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Show preview: J. Roddy Walston and The Business, Gringo Star, Scruffy & The Janitors at Czar, 9.28.13

Rock n roll, oh God how I’ve missed you.

It seems we, as music junkies, have been awash in bands that embrace dance music (disco), the bearded banjo hipster class (faux folk, neo bluegrass), or stupid songs about what a fox says; these are cold days to be a rock music fan. Well, fret no longer. On September 28, young retro rockers will converge on Czar Bar for an ass-shakin’ good time.
Headliners J. Roddy Walston and the Business are riding high on the success of its single “Heavy Bells,” taken from their latest effort Essential Tremors. With strong airplay on stations across the country, including KC’s own 96.5 The Buzz, J. Roddy Walston’s blend of barroom rock, piano soul, and down-and-dirty boogie has lit a fire in an otherwise dark, rehash-filled world. 
Great bouncy songs like “Marigold” (a tune that would make Fats Waller and Leon Russell proud), the jaunty “Black Light,” The Band-influenced “Nobody Knows” or the sock-hop-ready, fuzz-drowned “Tear Jerk” drive an album as refreshing as a mojito on the beach.
Joining J. Roddy and the Business will be indie stalwarts Gringo Star and St. Joseph’s own Scruffy and the Janitors. Gringo Star blends the influences of British Invasion (think The Kinks mixed with Supergrass) with ‘90s alternative to make a racket that is as moving as it is fun. 
Scruffy and the Janitors, a local favorite known for the high energy of their performances and musicianship well beyond their years, draw from references like electric blues, alternative, ragtime and punk rock to create a sound that’s familiar, yet fresh. Be ready to hear some new songs from Scruffy as the trio is readying its second full-length album Friendship Forest to be released in the upcoming months on This Tall Records. You may hear splashes of Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes, or The Animals within their sound, but as soon as vocalist/bassist Steven Foster sings the first note, it’s a whole new ballgame.
So, if you are missing rock ‘n roll or want to hear some new, young talent while the tickets are cheap and the room is intimate, bring yourself down to Czar this Saturday, September 28. You will not regret it.
The rock show starts at 8:00 pm. It’s 18+, $10 advance and $12 at the door. Check it out if you can.
--Danny R. Phillips

Danny R. Phillips has been reporting on music of all types and covering the St. Joseph, MO music scene for well over a decade. He is a regular contributor to the nationally circulated BLURT Magazine and his work has appeared in The Pitch, The Omaha Reader, Missouri Life, The Regular Joe, Skyscraper Magazine, Popshifter, Hybrid Magazine, the websites Vocals on Top and Tuning Fork TV, Perfect Sound Forever, The Fader, and many others

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Radkey's rapid ascent to success

