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Kansas City music

Album review: Ross Brown - Small Victories

It would seem that Golden Sound Records has done it again with the release of Ross Brown’s sophomore album Small Victories. And by “it” … I honestly couldn’t define what that would be. A wonderful X factor that every release on the label embodies; full of catchy indie hooks and masterful production.
Taking quite the turn from his first album The Human Condition, Brown delves himself in an array of stylistic experiments. While The Human Condition emitted a consistent stream of indie riffs and beats, Small Victories changes styles with each track. From poppy synth sounds to music straight from the 1960s, Brown truly elicits his talents on this album.
The album kicks off with the track “Dishes,” an erratic show of one’s own bravado. “I stand above everybody else, and I am glorious” sort of thing. Listening to the instrumentals, it is hard to imagine that only one man put this piece together. Synthesizers, guitars, and miscellaneous percussion push the upbeat song along. The next few songs seem to have a certain someone in mind; songs about memories and human interaction. The liner notes state, “None of these songs are about you.” I guess we will just have to believe that.
“Laodicea” takes a somber tone as a song reveling in self-pity. Brown appears to pick out procrastination and a lack of skill sets as a personal downfall, exploring that part of him in the song. The sixth track, a personal favorite from the album, is a high-energy, synth-driven story of a song. You are almost forced to imagine the story unfolding in your head as Brown attempts to get to know a girl. Taking on the role of a fumbling, blabbering fool, Brown spews out lines like, “Did you ever eat paper as a kid?”, and “In a food crisis who among your friends would you eat first?” The tale of a poor kid trying to relate to a beautiful woman—an experience most men could identify with.
Another thematic shift brings us to “Self Interest,” which discusses several cases of self-centeredness. The classic rock and roll diddy of this song urges the listener to wiggle a little. Tapping your feet to the beat, the song is very catchy. The hooks readily implant themselves in your brain and it’s nearly impossible to walk away from this track without humming it in your head.

Being the frontman for Fullbloods, drummer of The Empty Spaces, and an operator of Golden Sound Records, Brown has his hands full. But despite all of that, he is able to put together Small Victories, a brilliant conglomeration of melancholy jams and upbeat anthems that is sure to win you over … pun intended.  

You can listen to some tracks from Small Victories by clicking on the album below.

--Steven Ervay

Steven is the intern of Midwest Music Foundation and The Deli - Kansas City. He can't go to 21+ shows yet and that bums him out.  

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Artists on Trial: Deco Auto

(Photo by Leah O'Connor) 

Some things never change. The sun will always rise in the east. The roadrunner will always outsmart the coyote. Clowns will always scare the crap out of at least 85% of the general population. Parents will truly just never understand. And someone, somewhere, will always be rocking the handful of familiar power chords that constitute “power pop.” Fortunately for Kansas City, Deco Auto currently occupies that role. Its brand of hook-laden, hard-hitting pop rock does justice to this often unjustly ridiculed genre. Recently, I got a chance to catch up with this swell trio of musicians. Here’s their take on music stuff, as well as a preview of their upcoming performance at Apocalypse Meow.

The Deli: Gun to your head, 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?

Deco Auto: Extra-crunchy power pop.

The Deli: Let’s talk about what you have coming up. What can we expect?

Deco: Steve: Live via satellite from the International Space Station.
Tracy: I am most excited about possibly playing SXSW and more recording in 2013. In the near future, Steve is working on a Deco Auto Christmas song that I am super-jazzed about.
Michelle: Steve’s working on a Christmas song? Well, I’m very excited to play Apocalypse Meow and help make a lot of people aware of Midwest Music Foundation. After that, I am looking forward to a very long nap.

The Deli: What does “supporting local music” mean to you?

Deco: Steve: Giving local bands a chance. You're not gonna like all of 'em, but there's more to life than $100 concerts at the Sprint Center.
Tracy: Going out to see the local bands that you like. The recent MMF sampler (Midwestern Audio Vol. 1) showed me that every genre exists here and every band has to come from somewhere, so go see someone that's up your alley.
Michelle: There’s at least a few shows worth seeing on any given night for under $10, being created by people probably in or close to your network. Help support and foster the talent around you simply by enjoying it and investing a small amount into it.

The Deli: Who are your favorite “local” musicians right now?

Tracy: Molly Picture Club and Schwervon!. They really do it for me.
Michelle: Too many! The Quivers, Ha Ha Tonka (semi-local), Schwervon!, Thee Water MoccaSins, Tiny Horse, The Grisly Hand, The Caves, many more. I like my other bands when they’re nice to me.

