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Kansas City music

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Album review: The Old No. 5s - Steam

The Old No. 5s’ second album, Steam, is first and foremost a blues record. But it shouldn't be pigeonholed. A self-proclaimed rock/roots trio, members Brock Alexander (guitar/lead vocals), Derek Tucker (bass/vocals), and Aaron Thomas (percussion/vocals) prove they can play the blues with the best of them, but also have the chops to bust out some serious soul, bring the funk, or simply construct a nice power pop song.
 
The majority of the 11 tracks are fairly straightforward blues rockers, beginning with the album's first song, “Going Nowhere.” A perfect appetizer, it gives listeners a taste of what can be heard throughout the album: solid vocals, nimble guitar, and one of the best rhythm sections you'll find on a local or national release this year. There is an undeniable Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this and several of the other true blues tunes, including “Starting to Show,” “Easy,” and the harder rocking “Hill Country.” While few guitarists can match his licks, Alexander certainly dials in Vaughan's tone, and has plenty of salty riffs himself.
 
Alexander's vocal style varies. On “Easy” he is confident and powerful, channeling a cocky Jimi Hendrix. He shows off a deep soul sound during “Keep Lovin' Me Baby.” On “Little Man,” a jazzier number, he is a bit more transparent and vulnerable, much like a young John Mayer. While he is very capable at each, I couldn't help wondering which one is Alexander’s real voice.
 
The standout track on Steam has to be “Barn Party.” A tightly wound ball of energy, it combines ferocious slide guitar (sounding very similar in this case to a pedal steel), brilliant bass, and a shuffling beat to create foot-stomping fun. Reminiscent of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, it starts uptempo and only gets faster, ending at a blistering pace. Be sure to have your air instruments handy for this one.

The Old No. 5s display a more unique style on the album's final track, “Just the Way I Am.” While remaining true to the band's bluesy vibe, the song has a catchy pop sensibility—with an impressive jam in the middle—and should appeal to a wide audience. The trio seems to find their own identity here, something I hope to hear more of on future recordings. 
 
Steam is filled with truly fantastic music that taps into several genres. The songwriting and execution is top-notch. The expertise and use of each instrument, tempo changes, and drawn-out solos make it one of the most enjoyable local albums I've heard in some time. As the band continues to mature and distinguish itself, The Old No. 5s should become a force to be reckoned with—both locally and beyond.
 
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 
 

The Old No. 5s put on a monthly concert series at Coda—5s + 1—and it’s coming up this Wednesday evening. Special guest Coyote Bill will be sitting in with the band. Facebook event page. Or if you happen to be near Wichita next Saturday, they will be celebrating the release of Steam at Barleycorn’s that night. Facebook event page. 

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Album review: The Electric Lungs - Don't Be Ashamed of the Way You're Made

If you’re new to the Kansas City music scene, you need to know who The Electric Lungs are. This punk/synth rock band has been kicking it and rocking out since 2012, and still going strong. Following their 2013 full-length Simplified and Civilized, they are releasing their second full-length album Don’t Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made. This album is basically the soundtrack of an awesome B-movie greaser film. The band incorporated rockabilly-influenced tunes that are infused with gritty distortion guitar chords and catchy piano melodies.
 
No two songs are alike. “Play it When You Need It” has a lot of attitude and angst, and this is reinforced by dirty punk chords with the innocence of a clean upright piano. This is a song that my teenage self can relate to while the band releases their frustration through the song. Then you have “Time, Whiskey and the Lord,” a positive, hopeful song about moving on that can be backed up by a New Orleans marching band. This features a breakdown bass solo that is unreal (respect!).
 
One of my favorite tracks, “Surgical Malfunction,” has been on repeat on my iPhone for a couple of days. The song starts up with a harsh strumming of a banjo that is later backed up by an organ that makes this song eerie and dark. After lead singer Tripp Kirby sings “I am the shadow that covers the sun,” there is silence for 3 seconds then the yelling of “I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!”, showing frustration of the character in the song. It is followed by a ‘30s ragtime piano solo then progressed later on in the song with an incredible rock organ solo that’s followed by an incredible drum solo breakdown. This hair-raising sinister song shows a lot of personality in 5 minutes that makes you crave more.
 
Compared to the last album, this one does not hold back. This album shows The Lungs’ true nature on how they play live on stage. This band is not afraid to be different with their unique repertoire of songs. Every track on this album is enjoyable, none of which you would want to skip.
 
