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The Supernauts

Show review: Crossroads Music Festival, 9.8.12

(Photo of Rural Grit All-Stars at The Brick, taken by Michelle Bacon)

By the time I had made it to the Crossroads Music Festival, entertainment was in full swing. I had opted to take the "knowledge" approach to the fest, seeking out only bands that I had yet to experience. Thankfully, the lineup was packed with fresh names, mostly due to my overwhelming tendency to not leave my house.

Due to a pants/dryer fiasco that had plagued me for the better portion of the evening the first set I was able to catch was The Hillary Watts Riot at the Midwestern Musical Company stage. The first thing I noticed while walking in was the room. With guitars at every angle and pop art and vintage toys lining the walls, the space is easily in the running for Kansas City’s best hidden gem. Shove the extremely energetic Hillary Watts Riot in the room and you’ve got a winning combo. Though the band will fuck with your mind like a drunken kitten, the Devo meets B-52 mashup is the type of music you have to stop, think over, digest, process, then accept. However, unique is the fact that while deep and complex it remains fun and approachable on the surface. With a pinup doll look and sunglasses-at-night image, the pedal-heavy band kicks in your teeth with plenty of reverb and a chaotic sound. With glimpses of punk reflecting off the glitters of glam, the band’s sound bounces all over the place. 1990s sound bites bleed through the 1980s influences. Mixed with their witty banter, this band is entertainment at its best. Show up to catch them if not only to catch their drummer (Sergio Moreno) rock his flashlight hands mid-set.

From there, I wandered downtown towards The Brick to catch Victor & Penny. I had wanted to catch their antique pop set for a while, but could never manage to get their schedule to align with mine. In addition, their tour schedule has been nothing to scoff at. Neither is their live act. Victor (Jeff Freling), who runs his vocals through a vintage throwback radio, is a treat to watch. His guitar chops are stout and his rockabilly licks are well-rehearsed and down pat. Paired with the beautiful Penny (Erin McGrane), who rocks a tiny uke and a sunshine smile, the group is unstoppable and refreshing. Her act has a bit of snarl to it, growling when you least expect it. She is also in full control of her facial expressions, turning them on at all the appropriate moments. She is the perfect front lady and in full control of her craft. She knows her charms and makes certain that her audience is enlightened of them as well, as she swims through her 100-year-old material. Of all the sets of the night, this one was the hardest to leave early.

Begrudgingly, I meandered toward the Czar Bar to catch John Velgne & The Prodigal Sons. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get a fair judgment of their sound due to an overwhelmingly extreme use of soundboard. Turned up to 11, the band’s layers and depth were missing, buried somewhere in a clutter of echo and earplugs. You could, however, gather the way the horns filled the room. Making note of their E Street ways, I gave my ears a break and headed back toward Midwestern Musical Company’s setup for Dim Peepers.

Sporting a suitcase bass drum, kazoos, a homemade washtub bass and tiny horns, Dim Peepers won my heart and the award for the fest’s most unique band. With a fantastic do-it-yourself sound, the band owned the room, the crowd, and in my humble opinion, the fest. Requesting that I not be afraid to get drunk and make a fool of myself, I lived wildly. I didn’t take notes and instead danced a little. Just a touch. Not enough to be noticed or lose my reclusive wallflower status, but enough to feel silly. Good times.

From there, I lurked at the Midwest Music Foundation tent, listening to Hearts of Darkness and watching cougars shimmy across the parking lot. Even from my lawn chair, I found the set enjoyable. The female vocals belted across the city skyline as people danced (poorly and drunkenly) in the wood chips. After a nice break, I bolted for Appropriate Grammar down the street.

Shifty eyed and crooked smiled, the band brought its best chops and left their R-rated jokes at home (due to parents in the room). With great guitar riffs and power-pop hooks slamming into the occasional alt-country structure, the band is somewhat unique to Kansas City. Think Rhett Miller without the band bleeding all over the stage emotionally. The charming female "ohs" blended well with the male vocals and seemed to fit flawlessly over the band’s epic drum usage. Sadly, battling Hearts of Darkness, the band played one of the fest’s most promising sets to an almost empty room. Take note of that and catch them when you can.

Starhaven Rounders would serve as my next adventure of the evening. I mean, can you think of a better follow up to power-pop than a country cover band? Nope. I didn’t think so.

