Tag Archives: music

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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Shoebox Money Unleashes Live Recordings, Prep New Music

Shoebox Money, the Lawrence-based four piece blues-rock band can be found playing shows at an alarming rate. They’re almost consistently performing showcases and headlining gigs throughout the Midwest. The band has now released a compliation of live songs recorded at KKFI 90.1 in Kansas City, MO.

The first track, “Riverside” is a bluesy jam rock track that’s instantly catchy. The song is a party starter for sure, and the chorus is outrageously catchy. The heavy guitar riffs on this thing, and the hypnotic bassline make for a ludicrously likable hit.

The band shows their range by slowing things down on “Bring it Back.” Lead vocalist Ben Schenberg shows off his superb pipes on the crescendo-building hook. It’s a smooth jam with an unsuspecting chorus that hits like a homerun. The lyrics on this thing are phenomenal, and the guitar breaks unreal.

“Mary” is the slowest track on the release and allows the band to show off their bluesy side. The song sounds like a slow walk through a snowy and serene park at night. The emotive nature of the track cuts to the core as guitars dance delicately over Schenberg’s voice and bassist Patrick Spanier lays down a heavy riff.

The live session concludes with the barn-burner, “Lifeline.” The guitar shredding track is a hit in the making. The band punches with full force on this thing, and the result is something that could set a dancefloor on fire. There is life erupting from this song, and it’s impeccable pacing is stunning. The guitars, the drums, the lyrics, everything about this song crushes.

Shoebox Money have two shows this week, Friday at Davey’s Uptown in KC and Saturday at Kirby’s Beer Store in Wichita. They have more shows planned before December is up and will be touring the Midwest soon.

They also have their debut EP, “Chasing the Moon” dropping soon. Keep updated with everything Shoebox Money on their Facebook page 

 

When Concerts Blow Your Mind: Flying Lotus live at the Midland Theatre

When was the last time a concert blew your mind? Did you lose track of time while your jaw dropped to your feet? This kind of response is rare, and it takes a special show to cause this.

Flying Lotus took over the Midland Theatre on 11/16 with his incredible 3D show. In the space of the venue, he ascended to supersonic levels.

A Flying Lotus show is something to marvel at. There are few artists who create sounds so complex and challenging as FlyLo. His beats, which can span from hip-hop to freeform jazz to G-funk, incorporate some of the most eclectic sounds imaginable. They take so many turns, they could be mistaken for a race down the Autobahn.

FlyLo opened with some of his more ethereal, jazz-based jams, “Getting There” and “Computer Face/ Pure Being.” These songs were a good introduction to the weirdness that was going to become the night. Behind a large, asteroid-looking DJ table, a wildly braid-haired Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, fiddled with controls and laid down the intense tracks. Behind him, a screen projected one of the wildest light shows I’ve ever seen.

The entire show was in 3D. What does that mean, exactly? After all, everything in life is 3D.

Well, every attendee at the show was given 3D glasses to effectively perceive the vision FlyLo was trying to portray. On the screen, colors and shapes flashed vividly, puzzles and landscapes became marbled and warped as they cascaded into each other. All of these visions erupted out of the screen and crawled toward the audience.

As the show progressed, FlyLo was handed a red solo cup, and the show took another, darker turn. It was time for Flying Lotus’ alter-ego, Captain Murphy, to arise. As the beat for “The Killing Joke” eerily crept in, like a demented lullaby, FlyLo grabbed the microphone and rapped every bar of the menacing verse.

The moment of the night occurred when Flying Lotus played his dark, spacious Earl Sweatshirt featuring “Between Friends” from the Adult Swim singles series. The beat is deadly and the crowd vibes to it in a major way. As FlyLo played Kendrick Lamar “Wesley’s Theory” followed by fellow BrainFeeder label artist, Thundercat’s “Friend Zone,” the show reached it’s climax.

Finally, FlyLo unleashed his ace in the hole, “Never Catch Me” featuring an unstoppable Kendrick verse and a blitzing bass solo.

During the show, cosmic beats collided with bombastic weirdness in a perfect space. The 3D imagery was perfectly conceptualized and completed. The beats thrown down were filthy and unexpected. The show was magnificent and bizarre.

There is no other way to watch a Flying Lotus show than with your mouth slack jawed and your mind blown.

 

 

 

Outrage! Is Now: Death From Above Bring the Noise to Kansas City

On Wednesday, Toronto indie-rockers Death From Above played a rambunctious and hard-hitting set at the Record Bar in Kansas City, MO. The two-piece tore the roof off the venue with their heavily distorted bass and bruising drums.

The world was a much different place when Death From Above 1979 released their acclaimed 2004 album “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.” The album was beloved by rock fans who were captivated by the amount of sound these two guys could create. The group then took a 10 year hiatus before returning with “The Physical World.” Now, back and better than ever, Death From Above performed in support of their new album “Outrage! Is Now.”