 
--Mica Elgin-Vi
 
The Electric Lungs are throwing a CD release party tomorrow night in support of Don’t Be Ashamed You Were Made. Check them out at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club with Haunted Creepys, Kodascope, and Bone Spur. Facebook event page. 
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Apocalypse Meow 8 is coming up!

Midwest Music Foundation is proud to present the eighth annual Apocalypse Meow! Mark your calendars for November 6-8 and enjoy 3 nights of music at 3 great Kansas City spots for a very important cause.
 
 
Friday, November 6 at recordBar
Amy Farrand and the Like
Get your tickets here. 18+ / $7
 
 
Saturday, November 7 at Mills Record Company
A free, all ages show presented by The Deli KC!
 
Sunday, November 8 at Knuckleheads Saloon
 
Get your tickets here. 21+ / $15
 
Apocalypse Meow 8 benefits Abby’s Fund for Musicians’ Health Care, which provides emergency health care grants to musicians in need. Raffles will be held throughout the weekend and a silent auction will be held on Sunday at Knuckleheads, with items, gift certificates, and tickets donated by local businesses and organizations. Click here for a full list of items and contact rhonda@midwestmusicfound.org if you’d like to donate.
 
Huge thanks to all our sponsors, volunteers, and musicians that make this event possible each year! For more information and a full list of sponsors, please visit http://midwestmusicfound.org/apocalypse-meow-2015
 
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Album review: Riala - Be Here Be There

The first track of Riala’s recently released debut album, Be Here | Be There, is immediately reminiscent of the kind of emotional math rock that made bands like Circa Survive so beloved. The vocals, passionate and echoing, mirror the strengths of the instrumentals and resonances that make this band so unique. Feeding my nostalgia for the sound, I dove in headfirst and listened as the track “Aether” gave way to “We Need More Land,” which led to my personal favorite track, “Poseidon.” This lengthy 7-minute song builds to an anthemic explosion of instrumentals around the 5-minute mark that will unavoidably cause some head-banging.
 
The rest of the 7-track album carries on with the band’s enjoyable mixture of atmospheric rock instrumentals (similar to Explosions in the Sky at some points) and the kind of shoegaze sounds that are impossible to sit still to. The eerily distorted track “Sun Blinks Out” melts into the final track “Captain (Dredge),” which is arguably the loudest in terms of intensity. It proves to be a perfect closer for this expressive album.
 
Riala consists of Nick Turner (guitar/vocals), Kalo Hoyle (bass guitar), and Morgan Greenwood (drums). The group met at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and has joined their similar talents and interests to create this electric debut album. Be Here | Be There was recorded at Element Recording Studios where the album was engineered, mixed and mastered by Kansas City’s Joel Nanos, who has proven to be quite successful in various aspects of the music industry. Riala’s album as a whole is no exception to Nanos’ abilities. The album is incredibly moving and dark in all of the best ways. If given the opportunity to catch them live, do not miss out!
 
 
--Lindsey Alexander

Lindsey is a writer who loves live shows, Reddit, and really good tacos. 

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Jesse Harris and The Gypsy Sparrows' Farewell Show this Thursday

(Photo by Martin Diggs)
 
Jesse Harris has been entrenched in Kansas City’s Americana music scene since discovering it as a teenager at BB’s Lawnside BBQ. He has brought that approach to his songwriting, along with a soulful country edge. He has found success as a solo artist and with his band, The Gypsy Sparrows. But after several years of playing and touring, the group has decided to call it quits. This Thursday, they will play a farewell show. We talk with Harris about the group, his music, and what’s in store for the future.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: one sentence to describe your music.
 
Jesse Harris: Songs that are true to the soul that tell tales of both triumph and tribulation.
 
The Deli: Give me some background on your music; talk about your solo material and The Gypsy Sparrows. Why have you decided to end The Gypsy Sparrows?
 
Harris:I found the blues in my early teens and luckily, living in Kansas City, the blues scene was at my fingertips. Once I started to write songs, my blues roots really became evident. My songs tend to be on the depressing side but I promise there are a few upbeat ones too. The Sparrows really came together as naturally as possible. I had been writing songs for a few years and playing out in KC with Sean DeCourcy sitting in on harmonica. I got word that Jeff Perkins had recently moved back to Kansas City from New York. Sean and I had both worked on earlier projects with Jeff and we both were eager to get him involved with what we were doing. Crazy to think about but that was almost 10 years ago.
 
