Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review: Krizz Kaliko's Genius

"Kali, baby!"

Krizz Kaliko's catchphrase is already familiar to tens of thousands of Tech N9ne fans. But will Genius, the Kansas City rapper's highly anticipated second album, succeed in making his "Kali, baby" refrain a universally beloved gimmick?

The first week's sales numbers from Billboard indicate that many loyal "Technicians" (ugh) immediately snatched up the album. Genius debuted at #3 on the rap album chart and at #85 on the overall Top 200.

Unlike an infinitely more celebrated Kansas City scribe, I'm not prepared to declare Genius a work of, well, genius. It's good- several moments are really good. But it's far from flawless.

The most immediately engaging song on the album is "Misundertood". My affection for the track, however, is tempered by its alarming resemblance to Janelle Monae's "Many Moons".

Similarly, "Get Off" sounds like a discarded R. Kelly track. The autobiographical "Bipolar" could be mistaken for Andre 3000. And "Choir Boy" is just one of several tracks that evoke Gnarls Barkley. "The Chemical" melds the signature styles of Prince and Nine Inch Nails.

Kaliko clearly has excellent taste. And that leads to another interesting issue raised by Genius. Musically, it sounds like the best-ever Tech N9ne album. So, does Kaliko sound like Tech N9ne? Or has Tech N9ne ridden to the top on his sidekick Kaliko's "genius"?

Not to take anything away from proven savvy of Tech N9ne, but my best guess is that it's all about "Kali, baby."

A week after catching their show, I'm still thinking about Slayer. I'm also looking forward to the Get Up Kids reunion tour. Reggie and the Full Effect's cover of "Raining Blood" brilliantly combines two of my current obsessions.

The hilarious video for Colourmusic's "Yes!" gives a fairly accurate depiction of life here in the central Midwest.

A friend reports that John Doe and the Sadies performed "There Stands the Glass" at their show in Lawrence this week. Here's a rendition from a recent gig.

Kansas City Click: Megan Birdsall sings Wednesday at Jardine's.

Elaine McMillian has assembled a particularly noteworthy lineup of songwriters for her weekly Thursday gig at The Czar Bar.

Friday's Monsters of Metal blowout at the Uptown includes Plague Of Sinai, Feast For Flesh, Soundplay, Watching The Coroner, There's No I In Murder, Gangstas With Cap Guns, The Tards, Marasmus, Moire and At the Left Hand of God. Awesome.

Ad Astra Per Aspera perform Saturday at the Crossroads Info Center.

Millage Gilbert is at Winslow's on Sunday.

The Peoples Liberation Big Band return to the Record Bar on Sunday.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Song Is For the Ladies

"This song is for the ladies," Corpsegrinder advised the audience. "It's called 'Stripped, Raped and Strangled'."

I laughed so hard that many of the pierced and tattooed people surrounding me undoubtedly wanted to crack my skull.

They probably thought I was laughing at Cannibal Corpse. I was. But I was also laughing with them. The death metal band's set at Tuesday's Mayhem Festival was one of my favorite performances of the year. Here's my glowing review.

What on earth is wrong with me? I recognize that it's unconscionable to endorse such ugly and hateful concepts. Needless to say, I strenuously oppose violence. But that doesn't change the fact that horrific things constantly occur in my city and around the world.

Extreme sounds, whether they're emitted by Cannibal Corpse or Ornette Coleman, serve to acknowledge difficult aspects of the world around me. I'm receptive to those truths.

That doesn't mean that I don't also embrace the beautiful and the lightweight. Tonight, in fact, I'll attend a show by Loren Pickford (see below), Keith Anderson, and/or the double bill of Ratt and Extreme. I'll have a good time at whichever gig I choose- even if I don't hear a single song about evisceration.

Supe Granda is surely one of the most popular guys in the Midwest. Everybody loves him, myself included. Here's a nice essay about (the original) OMD in No Depression.

Kansas City Click: Loren Pickford will play all original music Thursday at the Blue Room.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: Exit 159 at The Record Bar

I missed Exit 159.

I don't recall everything I was listening to in 1998, but Exit 159 was not in the mix. After catching one of the band's reunion shows Saturday, I regret being oblivious to Exit 159 the first time around.

