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The Gaslights

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Show recap: KC Uncovered III - Shine A Light

Throughout the first day of the winter solstice, the streets of Kansas City glazed over with ice and various events around town were canceled. While much of Westport and surrounding areas were relatively desolate, a healthy-sized crowd gathered at the recordBar to pay tribute to the music, the work, and the life of Abigail Henderson.
 
It’s one thing to cover the music of a musician whose work you respect. It’s another thing to cover the music of a musician you know personally whose work you respect. It’s yet another thing to cover the music of a musician whose work and life was esteemed by every person in the room, from those who knew her best to others who had possibly not even met her. Though this was quite the challenge for each musician who took the stage, each one honored Henderson’s music in his or her own way.
 
 
The audience was somewhat subdued when The Clementines stepped up to the stage, perhaps fully beginning to grasp the fact that they would be hearing these songs live for the first time since Henderson’s passing. But as soon as the first note of “Gods, Guns, and Glory” (an early Gaslights tune) kicked in, a collective smile swept over the room. Throughout the band’s five-song set, Nicole Springer captured everyone’s attention with a vocal inflection and country twang very akin to Henderson’s. Her charismatic control over Tiny Horse’s “Ghost” and confident command over “Last Dollar” (The Gaslights) was reminiscent of Henderson’s range.
 
 
Katie Gilchrist picked up right where Springer left off, evoking the late singer’s grit and tenacious attitude with “15 Hands” (The Gaslights). Vi Tran Band interpreted some of these songs in a different way, with slightly different arrangements to highlight Gilchrist’s voice or to emphasize the weight of the words Henderson wrote—for instance, the band performed acoustic versions of “One Trick Pony” (Tran on lead vocals) and closed out the set with “Galveston” (Gilchrist on lead vocals). On Atlantic Fadeout’s “Better Run of Bad Luck,” Gilchrist channeled the brazenness of her friend, providing one of the many musical highlights of the evening.
 
 
Where the previous two frontwomen amazingly called upon Henderson’s voice with their similar vocal deliveries, the remaining acts put a different spin on the music. Power trio Not A Planet injected its own melodic, punctuated rock ‘n roll style into songs of a more country/Americana nature. Nathan Corsi proved that his own vocal pipes could stand up to the fiery deliveries of Springer and Gilchrist through Gaslights’ tunes like “Red Dirt” and “Wicked Love.” The band reinterpreted Tiny Horse’s “Ride” with a boldness that emphasized the story of the song and a delicateness that honored the song’s memory.
 
Next up was The Oil Lamps, a supergroup of Henderson's friends and former bandmates with featured guests. The main band included the event's co-founder Bill Sundahl, Mike Alexander, John Velghe, and Mike Meyers. Howard Iceberg appeared on guest vocals for "Lines and Wires," (The Gaslights) delivering his own punk rock resolve to the tune. Amy Farrand, who was the drummer for Atlantic Fadeout, stepped into the forefront to sing the band’s tunes “Blood and Bone” and “Break Your Heart.”

 
 
 
But one of the most compelling performances of the night was the band's performance of "On the Market," featuring Steve Tulipana on vocals. This was a Gaslights tune that Henderson sang in a quieter, more melancholy register than most of the band's work, perhaps more reminiscent of her vocal work in Tiny Horse. Tulipana turned this into a heart-clenching tribute, channeling the intensity of Tom Waits and Joe Cocker, each word calculated and phrased to drop like an atom bomb. 
 
Finally, Sister Mary Rotten Crotch (pictured above) took the stage, a perfect choice to end a cathartic evening. The tears that had been shed throughout the night ceased when Liz Spillman Nord started spitting lyrics from old Gaslights’ tunes. Her fierce punk vocals turned up to eleven put a completely different spin on Henderson’s music, but kept in step with the late singer’s intrepid spirit. By the end of the evening, the tight-knit crowd was at the edge of the stage pumping fists and singing along with the band on tunes like “Sundays and Interstates” and “Old Blue Love.” The night ended on a high, celebratory note, preserving the memory and honor of an individual that helped bring the Kansas City music community closer.
 
—Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. #shinealight #voteformmf 
 
 
Saturday’s show also kicked off the beginning of the voting period for Boulevard Brewing Company’s 10% of KC campaign. The campaign continues through December 31 and includes three area charities—one being Midwest Music Foundation. Visit www.voteformmf.com to vote for one of the charities, once per day, per IP address.

 

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Apocalypse Meow 6 Preview: Chris Meck and The Guilty Birds

 
(Photos by Todd Zimmer)
 
Chris Meck is a mild-mannered, often soft-spoken man. Like his wife Abigail Henderson, he’s the type of person you instantly feel comfortable around, but in very different ways from her.
 
From a musical standpoint, Henderson was the bold frontwoman whose voice and presence commanded every room she performed in. She also lived with a ferocity that kept her strong through a five-year battle with breast cancer, taking the stage (at Knuckleheads) for the last time with Tiny Horse only weeks before her passing in late August (Read here for an interview with Henderson right before last year’s Apocalypse Meow to find out more about her).
 
