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Midwest Music Foundation

Spotlight on Midwest Music Foundation and Apocalypse Meow with Abigail Henderson

(Photo by Paul Andrews)

If you haven't had yet been acquainted with Abigail Henderson, you haven't had a chance to meet a person with an incredible passion for Kansas City, its music, and its musical community. The voice of Tiny Horse (as well as The Gaslights and Atlantic Fadeout) gives us some information on Midwest Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that she heads that works toward emergency health care for those in the Kansas City musical community. She also tells us about Apocalypse Meow, a benefit originally created when Henderson was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Five years later, Meow has become a huge benefit for all local musicians. In her words, it creates a net for musicians when they fall.

Find out more about these programs and the woman herself at the link here.

--Michelle Bacon

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Spotlight on MMF/Apocalypse Meow with Abigail Henderson


She’s sitting across from me drinking a cup of coffee and wearing a Sons of Great Dane t-shirt. We talk a little bit about what she’s been up to, how many bands I’m in today, how lukewarm the coffee is, how we are both ultra-evil political operatives, and I forget that I’m supposed to be doing an interview.

Abigail Henderson was the reason behind Apocalypse Meow, a benefit that begun in 2008 when she was diagnosed with stage III inflammatory breast cancer. Her friends in the Kansas City music community rallied around her to hold a benefit named (by local filmmaker and musician Tony Ladeisch) after her penchant for kittens, her inner strength, and the severity of the disease she was facing. But she told me that the entire impetus for Midwest Music Foundation happened well before.
“I had just come back from a tour with The Gaslights. We played a show in New Orleans, and I realized something was wrong with my stomach,” Henderson said. “Someone told me that Louisiana State University had a musicians’ clinic, but I didn’t have the money to go. Turns out, all I needed was to give them a CD. I went to a real doctor, who said I had a tiny hernia and told me how to get through the rest of tour.”
When she returned to Kansas City, Henderson thought that a safety net for musicians would be a good idea. But like many large, grand ideas, this one went to the wayside. Until 2008.
“When I got diagnosed, I realized that we had enough of a community and a need. We had been doing benefits, but we really needed a net for musicians when they fall.” And thus, Midwest Music Foundation was born, with Henderson and her husband/creative partner Chris Meck at the helm.
Midwest Music Foundation is, by definition, an educational art organization that unites musical performers and audiences in the Kansas City area. But if you talk to Henderson and watch the intensity in her eyes as she talks about it, it’s much more than that. It’s a passion to foster an artistic community, a desire to allow musicians to follow their own dreams but still be able to live within their means, a need to show the rest of the country that there’s something to the Midwest.
“The music that comes out of Kansas City rivals anything made on either coast, and I honestly believe that, because we’re in the middle, we have to kick so damn hard to be listened to,” she tells me. “And as a result, a lot of our music is better because we have the tenacity to get it out there. We have to fight to be heard.”
One way MMF has represented Kansas City and allowed us to be heard has been at its own showcase at South By Southwest, MidCoast Takeover.
Henderson mentioned, “It was never something we discussed doing; it just happened. Suddenly we were planting our flag on the biggest music festival in the country.” And it’s paid off. Last year, MMF, the showcase, and several Kansas City musicians were highlighted in USA Today. The Deli Magazine named MidCoast as one of the best unofficial showcases at SXSW, and asked MMF to head up a Kansas City branch of the magazine.
“There’s something to be contended with in Kansas City. Not just a music scene, but a community that fosters itself—a thinking, doing community of people practicing an art.”
It’s clear throughout the conversation that Henderson wants to give something to the local music community and prove to the nation at large that our city is a force to be reckoned with. “After the first Meow, I had no idea what to do except have incredible gratitude and indebtness to those who helped me. I realized that I was home. I never would have to leave this city. I just wanted to know what I could do to give back.”
And give back she has. Midwest Music Foundation has not only helped put Kansas City’s stamp on a national music stage, but has provided emergency health care to a handful of musicians.
“It’s good to have an organization that cares about the work you do; it’s important to the livelihood of the community. If you blow out your knee, or fall off a ladder, or have a terrible situation, we can help you immediately.” She mentioned that other smaller cities like Austin and Memphis had become places that the musical community could count on, and hoped that MMF could become that for Kansas City. But why does it matter so much?
Henderson was more than happy to tell me. “Because music is an art. It’s something that needs to be tended, and the people who make it need to be cared for. And not just in the health care sense, but also a sense that musicians are important and what they do is important, and it’s a conscious decision, a sacrifice that they make to do what they do. And the currency to building a city is investing in its artists. It’s a cultural infrastructure.”  
Now in its fifth year, Apocalypse Meow has become a bigger benefit than ever. The event will be held on Saturday, November 3 at The Beaumont Club with seven bands, raffles, auctions, food vendors, health care information, and much more. On the evening before, Dead Voices and Henderson’s project Tiny Horse will be performing at Midwestern Musical Co.
“I’m really looking forward to playing the pre-party. Last year I was too sick to do it.” Henderson’s cancer came back with a resurgence last year and she was unable to play. “This year, Chris and I will be playing with a full band. Matt [Richey] has a true arranger’s brain, Zach [Phillips] has an incredible mind for melody, and Cody [Wyoming] is just brilliant. A treasure.”
She tells me that she’ll just be excited to be there, especially when she never realized that Meow could get to its fifth year. “When I thought I was dying, I told my lawyer that I wanted $5,000 to go to MMF; it’s that important to me. I want this thing to get bigger and go on, even if I can’t be a part of it. I want there to be an Apocalypse Meow 15.”
And with a person with such a determination toward creating a musical community, who possesses such a persistence to bring good music to the ears of others, there’s no doubt that MMF and Apocalypse Meow will continue with that same spirit, conviction, and humility.
“I’m still the girl at shows who geeks out over the guitar. I’m still completely struck by people who make music. It’s the soundtrack of our universe. It’s what you get married to; it’s what you die to; it’s what you drift down highways in cars to.”
To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org. Be sure to join Abby when Tiny Horse plays at Midwestern Musical Co. on Friday, November 2 around 9 pm. Say hi to her at the big event at Beaumont on November 3. Facebook event here. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule.