Frogpond was once the talk of the Midwest. Like most everyone else around here, I figured they'd make it big. In more recent years, I became a fan of ex-Frogpond member Kristie Stremel.

Based on the band's performance at the Record Bar, I now know that Exit 159 represents Stremel's sturdiest vehicle. I've always heard her songs as variations on Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes. The guys in Exit 159 act as Stremel's Heartbreakers.

The approach isn't trendy or innovative but it's guaranteed to always sound good. I don't intend to miss out again.

Friends tell me that 72 Musicians makes them proud to be part of Kansas City's music scene. There's a trailer for the documentary at the link.

We Were Promised Jetpacks are more than a just a great name.

I enjoy Incubus. Here's my review of their Sunday concert.

Kansas City Click: Mayhem strikes Sandstone Tuesday.

(Original image of Exit 159 by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Review: Matisyahu at Crossroads

Well, that was weird.

I discovered that Matisyahu's show would begin ninety minutes earlier than usual just a couple hours before his concert began. I never quite got comfortable Friday after scrambling to get to the venue in time.

Attendance was down accordingly. Only about 600 people were on hand during the star's set. (Much respect to Matisyahu for abiding by his religious convictions, incidentally.) As with the last time I saw Matisyahu, a significant percentage of the audience was there primarily because of their faith affiliation. (It was the first "rock concert" for one fifty-ish man of my acquaintance.)

I was so discombobulated by the situation that I don't even recall Matisyahu playing his signature song "Jerusalem".

He was backed by Dub Trio. That was dope. He was also accompanied by a jam-oriented guitarist and keyboard player. That was dopey.

The 85-minute performance felt like a battle between the two camps. The jam material- especially one awful song that included an "assist" by a member of Umphrey's McGee- was insufferable. A couple extended dub freakouts, however, verged on transcendent.

The novelty angle is fading for Matisyahu. His strong new single, "One Day", serves as further validation that he's undeniably a gifted artist. I just wish, for my own personal taste, that he'd start to distance himself from the jam band thing. Why not drop the Phish infatuation entirely and tour with Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg, Wilco or Willie Nelson?

Maybe then I'd be able to settle in.

I caught Chris Isaak's show Thursday. Here's my review.

Kansas City Click: Gomez return to Kansas City for a Monday show at The Beaumont.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review: True To the Game

At least it's not a no-hitter.

Only Snoop Dogg's solid swagger on one song salvages True To the Game.

The February release, which currently resides at the bottom of Amazon's album sales chart, benefits Kansas City's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

It's almost incomprehensible that a new release featuring exclusive tracks from the top stars of hip hop and R&B is currently ranked as Amazon's #434,282 best-selling album. It's either a marketing boondoggle of epic proportions or the project has deliberately been buried. (Because the album is featured on the museum's home page, I suspect it's the former.)

Yung Joc's opening track illustrates the problematic nature of the album. It's a crude extended sexual metaphor: "Keep your hands on the bat/Your eyes on the balls/Let me hear you say my name,baby/Go and take it all." That's probably not a message endorsed by the museum.

G.L.C. and Kanye West contribute "Big Screen." The amusing throwaway resembles a discarded demo version of "Good Life." Tracks featuring Ludacris, Big Boi, Chingy and Ray J also sound like tracks that weren't quite good enough for the artists' official albums. Raiyn and Talib Kweli's ballad "Flyaway," an apparent homage to Lionel Richie, is better. And "Still Hurts" serves as a reminder that Macy Gray is one of the most compelling vocalists of our time.

That leaves Snoop's "Tha Big Leagues." It's the sole track that directly addresses the Negro Leagues. It's a treat hearing Snoop name-check Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson and Cool Papa Bell in his distinctive drawl.

"It is what it is," Snoop suggests. "We always hit home runs... this could be a single though."

As usual, Snoop knows the score.

I've also been monitoring True To the Game at Plastic Sax.

I'm pleased when the #1 album in the United States is also my favorite album of the moment. Maxwell's latest release is extraordinary.

