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Album review: The Sexy Accident - Lavender 3

(Photo by Paul Andrews)
 
Jesse Kates writes smart, romantic pop songs. Their literary quality comes naturally, considering he studied creative writing at Carnegie-Mellon University. He also has a background in visual arts and is married to an artist. Considering all that, the idea of releasing an album and a book as a multimedia experience seems pretty natural.
 
Lavender 3, the fifth album by Kansas City band The Sexy Accident, is an unusual concept among local releases. Instead of a physical CD, it's a hardback book packaged with a download code. To someone who—like me—used to get lost in album art while listening to records, Lavender 3 takes the experience up a notch. Individual song lyrics are paired on facing pages with images by eight artists. The book begins with an introduction by W.E. Leathem (proprietor of Prospero's Books, a frequent venue for Kates and company). In addition to the lyrics and art, there is an interview by The Deli editor (and bassist) Michelle Bacon, The Sexy Accident bassist Mark Hamblin and his long-time bassist father, Don Hamblin. It's about bass. The book concludes with the transcript of a thoroughly entertaining interview between KKFI 90.1 FM DJ Mark Manning, Kates, and producer Steve Fisk.
 
Lavender 3 is is Fisk’s third full-length collaboration with The Sexy Accident. Based in Seattle, he has also produced The Wedding Present, Low, and Nirvana, among many others. The album was tracked in 9 days at Kansas City’s Westend Recording Studios, mostly with the full band playing their parts live. As Kates says, “There's a certain energy you get when it's people playing in a room.” The band rehearsed for several months before going to the studio, and their work shows. The arrangements are lush, adventurous and tight, propelling Kates’ frequently witty wordplay to the forefront. Besides the five members of the band and Fisk, who plays an organ solo near the epic ending of “Let's Play,” Laurel Parks and Sascha Groshang (who sometimes perform as The Wires) added violin and cello. Other guests include Kates’ college professor Jim Daniels, who recites one of his poems as a prelude to “You Turn My Breath To Steam,” and Sean Nelson of Seattle band Harvey Danger.
 
No discussion of The Sexy Accident is complete without mentioning vocalist/keyboardist Camry Ivory. Over the last 5 years she has blossomed as a singer and onstage presence, and Kates says he enjoys writing songs for her to sing. “I really like being able to play with two characters in a song, in a duet. It gives you a chance to call the narrator on his bullshit or to have them play together. It's been so much fun to be able to sometimes write from the point of view of a woman.” Ivory's voice provides some of the loveliest moments on the album, as in “Gracefully,” a song about ending a doomed relationship.
 
Time passes and things change. Ivory, in search of new challenges, has moved on to other projects. Drummer Daniel Torrence has also left the band, replaced by Alex Austyn. The splits are amicable, a more or less inevitable result of outside pressures pulling band members in different directions without financial rewards to push them back together. But Kates is philosophical about it. “I know my band is not a business, because in business you give your customers what they want [laughs]. And I don't care. I do try to make it something that people would enjoy, but at the end of the day I make music I want to listen to.”
 
If you’re looking for maximum-volume, testosterone-fueled doom and gloom, there are plenty of bands to provide it. Lavender 3 is more of a gentle interlude, maybe a rainy afternoon companion for browsing lyrics and images. “In some ways, this is our most feminine record,” Kates says, possibly because so many women were integral to the project. In any case, it’s their strongest effort yet. With every album, Kates’ voice, both singing and in the narrative sense, gets stronger and better defined. Lavender 3 is a mature effort in a unique package.
 
The Sexy Accident will be performing a free, all-ages dinner show at recordBar tomorrow, Friday, January 16. The Hillary Watts Riot will open up the show at 7 pm. Facebook event page.
 
-- Pat Tomek
 
Pat Tomek currently plays drums for the Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, and Deco Auto. He records songwriters and bands at Largely Studios.
 
 

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Song premiere: Admiral of the Red - Footbeats

We are excited to premiere the brand-new single from Admiral of the Red, “Footbeats.”
 
 
This is a song laden with deliberate hooks that will get rockers banging their heads and hipsters shuffling their feet. It’s a track that displays the band’s greatest strength: its ability to deliver purposeful, subtly sexy and spooky hooks in a three-and-a-half-minute package. “Footbeats” is propelled and steered by Meredith McGrade’s steady bass line, while Tom Hudson’s seamless transition between eighth- and sixteenth-note beats pushes the song even further over the edge. The immediacy of the song is brought to a head by the work between MB and Matt Hurst; Matt’s menacing guitar riff complements MB’s haunting doubled vocal line.
 
