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Cowboy Indian bear

Lawrence Field Day Fest bridges KC and Lawrence music communities

(pictured above: Oils / all photos and videos by Michelle Bacon)
Spanning over three evenings with 28 acts, the third annual Lawrence Field Day Fest proved to be a large success. From Thursday through Saturday nights, some of KC and Lawrence’s most notable acts converged upon the town and brought with them a score of talent and style.
For this reviewer, LFDF kicked off on Friday evening at Jackpot Music Hall in the middle of Katy Guillen & the Girls’ explosive set. The KC trio had the full attention of a trickling-in crowd, most of whom had never seen them before and all of whom raved over them after. Once you experience one of Katy Guillen’s searing guitar solos—impelled by her tenacious rhythm section—you’re never really the same again.
Immediately following KG&G was Destroy Nate Allen. As the duo began to do a sound check while walking about the room, I realized that this would probably be nothing like what had preceded it or what would follow at any point during the fest. The husband/wife team of Nate and Tessa Allen has a delightfully unusual punk folk style, characterized and enhanced by an unconventional, interactive live show.
The rest of the weekend was a somewhat similar story, where festivalgoers—myself included—were getting to experience bands for the very first time. The lineup dropped a portion of the KC music scene in a setting they aren’t as saturated in, allowing an initial exposure to many Lawrence music fans. In that same vein, the KC faction was also able to see performers who don’t travel east very often.

“Last year, I was burdening myself with the task of finding national acts because I thought that would help the draw,” says festival organizer Cameron Hawk. “I was worrying about stuff like that, and I think it made me forget that not only do we have a huge crop of amazing bands around here, but they are bands people care about. We are so lucky to have that.” So this year, Hawk took the approach of building a solid lineup from both sides of the state line, and was able to draw in fans from the two music communities and parts in between.
Other highlights included Major Games’ highly anticipated set on Friday at The Bottleneck. Emerging from a nearly two-year live show hiatus, the trio played its upcoming album in its entirety and presented an even bigger, fresher, more passionate sound than before. Following them was Loose Park, a pure rock ‘n roll band who manages to somehow become even more electrifying and fun with each passing performance.
The Sluts closed down The Jackpot on Friday night to an enthused, riotous audience. The duo of Ryan Wise and Kristoffer Dover has a steady following in both KC and Lawrence, and was able to prove exactly why with Friday’s performance. They have a stripped-down, DIY garage rock/punk sensibility, with just enough hooks to grab almost anyone who could possibly be entertained by the thought of live music. Wise’s newly added vocal effects also brought more depth and grunge to their songs.
Saturday night marked Pale Hearts’ final performance, as frontman Rob Gillaspie (also currently doubling as Lux Interior in The Cramps’ tribute band Stay Sick) prepares to move to KC. The always enigmatic performer led his band through its dark, poppy, ‘80s-influenced catalog. We hope to see more music come out of Gillaspie, perhaps in future collaborations with KC artists.
At Jackpot, CS Luxem entertained and captivated a new audience, showcasing Christopher Luxem’s talented songwriting both as a solo act and realized as a full band. Meanwhile—and with the help of Jar Jar Binks—Josh Berwanger and his band got the Bottleneck crowd on its feet.
Like other frontmen I was able to catch on that stage (Gillaspie, Matthew Dunehoo of Loose Park), Berwanger can capture an audience and keep it engaged—a feat many lead vocalists haven’t quite figured out yet. His obvious charm, coupled with the group’s grooving power pop anthems, warmed the audience up for Cowboy Indian Bear.
Cowboy recently announced that it would take a hiatus after LFDF, resulting in a lengthy, heartfelt, double-encore show. The band played several songs off its acclaimed 2013 album Live Old, Die Young, and delivered a touching but fervent performance—one of the most dynamic, gargantuan performances I have personally witnessed from them.
And closing down LFDF was Stiff Middle Fingers, who wins the award for Most Spirited Audience of the fest. In true form, frontman Travis Arey riled up the crowd, inciting friendly mosh pits and audience members storming the stage.
The exuberant crowd chanted and shouted right along with Arey, also showing its gratitude for guitarist/fest curator Hawk. The group’s straight-up don’t-give-a-fuck punk style was the perfect environment to congregate in for LFDF’s swan song. The KC and Lawrence music communities let loose together, shouting “I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch” as SMF busted out a Misfits cover, and locked in sweaty embraces to celebrate a job well done.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle is editor of The Deli KC. She is in bands. She is the only person in the world not watching the World Cup right now and is sorry for that.

