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The Deli KC

Album review: Red Kate - When The Troubles Come

I had a conversation with a friend the other night over drinks. The majority of the talk is unimportant, but the meat of it was how much we miss rock ‘n roll. I, like my musician friend, have grown weary of bearded bands trading in their amps and Telecasters for banjos, washboards, and glockenspiel. What boat did I miss here? 
Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger posed the question, “Where have all the flowers gone?”. I say, “To hell with the flowers. Where’s the riffs?”
Well, I have discovered some of the sadly endangered rock ‘n roll species on Red Kate’s When the Troubles Come. The Kansas City-based band (L. Ron Drunkard, Desmond Poirier, Brad Huhmann, and Andrew Whelan. Original guitarist Scot Squatch, who appears on a few of the album’s tracks, left Red Kate while recording Troubles) has laid down a superb LP packed with ‘70s rock aggression. The band’s one-two punch guitar work of Desmond Poirier and Brad Huhmann should make Angus Young and Marc Bolan fans very, very happy.
Red Kate indeed mines the 1970s for gold but stays clear of the cheese that marred the latter part of the decade. Red Kate plays big and aggressive but at the same time is more than capable of producing songs with great pop sensibilities (“Pink Sweater”). Have no fear, my friends; the schmaltz of bands like Boston and Foreigner are nowhere near Red Kate’s sound—thank god. Think more Stranglers and The Saints than STYX and Kansas.
Extolling the virtues of standing up for something and questioning the motives of the government, Troubles is chock full of calls to actions under the cover of rock ‘n roll. On the exceptional lead off track “Union Voice,” Drunkard cries out: “The boss is not your friend / now it’s time to make a choice / stand up and raise your voice.” In “Hypnotized,” he snarls: “I won’t pledge allegiance to the flag or company / there ain’t no way in hell you’re gonna pacify me.”
Too few bands put their beliefs out there for the entire world to see, and even fewer still are capable of doing so while kicking ass. Troubles is what rock and punk used to be before being invaded by Creed worshippers and Hot Topic. Red Kate brings a message without being heavy handed, self-important, or preachy. The band does not tell the listener to overthrow the government or become a radical anarchist. What it does is plant a seed of curiosity, of standing up for what you believe in and for being an individual.
When The Troubles Come is passionate record made by people who clearly believe in the words they’ve laid in wax. It is a record for people who believe that it is their right as humans to stand up for something, to question the beliefs put upon them by church and the state, to demand answers to their questions, and to do so while rockin’ like their heads are on fire.
When The Troubles Come was recorded and engineered at Weights and Measures Soundlab by Duane Trower. It was mixed by Trower and L. Ron Drunkard, digitally mastered by Trower, vinyl mastered at Sae Mastering (Phoenix) by Roger Seibel. Released by Replay Records.
Red Kate’s KC album release party will be at Davey’s Uptown this Friday, August 23. The Bad Ideas kick the show off at 9 pm, followed by Steady StatesThe Quivers, and topped off by Red Kate. Sure to be a loud, rowdy, boisterous evening. Facebook event page.
--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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Artists on Trial: Nikki and the Rooftop Punch