“Footbeats” was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording, and will be part of Admiral of the Red’s debut LP, to be released later in 2015.
 
Admiral of the Red’s next show will be on Friday, February 6, at Davey’s Uptown with Drew Black & Dirty Electric. Be sure to catch them sometime and download the new single on Bandcamp, where you can name your own price.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 

Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands. She also considers the rhythm section of Admiral of the Red to be her ultimate nemesis. 

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Album review: The Dead Girls - Noisemaker

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
There’s a certain poetry to the way music communities ebb and flow. A band will manage to capture a certain something that attracts interest, if not devout fandom, but at some point the end of the road lies ahead. At this stage, many musicians decide that it was a good run but now it’s time to do something else. In other cases, band members go off on other musical pursuits. Sometimes a new band arises from the remains of those no longer working. Such is the case for The Dead Girls (formerly Dead Girls Ruin Everything), who came to life in 2004 when members of Ultimate Fakebook and Podstar combined their talents. For the past decade the band has been on its self-described search for “the perfect hook,” and they’ve been successful far more often than not. With their most recent (and perhaps final) album Noisemaker, the Lawrence foursome is hitting on all cylinders with an eleven-track offering that seems primed for radio airplay. I count at least nine of those songs as being ready not only for local airwaves, but much more widespread exposure.
 
The Dead Girls (Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom sharing guitar and vocal duties, Nick Colby on bass, and Eric Melin on drums) take their powerpop pedigree seriously, listing Big Star, The Replacements, The Beach Boys, and Cheap Trick among their influences. It’s a lineage they are clearly determined to be worthy of, and Noisemaker provides 33 minutes that are saturated with crunchy chords, rock riffs, and vocal pyrotechnics that are super, super tight.
 
“I’m On a Mission” opens the album with a blast of all the aforesaid ingredients. From the opening moments it’s clear what that mission is—“to rock!”—and that mission is followed to the letter throughout Noisemaker. A bit later, “Downtown on a Nice Afternoon” offers a burst of jangly guitar sounds, but with an underlying sense of urgency, as if the singer has to be somewhere important… but, well, we’ve already started the song and it’s kind of important that we finish this too… so let’s get it done already! Those opening chords are reminiscent of the sound of early MTV commercials, which is a nice touch, and … oh, I’m sorry, I should explain: “MTV” is a television network that used to play music videos 24 hours a day, and … oh, right: “music videos” are brief vignettes that were made to give television viewers visual connections to the music they listened to.
 
Everybody caught up? Good. On we go.
 
“That Shit Gets Old” is a straightforward rocker that shows me hints of Gruff Rhys on vocals, which is never a bad thing. Perhaps if Hawk or Longbottom was Rhys’ younger brother it would make perfect sense. “Dress Up Dress Down” has almost a summery-surf quality, like it would be the soundtrack to a midnight drive along the beach. “Calling You Around” is a primer in how to blend powerpop guitars with classic-rock arrangements, and “I Don’t Wanna Hafta Hold Your Hand” closes the album with the most uptempo song of the lot, as the band realizes that it’s time to put the guitars and drums down, jump in the Barracuda, and head off to the next adventure – maybe that’s the midnight oceanside drive that I mentioned before.
 
Almost without fail, every album has that one song that stands apart from the others stylistically, as if the band is saying “See? We can do this kind of music too.” This doesn’t work for every band that tries it, but with “Sun and Rain” it absolutely works for The Dead Girls. The dual electric guitar and thunderous rhythm section is replaced by gentle acoustic strings, an ever-so-slightly-out-of-tune stand-up piano, sweetly earnest lead vocals, faraway harmonies, and tonal choices that give this song a very Beatle-esque feel. When a song not only offers a change of pace but shows the true musical talent and potential of the band, that’s when you know that said band is bringing its A game. This song does that for me.
 
The Dead Girls offer something special during their live performances as well, which is something that I’ve said before as being a prime factor in determining the legitimacy of a band or artist. Sure, they’re energetic and do their best to connect with the audience, as most bands at least try to do, but there’s something more here—and it’s evident on Noisemaker as much as it is on the stage of The Bottleneck. It’s the simple fact that you just know these guys are having fun doing what they do. They look like they enjoy every second of music making, and that’s a camaraderie that can’t be faked. Their sense of teamwork carries over to a very important off-stage pursuit that the four of them share: every band member is also a top-notch competitive air guitarist. This is especially true of Eric “Mean” Melin, who won the 2013 World Air Guitar Championship. These gentlemen take their fun seriously—and have serious fun doing so.
 