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Album review: Cowboy Indian Bear - Vandeventer (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
I’m constantly amazed at the level of talent throughout our local scene. Many artists are putting out music that leaves me in awe and fills me with pride to say that I’m from this area. Album after album and show after show, bands in the KC/Lawrence area are proving that they have what it takes to capture audiences and play at the highest levels. That feeling of awe welled up within me once again as I had the privilege to listen to Cowboy Indian Bear’s latest musical offering.
Titled Vandeventer, this EP is seven tracks of sonic goodness from this spectacular Lawrence band. The group’s five members flex their creative muscle in each and every track. The tunes lace together like a well-made sampler with a signature stamp of excellent production, impeccable tone, powerful vocal performance, and captivating lyrics. Stretching themselves artistically, they rise to meet their own challenge, crossing genres from indie pop and rap to neo-soul.
The first two tracks, “Figure” and “Scatterbuzz,” are a mixture of sounds reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie meets Brand New. They hold a landscape of rhythmic loops, gorgeous synth lines, and great vocals from frontman C.J. Calhoun. That similar feel takes an ominous turn in the third track, “Ruffians.” Dark synth hits with tension-building live drums set the stage for this introspective piece. I especially love the way they leverage the haunting vocals through a creative use of panning. The attention to detail demands you listen on amazing headphones to glean each piece of the arrangements.
The song “AC” turns the corner, featuring Katlyn Conroy’s powerful voice. The track rightfully leans into the control, gorgeous tone and out-of-the-box uniqueness of her vocal performance. “Jacob” mixes rhythmic beds and the hook of a flute loop (that’s right, I said flute loop) underneath rapper Marty Hillard dropping some fantastic lyrics.
After all that, you have what I think is the highlight of the EP, “Push,” which seems to draw inspiration from artists such as Robert Glasper as the band lays down a smooth R&B vibe. Conroy’s vocals pop out with distinction, highlighting her breathy tone and fast vibrato. That leads us to the bookend track, “Candy.” Here the indie pop sound comes back in full effect. Creative sounds, melancholy vocals, and catchy melodies paint a picture of all that is great about this band.

As Vandeventer ended I found myself wanting more. I couldn’t help but listen over and over again. No doubt this band will continue to raise the bar of the local scene and put this area on the map as it continues to expand its reach nationally. What’s amazing is that each and every track will be free to download for your musical pleasure. Be ready to get your copy, fall in love, and then find a way to support Cowboy Indian Bear in its next huge steps.
Vandeventer will be released on Tuesday, May 20 and you will be able to download it for FREE. Cowboy Indian Bear also released the video for “Ruffians” last week; see it below. Also, you can see them at recordBar next Saturday, May 24, with Max Justus and Nite.

--Miguel Caraballo

Miguel is a Puerto Rican who can’t speak Spanish and frontman of Kansas City-based rock-soul band, Run With It. He believes the arts can change the world and loves meeting people who believe the same. If you want to contact him on your world changing ideas or to simply purchase him the Rosetta Stone Spanish Edition, email him at info@gottarunwithit.com.


Ruffians // Cowboy Indian Bear from Micki Hadley on Vimeo.

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Album review: Cowboy Indian Bear - Live Old, Die Young

(Photo by Todd Zimmer) 