(Photo by Bittersweet Symphony Productions)
It seems like everyone wants to start a side project at some point. When a frontperson does it, the music usually sounds a whole lot like his/her band. Which is great, if you want to hear more of that. But every once in awhile, a combination of creativity erupts into a completely different style. Nikki and the Rooftop Punch—the brand-new duo of Nicole Springer and Tim Jenkins of The Clementines—is plain and simple stripped-down garage rock, in the best possible way. Jenkins electrifies his guitar sound with catchy, bluesy riffs, while Springer pulls a Phil Collins move, only with intense, raw, shattering vocals. We talk with Springer about the band’s imminent debut show (tonight!) and what’s to come.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Nicole Springer: It's loud, raw, high-energy garage rock with a blues edge and a whole lot of attitude.
The Deli: Why did you decide to do this project and how does it differ from The Clementines?
Nicole: Rooftop was an accident waiting to happen. Due to increased boredom, we both decided to form a fake garage band, with Tim on electric and myself playing the most disastrous drum kit of all time. We ended up enjoying it and upon playing it for a few people, realized it was something others could enjoy too. It's way different than The Clementines. It's more in your face, less emotional, more aggressive. It's just an entirely different side of both of us, especially me.
The Deli: Nikki and The Rooftop Punch is an interesting band name. What's the story behind that?
Nicole: Long story short, Tim punched me in the face once (supposedly an accident) and we happen to enjoy rooftops. Weird combo. But it works.
The Deli: You haven’t even played your first show yet and you’ve already recorded a few songs. Tell us about that.
Nicole: We have three songs recorded that we aren't sure just what to do with yet. I think we might hold off on releasing anything until we see how far our songwriting goes, meaning if we write enough material for a full length. If not, we will release an EP. We shall see.
The Deli: Nicole, you play drums in this project and sing all the vocals. Not a lot of drummers do that. Is it a challenge for you?
Nicole: Singin' and drummin'. It is definitely a challenge. I've been playing drums for a few months and for some stupid reason, I've written my vocal parts to be very difficult. I guess I like stressing myself out. Really though, It's a whole new musical experience for me, but I really love it… especially the challenge aspect of it.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Nicole: Supporting local music means going to see shows, encouraging musicians in general. It means everything to a small-city band to have the support from others, fellow musicians, or otherwise. I know we wouldn't be here without the support we've received. It's crucial and we love giving it back to other bands as well.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Nicole: I enjoyed the live set I saw of The Quivers. So good. Trampled Under Foot is incredible. Cadillac Flambe and Grand Marquis are always amazing. Tim really digs Gentleman Savage. We've seen so many good bands though. We could go on forever.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Nicole: I really dig the band Haim, the most recent Tegan and Sara album, and then just basically the same stuff I've loved for years. Ben Folds Five, Feist, System of a Down, Radiohead, Rilo Kiley. Tim loves him some Jethro Tull. It's an obsession.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Nicole: One where we're headlining? Ha. I think we'd be a good fit to open for The Black Keys or White Stripes. That'd be pretty freaking incredible. Fantasy, indeed.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Nicole: Tim and I will split this one. Tim would have Ian Anderson and David Gilmour, and I would have Janis Joplin and Judy Garland. Can't deny my love for Judy.
The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?
Nicole: We can be heard/found at Reverb Nation or on Facebook. Our two available tunes can be found on Reverb.
The Deli: What other goals does Nikki & The Rooftop Punch have for 2013?
Nicole: First goal is to get through our first ever show in one piece. After that, we just want to spread the music, rock as many venues as we can, maybe take this gig out on the road for a few shows. We think this band is pretty fun and might be worth us exploring further.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?

Nicole: Just keep on supporting local music! Also, take chances with the music you want to create, even if it seems ridiculous initially (like being an inexperienced singing drummer). Do what you love and do it shamelessly! 

If you’re curious (and you should be), check out Nikki and the Rooftop Punch’s debut show tonight at Coda. Tim and Nicole play at 9, followed by The Heavy Figs and The Monarchs. Facebook event page. You’ll also have a chance to see them at The Bay in Warrensburg on August 31 and The Riot Room on September 18. What are you waiting for?


--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also holds down half the rhythm section in Drew Black & Dirty Electric and Dolls on FireShe thinks you should listen to “Throw It Down” by Nikki and the Rooftop Punch cuz there’s some preeeettty sweet tambourine on it. Oh, and the rest of the song is totally not awful.

