All the Rage

The year’s best night out is upon us.

The Pitch Music Showcase is a volcanic rainbow explosion of local music action. It’s also a bar crawl beyond Dionysus’ most wine-soaked dreams. Friday night in Westport, for a mere $5, you and your over-21 running buddies can buy admission to shows by 27 local acts playing in six venues — the Beaumont, McCoy’s, the Hurricane, Blayney’s, the Westport Beach Club and Karma.

It starts at 8:30, when It’s Over takes over the Beaumont with guitar pop, Kasey Rausch serenades McCoy’s, Lights & Siren sounds off at the Hurricane, DJ Just lords over the dance at Karma, and Miles Bonny drops his pants — er … the beat — at the Westport Beach Club.

The end of the night should see the Architects destroying what’s left of the Beaumont, American Catastrophe slaying hearts at McCoy’s, the Grand Marquis boppin’ at Blayney’s, Bacon Shoe shaking udders (don’t ask) at the Beach Club, and the Republic Tigers burning bright at the Hurricane.

There’s more to this night than having fun and digging local music. The 27 bands playing in the showcase aren’t even half of the 85 bands that have been nominated for this year’s Pitch Music Awards.

Over the winter, a panel of more than 30 area promoters, club owners, journalists, bloggers, record label owners and other music-scene wonks in KC and Lawrence nominated these 85 righteously ass-kicking bands, DJs, rappers and individual musicians. The ballot has been running in the paper and online over the past few weeks, and fans have been voting for their faves. In the following pages, we’ve compiled short profiles of these fan favorites. Showcase attendees who haven’t already voted are welcome to pick up a paper ballot at any of the venues, fill it out and stuff it in the box provided.

The showcase marks the end of the voting. A week later, on Friday, August 10, we present the winners with their trophies at the Uptown Theater.

The Pitch Music Awards offer only a glimpse into what’s going on in the larger scene. We can think of quite a few great bands and DJs who, for whatever reason, didn’t get enough votes to make this ballot. And then there are those we’ve never heard. They’re out there, rockin’ garages and clubs all across the metro. Rest assured, they’ll end up in the Pitch sooner or later.

Make fun of “local music” in other cities. In Kansas City, this shit’s for real.

Contributing writers: Ashley Brown, Richard Gintowt, Jason Harper, Aaron Ladage, Megan Metzger, Chris Milbourn, Andrew Miller, Jesse Nathan, Lorna Perry, Sarah Smarsh, Phil Torpey, Andy Vihstadt


Experimental Instrument Orchestra

Though Experimental Instrument Orchestra‘s fingers may still be greasy from all the fish and chips they wolfed down while recording at the BBC’s studios this past winter, the band is still wielding its homemade instruments with agility. In less than a year, this native trio has gained worldwide attention for its members’ ability to coax sound from saucepans, pitchforks and washing machines. These three are born dumpster divers — not to mention experts in composing strange, spontaneous, Sigur Ros-like anthems. What’s more, they build the instruments for each show on the spot. And if grease has musical properties, these guys’ll figure ’em out.

Malachy Papers

Anthropologists of the 28th century may someday infer from this region’s surviving texts that the Malachy Papers were a collection of documents on Kansas City’s experimental music scene. They wouldn’t be far off, except that the Papers are actually a shape-shifting ensemble of musical freaks led by saxophonist Mark Southerland. Better artifacts would be the strange and funky sounds that the Papers have committed to tape, sometimes in collaboration with musical adventurers such as guitarist Eugene Chadbourne and jam-circuit vibraphone overlord Mike Dillon. For now, though, there are enough among the living who have yet to discover this stuff.


Some guys start bands to wear cool clothes, drink on the job and attract female attention. Devon Brown and his one-named partner, Yob, started Onemilliontinytinyjesuses to dress like bishops in gold robot helmets and push the limits of electronic music. Since winning this category in ’06, the two have somewhat tamed their skittery, jackhammer style, incorporating live-drum samples and more traditional dance beats and losing the helmets and robes. The boogielicious and sometimes brilliant results are evident on the Jesuses’ latest EP of remixes (mostly of tracks by local groups) and also in a retooled live set.

Street Jizz

Street Jizz is more of an artist’s statement than a band. Last fall, Ssion ringleader Cody Critcheloe scrapped the punk rock and decided to embrace his inner Pet Shop Boy. To realize his vision, he enlisted leggy drag queens, nearly nude young things and boy-genius-from-outer-space Ashley Miller (Golden Calves, Pewep in the Formats). The product was the infectious, fabulous dance number “Street Jizz” — the anthem for anonymous park sex and the prototype for the Ssion’s new sound.

This Is My Condition

“Thanks. This Is My Condition.” Craig Comstock’s token response to applause is an apt description of his approach to performing as a one-man band: unpretentious, unpredictable and totally unhinged. Guitars shit their pickups when Comstock comes to the clearance rack, knowing full well they could end up on the receiving end of his merciless, high-flying drumsticks. Make a concerted effort to experience Comstock’s condition at least once, and be grateful that he has found a productive outlet for his restless leg syndrome.