The band opened with the first song off the new album “Nomad,” which blared out of the speakers so loud that my earplugs almost seemed useless, as hearing damage was inevitable, and accepted. It just seemed like part of the deal of going to a Death From Above show.

The song “Virgins” pounded out of the enormous speaker stack the band had onstage as guitarist Jesse Keeler strummed his distortion-heavy bass guitar and vocalist Sebastian Grainger crashed into his drum kit while singing with amazing range. He shouted every word while hammering his drums, which is honestly one of the most impressive things ever.

Fans in the audience said that they have waited 10 years to see the band live and in person, and the energy in the room mirrored this feeling. Fans shouted every word along to “Turn It Out” the album’s opener, which screeches with aggression and absolutely blistering drums. Fists pumped emphatically in the air.

The unstoppably catchy song “Freeze Me” got every foot in the venue moving. The band experienced difficulties with the sampler while performing the track, but didn’t let it stop them.

The band concluded their regular set with a blistering trifecta of “Trainwreck 1979,” The Physical World” and crowd favorite “Romantic Rights.” During “Romantic Rights,” the band built the anticipation and power of the song until the exact right moment before unleashing the final chorus. The amount of energy the band produced during this song could crumble buildings and collapse regimes.

They closed their set with “Pull Out” which was a highlight of the night as it was a crowd request, and the fastest song played. During this track, the crowd pushed and shoved each other joyously, celebrating the rarity of seeing this band play live after so many years.

Death From Above sound exactly like their name. The sound produced by these two guys is staggering, and the catchiness of the songs makes listening incredibly easy. There is no doubt that the world is a better place with them in it, even if they’re best suited for soundtracking a riot, as the new album states, “Outrage! Is NOW.”

We Found Our November: Tyler the Creator Soars in Kansas City

Tyler The Creator performed in front of a sold-out audience at the Truman in Kansas City last night as a part of his Flower Boy tour. He played a majority of new songs, with some old gems thrown in the mix, and the fervent crowd loved every minute of it.

The charismatic rapper swooned to his die-hard fans with opener “Where This Flower Blooms” and the screaming audience made the first lines of the song inaudible. Tyler performed on an elevated platform on the stage where he danced like Kanye West, grooving wildly to the music.

Tyler then kicked the show into second gear with the blistering and guitar-heavy track “DEATHCAMP.” While Tyler shows his emphatic and loving side on Flower Boy, the Cherry Bomb opener is filled to the brim with crushing aggression. The barricade, separating the audience from the stage, rattled and shook like a thunderous earthquake was hitting the venue.

Tyler played around with these two vibes perfectly throughout the show, embarking on a sweet ballads like “Foreward,” or throwing down bombardments of sound like “IFHY.” On songs like “Tamale” the crowd jumped emphatically in the air and shook the ground.

The clear-cut sing-a-long favorite was Goblin standout “She” which the crowd recited perfectly and sung beautifully along to the Frank Ocean crooned chorus.

During the intro of “Who Dat Boy” Tyler asked every member of the audience “put your phones away. I want you to remember this.” The crowd did just that, and came the closest all night to bringing down the venue with their incredible energy.

It wasn’t all turning up though. Tyler lead the crowd in a beautiful recital of “November” leading into “Glitter.” These songs clearly resonated with the audience. When the show concluded with “See You Again,” fans hugged and smiled with warmness, because they had just seen their favorite artist live. It’s moments like that, proving that concerts are clearly more than just the music.

Tyler the Creator has seen a huge evolution in his career, and on “Flower Boy,” he is at his most musically focused and lyrically gifted. His honesty has never been so relatable and with the rate that he is elevating as a musician, the sky is absolutely the limit for the Odd Future commander-in-chief.

 

 

21 Savage and Offset are the new Freddie and Jason

Album of the Week

21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin- Without Warning Whenever two of the most popping artists join up for a project, it’s bound to attract an unbelievable amount of attention. For example: Kanye and Jay Z, Young Thug and Future, Lil Wayne and T-Pain. In this vein, artists will consistently continue to push the envelope of the album release by dropping these massive projects.

This week’s hottest album is a collaboration of 21 Savage and Offset (1/3 of the Migos.) It’s called Without Warning. This alone could be a project worth listening to. Two of the hottest rappers in the game trading bars. However, the album gets taken up a notch severely by the inclusion of powerhouse producer Metro Boomin, who crafted all of the beats on this thing.

This album was dropped on Halloween, as a surprise release. It couldn’t have been planned any better because these songs are scary. Scary good, scary aggressive, scary focused.