--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 memorizes license plates, but not on purpose. 

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Abigail Henderson

Photo by Paul Andrews

Tiny Horse



Apocalypse Meow 5 - November 2 and 3

 Here's the official poster for Apocalypse Meow 5! More details soon... For now, visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and http://midwestmusicfound.org for more information on the event.

October 2012
Midwest Music Foundation
"Midwestern Audio Vol. 1

Album review: Midwestern Audio Vol. 1, from Midwest Music Foundation

(Design and illustration by Ryan Comiskey)

With a generous helping of diverse musical ranges and genres, Midwest Music Foundation's Midwestern Audio Vol. 1 is undoubtedly The Deli KC's October CD of the month. Including 41 tracks from some of Kansas City's most talented musical acts, there's something for any musical fan.

The double CD compilation was assembled by Brenton Cook. It ebbs and flows between catchy pop beats and psychedelic freeform sounds, and then between metal and gentle folk tunes. The album bursts out of the gate with "Coming On" from Antennas Up. The band's smile-inducing, warm harmonies gear the listener up for what's to follow. Everyday/Everynight transitions in smoothly with "Body Electric," a more ambient, darker sound, but containing the same exuberance as the lead-off track. By track three, the listener is sucked in. Though "Fanclub" is tinged with a dark mood, it's an intensely danceable song that gives us a sampling of the characteristic style of Molly Picture Club.

And this is how smoothly the compilation rolls through. Each song flows into the other, even if it transitions from a straight hip-hop jam like Reach's "Move" to Be/Non's beatastic mindfuck "Yoko's Alright." One of the most brilliant parts of this compilation is the gems that can be found throughout. Some of Kansas City's most well-known bands like The Hearts of Darkness and The Latenight Callers are featured alongside newer acts like Schwervon!, relatively unknown bands like Eyelit, and established local legends like Howard Iceberg. Each track stands on its own feet but collectively breathes the spirit of Kansas City music today.

Les Izmore's rhythmic flow in "Debt on Me" delivers just as strongly as Marco Pascolini's squealing guitar in "Sparkin Your Mama Sweet 2," and also in "King of the Soapbox Derby." The album comes to a twisting downturn in Cowboy Indian Bear's "The Hunter and the Hunted," and briefly exhales at "Six Foot Dreams." And that's just disc one.

If unprepared, "Diablo Diablo" will blow the listener away with John Bersuch's tribal drum beats. The second disc gives no warning that it will relentlessly but pleasantly bash you with infectious pop hits from The ACB's and The Empty Spaces into fiercer, bolder rock from The Beautiful Bodies, finally toppling you over with Terra Peal's brazen, unbridled screams in "Blue Light." Then another short breath into Lauren Krum and Jimmy Fitzner's serene country vocal melodies, and the album takes a rootsier direction, which builds up to crotch-kicking screams from The Atlantic and double-bass tremors from Hammerlord. Yet again, it manages to cool itself off into an assuaging denouement.

First, it winds its way back into a hypnotizing tone from Expo '70 and Umberto and levels off with entrancing but accessible offerings from Akkilles and Katlyn Conroy's project La Guerre. In the last moments of the compilation, we get a prolific, sincere delivery from Abigail Henderson. There seems to be no more fitting of a choice to end this album than with the intimate sounds of Tiny Horse in "Ride." The honesty of this final track makes it an astounding culmination of songs from a bill of fine acts. The emotions gleaned from Henderson's words and Chris Meck's complementary guitar melodies speak the strongest volumes of any track present. And with that heartstring-tugging grasp, it lets go.

--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. Her favorite pastime is wearing hoodies and drinking hot tea.

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