A little over three years ago, Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon Radke were regular teenage brothers from St. Joseph who indulged in video games, movies, comics—stuff that most teenage boys enjoy.
Fast-forward to the not-so-distant future. Radkey has amassed a giant resume, from playing its first live show with Fishbone to recording “Cat and Mouse” (also the title of its debut album) at Adrian Grenier’s Wreckroom in Brooklyn to rocking the Download Fest in England earlier this year to recently completing its first full-scale tour to releasing its second EP Devil Fruit on Little Man Records AND undertaking a European tour this October. And… they still enjoy the same things as before.
“Quite a bit has changed,” said bassist Isaiah Radke, “but we’re still just a bunch of dorks hanging out at home whenever we’re not off doing the music thing.”
Modest, considering their rise from the St. Joe-KC music scene to international heights. But having had several off-the-record conversations with all three of the guys and their father/manager Matt Radke, a large key to their success has been in their ability to continue to hone their craft, remain humble, and stay involved in local music. Though Radkey has enjoyed accolades around the country and across the pond, it hasn’t been uncommon to see them on a KC or Lawrence stage with other local acts.
They kicked off their very first US tour to a full house at Czar with Naam last month, and played the KC Live stage with Silversun Pickups a couple weeks before that. A couple weeks ago they played Riot Fest in Chicago. This weekend, they’ll be one of the main acts at Beach Ball, alongside Cage The Elephant, AWOLNATION, Alt-J, and more. Despite all the huge bills they’ve already played on, the boys had never done a real tour before. So, why not?
Isaiah explains. “You can practice every single day—which we have done—and get pretty good, but you can only get so good. Playing lots of shows makes you a better musician and it also improves your live show. We finally hit the wall where touring is the only way to become better musicians, so we finally had the opportunity to break that wall by playing live every day.”
Since my first observation of a Radkey live show a couple of years ago, their onstage confidence has steadily grown with their musical cohesiveness and audience interactions, both crucial for success. That’s not to say they were lackluster in either department before, but at each performance, Dee’s monstrous voice becomes a bit more menacing and intimidating (in a good way); Isaiah’s banter with the crowd becomes a bit more sophisticated; Solomon’s drum patterns become a bit more complicated and precise.
“Because they are so young they will inevitably evolve and change, but there is something magical about the raw energy and earnestness of who they are right now,” said Joel Nanos, owner of Element Recording Studios.
Nanos also recorded tracks off Devil Fruit—the first single “Romance Dawn” was released in August, and “Overwhelmed” was released last week on NME. He calls the tracks fast, raw, and real. The brothers announce themselves to the world with a youthful immediacy backed by production that captures them at their purest and most formidable. Already, the songs are receiving a notable amount of attention on reputable music sources, and the album hasn’t even dropped yet.
But all for good reason. In spite of their quick strides from being three homeschooled kids to self-taught musicians with a steady local following to a buzz band getting radio play on the other side of the globe, the Radke brothers haven’t taken any of this for granted.
“I dunno; I mean, we practiced every day, and did our best to write songs that we loved. Plus, our dad was a great manager so that helped,” said Isaiah. “We pretty much worked very hard and had some percentage of luck on our side. We’re pretty thankful for that.”
They’ve also maintained support from the local music community, many of whom recognize their dedication to creating music and spreading the kick-in-your-teeth gospel of rock ‘n roll. Nanos sums it up best: “Those kids are just super cool, definitely beyond their years in maturity and knowledge; they have a great sense of self-awareness. They are the ones teaching me about cool stuff.”

You only have one more chance to see Radkey before they head out on their month-long European tour; they’ll be on the main stage at Beach Ball this Friday, September 27 at Berkley Riverfront Park. They’ll be touring the UK with Drenge, plus Germany and Holland, and return to the US in November to tour with Black Joe Lewis. Devil Fruit will be released October 15. And here's a link to the NME exclusive of their super-cool video for "Romance Dawn."


--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. She once gave Isaiah a button from her old band and he might still wear it. She will eventually be one of those people who says, "I knew them way back when... AND gave one of them a shiny button."

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Album review: Vi Tran Band - American Heroine