On the other hand, Meck’s musicianship has typically been defined by its tastefulness. Though he plays with a finesse and texture that few other guitarists are able to pull off, he exudes a high volume of emotion and heart through each note. Likewise, he has been the perfect complement to Henderson’s big brazen personality and even larger heart. The two of them started Midwest Music Foundation five years ago, after Henderson was diagnosed with cancer. Apocalypse Meow was the name of the benefit originally held in her honor, and they helped provide the resources and manpower for it to continue as a benefit for musicians' health care for many years.
 
This will be Meow’s sixth year, and it’s expected to be the biggest one yet. Days before his wife passed, Meck decided he still wanted to play this show, as it had been a tradition since Henderson's benefit for the two of them to play the first night of Meow (they were unable to in 2011 due to Henderson’s illness). He had no idea what this project would eventually become, but he knew that it should happen.
 
“It’s not Tiny Horse, won’t even try to be,” said drummer Matt Richey. “Chris has his own approach to writing, especially now that he's taking on the role of frontperson; he's experimenting a lot too.”
 
Meck’s project The Guilty Birds will make its debut at The Midwestern Musical Co. for Apocalypse Meow 6 on Friday. It will be his first time as a frontman and primary songwriter of a band, both duties that Henderson assumed in all of their previous projects, which included Trouble Junction, The Gaslights, Atlantic Fadeout, and Tiny Horse.
 
“I stopped writing songs about 15 years ago. My tastes exceeded my grasp, so I decided I was probably a better guitar player and became a side man. I was playing with all these people that were prolific and I didn’t need to write,” he explained. “In our bands, Abby would usually bring in what she would call the bones. Basic musical changes, lyrics, melody. I would do the arranging. That’s kind of what I’m doing now, with the roles switched.”
 
 
Richey and Zach Phillips provided the rhythmic backbone of Tiny Horse since it was realized as a full band (Cody Wyoming also rounded out the five-piece), and remain with Meck in this new venture. “His writing is sharp and we're really making an effort to keep the focus on the songs, not overplaying as many trios tend to do,” stated Richey. “At its heart it’s still pretty straightforward rock ‘n roll, but there are elements of soul and country. It’s pretty high-energy as well. The more he continues to write, the more it will change.”
 
But Meck seems slightly concerned to be at the forefront. “I’m terrified,” he remarked. “But I’ve always heard... if something scares you, you should probably do it.”
 
He explained that he barely touched a guitar for about a month after his wife passed away. "She was the most prolific songwriter I knew. We played together for 10 years, just a couple months after we started seeing each other.” Not long before she passed, the two of them discussed her songwriting process. "Abby used to say, ‘ass in seat.’ Even when we were on tour, she would always be up early sitting in the corner of our hotel room with a guitar. So I sit down every morning with a notebook and fill it with drivel, waiting for something good to come out."
 
On Friday, The Guilty Birds will execute Meck's newly exercised songwriting process, debuting four original songs, along with a few covers. This year’s Meow will be notably different with Henderson’s absence, even more so while three-fifths of her band performs for the first time without her. "There will be a lot of nerves and it's likely to be quite emotional," said Richey. "I have no idea what to expect it to feel like, but I'll be up there with good people who I have a great deal of respect for and surrounded by a lot of friends. That's what matters the most.”
 
With Meck at the helm, it’s certain that he will take a divergent path from Henderson’s style of songwriting, but it will be handled with the same delicate sense of care and earnestness. “I don’t know if the end result is gonna be good or not, but I'm enjoying the process. It’s a new adventure for sure."
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. Chris Meck is her all-time favorite tall guy (take that, Abe Lincoln) and has one of a very select few hug passes.
 
 
To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org. Find out more about Abby's Fund for musicians' health care also. Be sure to join Chris and The Guilty Birds at Midwestern Musical Co. on Friday, November 1 at 8 pm along with The Silver Maggies. It's a free, all-ages show, donations welcome. Head to the big event on Saturday night at Knuckleheads. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule. Ticket link. Facebook event page.
 

Tiny Horse "Ride" from Jetpack Pictures on Vimeo.

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In Memoriam: Abigail Henderson, 1977-2013

(Photos by Todd Zimmer)

Music is an art. It’s something that needs to be tended, and the people who make it need to be cared for… The currency to building a city is investing in its artists.” —Abigail Henderson

The Kansas City music community has suffered an irreplaceable loss today with the passing of Abigail Henderson, who fought a long, courageous battle with cancer. With her husband Chris Meck, Abby co-founded Midwest Music Foundation when she was diagnosed in 2008, with the goal of providing health care assistance to musicians. Since then, MMF has given a number of grants to musicians with health emergencies. Apocalypse Meow, which began as a benefit for Abby, now benefits the musicians' emergency health care fund and will reach its sixth year in November.
 
With the conviction that musical talent from the Midwest rivaled that of anywhere else in the nation, she also helped create MidCoast Takeover, a regional music showcase at SXSW that reached its fourth and most successful year this past spring. The Deli named MidCoast one of the best unofficial showcases of 2012, and approached MMF to head up a Kansas City chapter. Thus, The Deli Magazine—Kansas City was born and thrives with Abby's goals in mind: to promote local music, foster talent, and provide a sense of community and inclusion among those who have a hand in KC music.
 