There is a bit of irony to my catching this set. As I sat in The Brick in a purple emo hoodie, rocking a fairly impressive-sized jewfro, one would never assume me the type to catch the latest gossip at the honky-tonks of Nash Vegas. But honestly, is there anything better than a good, solid country band? With slide guitar, violin (called a fiddle in this case) and sad bastard lyrics. The interactions of a good country band are without question better than anything that any other genre can offer. There is nothing more real in music. Hearing our local member crank out Don Williams, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash makes me both proud and disappointed in Kansas City. This sound is something we could use more of (says the emo kid). We can debate this if you want, but before we do, I challenge you to catch this band and tell me that they don’t possess some of the finest instrumentation in the 816.

If you can debate convincingly, I’ll buy you a beer. I’ll be the one wearing the cat shirt.

The Hillary Watts Riot at Midwestern Musical Company (Photo by Michelle Bacon)

Bill Sundahl, Crossroads Music Fest organizer (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

Kasey Rausch, Mikal Shapiro, and Shane Ogren at Czar (Photo by Michelle Bacon)

Thom Hoskins at Midwestern Musical Company (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

The Supernauts at Crossroads KC at Grinder's (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

--Joshua Hammond

After stints drumming for both The Afternoons and Jenny Carr and the Waiting List in the Lawrence/Kansas City music scene, Joshua Hammond found his footing as a music journalist, launching the national publication Popwreckoning. After running the show as Editor in Chief for 6 years, Hammond stepped away from the reigns to freelance for other publications like Under The Gun Review and High Voltage Magazine. This shift allowed the adequate amount of time for him to write passionately, allow the Kansas City Royals to break his heart on a daily basis and spoon his cats just enough that they don't shred his vinyl. 

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Show spotlight: The Supernauts Reunion Show at CrossroadsKC, 9.7.12

(Photo by Patrick Andrew Adams)

One of the highlights of Crossroads Music Fest this year will be the return of The Supernauts. The group's reunion this Friday includes vocalist and bassist Jordan Lebrecht Smith, guitarist Tim Braun and drummer John Floyd Whitaker, all of whom played in the band from 2003 to 2007. The Supernauts breathed a dazzling classic rock life into the Kansas City music scene. Their solid, straightforward approach to their music brandished the huge, overarching rock n' roll swagger of influential bands like AC/DC or The Rolling Stones while capturing the pop sensibility of The Beatles. Smith's mid-range and falsetto vocal delivery fit harmoniously with Braun's robust and soaring guitar licks and a propelling, monstrous backbeat from Whitaker. We talked a bit with Braun about the reunion and what other projects they've had going on since.

The Deli: The Supernauts were one of the best rock groups in KC at the time. What local bands do you look to now for the same brand of rock n' roll that you tried to make your own?

Tim BraunThose Not A Planet dudes strike me as being kinda similar. 3 piece, psychedelic-y, etc.

The Deli: You've all gone on to other projects since. What do you miss about playing with this group of guys?

Tim: Rehearsals. Shenanigans ensue.

The Deli: Tell us one notable bill you're glad to have played on.

TimAll of our shows were legendary. Every single one. Okay, not really. We played at The Roxy with Lucinda Williams and Son Volt and some other folks. That was kinda neat.

The Deli: What other projects have you all been doing since The Supernauts?

TimJohn and I have managed to do a couple things together. We recorded a record with a friend of ours, Dale McCoy from Fools Face. John's also filled in on a couple Good Foot gigs in the past. I play in The Good Foot, I do stuff with the Diverse guys and Making Movies. Jordan Plays with Josh Johnson and Sammy Hoskins (both from The Slowdown) in a band called Wonderfuzz. They dress like cops.

Oh yeah, John and I are starting a stoner rock duo called stunt-driver. PREPARE.

The Deli: Do you think your musical tastes have all evolved since playing together?

TimI think anybody who plays music is always drawing from new stuff they hear. I would hope our musical tastes would change with time/new input. It'd be pretty boring if they didn't.

The Deli: Do you plan to play any new material on Friday?

Tim: Yeah, we'll actually have a new song. How 'bout that?

The Deli: So, any plans for future shows, or is this our one and only last chance to see you guys?

Tim: That all depends on the weather. See, I made some limited-edition shirts and CDs for this event. If we get rained out or don't sell out, I'll be booking another show to sell this kack. Gotta make that paper, nome sayin?

The Supernauts will be kicking off the first Friday pre-show festivities at CrossroadsKC at Grinder's, beginning at 8:30 pm. They'll be followed by The Grisly Hand and then The Good Foot.

And if you check out this week's edition of The Mailbox (a weekly podcast presented by Midwest Music Foundation), co-hosts Michael Byars and Chris Haghirian talk about the upcoming Crossroads Music Fest and play "Showdown Girl" from The Supernauts. Listen at the link here.  

--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 has a fat Australian cattle dog and a stupidly adorable Corgi.

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