As of this writing, The Dead Girls only have a precious few shows left before going on an open-ended hiatus; Hawk is going to be teaching English to classrooms of eager students in China next year. There’s no doubt that he’s going to do very well—he could use his song lyrics as pop quizzes—but it’s my hope that he brings a guitar with him. I don’t know much about China, but I have a feeling they could use some rock ‘n roll in their world, and they would be all the richer for it.
 
I know I’ve had a blast listening to every bit of noise made by The Dead Girls.
 
--Michael Byars
 
Michael is looking for a handheld Yahtzee game for his mom. Because he cares.
 
 
 
Join The Dead Girls for their last KC show this Friday night at Harling’s Upstairs. Facebook event page. Their final show will be in Manhattan at Auntie Mae’s, next Saturday, December 20 with The Field Day Jitters. Facebook event page.
 

  

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Mark Manning celebrates 10 years of Wednesday MidDay Medley

Every Wednesday, between 10 and 12 pm, the soothing, dulcet tones of Mark Manning take over the KKFI 90.1 FM airwaves. For 10 years, his program Wednesday MidDay Medley has highlighted a variety of music—both local and non-local, and includes in-depth interviews with bands, local music aficionados, and others in the community. But many of us don’t know much about Manning himself; not only is he a radio personality, but he’s been an active part of the theater community since moving to Kansas City in the mid ‘80s. Check out our Q&A with him, and find out more about one of the most ardent supporters of the Kansas City arts community.
 
The Deli: How long have you been in radio? Give me a little about your background there. 
 
Manning: I started volunteering at KKFI in the spring of 2001 and worked as producer/host/engineer for The Tenth Voice for 8 years. Prior to this, in 1994, I co-produced and contributed as a writer/performer for The AIDS Radio Show with friends Lisa Cordes and Jon "Piggy" Cupit. The show was a radio adaptation of a live show we had done on stage, and was reproduced and recorded especially for radio. It won a Silver Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
 
The Deli: What other work have you done in performing arts and entertainment?
 
Manning: I moved to Kansas City in 1986 and immediately found a home at The Unicorn Theatre where I worked on 18 professional productions. I was given the opportunity to work as an actor, stage manager, assistant stage manager, designer, and production assistant. I also worked with Paul Mesner Puppets on 18 productions, as a stage manager, technician, and sometimes puppeteer. I've worked as a site manager for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and as a freelance artist and stage manager. I have also worked as an actor for The Coterie Theatre, Gorilla Theatre, Theatre League, Actors Against AIDS, Quality Hill Playhouse, One Time Productions, and The Fishtank.
 
As a performance artist and writer I've created several original pieces and plays including: "Jesse's Dream Our Nightmare," "Every Gay People," "Gay Bash," "It's A Man's World," "Anti-Gone in Kansas," "Slightly Effeminate Men," (with Ron Megee & Jon "Piggy" Cupit) "Straight Marriage," "70's Cocktail Party" and "The Children of Karen Carpenter" (with Sandra K. Davies).
 
The Deli: You also co-founded Big Bang Buffet, an underground performance collective. How has that organization fostered the arts community?
 
Manning: In 1990 I co-founded Big Bang Buffet with my friends Ron Megee and Janice Woolery, a producing organization that worked to provide venues for original works in performance art, spoken word, theatre and visual arts. BBB fostered an underground scene. Founders met at The Spoken Word at Cafe Lulu (until it closed in Oct. '91) and Club Cabaret (a gay bar on Main St, now demolished). Between 1990 and 2005, BBB presented 75 different productions at many venues including American Heartland Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, The Midland, Harling's Upstairs, Quality Hill Playhouse, back alleyways, Unity Temple on The Plaza, The Hobbs Building, Just Off Broadway, The Farm, KC Fringe Festival, Phoenix Books, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Bang Gallery and Lou Jane Temple's living room. Shows were benefits for the Free Speech Coalition, Human Rights Project, Missouri Naral, ACT-UP KC, Free Health Clinic, SAVE. Core contributors: Ron Megee left BBB to create Late Night Theater; Beth Marshall became Producing/Artistic Director of Orlando Fringe Festival and now runs Beth Marshall Presents; Lisa Cordes is now Director of Artist Inc. and Janice Woolery now runs weekly in marathons. 
 
With Big Bang Buffet, I appeared in over 75 different productions playing roles as diverse as Jesse Helms, Phil Donahue, Tonya Harding, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush and Andy Warhol.
 
The Deli: You started Wednesday Midday Medley 10 years ago. What was the goal of the program then, and is it still the same now?
 