“Ghostface Killers” starts off the album with an icy and eerie beat. It sounds like church bells of a deserted town that was just ransacked by two gun-slinging outlaws. The chorus is impeccably catchy and is filled with Migos-famous adlibs. It’s a total boomer. 21 shows up sounding as calculating as a serial killer. Travis Scott also spontaneously shows up to take this thing over to edge.

“Nightmare” has an equally terrifying beat, sounding straight out of a horror movie. Makes sense that the chorus goes “Freddie Kruger, give ’em a nightmare / Soon as you close your eyes, nigga we right there.” Can you imagine a scarier scenario? You’re happily sleeping and then when you wake up, Offset and 21 Savage are in your room, undoubtedly holding heavy artillery.

The team of almost-certified-killers sounds most treacherous on “My Choppa Hates Niggas” which has an ominous flute on the beat and a little girl’s laughter randomly appearing. If there is anything scarier than a little girl laughing during a horror movie, than I don’t know what it is. I mean, those two little girls from The Shining still terrify me to this day.

As we’ve seen before, this formula works. Surprise release an album, have two or three enormous stars, and watch the internet implode. This will almost definitely continue happening, and I’m perfectly okay with that. These super albums are just part of the culture now.

 

Single of the Week

N.E.R.D. & Rihanna- “Lemon”

I’ve been waiting for new N.E.R.D. music for over three years now. The unstoppable production duo of Pharrell and Chad Hugo make the most accessible yet off-the-wall music of our generation. They also compile some of the biggest artists in the game to put on features, in unique ways. For their return single, “Lemon,” they come back in a major way.

On “Lemon” Pharrell bodies the first half of the track, which bounces around and bumps with unbelievable booming bass. Then, without any warning, RIHANNA COMES THROUGH SPITTING BARS! Rihanna raps better than 95% of the rappers doing it today, and she sounds so fucking cool. “It’s Rihanna nigga, my constellation is Space” she says, and honestly, she’s completely telling the truth. It’s Queen RiRi’s world, and we don’t deserve to occupy space, but I’m so glad we do.

Music Videos of the Week

Rich Tha Kid & Kendrick Lamar – “New Freezer”


This song is a feel good banger. This is just a really fun time to watch. The beat is a boomer with some insane bass line ripping through this thing. It clicks and clanks around while Rich Tha Kid flexes throughout the his verse. The reason this is a music video of the week is because we get to see Kendrick Lamar rap his verse, looking unbelievably cool in a Lakers sweatsuit, eating Chinese take-out. If that’s not the best thing you’ve seen all week, you must be having a pretty good week.

 

The War on Drugs – “Nothing to Find”

So this music video is incredible, and it’s incredibly simple. A young girl is on the road with a plant man. He’s a man made out of plants. They dance, the shoplift, they are best friends. Until life, as it tends to do, gets the best of us. The emotional ending of this thing is a lot to handle. You don’t think it’ll hit you as hard as it does, but next thing you know, you’re at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf spilling tears into your Green tea and the saltiness is kind of nice, but you wish it wasn’t there.

 

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.

 

The Pixies Captivate Kansas City, Perform Epic 34 Song Set

 

Some rock bands weren’t meant to last. The Smiths, Girls, Oasis. The hours spent arguing over E-chords over G-chords and crammed in a van can rip apart bands more quickly than an STD. Then there are bands that, defiant in the face of unrelenting conflict, persist.

Last night, one of these persistent groups, The Pixies, put on an absolute ripper of a show at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City. They performed an absurd number of tracks, played back-catalog tracks with impeccable skill, and kept the crowd captivated for nearly 2 hours.

The Pixies are indie-rock royalty as far as I’m concerned. And to a nearly sell-out audience, their no-bull shit rock shows are a must-go event. The amount of hits they’ve racked up, including the easy 10 on 1989’s Doolittle alone, make for an unbelievably interesting concert experience. They have at least another 20 hits on other albums, and just relased a new record. All and all, they played 34 songs. Unheard of.

Black Francis, the mastermind of the group, held up like a fucking champion the entire show. He was funny, yet brief with his comments- he and the rest of the band, chugging right along with song after song.

Of course, there were the heavy-hitters. The tracks that got everyone in the venue excited. “Where Is My Mind?,” “Wave of Mutilation,” and “Hey” all were stunningly performed with skill and uniqueness. As I would expect from a band who has played these tracks upwards of 10 million times.

My favorite of the hits was the stellar rendition of “Here Comes Your Man.” It was thrilling to see the song performed live finally, as I’ve loved it for years, and consistently sing it in karaoke, hoping to sound half as good as Joseph Fucking Gordon Levitt and win over a Zooey Deschanel 

Opening artist, Mitsky, stunned the rest of the audience with her subtle yet heart-demolishing indie rock. I say the rest of the audience because I have loved everything about Mitsky since I heard the fuzzy, distorted guitars and superb lyricism of “Townie”

Since then, everything she has done has been stellar, and absolutely nothing less. Her bold and excellent sophomore album Puberty 2, was atop my best albums list of 2016.

