket to their favorite band’s show, got there early, wore their tattered t-shirt, and get to experience true effervescent, visceral joy. This joy dissolves all troubles in the world, just for a moment. This joy, this power that music brings, makes more sense to me than anything else ever could.

Drive By Truckers are a Southern rock/ alternative country band from Athens, Georgia, with a deep -fried Alabama sound. It’s the kind of crunchy, soulful, rebellious music that could soundtrack a dusty-road expedition, a cookout, maybe even a mild riot. That’s because this music just sounds BIG. It sounds like three guitarists trading solos, a bassist laying down heavy grooves, a heavy handed drummer, and two vocalists with pipes that can belt out with the kind of emotion that really moves people.

When DBT, as their fans know them, arrived in Kansas City, they carried a pride in their walk. It was a strut like they were so glad to be back on stage, and were ready to rock. Kansas City was their first show on their tour, and they had quite a bit to get off their chests. As singer Mike Cooley stated in a Rolling Stone interview, “These are fucked up times we’re living in.”

Written in a post-Trump era, the band’s latest album American Band, is their most political. Issues addressed in the music include gun violence, police brutality, political aggression against minority groups, and more gun violence. Scrawled on one of the amps onstage is a sign: “Black Lives Matter” written in all caps.

The weight of the music comes across in the live performance. The band, notably one of the more outspoken among their musical peers, dares to be bold. They dare to challenge their audience. They dare to wear their believes on their sleeves and play through songs like “Surrender Under Protest” and “Filthy and Fried” not because they are easy, but because they are hard. It is absolutely necessary to occupy this vital stage time breaking down the issues the band sees in America, while still providing a raucously fun rock show. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it, find the balance.

The show was one of those reminders that music is the most powerful instrument for change ever created. It’s always been a method for expressing our deepest emotions, happy or sad, exhilarated or disheartened. It can be heavy as a brick or light as a breeze.  It can connect things or tear them apart. But no matter what the content, the feeling it creates in those who play it and those who listen it, is what keeps people going. This couldn’t be more true than when you turn around and notice those smiling, singing faces all around you, united, even for a moment in the sound.

 

 

Phoenix Bring Nostalgia, Unstoppable Hits to the Midland

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Remember 2009? Damn, what a good year! “I Gotta Feeling” was on the radio, Silly Bandz were stacked on our wrists, and this was the Internet craze your family sent you over and over

Those were simpler times, and the brighter days of ’09 feel so far away. But sometimes, a band, a song, an album is so powerful, it pulls you back to that year, and that feeling. That feeling only comes around rarely. That feeling happens during “Listzomania” and “1901” by the formidable French indie-rock troupe Phoenix.

During an incredible opening night of 96.5 FM’s “The Nights Buzz Stole Christmas” concert series, Phoenix brought their decadent lights, silky smooth music, and over-the-top cool persona to the Midland Theatre in Kansas City.

The band wasted no time kicking off the show. They opened with their latest hit, “J Boy” from new album Ti Amo, and then instantly gave the fans what they wanted to hear. They tore into a raucous rendition of “Lasso,” from 2009’s breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It won over the hearts of the large crowd within seconds of the song starting.

Over the course of the night, they continued to play gem after gem, hit after hit, until the dancefloor was theirs. “Rome,” “Girlfriend,” “Entertainment,” “Trying to be Cool,” and more. Relentless they were with the amount of hits they played. The band sounded insanely tight knit, and every guitar stroke or drum beat was impeccably perfected.

They closed with the stellar track “1901,” but that didn’t mean the show was over. Not by a long shot. Lead singer Thomas Mars strolled out into the crowd casually, carrying a microphone with a extended, light up red chord. He strutted through the entire crowd, before finally standing up above the fans. With balloons bouncing around him, he chugged a fan’s drink given to him, and surveyed the audience. He led the crowd in singing the final notes of “1901” and wished everyone goodnight. It was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary show.

 

Phoenix were supported by Hembree, a local Kansas City indie-rock band with a sound that is supremely ready for the biggest of stages. They truly have everything necessary for a successful band that will go the distance: incredibly catchy guitar riffs, pounding drum rhythms, fantastic lyrics, likable band members, and a readiness to have a fun time on stage that is infectious for the crowd, (i.e. their tremendously fun cover of the Gorillaz’ “DARE, that got the party going.)

While watching them onstage, I couldn’t help but imagine them on the festival circuit- starting low in the bill, playing the 3pm time slot, building an audience in the sunny afternoons. However, their audiences continue to build until they find themselves playing to the sunset, and maybe, just maybe, closing out the day. This may be idealistic, but I absolutely think that this is a capable goal for Hembree. Their love for music is palpable, and that kind of appreciation for the music, and the enjoyment of playing it for people, will get you far in this business.

 

The first opener of the evening was another local outfit, Y God Y. Led by Garrett Marsh, their sound is unique and inviting. Driven by warm synths, and spacey drum beats, Marsh’s voice carries the sound into another dimension. Their style is equally indie-rock and electronic-synth pop. The combination of styles works well for them, and they created a big hit with fans. With their Afentra-approved cosign, I can see this band growing into a prominent touring band, taking their weird and fantastic sounds on the road to audiences all over the world.

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Craig Finn Amazes in Kansas City with Literary Solo Set

The Pen is mightier than the sword. That’s what they say. Now I’ve never seen a sword, and I don’t know much about armory, but who in the indie-rock world is mightier with the pen than Craig Finn?

Craig Finn and his backing band, the Uptown Controllers played an intimate and powerful show at the Record Bar in Kansas City, MO on October 17. The Hold-Steady leader, and prolific lyricist rattled off nearly an hour and a half of his solo-work to a room of dedicated and literary-inclined fans.

A story, a tidbit about the past, a joke, often punctuated each song or lead seamlessly into the next track. Finn reflected on such heady topics as: fear, faith, love, pain, loss, and finally honesty. “We have to be honest with one another,” was his response to the insanity that seems to found itself into society today.

As if he was an author, reading off pages of his latest work, Finn and his band strummed coolly through several tracks off his latest album, “We All Want the Same Things.” Some crowd favorites were “Jester and June,” “Preludes,” and a solo-acoustic performance of “Tangletown” that was especially emotionally hard-hitting.

Finn made eye contact with every member of the crowd, and would interact in banter with folks about baseball, books, and politics. It was the most transparent show I’ve seen all year.

With an artist as skilled with the pen as Craig Finn, each word hangs on the one before it. Each line anticipates the next.  I found myself listening to the songs like reading a book I didn’t want to put down.

Craig Finn can be explosive with his singing and performing, or he can be subtle and thoughtful. During his performance at the Record Bar, he was both, in equal parts, for maximum effect. The show didn’t feel overly folksy, but definitely didn’t feel like a regular rock show. Imagine Bob Dylan in Greenwich, Neil Young in Tennessee. Craig Finn in Kansas City.