As the frontman for The Sparrows, I started getting booked often for song swaps and singer-songwriter nights in venues around the Midwest. These were new to me because song swaps in Kansas City were almost nonexistent. I got hooked on them. They were organic and lent room for stories and camaraderie between the performer and the audience. The more I did, the more I loved them, and I began to write songs that would fit that type of show. That is how my solo album As I Am came to be.
 
We decided to call an end to The Gypsy Sparrows for many reasons but mainly just one big reason. We had a great run, wrote some great songs, shared millions of laughs, only a few fights, traveled near and far and we did it all just how we wanted to. It was our way or no way at all and in true Gypsy Sparrow fashion we wanted to be the one who said we were done. We didn’t want to fade away or burn out, just simply say farewell.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting?
 
Harris: My inspiration almost always comes from real-life events. For me, to write the song I have to feel the meaning, emotion, or the story. I feel connected to my songs like they are a part of me. Even if they have been fabricated to fit the song better, I can still tell you how the lyric came about. I feel that is what makes a song true, and truth is what I look for in any song.
 
The Deli: What is your songwriting process?
 
Harris: My process varies. Sometimes I’ll come up with a melody on my guitar and go from that, but every now and then I’ll start with lyrics first. If I start with lyrics first, it’s almost always right after a long drive.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest musical accomplishments?
 
Harris: I went and saw a band play at Knuckleheads Saloon a year or so before I started to play music live and I remember how great the venue was. Everything about the show was perfect and I remember telling myself how great it would be to play a show there. A year after forming The Gypsy Sparrows, I finally got my chance to play there, and it was everything I had hoped for. Two years after my first appearance, my solo CD release show sold out Knuckleheads’ Gospel Lounge, and that winter I was asked to host a songwriter night there, called The Troubadour Sessions. Those are definitely top accomplishments to me, and I’m honored to be back this winter to host The Troubadour Sessions again!
 
The Deli: Tell me about your latest solo album As I Am. What can we expect?
 
Harris: As I Am was a challenge to myself. I wanted to give a true perspective to my sound as an individual musician. As I Am is the best representation of that. Nothing was altered, auto-tuned or digitally changed at all. This is me and my guitar. I am sometimes off-key, my guitar buzzes at times, and I even change lyrics on the fly. It is not perfect because I am not. The songs of the album cover many topics. From heartbreaking loss in “Love, Money, & Redemption” to songs of hope and guidance in “Boots On,” you are bound to find at least one song you can relate to in some way. That is what I was shooting for anyway.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Harris: The local music scene in KC has been growing like crazy over the last few years. When I started out, there were hardly any venues that supported original songwriters. We have been very lucky that the trend is ending. Venues like the recordBar, The Westport Saloon and The Tank Room have really made a name for themselves in the local music community. For me, supporting local music means supporting the venues that host and pays local musicians. This is just a hobby without those venues that pay their performers.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
 
Harris: Local: John Goolsby has the voice of an angel and has written some great tunes. Also a new favorite is Tyler Giles, who is a regular at The Westport Saloon.
 
Non-local: Jason Isbell is a must in my CD rotation. A newer songwriter to my favorites is John Moreland. I played before him in Tulsa and have been hooked ever since! Both of them are the most truthful lyricists I’ve heard in a while.
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Harris: Alive: Jason Isbell, Amos Lee, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Black Crowes, Willie Nelson. Dead: B.B. King, Ray Charles, Levon Helm, Jerry Garcia.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
Harris: Willie Nelson - A true road troubadour.
David Gilmore - Got me hooked on the sound of the guitar.
Robert Hunter - Because songwriters get little credit.
Levon Helm - Had a true passion and heart for music.
 
The Deli: What does the future hold for you as a musician?
 
Harris: I am heading to the recording studio to record my second full-length solo album this winter. I have some of the best songs I’ve ever written in hand and a fresh (and sober) new perspective on love, life and music. I’m not sure exactly where music will take me, but I know it’s going to be a great ride!
 
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
 
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Harris: I’ll say goodbye with a quote from a song I wrote using some of the words of wisdom my dad said to me throughout the years…
 
“Hold your head up, don’t move so fast
But every second counts so make ‘em last.”
 
Join Jesse Harris with The Gypsy Sparrows at Knuckleheads Saloon on Thursday. Facebook event page.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 
 

 

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