Manning: I was asked by then 90.1 FM program director John Jessup to become a host/producer of Your MidDay Medley. The concept of the show was to play all the different music genres heard on KKFI: blues, jazz, rock, folk, world, electronic, reggae, punk, etc. I really took the "medley" part seriously and I've always loved mixing it up. I remember once when I played gay singer-songwriter Peter Allen followed by Jimi Hendrix. A listener called in and asked, "So this is how it's gonna be on this show?" I wasn't sure in the beginning what the show was, I mainly used it as an opportunity to play everything I loved that I never heard on commercial radio.
 
I started doing more interviews and special shows. One of our signature shows we started was "A Story in A Song," where we invite listeners and writers to share an original short story about a song that changed their life in some way, and then we play the song. The concept is simple but the shows have been some of our best, and a big favorite with listeners. We also have done a series of satire radio shows called "Then He Touched Me Gospel Hour." We produced the first edition on April Fools Day in 2008. The show was inspired, co-written and starring Jim "The Blind Guy" Hoschek, who played a down-on-his-luck, Christian fundamentalist radio evangelist who recently relocated to Sugar Creek with his wife and many children. Their ministry has taken over the community airwaves. A cast of actors plays all of the roles of the family, and we play actual vintage, locally produced Christian music from the early 1970s.
 
I was really inspired by my good friend Anne Winter, who helped me a lot in the early days. Anne had already done "the KKFI thing" but her experience and love of the station was still present. After her death in 2009, I dedicated my efforts with a new direction to continue the work of Anne. I remember holding onto friends Betse Ellis and Kasey Rausch and making a pact with them that we would be there for each other as friend and never forget.
 
I always wanted someone from a record store to have a regular contribution to the show. I met Marion Merritt at Barnes & Noble on The Plaza. Marion has been joining us on WMM for over 10 years, sharing her discoveries and info from her musically encyclopedic-brain. This year Marion Merritt, left Barnes & Noble to pursue a dream and she opened Records With Merritt (1614 Westport Road) in May.
 
The listeners helped make the show what it is today. In my continuing search to tell stories on radio, I stumbled into the story of Kansas City's beautiful music community. The music community never ceases to inspire and move me. Musicians started playing live on the show and appearing for interviews. We interview close to 200 people each year. I started searching for as much locally produced music as I could include, and mix this with the very best national releases that aren't being played on commercial radio. The musicians have taught me. Slowly musicians and artists began to take ownership of the show itself. I remember the day Abigail Henderson told me, "We think of this as our show,” and I couldn't have been happier. For the last 8 years we've been serious about tracking and celebrating the best music in this diverse MidCoastal area.
 
The Deli: Why is supporting local music and the community important to you?
 
Manning: I feel it is my responsibility as a host/producer of a music show on Community Radio. As a non-commercial/educational community radio station owned by a nonprofit organization (The MidCoast Radio Project), we must work to tell the story of what is going on in our culture. KKFI plays over 1000 different songs in a week, we can cover more types of music. You don't have to love it all, but if you listen you will learn, and you will get to go deeper into genre than any other media outlet will take you. Our jazz shows are hosted and produced by many of KC’s best and hardest working jazz musicians. Our blues shows are hosted by blues musicians or those who have served on the KC Blues Society board. The same can be said for our shows that feature the music of folk, punk, reggae, women's music, hip hop, rockabilly, world, Native American, new wave, clectronica, etc. 
 
The Deli: Why should people be interested in community radio?
 
Manning: Community Radio really is radio "of the people." The spirit of this can sometimes be polluted by those with narrow vision and selfishness, but ultimately community radio lives by the idea that the airwaves belong to the people. The station belongs to all of us. It is powered by people who want to hear about their own communities in our media. Volunteers who are willing to give up part of their life to produce and host a weekly show and basically give it all away for free, without asking anything for all of the work, and time and investment. With community radio you can have the freedom to tell the stories that just aren't included anywhere else. This is space that we must hold on to. It is some to the last remaining community space in the broadcasting world. With community radio I know what is happening in my communities and I don't want to have to listen to commercials for breast enhancement or diet pills.
 
The Deli: Who are some of your favorite KC-area bands and musicians?
 
Manning: This is so difficult because I love and respect so many local artists. In the last year we played over 100 local releases and had over 40 artists/bands on the show to talk about their 2014 releases. We had Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear on our program 4 times in 14 months. They always blow me away. I love everything about Schwervon!, Shy Boys, Howard Iceberg, Matt Dunehoo, The ACBs, Sara Swenson, The Philistines, Betse Ellis, Ghosty, Katy Guillen and Claire Adams, The Bad Ideas, Kristie Stremel, Mikal Shapiro, Krystle Warren, Dead Voices, The Sleazebeats, Pedaljets, Jamie Searle, Calvin Arsenia, Hermon Mehari, Amy Farrand, Chris Meck, Jorge Arana Trio, Dedric Moore, Not A Planet, Michael Tipton, Hearts of Darkness, John Velghe, Vi Tran…I could keep going.
 