Abby was also frontwoman and songwriter of Tiny Horse, which began as a duo with Chris Meck and was eventually realized as five-piece band (link to video below). She was also in notable bands including Atlantic FadeoutThe Gaslights, and Trouble Junction.
 
I had the distinct honor and pleasure of interviewing Abby for The Deli KC last fall in preparation for Apocalypse Meow 5. If you want to know more about this amazing woman and read her words (because mine simply cannot do them justice), please click this link. And as a fellow musician/MMF staffer/friend, I want to personally thank Abby for her steadfast spirit, support, inspiration, beautiful stories and songs, friendship, and the wonderful people she's helped bring together as a result of all those things. And I'm certain that I'm one of a multitude of individuals that share this sentiment.
 
To commemorate Abby, please take a moment to find out more about MMF and its mission by clicking on the image below. Donations are always appreciated and will continue to benefit the musicians' emergency health care fund.

Thank you, Abby, for the effect you've had and will continue to have on the music community here. Kansas City has undeniably become a brighter, more vibrant place with you in it.

Tiny Horse "Ride" from Jetpack Pictures on Vimeo.

#shinealight

--Michelle Bacon

  

 

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Grinding Gears with Chris Meck

 

It's great to know why musicians do what they do. Why they write songs about heartache or joy. What kind of emotion they're trying to express. Who they most look up to. That's the magic of what they do. But then there's the science of it. How do they make the most raw or sensual sounds come out of their instruments?

For our newest feature, Grinding Gearswe first sit down with guitar extraordinaire Chris Meck, who has been a mainstay in the Kansas City music scene for years. He and his lovely wife Abigail Henderson have been writing music together in The Gaslights, Atlantic Fadeout, and currently, their duo Tiny Horse. Chris, with Abby, is also a co-founder of the Midwest Music Foundation.

The Deli: What kind of gear are you using?

Chris Meck: Guitar-wise, I use two guitars that are Fender designs but that I made. I don't like current production guitars, so I hunt parts online until I find just the right body, and just the right neck, with just the right finish and the pickups that I like best, etc. So I have a Stratocaster and an Esquire (a one-pickup Telecaster) that are "Meckocasters". I also have a '50s era Supro lapsteel that I screetch around on, and it all goes into my heavily modified '72 Fender Deluxe Reverb. Oh, and pedals. I use a lot of pedals. Analogman Sunface fuzz, modified tubescreamer, a modified Rat and a modified Line 6 DL4 delay mostly.

  

The Deli: What makes your particular gear achieve the sound you're looking for in your music?

Chris: It's all very touch-responsive and full-frequency reproduction is there. I like a balanced sound so that I can manipulate things with my hands to get different sounds.

The Deli: How would you describe your sound?

Chris: Old school, deconstructed.

  

The Deli: How was the process of finding your right equipment to achieve your sound? 

Chris: That's a good question. I don't think it's ever really "achieved." The process is the point. I'm always tinkering, looking for improvements. I'm always going to sound like me, both the good and the bad, but am seeking the best version of that I can put forward.

The Deli: What projects are you in you're in right now?

Chris: Tiny Horse, mostly. Getting our recording studio up and running.

The Deli: What other instruments do you play?

Chris: Just guitar. a tiny bit of lap steel. I'm just learning, really.

The Deli: Who are your favorite or most inspirational players (of your instrument[s]), both in KC and beyond? 

Chris: In KC, Marco Pascolini, Jimmy Nace and Mike Alexander come to mind. Overall, I really like Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams and Marianne Faithful), Bo Ramsey, Buddy Miller. I pretty much want to be Buddy Miller when I grow up. When I was just learning, it was the Jimmy's (Hendrix and Page). Keith Richards. Hubert Sumlin. early Clapton. The usual.

     

 

     

 

     

 

The Deli: What is your ideal dream equipment set up? 

Chris: I'm pretty much there. If I had slightly smaller and slightly larger versions of my amp with the same sound for varied size gigs I'd be a little happier, I guess. I'd like to build a Jazzmaster and a Jaguar just so i had the full set of bastardized Fender designs.

The Deli:

 Where do you like to shop for gear, and why?

Chris: Because I'm very specific about my gear, I shop online a lot. If I go to a music store, it's usually Midwestern Musical Co. For strings and stuff like that. Maybe a nice Jaykco guitar strap.

The Deli: Do you have a favorite KC venue to play in terms of sound quality? 

Chris: recordBar. It used to be Davey's, but I don't really feel as at home there these days. Crossroads is cool.

The Deli: Ever made or have thought of making your own custom gear? 

Chris: Almost all of it already is. :)

You can see Chris in action this Sunday at recordBar at the Sonic Spectrum Dealer's Choice tribute show. He and Abby will be playing as Tiny Horse with a crew of friends. They'll be playing several selections handpicked by Sonic Spectrum host Robert Moore. You can also frequently spot Chris running sound at local venues across KC, and doing a damn fine job of it.

-Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She looks extremely angry at all times, even when you might not think so.

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