You have a dream. You work hard for it. You make many sacrifices. You find friends who share your passion. You create something. You hope for success through hard work and determination and talent. It’s a classic storyline—America loves when good things happen to people who work hard, and Vietmanese-born Vi Tran is second to none in personifying that American dream. He’s an actor, a musician, a tireless voice for and supporter of the arts community, and a pretty decent card player to boot. Above all, his singing, songwriting, and storytelling have been heard around Kansas City through his shows with Hot Caution, a lively cover band featuring a rotating lineup, and his 2010 EP Goodbye, Summer. Hearing him at Czar Bar or the Kill Devil Club or any of the other venues he plays, however, cannot properly prepare you for what you will hear with his debut full-length release, American Heroine. It’s an album that is less about singles and radio play and more about musical theatre and song craft. Tran’s professional Facebook page tells of the literary inspiration he called upon to help create Heroine’s sonic grandeur; it’s a projection that is tied in with the album artwork, which hearkens to the golden days of Hollywood and all the magic that art was and is capable of.
He is fond of saying that he is “part wheat fields, part sea salt,” and this is his Wheat album, a tribute to authors such as Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Fitzgerald—authors whose protagonists have dealt with struggles and challenges that mirror those of Tran’s family as they struggled with the challenges of being refugees in a new world. Those stories have been with him for the better part of a decade, waiting for the right time to be shared. When he felt that time had come, and he had amassed the strongest overall support staff possible, he threw himself completely into the project with the intent to make American Heroine look and sound like a well-worn paperback novel.
What you get, and what is instantly discernable from the opening typewriter solo in the intro, is an album that is less indie and more musical theatre—less “make it radio-ready” and more “knock ‘em dead, kid.” The earnestness and sincerity in his vocals grabs the listener from the first measures of the title track, where the aforementioned literary tribute takes on a literal tone as the protagonist leans on his inspirations for storytelling (“You are the most precious pearl / You are an archetypal Steinbeckian girl … If this were Hemingway, you’d meet your end in a hospital tent / And I’d watch it happening, wouldn’t be able to do a thing”).
“The Charmer” finds Tran trying to woo his way into a lucky lady’s heart in spite of his growing sense of self-doubt and timidity; as Ben Byard’s bass nimbly skips and encircles the twosome as they eventually connect … or do they? The next two tracks, “All the Time in the World” and “Goodbye, Summer” are revisited from his earlier EP, and the three years that have passed since their initial appearance have been good to the songs as they (along with the rest of American Heroine) find added depth and strength from the added instrumentation, along with the benefit of more life experience which Tran’s vocals bring forth with focus and solidity. “The Killing Rain” brings the strings to the fore, as Christine Grossman, Christine Gross, and Sean Hogge all offer virtuoso performances, matching the fragility of Tran’s lyrics and delivery (“I shake and shudder / crack and break / my leaves, my litter / my small mistakes”) with beautifully delicate skill. To me, this is perhaps the most instrumentally stunning track of all …
… which makes it all the more effective as a lead-in to what I think is American Heroine’s tour de force: if this truly was a soundtrack to a Broadway musical, “Waterlily” would surely bring the house down on a nightly basis. You know how it is when you observe someone doing what they do, knowing that they’re at the top of their game, and it’s a beautiful thing to see and/or hear? That’s what “Waterlily” represents to me, as every bit of it—vocals, instruments, performance, and production (brilliantly mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording Studios)—is awe-inspiringly on point. It starts gently, but when all the players come in about ninety seconds into the song, it’s pretty much as good as any music moment could possibly get, and that sense of top-level execution continues to the end. Jerod Rivers’ percussion feeds the intensity and energy of the song, and though the vocal collaboration of Tran and Katie Gilchrist can be heard throughout the album, here they simultaneously challenge each other, lean on one another, and lift each other higher and higher. “Waterlily” is simply staggering in its majesty and bravado.
And this brings us to the final chapter of this narrative, one with which many of Tran’s legion of admirers may be unfamiliar. He usually keeps “The Code” under wraps (along with “The Killing Rain”) because, in his words, “they aren’t well-suited to noisy bar gigs. They tend to be ignored outside an intimate storytellers’ setting. I knew they'd reach their full potential on the album.” The trumpet and piano of Hermon Mehari and Mark Lowrey respectively lead the way into a tale of a man searching for just the right time—and the right way—to make his feelings known to the object of his desire (“Sometimes it’s easier to shoulder the whole world / Than to muster up the courage to admit that you’re in love”). Tran closes the album by laying his soul bare, leaving no emotion unspoken—and no tale untold.
To briefly return to the title track, Tran emotes: “I should have learned my lesson well / From these great literary cautionary tales.” It’s a lesson that he has not only learned well, but one he now teaches the listener—and does so with grace and courage. There’s a commonly used phrase in the world of poker: “all-in,” which is what it’s called when you put every one of your chips at risk. Sometimes it’s an act of desperation, when you’re almost out of the game and you want to take one last shot at a big payoff so you can keep playing … but other times it shows supreme confidence, a sense of invulnerability, when the player is so sure of what he has that he dares anyone to challenge him. Vi Tran knows he’s put everything he has—emotionally, mentally, financially, and every-other-ally you can think of—into his new album …
… and I think American Heroine is a winning hand.
Vi Tran Band is:
Vi Tran: vocals, guitar, typewriter
Katie Gilchrist: vocals
Sean Hogge: guitar
Jerod Rivers: drums, percussion, lap steel, vocals
Ben Byard: bass, vocals 
American Heroine was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording, © 2013 SeaWheat Songs. Album collaborators include Eryn Bates (string arrangements), Mark Lowrey (piano, organ), Hermon Mehari (trumpet), Rachel Gaither (violin), Christine Grossman (viola), and Christine Gross (cello). Album cover art direction, design, and layout by Vi Tran, Eric Lindquist (Lindquist Press), Matthew Naquin, and Mackenzie Goodwin. Photography by Forester Michael.
The album will be released on October 8, but you can attend the release party next Friday, October 4 at Kill Devil Club at 7:00 pm. Special guests include Mark Lowrey, David George & A Crooked Mile, and Jessica Paige. Vi Tran Band will be performing with the American Heroine Orchestra. Ticket link.
--Michael Byars

Michael Byars is still chuckling silently to himself over his hidden Beatles reference he snuck in there. He thinks he’s just so damn clever. Good job, Michael. Way to go.