The Deli: What do you like most about hosting your own radio show?
 
Manning: Every week is different. Each week I'm forced to write a script and put together the puzzle of a radio show. It is an education, I'm always learning, there is always research, planning. It is personal. I love the interviews. I love having an opportunity to make connections. To serve. I try to find equality in music and music that moves your heart and your body. I want to be a good custodian and help open the door. Through the show I've been able to do longer interviews with Tommy Ramone, Lily Tomlin, Laurie Anderson, Krystle Warren, and so many others.
 
The Deli: You are also coordinator for the KCK Organic Teaching Gardens. Tell us more about that and why it's rewarding to you?
 
Manning: In 1998 we produced a Big Bang Buffet show on stage at the Midland as a benefit for a high school student-produced poetry magazine and program in KCK. I left my job as manager of the box office at The Midland and went to work in KCK training and recruiting volunteers for a literacy program. Somehow this led to my work in creating—from scratch—a garden-teaching initiative that has built multiple raised bed organic gardens, at seven schools in the KCK School District #500. Our program is entirely grant funded and supported by the Kansas University School of Medicine’s Office of Cultural Enhancement and Diversity. We serve over 1000 students in classrooms with a 9-month curriculum that involves the students in 3 plantings and 3 harvests each year, and workshops on soil, worms, parts of plants and seeds, sweet potatoes, salsa, and how plants grow. We launched the program in 2000. I conduct 37 workshops each month at seven schools with 25 different classrooms and teachers, serving over 1000 students in first, fourth, and sixth grades.
 
The Deli: What else inspires you?
 
Manning: My partner Caleb who I've been with for 23 years and who has never tried to change me, but only offer me support and a home. His beautiful mom Julia, who lives with us, and reminds me that some of the youngest people I know are in their 80s. My mom and stepdad Arlo. My dogs Maggie and Jack (both rescued from the gardens). I'm a huge fan of David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, The Factory, Interview Magazine, New York punk, early ‘80s new wave and post punk, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, performance art, Laurie Anderson, LaBelle, local record stores, Broadway, artists, Martin Luther King, LGBT activists, Larry Kramer, Mavis Staples, trees, walking, President Obama, the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Ocean, Joni Mitchell, George Washington Carver, honey bees, butterflies, gardening, Iris DeMent, vertical files, The Smiths, British music magazines, Bold Nebraska, Rachel Maddow, RuPaul's Drag Race, photography, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Paul Thomas Anderson films, This American Life, homegrown and homemade food, coffee, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Michelle Bacon.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands. She’s also a huge fan of Mark Manning.
 
 

You can celebrate with Mark this Friday at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club, where KKFI will be celebrating 10 years of Wednesday MidDay Medley. The show is a benefit for KKFI 90.1 FM, and will feature performances from The Philistines, Dolls on Fire (who will also be releasing their LP that night), and The Pedaljets. Facebook event page 

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Album review: Kangaroo Knife Fight - Kangaroo Knife Fight (EP)

Kangaroo Knife Fight’s new self-titled EP is a soul-searching romp through deep caverns of reverbed out guitars, gospelesque vocals, and flowing melodies reminiscent of Sly and the Family Stone and Kings of Leon. The opening track, “Hold On” is an airy build into a delightful chant-worthy chorus. With the vocals screaming “I don’t think anybody wants to lose,” it’s hard not to sing along the second time around. The song illustrates difficulties everyone struggles with and the sweaty grip people have while trying to hold everything together in life. The challenging nature of the overwhelming instrumentation leaves you asking, how will they make this bigger? KKF doesn’t disappoint with giant swelling vocals and expanding guitars.

 
--Matthew Gratton
 
Editor’s note: Kangaroo Knife Fight was recorded by Kangaroo Knife Fight and mixed by Noah Shain and Amir Jamm. The band was formerly called Little Rosco.
 
Kangaroo Knife Fight is:
Anthony Avis: vocals
Brandon Skeens: guitar
Ian O’Connell: drums
Gus Rechtien: bass, backup vocals
 
 
Check out Kangaroo Knife Fight at The Brick this Saturday, December 6, where they will be celebrating the release of the EP. Bottle Breakers and Morningglories will also be playing. Facebook event page.
 
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