Cowboy Indian Bear’s newest record Live Old, Die Young is a mystical and massive full-length, 12-track LP. Spending the last couple of years crafting their sound, these boys and girl have grown into an entity all their own. Live Old, Die Young is one of the best records to come out of the Kansas City/Lawrence music scene since the release of Two Conversations by The Appleseed Cast. Cowboy Indian Bear has put together an album that is eclectic, dynamic, and enjoyable from start to finish. The only problem I have with this record is that my drive to work isn’t any longer and it’s impossible to listen to 42 minutes of amazing songs on a 20-minute drive. Here’s my song-by-song breakdown of Live Old, Die Young. Enjoy!
“Washing” starts out the LP with slow, smooth waltz instrumentation that provides an excellent backbone for the four-part harmonies that carry this dreamy tune. Featuring an interesting stand-up bass and vocal break, this song keeps the same pace throughout. It’s a gentle song that isn’t overwhelming upon first listen and showcases many of the features that make Cowboy Indian Bear an enjoyable and unique band.
“Does Anybody See You Out” kicks in with a groove of multiple percussive instruments, a pick up from the opening track. At six minutes and twelve seconds, this is the longest track of the album. Its dreamy reverb-slathered guitars and keys coast with ease over the tight, intricate rhythm. Its catchy hook, subtle vocal effects, and all around progressiveness make this one of my favorite songs on the album.
Lyrically, “Barcelona” is my favorite on the record. The song shows the amazing imagery and storytelling abilities this band is capable of. The pace of the album begins to pick up after this epic tale about the beaches of Barcelona and digging up graves.
CJ Calhoun starts out “Seventeen” with a soulful acapella serenade. Katlyn Conroy’s voice sweeps in beautifully along side heavy driving bass, keys, and drums, and you immediately feel the power of this song. There is an anxious drum roll hiding in the mix that sounds almost like a helicopter taking off and it builds in a wonderful way. Conroy’s vocals outweigh the boys towards the end of this song right before it breaks into a dreamy feel-good noodle break. The song ends as simply as it starts.
Not breaking the two-minute mark, “Live Old, Die Old” is a trippy interlude track comprised of every instrument, including vocals, reversed. Though I tried, my stash of jazz cigarettes couldn’t help me translate what is being said/sung. Reminiscent of Minus The Bear’s “Highly Refined Pirates,” this interlude fits well where it is and shakes the record up a bit before heading into different musical direction.
The first line from “I Could Believe in Anything” grabbed me immediately with the sincere and certain tone of Calhoun’s voice backed by a super groovy bass riff and electronic drums. This short, harmonized chant and percussion-driven track might not be a standard “Radio Single” but it’s definitely no filler song either. It’s the kind of song that is best listened to at a packed Cowboy Indian Bear show after everyone has had a little too much to drink.
If track seven, “I Want a Stranger’s Heart,” isn’t the intro song for the next James Bond movie, someone in Hollywood is screwing up. Badly. It’s slow, sexy, reverb-drenched, and adds a magic touch to Live Old, Die Young. The smoothness of this song carries it until it takes a loopy experimental turn. I’m a sucker for reversed vocals and guitars, and these guys do it well. I’m not advocating this, but I’m sure they are saying something cool if you play the record backwards (but don’t blame me if you scratch up that pretty white vinyl).
“Cloth into Clothing” is a poppy, percussive song that showcases the beautiful voices of Conroy and Calhoun very well. This track is mixed in a way that will make you feel like you are alone in large empty room (possibly an abandoned church) listening to Cowboy Indian Bear jam. The raw, roomy drums really stand out, thanks to the nimble hands of Beau Bruns.
“Let it Down” is by far the shining star off this album. The lyrics are beautifully depressing and float dreamily over massive tom fills and melodic guitars and keys. Though the lyrics may give off the impression of giving in to sadness, the music is hopeful and uplifting.
I’m not certain, but it sounds to me that “Live Old, Die Old (I)” could be a trippy sped-up/reversed remix of “Let It Down.” It’s a nifty little addition to this record and I imagine offers an opportunity for members to tune or switch their instruments in a live setting. This track shows that they had some solid time to have fun in the recording studio.
Track eleven, “Jennifer, is a solemn song that captures the essence of a broken heart. In typical Cowboy Indian Bear fashion, this slow-building song adds a multitude of large percussion and perfect harmonies. Sonically, “Jennifer” strays from the standard intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro formula. Though it might not be one of my favorite songs off the record, it definitely fits the vibe and tone of this record.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Methuselah is purported to be the oldest person to ever live, thus making the title of the final track “Your Favorite Son, Methuselah” ever so fitting. The lyrical phrase “I’ve got an edge / I could be your scythe” creates the imagery of Calhoun bargaining with the Grim Reaper to let him live on as an asset. The upbeat nature of the song helps round the album out in a way that makes it nearly impossible to not listen to the album all the way through again.
Live Old, Die Young is a professional and beautiful record. Cowboy Indian Bear has worked hard crafting this gem and it shows.
This week only, you can listen to Live Old, Die Young at the link here. You can purchase it on iTunes and/or get the vinyl with an immediate digital download on The Record Machine store. Cowboy Indian Bear will be celebrating the KC release tomorrow, April 25 at Davey’s Uptown, with Palace and Heartfelt Anarchy. Facebook event page. Then they embark on a two-week tour (details below). The Lawrence release party will conclude the tour on Friday, May 10 at the Lawrence Arts Center with Spirit is the Spirit. Also, visit www.cowboyindianbear.com for more information about their tour schedule, merchandise, and all things CIB.
--Eric Fain

By day, Eric Fain sells used books to pay the bills. Most nights you can catch him at any given KC/Lawrence venue supporting and promoting local music. He is currently the most tattooed and hairy member of the Kansas City rock band, Clairaudients. 

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Album releases this week

April has proven to be a month of local album releases. Fourth of July, Cherokee Rock Rifle, Dead Voices, Radkey, and Reach have offered a variety of music this month, and this week with round it out with solid efforts from several bands.

Kicking it off will be Cowboy Indian Bear, who will be releasing Live Old, Die Young this Thursday, April 25 at Davey's Uptown with Palace and Heartfelt Anarchy. Show starts at 9:00 pm, $7, 21+. Facebook event page.


On Friday, The Grisly Hand releases Country Singles in grand fashion at Knuckleheads with Trevor McSpadden of The Hoyle Brothers and She's A Keeper. Show starts at 8:00 pm, $12 adv. Ticket link.


Soft Reeds will also release their second full-length album Blank City on the same evening at The Riot Room. They'll share the stage with Be/Non and Rev Gusto. Starts at 9:00 pm, $7, 21+. Facebook event page. Ticket link.


On the other side of the state line, Friday night at Replay Lounge in Lawrence will celebrate the release of Let's Get Cynical EP from Black On Black as well as The Consequence of Trying from Many Moods of Dad. Muscle Worship also plays. Starts at 9:00 pm, $3, 21+.


On Saturday night, Bears and Company will be releasing South of the Mountain at FOKL with Clairaudients and The Author & The Illustrator. Show starts at 8:00 pm, $10 adv (free download card available with pre-sale ticket), $12 door. Facebook event page.


Finally, Drew Black & Dirty Electric will be releasing its debut EP Dead Kings & Queens at The Riot Room with The Caves, The Sluts, and Knife Crime. Show starts at 9:00 pm, 21+, $5 adv, $7 door. Facebook event page. Ticket link.

--Michelle Bacon

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