During her stop in Kansas City, she certainly proved her awesomeness with each and every song played. Each track garnered more applause and cheering than the one preceding it.

The entire show was a display that indie rock is still alive and well. Further, there are thousands of people who love The Pixies. The Pixies too proved that they love their fans and are capable of playing and sounding like they’re 30 still.

Benjamin Booker Soulfully Slays Lawrence, KS

The neo-Soul revival, which includes artists such as Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Jacob Banks, and more, touched down in Lawrence, KS last night when Benjamin Booker played his guitar at the Bottleneck.

Booker, a young and quickly ascending musician from Virginia Beach, VA played to a semi-packed, dimly lit room and astonished everyone in it with his soulful, dusty voice and unbelievably skilled guitar playing. Together with his tight-knit four piece band, Booker ramshackled through an hour long set.

The vibe Booker puts out is a young soul artist way beyond his years. His voice sounds airy and gravelly, with an inflection of hurt within the words. As any good soul singer will testify to, the backbone of soul is this deep, confounding hurt. The kind of pain that drives you to strum that guitar in such a way that everyone listening can tell, damn this guy’s been through it. 

But Booker’s style isn’t just soul, his sound incorporates a lot of rock and roll as well as the blues. On songs like “Wicked Waters” he rocks out to a fast-paced, riff-driven melody. On tracks like “Witness,” he incorporates the blues into a smooth, gospel-y sound that sounds warm and vintage.

“Have You Seen My Son” is a wild rocking song that stays tight in the pocket before unleashing into a hair-raising chorus. It’s a fiery song that could easily find a home on a work out playlist and sounds superb in a life setting.

Booker’s ability to sound both new and old is what makes him so appealing. His voice and his music sounds like a throwback, but it’s still new enough to be cutting edge and fresh.

His voice is able to capture a mood, a feeling that is truly unique. For someone so young to be able to have such a diverse sound is incredibly impressive. Benjamin Booker is at the beginning of a very long and successful career, and his first impression last night at the Bottleneck is an indication of that.

 

The XX Prove Music Is Stronger than Hate

Concerts can be, and should be, much bigger than music. They can be momentous culminations of emotions, anticipation, freedom, and life. Lately, they have been covered in a shade of darkness following the horrific events in Las Vegas.

As a festival-goer myself, I still can’t look at some of the photos. I know I have to, I just can’t yet. That’s my hometown, and that’s my life. I have always said that festivals are my favorite thing in the world because it’s three days full of music, sunshine, friends, vice.

So the day after a mass shooting at an outdoor concert, I decided to attend an outdoor concert. The XX performed on October 3 at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO.

I think the band could feel the heaviness in the air, the palpable shift in tone, as I’ve always believed bands can do. They somehow have this sixth sense called crowd control- knowing how the crowd is receiving the music and can play to that. This night in specific, they played to a crowd of fans who had to view concerts under a new scope.

The XX played with extraordinary grace and substance. They first got attention with their dramatic, emotional mood music, drenched in passion and heavy feelings, like love, hope, loss, and devotion. As The XX glided their way through their silky smooth set, the songs flowed like honey- sweet and sticky. The crowd stuck on each syllable, each bass lick, each soaring guitar note.

The band’s new material “Say Something Loving” and “Dare” sounded like a depressive disco, and felt a little like a Joy Division song walked into a seedy dance club. “Fiction,” lead by bassist Oliver Sim was a highlight and instantly transported the crowd to the place they were when they first heard those lyrics, “Fiction, when we’re not together.”

The surprise hit of the night was the Jamie XX helmed “Loud Places,” which was featured on his exemplary album, Colours. The song is both extremely dancey and heart-wrenching. It tells the story of people who shared love at the club, now only to go to those same clubs alone, and how empty they feel without that person. This song resonated with the crowd on another level.

Finally, the performances of new classic, “On Hold” mixed with their biggest hit to date, “Angels,” from sophomore album, Coexist, allowed the crowd to truly melt away into pure bliss. It was truly during these songs that the air in the sky was alleviated of any heaviness and only the music remained.

Multiple times during the set, the band would thank the crowd profusely for coming to the show. They knew. They are perfectly aware that the crowd could have let the fear win and stayed home. I’m sure plenty of them did. But the ones who decided that fear cannot win, and that music is healing and transformative, they knew too that The XX were here for them. Romy Madley Croft the lead guitarist said that she felt homesick, but the Kansas City crowd fixed that, even if just for the time they were on stage. And the same can be said for me.