*clap … clap … clap … clap …*


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Artists on Trial: Mad Libby

Mad Libby has found a measurable amount of success in the region with its brand of energetic, fiery rock. The dynamic four-piece band has won accolades in Kansas City and beyond, being bestowed the honor of No. 2 rock band in the Midwest according to Project Backstage. And now, they are The Deli KC’s September artist of the month! Read on to find out more about this high-powered outfit.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Mad Libby: Rock and roll, punk, and power pop tossed into a blender and turned on high!
The Deli: What have some of your biggest accomplishments been as a band?
Mad Libby: One of our biggest accomplishments was winning 2012's California Dreamin' III contest and getting to play The Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. We also took home artist of the year in 2013 at the Project Backstage awards show.
The Deli: What do you have coming up that we should know about?
Mad Libby: We will be at Aftershock on Oct 11 supporting Jessica and Dana kicking off their tour as the backing band for The Fabulous Miss Wendy.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Mad Libby: Supporting the local scene means everything to us. Without the scene, we wouldn't be here. A lot of the bands you hear on the radio were all part of someone's local scene at some point. Be good to the scene and the scene will be good to you!
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Mad Libby: We love The Melismatics from Minneapolis, Save The Hero from Omaha, Kingshifter from Wichita. Just to name a few!
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Mad Libby: I don't know. I think we'd love to open for The Foo Fighters or Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. OR BOTH!
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Mad Libby: THE BEATLES! Just because. They're the Beatles. Or Led Zeppelin. Either way, it'd be an epic sight!
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: What other goals does Mad Libby have for 2013?
Mad Libby: Mad Libby plans on finishing up recording in 2013 and playing some out-of-town shows.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Mad Libby is:
Jennifer Roswold: lead vocals, guitar
Jessica White: bass, vocals
Rob Adams: lead guitar
Dana Scott: drums, vocals 

Head over to Aftershock on Friday, October 11 for your next chance to see Mad Libby. Facebook event page. The band will also be at Czar on November 9, Cafe Acoustic (St. Joseph) on November 16. And mark your calendars for April 11, when Mad Libby will headlining the Project Backstage awards show at Voodoo Lounge.

--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. Her teeth are falling out but she will still eat all of the treats fall has to offer and more.

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New single: "Rolling Like A Stone" by Msg Ctrl

As autumn finally lumbers up from hibernation and blankets our town with a most delicious layer of hoodie weather, your natural inclination might be to grab a steamy pumpkin-flavored caffeinated beverage and throw on your favorite sad bastard, woe-is-the-world playlist. After all, this is truly the season for The Civil Wars and Elliott Smith.

But summer is not officially gone for another few hours. The new single from Msg Ctrl, the “rock hop” project of former Shudder members Dustin Blakeman, Wurm Collins, and Kara Babcock, will be your guide as you metaphorically throw back one last lemon drop poolside. Aggressive and fueled by a slick and driving electronic landscape, “Rolling Like A Stone” is the perfect pairing for a jam packed summer dance party.
I enjoy the three-headed-monster vocal assault. Blakeman and Babcock mostly handle the singing duties, throwing the frisbee back and forth during the first two verses. They most effectively join together on the choruses with a dominating unison hook that will surely carom about my head as I try to sleep tonight. During these strains, Collins offers mostly effect vocals, little ticks and outbursts to keep the tension high. He shines as he is featured during the more rap-paced third verse, with a particular nod to the cackle and da-da-das announcing it.
Thematically, Msg Ctrl has absolutely no shame in shooting for the abstract and philosophical bullseye. With references to Anton Chekhov and the courage to throw lyrics like “appendices” and “diodes and vacuum tubing” into a three-minute pop song, I’m sure the band secretly snickers to themselves as you mindlessly gyrate to their Marty McFly-heavy message.
This track is solid, especially for a debut single. Word is there are several more releases from Msg Ctrl coming soon. Give them a like, go download the tune (the first 200 downloads each month are free), and keep an ear out; Msg Ctrl has got some great things cooking.
--Zach Hodson

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.

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