Forgive me for doing this to you, but I've realized that the only way I can get this hideous earworm out of my head is by passing it on to you. It's been eating away at my brain since I heard it on a classic rock radio station Monday.

Kansas City Click: There's no cover for Cory Morrow's gig tonight on the Power & Light stage.

Good ol' Sam Bush plays a free concert in Olathe Friday. Here's some fan footage from his appearance at the same park last year.

Sonic Youth make a glorious noise Saturday at the Uptown. Here's my favorite SY jam.

Incubus and The Duke Spirit entertain the masses Sunday at City Market.

(Original image of the marquee of the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Faster Horses at The Record Bar


I previewed and witnessed Pendergast's final show last December. It's only natural, consequently, that I caught the public debut of Tony Ladesich's new band, Faster Horses, Saturday night.

Their first show was a stampede of rip-snorting guitars and galloping rhythms. (I'm so, so sorry.) There were funny moments, too. The guys once referred to themselves as "Fatter Hosses." The members of Faster Horses are no longer young colts. But neither are they candidates for the glue factory.

Rugged work horses, Faster Horses celebrate life's small victories through their obvious love of rock'n'roll. Until they establish a MySpace account, I'll suggest that Faster Horses' sound falls somewhere between "Powderfinger" and "Up On Cripple Creek".

How is it that I only discovered that Alacranes Musical played in my town Saturday when I watched Sabado Gigante on DVR the next day? So much for thinking I'm plugged in...

My friend BGO scolded me for failing to note the passing of Drake Levin. The guitarist for Paul Revere & the Raiders died July 4.

I'm trying as hard as I can to irritate all seven readers of Plastic Sax.

Kansas City Click: I haven't checked recent set lists, so I don't know if my favorite Yes song will be played Tuesday at the Uptown Theater.

(Original image of Faster Horses by There Stands the Glass.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: Party In the Park

Kansas City's free concert-in-the-parks series had an indelible impact on my musical upbringing. Seeing a handful of national jazz acts every summer made an enormous impression on me.

Alas, budget cuts, combined with the diminished relevance of jazz, killed the concept. My strong sense of nostalgia insured that I wouldn't miss the evening segment of Saturday's city-sponsored Party In the Park at Swope Park.

The night's best performer was Irv Da Phenom, (above) who offered a clever combination of R&B, hip hop and dance music similar to the highly-anticipated new Krizz Kaliko album.

Incidentally, Irv also vlogs. I recommend his reporting from Taste of Troost, the excellent blowout I raved about at There Stands the Glass on July 6.

The unaccountably meager crowd of about 700 wasn't feeling Jae Casino. His flossing about flashy clothes (that's him in the dark shirt above.) didn't sit well with the unassuming crowd that was battling the stifling heat. For what it's worth, I liked his set.

I didn't care for Fidelity (above). They embody everything I don't like about contemporary R&B. I give them credit, however, for opening their show with a fine Michael Jackson tribute.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Gilby Clarke- Something's Wrong With You


As I ponder all the great live music I've experienced this year, I continue to flash back to Duff McKagan's raw trash-rock set at Rockfest. (Here's some excellent fan footage of Corey Taylor's guest spot.) The memory compelled me to dig out Gilby Clarke's 1998 album Rubber. It's also aging well. Like his fellow Guns N' Roses bandmate, Clarke's under the influence of the Stooges, Exile-era Stones and the New York Dolls.

Michael's gone. Prince is lost. Marvin is a memory. Fear not- Maxwell's BLACKsummer'snight is a powerful anecdote to the pain felt by fans of soul music. It might just be my top album of 2009.

Yesterday found me too delirious to read and too nauseous to sleep. So I watched Fuse's spotlight on Blink-182. Being sick has its benefits. I hadn't thought about "Feeling This" for five years. Man, I love that song! I never though I'd say this, but I'm actually looking forward to catching Blink's reunion tour.

Kansas City Click: James Otto brings the twang to Power & Light's stage tonight.

Sparlha Swa appears at Dream Studio on Friday.

My friend Tony debuts his new band Faster Horses Saturday at The Record Bar. Slim Dunlap's new band is also on the bill.