The Deli: What bands are you most excited to see at Meow?
Deco: Steve: The Empty Spaces are always always always a good time. And I haven't seen The Architects since SXSW '06, I think, so that'll be cool.
Tracy: The Atlantic because of what I heard on the sampler and people have been saying really good things about them.
Michelle: Though everyone on the bill is stellar, I haven’t seen The Architects in years and I’ve never seen The Atlantic, so I’m stoked for those. It’ll also be great to see Tiny Horse playing Meow again, especially as a full band.

The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?

Deco: Steve: Bob Mould, Superchunk, Guided by Voices, and Deal's Gone Bad.
Tracy: Legendary Hucklebucks: they are one of the top acts this year's Rockin' the Suburbs fest back in ol’ Beaver County. My friend Bill Mays III is also doing some really cool ambient stuff under the name Infinite Third down in Florida.
Michelle: Tame Impala, Esperanza Spalding, The xx, Dum Dum Girls, Liars.

The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?

Deco: Steve: The Cars, Buzzcocks, Superdrag, Smithereens... ya know what, I don't wanna play this show, I just wanna watch it!
Tracy: Flaming Lips, Deco Auto and Clutch. This will never happen.
Michelle: We’d open up for David Bowie on his one-and-only reunion show that he would for some reason decide to do at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center. Radiohead would show up for an acoustic set too.

The Deli: Would you rather spend the rest of your life on stage or in the recording studio?

Deco: Steve: I used to really love recording, but I'm not ready to go back in there for a good long while.
Tracy: STAGE. HELLO!!!
Michelle: I love the energy of the stage, but I also have an annoyingly structured mind, so the studio is a good place to implement that. I’m also very indecisive. Moving on…

The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?

Deco: Steve: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer... all are music idols of mine.
Tracy: Mozart, because it would be the world's biggest bust of his head and we could get into the Guinness Book of World Records; Coltrane, baby. No explanation; Frank Black, because his bulbous head is the perfect shape to be immortalized in stone; Joey Ramone, because he is cool. (FYI: I have always been against landmarks like Mount Rushmore because they took a beautiful mountain and blasted it apart to carve the faces of politicians on the side of it.)
Michelle: Yo-Yo Ma, Yoko Ono, Ravi Shankar, and me. Just because I think it’d be great to see Asians on Mount Rushmore. And I only picked me because it was down to me and William Hung. America, can I be your idol?

The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?
Deco: http://www.facebook.com/decoautokc
@decoautokc on Twitter

The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Deco: Steve: WARNING: Persons denying the existence of Robots may be Robots themselves!
Tracy: Words of wisdom. Legalize it!
Michelle: Read The Deli KC every morning with breakfast. They have a really excellent editor. Don’t toot your own horn, even in jest. Hug your mother.
Deco Auto is:
Steven Garcia – guitars, vocals
Tracy Flowers – bass, vocals
Michelle Bacon – drums
The next time you can catch Deco Auto will be this Wednesday, October 24 at The Riot Room, where they'll be opening up for Reno Divorce (Denver) and Hipshot Killer. Then, be sure to see them at Apocalypse Meow on Saturday, November 3. They'll take the Beaumont stage at 8:00 pm.

 --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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Show review: Federation of Horsepower/The Heroine/Circle of Trust/Drew Black & Dirty Electric, 10.13.12

(Photo by Randy Pace)

Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club played host to a sum-greater-than-its-considerable-parts show, headlined by hard-hitting KC powerhouse Federation of Horsepower and San Antonio rock act The Heroine. Local bands Circle of Trust and Drew Black and Dirty Electric rounded out the night, bringing speed, rock grooves, and swagger to the already promisingly heavy mix of styles.
Mr. Black and crew kicked the evening off with a dirty, infectious bounce in their step, the lyrical ironies favored by the frontman adding extra depth to their focused 4-piece rock sound and head-bobbing, hip-swaying catalog. New song “Curio Doll” was a standout, showcasing a disco-rebirth vibe that managed to fit smoothly in with their viciously catchy offerings. Dirty Electric’s well-honed rhythm section kept the bodies movin' amongst both devoted and newly interested attendees.
Following Dirty Electric, Circle of Trust provided the evening’s first dose of metal guitars and blistering speeds. CoT put forth alternating tempos, deep growls and shouts, and the ability to dial back from full-bore metalocalypse levels for the sake of dynamics—a concept sometimes lost amidst bands of brutal BPMs and full-bore stage threats. Their style is worth noting; amongst the thrash and guttural vocals, the careful listener will discern melodies formed outside the strictures many similar acts confine themselves within.
As The Heroine took to the stage, the crowd’s anticipation for the San Antonio group’s set became palpable, and those who wait patiently are definitely rewarded. The Southern quintet quickly demonstrated total control of the proceedings, keeping eyes and ears firmly on themselves until the last chord had been struck. The Heroine’s Texas-tinged rock marries an edgy, soulful crunch with head-bangin' breakdowns and a dose of good old-fashioned revivalist callbacks. Frontman Lynnwood King’s raspy screech and manic, hand-raised stage presence was perfectly complemented by the rootsy solos and thumping, driving rhythm section of his band brethren.
With most of the crowd left intact, ten-year scene veterans Federation of Horsepower calmly setup, preparing to establish their dominance over the weary, tired, and thoroughly inebriated. None were left wanting, as grungy, bluesy, full-bore rock punishment followed. Not even the scaling down of their sound just enough for Davey’s could hide a simple truth; Federation is undeniably built to be heard through 50,000 watts by a crowd of thousands. The driving root-to-arpeggio lines from bassist Johnny Catfish told the tale of how much horsepower the Feds can bring to any show, anywhere. Don’t let their longevity in the scene fool you—you should check them out now, and often.