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Album review: Akkilles - Something You'd Say

(Photo by Mollie Hull, Seen Imagery)
As one who has been a self-professed music junkie for pretty much my entire life, I’m constantly in awe of those who go onstage, no matter how large the stage or the venue or the crowd, and make music. As one who doesn’t possess a lot of musical talent, the chances of me experiencing that feeling are pretty slim, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the art in its various forms. When a solo artist writes music, and when it’s the kind of music that requires more than just the one musician to be performed live, does he/she worry about finding the right people to bring that music to life, or are the songs written because they simply have to be written, and there’s an intrinsic faith that they will eventually be heard as the author hears them? In the case of David Bennett, the man behind the loosely-knit group Akkilles, it seems to be mostly the latter.
When asked about the process involved in creating Akkilles’ first full-length album, Something You’d Say, Bennett speaks of having a clear vision to go with his musical voice, and he also was able to assemble a supporting cast of accomplished musicians that he respected and was fully comfortable with, even though they had never actually played together before. Additionally, the making of Something You’d Say involved having all five players in a recording studio (Nick Pick, Rachel Pollock, Jeff Larison, Isaac Anderson, and Mike Crawford, who also engineered the recording), as opposed to his first effort, Demo Treasures—recorded at Bennett’s home, and on which he was the sole musician and vocalist.
A bit about Demo Treasures: released in April of 2013, this five-track EP serves as a natural lead-in to the full-length recording. It contains a very Freelance Whales vibe at times, but there are instances when Bennett takes more risks with the music—as if he’s experimenting with his own potential, trying to test the boundaries of his work, perhaps seeing the bigger picture of the future ten-track album. It would be a wise investment to listen to this as a primer; it would also be a low-cost investment, as Akkilles is only asking for a couple bucks for the download on their Bandcamp page. (psst … there’s no rule against paying a little more, either. Any band worth supporting—not just Akkilles, but any and every band—is a band worth kicking in a buck a song for an EP purchase. Just sayin’.)
Listening to “Your Only One,” the opening track of Something You’d Say,put me in mind of being in a kicked-back state at the end of the work week, sitting on the beach, cold beverage in hand (make mine a cider, please), and watching the sun go down over the ocean. “She’s My Girl” offers nine-plus minutes of more gently trippy sounds, and the deeper you explore the album, the deeper your state of relaxation will be. Getting into the swirling psychedelia of the third track, “Country Boy Deluxe,” I started hearing a few more subtle resemblances and possible influences: a touch of yacht rock, maybe a little Minden, and (for me, anyway) the pensive reflection of Beck’s Sea Change album. Bennett masterfully tells his stories at their own pace, without the need of studio-born tricks or gimmicks to keep the listener’s attention. It’s also very clear that his band of musical hired guns is in complete lockstep with him, and the result is a seamlessly pure and effortless 51-minute mental massage.
Akkilles is not without its sneaky side, though: “Chic City” presents the listener with a relatively alt-country song as compared to the rest of Something. If the Flaming Lips had decided to bring Wilco into the recording studio … and, perhaps, maybe, oh, I don’t know, enjoyed a puff or two of some agricultural mood-enhancing materials, just speculating here … this might have been the result. It’s the closest to a “road song” that the album comes to—but it’s still a relaxed road even so.
Something You’d Say is more than the sum of its parts, as any worthwhile collaboration aspires to be. For those of us who look forward to summer every year only for the purpose of finding that special “summer song” or “summer album,” you can’t go wrong with making this your choice for 2013.
Of the roster of musicians that make up Akkilles, Bennett says this: “My current band is more of a collective than anything else. Everyone would be making music with or without me, but we all knew each other and they really wanted to be a part of what I was doing, and I love getting to work with such talented people. It's a pretty dynamic group.” If you have the opportunity to see this group as they support the new album, be ready to have your mind bathed in the serenity of gentle ambience and warm, finely-tuned summer pop.
At least, that’s something I’d say.

Join Akkilles with special guests Roo & The Howl (Colorado) and La Guerre at recordBar on Thursday, August 29. It’s an 18+ show, $7 cover. Facebook event page. 
--Michael Byars

Michael Byars has an infatuation with cider, which we all think comes from his internal Britishness, but he works cheap and spells most of his words correctly, so we let him hang around. And Michelle still likes to punch him every once in a while. Executive privilege and all that, jolly good, pip pip, cheerio.


