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Posts Tagged ‘In the Pines’

By Joel Francis

Missouri’s governor announced concerts can resume starting today. I want live music back as much as the next fan, but I hope public health is quite a bit stronger before I’m standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a sweaty club again. Until that day arrives, I’ll be back in the stacks.

Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers – A Night in Tunisia (1957) Several years ago, I was record shopping with my sister in New York City. We both saw a copy of this album at the same time. Being a good sibling, I let her grab it. The moment we got home and placed it on the turntable, I realized I had made a mistake. Fortunately, I ran across another copy fairly quickly. Like many 20th century jazz artists, Art Blakey was so prolific and excellent, deciding what to listen to in his vast catalog can feel a lot like throwing a dart. The nearly 13-minute version of Dizzy Gillespie’s classic title song starts with a thunderous drum solo from Blakey before settling into the familiar melody. Jackie McLean’s alto sax spars with Johnny Griffin’s tenor saxophone throughout the album, creating a great tension and dynamic. This twin-reed lineup was a rarity in Blakey’s Messengers, which usually stuck to the classic quintet format. Later, the group tackle’s Sonny Rollins’ “Evans” and the Blakey and McLean co-write “Couldn’t It Be You?” This is a gem where every number flies past, leaving a smile burned onto my face and me wondering where three-quarters of an hour went so quickly.

Wilco – Live at the Troubadour, L.A. (1996)
Sleater-Kinney – Live in Paris (2017)
By the time Wilco officially released Live at the Troubadour, L.A. on Record Store Day a few years ago, the version of the band on the album was a distant memory. While many of the songs performed on this album remain in the band’s setlists today, the pedal steel guitar and alt-country mindset that propels the archival show are vestiges of the last century. The 90-minute set leans heavily on the then-new Being There album. Songs from the band’s debut and a few Uncle Tupelo covers round out the rest of the evening. Wilco was still finding their sound at the time, as illustrated by two divergent, back-to-back versions of “Passenger Side.” The first attempt sounds like a lost early Replacements song. The second rendition is slower than the album version and plays up the country elements.

Live in Paris was recorded on Sleater-Kinney’s immensely successful reunion tour just a few years ago, but already seems just as dated the Troubadour performance. S-K drummer and not-so-secret-weapon Janet Weiss left the band in 2019 after recording their most recent, synth-heavy album. It remains to be seen how the older material will be interpreted through this sleeker, slinkier lens (and with a new drummer). Regardless, Live in Paris is a triumphant encapsulation of S-K’s triumphant return.

I’m crossing my fingers I’ll get to witness both Wilco and Sleater-Kinney later this summer. The two bands announced a joint, co-headlining tour last winter, just before the pandemic crystalized our world in amber. With tickets in hand, I hope the public health is sufficiently strong enough to keep this tour a reality.

In the Pines – self-titled (2006) This six-piece Americana band from Kansas City was a true gem in its time. I remember going to the album release concert at the old RecordBar and everyone in the room being both entranced by the music and elated it was finally available to play at home and share with friends. Taking their name from the old folk tune, In the Pine’s music is moody and foreboding. The violin laced through all melodies adds a mournful Gothic element to the arrangements. Sadly, the group fizzled away when half the members moved out of town. About five years ago, the group reconvened for a reunion show – with new songs to boot – but then fell silent again. As recently as March of this year, there was talk of a second album underway. My fingers are crossed that the pandemic doesn’t prevent this from happening.

While we’re on the topic of Kansas City folk bands from the early days of this century, I want to shout-out Oriole Post. They only released one album and never pressed it to vinyl, but their hopeful, energetic music was always inspiring. Sadly, they were another band with a ton of promise that faded away before capitalizing on their potential.

Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance (2018) Tucked near the end of the British punk group’s second album is a cover of Solomon Burke’s 1961 hit “Cry to Me.” Idles replace the New Orleans shuffle of the original with a post-punk drone and own the cover so convincingly it feels like one of their own. The choice is a nice encapsulation of Idles as a whole. They sneer like the Sex Pistols, but have the soul (and politics) of The Clash. One of the catchiest songs on the album, “Danny Nedelko,” champions immigration by telling the story of the Heavy Lungs’ – another British punk band – lead singer. Most bands sing about love, but singer Joe Talbot espouses true brotherly love and is utterly unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. Even more rare than an earnest punk cover of an old R&B tune is honest, heartfelt embrace of emotion, free of irony and other filters. The Idles aren’t afraid to go there, either. “June,” is a devastatingly moving song about the loss of Talbot’s baby daughter.

I saw Idles almost one year ago with Fontaines D.C. and it was one of the best punk shows of the year. In the time since, Idles have released a live album captured on that same tour. Few acts are able to simultaneously channel such intensity and vulnerability as Idles. I can’t wait to see what they bring us next.

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By Joel Francis

Discovering a new local band can be as easy as searching Myspace, checking the weekly entertainment listings or visit­ing a club’s Web site (see below). Here’s the skinny on the six bands interviewed for this story.

The Architects
Label: Anodyne Records
Description of music: “Colossally loud and exciting. We’re not retro, but if you like The Who, Credence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin or The Clash, you’re going to like us.” – Brandon Phillips, vocals/guitar
myspace.com/architectskcmo

In the Pines
Label: Second Nature
Description of music: “I always think of us as pretty but dark folk rock, although that might sound like a cliché.” – Brad Hodgson, guitar/vocals
inthepinesmusic.com

Olympic Size
Label: unsigned
Description of music: “Cinematic love songs. It’s very lush. A lot of people call it ‘chamber pop’ because of the harmonies. I’ve also heard it called ‘urban folk.'” – Kirsten Paludan, vocals/guitar/keys
myspace.com/olympicsize

The Republic Tigers
Label: Chop Shop
Description of music: “Super-sexy, melodic pop, or future folk with an edge.” – Kenn Jankowski, guitar/vocals
myspace.com/therepublictigers

Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys
Label: Bloodshot
Description of music: “Honky tonk. Drinking and cheating. Love songs.” – Rex Hobart, vocals/guitar
rexhobart.com

The Roman Numerals
Label: Anodyne
Description of music: “Dance music the punk fans can dance to and punk music the dance fans can punk to. But we’re all children of the ’80s, so that’s also reflected.” – Billy Smith, guitar, vocals
theromannumerals.com

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(Note: the following feature appeared in the April, 2008 issue of KC Magazine.)

By Joel Francis

When Keenan Nichols was 19, he couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas City. The Avondale native and North Kansas City High School graduate wanted a bigger city where he had a better chance of making a living as a guitarist. He escaped to a town with a more promising music setting-Dallas.

“The scene in Dallas was great at first, but over the last few years, it started dying off,” Nichols said. “Everyone down there lost interest in live music. Everything became a race to become the next Miami and see who could build the most dance clubs.”

When Nichols came back to Kansas City on visits, he’d catch glimpses in his hometown of what he’d hoped to find in Dallas. Even­tually, he moved back.

“It seemed like the scene had grown up a little bit,” said Nichols, guitarist for the hard rock band The Architects. “With that distance, I gained a big appreciation for everyone here sticking to their guns and trying to make things happen.”

Scott Hobart moved to Kansas City in 1989 to take classes at the Kansas City Art Institute, but he found himself gravitating to the clubs more than the classrooms. Hobart was a member of the hard rock band Giant Chair when he had a change of heart (and name) and started writing country songs. Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys cel­ebrated 10 years of honky tonk last December.

“I’ve never felt stifled geographically by playing in Kansas City,” Hobart said. “Being a country band, people always ask us why we aren’t in Nashville. Nashville’s inundated. Our music doesn’t mean anything there. There’s something more original about playing here. You can’t just be in a band to impress someone. It has to mean something.”

In the neighborhood

The desire for musical integrity, which is shared by many Kansas City bands, translates to a neighborhood of musicians who collaborate more than compete.

“The greatest thing about our scene is that it is so supportive,” said Auggie Wolber, mem­ber of Americana band In the Pines. “We’ve all played together so long, everyone has gotten to know each other.”