From Villains Dance's MySpace: We are a cover band as of right now, playing Judas Priest, Queensryche, Doobie Bro's, Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Dokken, Warrant, Skid Row, Stone Temple Pilots, Coheed & Cambria, AC/DC, Scorpions... ect ect... Dudes! Who's up for catching these brahs with me Sunday night at the Red Balloon?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Review: The Whomping Willows

What in the name of Voldemort is going on? I was transported to a bizarre world ruled by happy nerds yesterday.

The Whomping Willows and The Remus Lupins participated in a "PotterCast" at Johnson County's Central Resource Library.

While I genuinely like the Harry Potter books and movies, I attended out of morbid curiosity. I received plenty of dirty looks, consequently, when I guffawed at some of the absurd rituals on display. In a pre-show trivia contest, for instance, contestants identified themselves by their "wizard names" and their "house." I also freaked out when a girl won a prize by reciting the full name of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

I was ultimately charmed, however, by the sweet innocence exhibited by the audience of about 150. The music? Not so much. The Whomping Willows sounded like a cross between Jonathan Richman and Mitchel Musso. Decide for yourself- here's a self-referential video. I didn't stick around for the Remus Lupins.

Kansas City Click: Am I man enough to experience Sunn O))) tonight at the Riot Room?

(Original image of autographed shirt by There Stands the Glass.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Review: Taste of Troost

Do you recognize the man pictured above? Until Saturday, I only knew his face from the covers of DVDs and albums.

The self-proclaimed "Ghetto Russell Simmons," Rich the Factor is the biggest Kansas City hip hop artist not named Tech N9ne, Mac Lethal or Fat Tone. And yet I'd never seen him. The details of his relatively rare performances are often, well, a little sketchy.

That's one reason I spent about four hours at Saturday's wonderful Taste of Troost festival. It was the first time I'd seen live performances by Rich the Factor and other artists including Skiem, Rappin' Twan, Miss G and Hustle.

They were all good, but I most appreciated the appearances by D-Locc Da Chop, Cash Image, Sliccs Gotcha (pictured below), rock band Making Movies and underground Oakland legend Killa Tay.

Much of the day's music may have been gangster-oriented, but for vast majority of the thousand people who took it in, it was a convivial street party.

Kansas City Click: I'm seriously considering catching The Whomping Willows tonight at Johnson County's Central Resource Library.

(Original images by There Stands the Glass.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Jaki Byard- L.H. Gateway Rag

Gate closed.

It's not easy being a jazz guy in 2009.

I'm mercilessly mocked by associates who are mystified by my interest in the so-called dead art form. And much of the jazz community can't understand how I can also love the likes of Nas, AC/DC and Merle Haggard.

Some of the disconnect, perhaps, has to do with the loss of the great tricksters of jazz. Guys like Charles Mingus, Henry Threadgill, Lester Bowie and Jaki Byard regularly made raucous, genre-bending music that was genuinely funny.

This wooly track from an out-of-print 1978 session is propelled by Major Holley's tuba and Byard's odd ragtime goof. They even laugh out loud at 2:05. That experimental sense of fun is largely absent in jazz today. Just check out the angry comments to this stupendous live '65 video. What happened to our progressive sense of adventure?

I chose Shakespeare over Jonathan Richman on Monday. Luckily, some great fan footage is available. This clip includes JoJo's explanation of why the venue's air conditioning was turned off. Had I been there, I might have wrung his neck.

A dude recently posted a 1980 live recording of The Who at YouTube. The bootleg documents the first time I saw The Who. The Pretenders opened the concert.

Jason Harper laments the announcement that Shawnee's Needmore Discs will close in August.

The Village Voice profiles "fledgling R&B superstar" and native of Kansas City, Kansas, Janelle Monae.

Last week I battled rush hour traffic by shamelessly singing along with "When Will I See You Again." Yes, I even did the "precious moments' bit. Fayette Pinkney of the Three Degrees died last week. She was 61. (Tip via BGO.)

Kansas City Click: I might ask the women in long dresses if I can borrow their hula hoops tonight at Carbon Leaf's free concert at Crossroads KC.

I plan to check out Taste of Troost on the Fourth.

Jazz guitarist Jerry Hahn returns to Jardine's on Sunday.