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Album review: Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear - We Burned the Cane Fields (EP)

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been asked to do a few reviews for The Deli KC, and when Michelle Bacon asked me if I wouldn’t mind doing another one, I was happy to oblige. She offered me a choice: a band that I’m familiar with, or a band I’ve never heard of. I decided that I wanted the challenge of reviewing music from an unknown source, so she assigned me the new EP by Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, We Burned the Cane Field. I knew nothing about them, had never heard of them, and put the freshly-burned CD in the computer with no idea what I was about to listen to.
After the music started on the very first track, the thought that leapt to my mind was: “Where has THIS been all my life?”
We Burned the Cane Field is an ode to a simpler time, when musicians were in no hurry to tell their stories (no song on this five-track effort is less than four minutes in length), and did so without musical pretense (the instrumentation is primarily acoustic guitar and violin, with the occasional cameo appearance of a Dobro or cello). The result is twenty-five minutes of audio art that borrows from field hollers and country blues/folk sounds of an era long gone, descendants of the same lineage as the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Leon Redbone.
There isn’t much info available on this newsome twosome so I asked Ward if he would fill me in on some of the history, and he was kind enough to share an exceptionally in-depth biography. I’ll let him share the entirety of it with you when he chooses, but to give you a little background: his mother (Mama Bear) started singing professionally in the early ‘70s and has recorded an album of her own. Ward began joining her onstage in his teen years, which inspired him to write his own music that he began singing at her shows. Eventually they decided to stop performing “her” music and “his” music and start focusing on “their” music. When they had enough material for an EP, they approached their good friend Joel Nanos of Element Recording, who was able to capture their sound just they way they wanted it to be captured. The title, We Burned the Cane Field, comes from a song that isn’t even on the record—just one of many qualities that make it a quirky and endearing effort.
Once the music begins on the opening track, “Silent Movies,” you’ll understand why this recording instantly struck a chord with me. The underlying senses of family and togetherness are unmistakable, as you can almost envision Ward and his mother sitting on the porch on a late-afternoon summer day, singing to each other and whoever else may happen to be there. The joy of music for music’s sake is what motivates this duo, simple as that.
They sing to each other in “Whole Lotta Problems,” with Ward playing the role of a man smitten with a woman and perhaps seeing her through rose-colored glasses, while his mother tries to talk some sense into him. The back-and-forth is a battle between his lovelorn lament and her maternal manner (“I bought her some flowers / she don't need your petal … a car that I gave her / it's just a piece of metal … I stole diamonds for her / she don't want a rebel”). Who ultimately wins? Does Mama Bear get through? Does Ward continue to hold dear his heart’s desire? Those are questions only the listener can answer.
The lightheartedness of the opening two tracks give way to more depth and sobriety in the two that follow: “Darling Moon” showcases the voice of a world-weary and wizened soul that belies Ward’s 24 years, and Mama Bear’s harmonies add a mournful, empathetic tone. If you give yourself the chance to listen and truly pay attention to the lyrics and the melody, you’ll find the emotional weight of the song sneaking up on you. Truly a work of depth that, again, seems out of place given the youth of its lead singer.
“Down in Mississippi” is the EP’s nearly-seven-minute opus that sounds as if it was born in post-Civil-War times. The sparse guitar/violin arrangement is sheer perfection, and though the words may paint a melancholy picture, the overall message is one of affection for a land that may not be perfect (“did you feel that heat today / the sores are on my feet today / the sour's not as sweet today”), but it’s theirs (“the cotton paints a field of white / you don't have to steal tonight / here you'll find a meal tonight”), and that’s alright.
The closing track, “Yellow Taxi,” offers a hint of vaudeville by telling the story of a busker singing songs for change from passersby on a sleepy street corner. He doesn’t want much, and it won’t take much to get what he does want, so even though his life may have a few hardships and he isn’t living in the lap of luxury, it’s the life he chose—and there doesn’t seem to be much regret in his message.
Returning one more time to the extemporaneous one-sheet that Ward created for me, I’d like to share his thoughts with you on how he approaches songwriting:
“There is a lot of fiction within our music, mostly because we love make-believe stories; but the emotion behind the music is where the true reality lies. I think there's a lot of truth to fiction. Everyone can relate to something, whether a story is true or false. At the end of the day, we simply hope to entertain; put a smile on a face, or make a baby dance.”
With We Burned the Cane Fields, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear will fulfill those modest wishes and more. This is a brilliant debut, one that came from seemingly nowhere to knock me over with its honesty and charm. I can think of many musicians in our area who will hear this and not only enjoy it—they just might want to join forces and work together on a few things. It may challenge them, it may inspire them, but ultimately it will result in more musical magic …
And that’s alright.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Ruth Ward, will be appearing next at The Great Day Cafe in downtown Overland Park on Saturday, August 10, 7 to 9 p.m. You can purchase their music on iTunes at the link here and also check out a video below from a previous performance at the cafe. 