--Mark Johnson



Mark is bassist, drummer, and jack of all trades in Dolls on Fire. He can pretty much do anything.

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On The Beat with Ross Brown

Ross Brown is a jack-of-all-trades in Kansas City music. First and foremost, he identifies himself as a songwriter, soon to be releasing his solo album Small Victories. He's also the beatkeeper of The Empty Spaces, frontman of Fullbloods, and an integral cog in Golden Sound Records. This week, we talk to Ross about all of his projects and find out what's coming up. Catch the beat right here!

--Michelle Bacon

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On The Beat with Ross Brown


Ross Brown is a drummer, a songwriter, a guitarist, a singer. He splits his time as the bombastic timekeeper for The Empty Spaces, the frontman for Fullbloods, and he’s a solo artist with a new album on the way—his first since 2007. We sit down with him and find out more about his life as a drummer and all-around musician.

The Deli: How did the drums find you?

Ross Brown: I started homeschooling my sophomore year of high school, which basically meant I blazed through my work and played music all day. The problem was that all of my friends were at school during the day, so I didn't have anyone to jam with. I borrowed an old kit from my buddy and started playing along with my own recordings to fill out the rhythm section. If that's not a pathetic story, I don't know what is.

The Deli: Did you play drums first, or another instrument?

Ross: I started with trumpet and euphonium as a kid and picked up guitar and bass along the way. Drums were the last addition.

The Deli: What kind of kit do you use?
Ross: I've had the same Gretsch Catalina Club kit for years. It's a decent and versatile enough kit to keep around. I love the 18" kick. I usually play a 14" brass Tama Starclassic snare and use Aquarian Modern Vintage heads on everything but the kick.
I'm fortunate enough to have Fullbloods practice in my basement, so I get to hammer on the kits that Bill Pollock brings over. There was a span of time where I swear that guy was bringing a different kit every two weeks. His vintage Rogers kits are killer.

The Deli: When you think of your musical career, do you see yourself as a drummer?
Ross: I definitely didn't until about a year into playing with The Empty Spaces. I finally broke down and accepted that the thing I was doing when flailing sticks around at wooden shells was called "playing the drums.”
The Deli: Are there any local drummers you look up to?
Ross: Kyle Rausch (of The ACB’s) is currently my favorite drummer in Kansas City.

The Deli: You also are a solo artist and the frontman of Fullbloods. Do you think of yourself first as a songwriter or a drummer/instrumentalist?
Ross: Songwriter. I think that helps me not go nuts and tromp over the rest of the band. Sometimes.

The Deli: What’s coming up that you’re especially looking forward to?
Ross: Officially releasing my solo album Small Victories on October 23 on Golden Sound Records. Really stoked that The Empty Spaces get to play with Broncho on Novermber 30 at Czar

The Deli: Finally, you’re a part of Golden Sound Records. Tell me a little bit about that collective and what role you play.
Ross: We're a "record label" in that we help artists put out records, promote them, and sell them. Our main goal is to do cool stuff with music and the community and bring attention to music we think is great. I do a lot of the recording/mixing/mastering, web development, and design stuff.
The next time you can catch Ross hitting the skins with The Empty Spaces will be this Saturday, October 20 at recordBar with The Cave Girls and Mad Spirits. Then, be sure to check him out with the band at this year’s Apocalypse Meow benefit at The Beaumont Club on Saturday, November 3. His solo album Small Victories will be available exclusively through Golden Sound Records as a digital download next Tuesday, October 23.

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She never ate glue in school, honest. 

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Ross Brown

The Empty Spaces - Party Line

Golden Sound Records


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