The spirit of fraternity is reflected in the number of benefit shows thrown for other musicians. When blues guitarist Danny Cox’s house burned down in January, several bands (including Irish ensemble The Elders) eagerly signed on to perform at a sold-out benefit con­cert. That same spirit showed at a successful 2006 benefit for Blackpool Lights drummer Billy Brimblecom.

Making the decision to help Billy was not difficult for The Architects.

“Our old band and his old band had done some touring together and become pretty close. If he had needed a transplant, I would’ve con­sidered it,” said Architects singer Brandon Phillips. “It turned out he only needed us to play [for] 45 minutes and not get paid.”

Audiences show the same supportive spirit.

“The biggest show of support I’ve seen was when I was playing hard rock and de­cided I wanted to sing songs with a story in front of a country band,” Hobart said. “It may have confused some people at first, but everyone I knew from the rock side came out to hear me, and they’ve supported me the whole time.

“If you can switch genres drastically and have people willing to try it on some level, it proves the open-mindedness and good nature of our community,” Hobart said.

It also means more musical diversity. A punk band might play Davy’s Uptown op­posite a country band at the Record Bar one night, but the next day those same clubs may offer blues or indie rock.

“One of the great things about this town is you can go to the Re­cord Bar and see Rex (Hobart) and have dinner, or you can go to Davy’s Uptown and hear free jazz,” said Wolber of In the Pines.

The success of First Fridays and the revitalization of downtown points to the appetite and appreciation Kansas Citians have for the arts.

“I’m always surprised at how many people turn out for The Pitch Music Showcase,” said Record Bar co-owner and Roman Numerals instrumentalist Steven Tulipana. “Five bucks gets you all over town to hear different kinds of music.”

Ayo Technology

In the past, record stores provided an outlet for local artists with in-store performances and prominent displays. Today, Myspace pages and email lists provide a level of promotion and exposure that reaches far be­yond stapling a flier to the wall.

Just ask Adam McGill of The Republic Tigers, a local band re­cently signed to an imprint of Atlantic Records and discovered via the band’s Myspace site.

“An A and R (artist and relations) rep with Atlantic found us on our site and started talking with us,” McGill said. “She asked for a CD and then passed it on to Alexandra.”

Alexandra is Alexandra Patsavas. The name might not be familiar, but the TV shows for which she selects music are-“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Numb3rs” and “Gossip Girl.” Patvas loved the band and made them the first act signed to her Chop Shop Records label. The Republic Tigers’ debut album was just released earlier this spring.

Similarly, Olympic Size found one of their songs featured prominently on MTV’s “The Real World” thanks to a pitch from Anodyne, a local record label. It’s an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a band without a long-term record contract or even a finished album.

“I think you’re more likely to get discovered out of Kansas City than you are in a big city where you’ll get lost in the mix of a billion other bands,” said Republic Tiger Kenn Jankowski. “With the Internet, it’s easy for anyone to find you.”

Join Together

Knowing about the “next big thing” could be as close as a write-up in The Pitch or The Kansas City Star‘s preview section.

“If a band shows up in there, it’s a pretty good chance they have their stuff together,” said Olympic Size guitarist Kirsten Paludan. “I think some people have a perception that rock isn’t for every­one, but this is a music scene that can appeal to a wide range of people. It’s not just for teenagers, hipsters or artists.”

Kansas City is big enough to support many types of music yet small enough that it’s not difficult to stay in the know about what’s happening across town.

“Our city is very diverse. There’s a band out there for every­body-for the kids, for the rockers; it’s all out there waiting to be discovered,” said Darren Welch of In the Pines. “Just take a chance. Pay the $5 cover and wait to be surprised.”

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Game Theory – The Roots
The Boxing Mirror – Alejandro Escovedo
The Obliterati – Mission of Burma
St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley
Fox Brings the Confessor – Neko Case
Fishscales – Ghostface Killah
Return to Cookie Mountian – TV on the Radio
In the Pines – In the Pines
Begin to Hope – Regina Spektor
Modern Times – Bob Dylan

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