--Michael Byars

Michael Byars wrote most of this with one hand, as his other arm has gone numb from his editor’s constant punching—but he thinks she’s pretty cool anyway. [Editor's Note: She is currently telepunching.]


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Album review: The Pedaljets - What's In Between

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)

The name of this album is What’s In Between. Kind of weird, considering this is The Pedaljets’ third official full-length release and it’s taken them a couple of decades to get to this point. If this is just the median, then we can expect two more sometime in the next 20 years or so.
Thankfully all that time away hasn’t slowed them down. What’s In Between blasts off heads from the first track. When you hear them call out, “I’m gonna punch that fucker right between his eyes,” you know you’re in for a dirty, good time.
In a lot of ways, this might be their finest collection of songs. From the aggression of opener “Terra Nova,” to the beach romp “Riverview,” to the psychedelic/Beatles-esque “Some Kind of One,” Pedaljets seem to just be ON IT. A couple of tracks do falter when they occasionally get mired in that dark poets’ corner and push into anti-melodic wandering mode. It’s the same feel that made their self-titled LP (Pedaljets, 2008, Oxblood Records) such a heavy listen.
The Pedaljets have always played a special brand of Midwestern punk rock similar to The Replacements and Soul Asylum. It rocks, it’s tuneful, it’s upbeat, but it doesn’t have to match the cadence of a galloping horse to get its point across. What’s In Between has a lot of those elements. Mostly melodic, very rocking, and with that touch of heartland that can’t be extracted if you’re being true to your roots.
Final thought: great mix, vocals sometimes so powerful they distort in a really cool way, tons of low end (always a good thing), but if we’re being honest, the guitars could be louder.
Afterthought: OK, stay with me here…
“I love my Vaaaaaaaalerie!”

I came away from the new Pedaljets album singing The Monkees’ pop classic “Valerie.” Crazy, huh? Track eight: “Nothing Boy.” A heavy, dark rocker with a driving beat and shredded vocals. But tacked on the end is the unmistakable refrain from “Valerie” and it gets jammed in your head. Tons of other songs on What’s In Between do that too, but you get the feeling this earworm was designed to infect the listener with permanent oh-man-that-is-too-cool disorder. I mean, if you’re a Monkees fan too.
The Pedaljets are:
Mike Allmayer – guitar, vox
Matt Kesler – bass, vox, organ
Rob Morrow – drums, percussion, vox
Paul Malinowski – guitar, vox
What’s In Between was released today on Electric Moth Records. It’s available in vinyl and CD formats at The Pedaljets' websitelocally at Vinyl Renaissance, Zebedee’s, Mills Record Company, and Midwestern Musical Co, and for digital download on iTunes and Amazon,. The album was produced and recorded by The Pedaljets and Paul Malinowski at Massive Sound Studio, Westend Recording, and Midwestern Musical Co. It was mixed by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Andrew W.K., Sonic Youth) at Headgear Recording Studio in Brooklyn, and mastered by Mike Nolte at Eureka Mastering.

--Steven M. Garcia

Steven is guitarist and lead vocalist for Deco Auto, and also makes a deliciously angry salsa.


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