D.C. Bellamy

D.C. Bellamy is a master of the Stratocaster. His solos are crisp and succinct, and his tone is as warm as a summer night. But even if he didn’t know from an E7 chord, the man’s soulful voice would ensure a career in the blues. The Chicago native’s entrancing baritone is the highlight of his latest release, 2006’s Give Some Body to Somebody, a sly but passionate record on which Bellamy growls, croons and all-out yells the blues as though it’s his last night on Earth. There are singers, and then there are those who belt it like Bellamy.

Ida McBeth

If you’ve been to a Kansas City jazz bar, you’ve either seen Ida McBeth or just missed her. The soul master has been a fixture at musical landmarks from Jardine’s to 18th and Vine for decades. She has also taken her KCK roots to big stages, shaking up the Smithsonian and singing the national anthem for Al Gore’s presidential nomination at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Haven’t seen her? Suppose you’ve never eaten barbecue, either.

Lee McBee and the Confessors

Sure, harp hotshot Lee McBee has been around the block a few times, but that doesn’t stop him from coming back to Kansas City — and that’s certainly a good thing. Besides holding down a Sunday evening residency at B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, McBee and the equally badass Confessors have been in the studio laying down some of their gritty electric blues for an as-yet-untitled album slated for a late ’07 release. These house rockers are one of the best bets in town for searing blues the way it’s meant to be played.

Levee Town

Kansas City’s busiest blues band swings with one foot in the electric Chicago camp and the other stuck down in the swampy sounds of the Mississippi Delta. Led by sure-handed guitarist Brandon Hudspeth and harmonica ace Jimmie Meade, Levee Town makes mincemeat of Spam-variety blues acts. This year found the band reppin’ KC at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where it shared a song with Muddy Waters sideman Bob Margolin.

Trampled Under Foot

Family acts can often fall into novelty territory, but not when they get as lowdown as the Schnebelen sibs. Brothers Nick and Kris and sultry-voiced sis Danielle were born into the blues. This year, their band, Trampled Under Foot, presented a documentary DVD titled Behind the Blues that’s chock-full of live footage as well as insight into the band’s beginnings. Between that and playing an exhausting number of gigs in the last year, the trio is on its way to the top of the KC blues scene.


The Gaslights

In the past year, the Gaslights‘ two-man rhythm section (Jon Stubblefield and Quentin Phipps, formerly of the Bad Ideas) came and went, the band’s van got totaled by a moose in Montana, and its drummer (Glen Hockemeier) had carpal tunnel surgery. The shake-ups scotched a CD release but didn’t thwart a two-week European tour. The Gaslights can endure just about anything with Chris Meck’s old Nashville licks and singer Abigail Henderson’s bronc-busting delivery, which is the vocal love child of Rosanne Cash and Ani DiFranco.

Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys

It’s hard to imagine a Kansas City band that’s more of an institution than Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys. The local kings of honky-tonk will celebrate their 10th anniversary this December, and it should hardly be an epilogue to the band’s unlikely story (Rex’s alter ego, Scott Hobart, also fronts the tunefully abrasive Giant’s Chair). The band settled into a weekly Tuesday gig at the Record Bar this year, playing vintage country covers that fit comfortably alongside its leader’s own remarkable catalog of barnburners and tearjerkers.

Split Lip Rayfield

Following the death of frontman Kirk Rundstrom last winter from esophageal cancer, the bluegrass renegades of Split Lip Rayfield honored their friend with silence. Luckily for fans, they’re now gearing up to honor him with what he loved — blistering music. The band ends its hiatus with a show at the Crossroads at Grinders in August and a gig a month later at the site of its 2006 DVD shoot, the Cotillion in Wichita. Rundstrom will always be missed, but SLR lives on.

Truckstop Honeymoon

Everybody knows how Truckstop Honeymoon, a married couple with a penchant for mean pickin’, escaped a thrashing by Hurricane Katrina with nothing but a few instruments and their kids. What people forget is that Mike West and Kate Euliss aren’t just survivors — they’re savvy country-music aces whose work twangs with Johnny Cash thunder and folksy love ballads.

The Wilders

With a nonstop summer schedule that includes Brooklyn, Scotland and Winfield, Kansas, the Wilders might book more gigs than any band in town. That’s what comes from cornering the market on pure, old-time country music. With pristine layers of fiddle, guitar, banjo and bass, the band doesn’t just offer music — it offers time travel. Even the Wilders’ original music seems too old to be new. These folks are the gatekeepers of true Americana.


Bill Pile

He may be a joker in real life, but Bill Pile takes house music seriously. Here’s a DJ who understands the difference between filling the room with beats and crafting a set that flows between crest and trough with an artful smoothness that’s downright lyrical. Someday, Bill’s eardrums may burst from overexposure to the 808. When that happens, he’ll probably make like Beethoven, put his ear to the floor and keep on mixing — and he’ll still be one of the best house DJs and producers in town. Download his exclusive mixes at

DJ Just

Mike Just‘s musical palette is as colorful as the guy’s many tattoos. Under the moniker Team Scorpio Soundsystem, he and fellow PMA nominee Billy Smith (Best Male Vocalist) roll out sleepy dub and reggae joints by the likes of King Tubby and Bunny Lee. Scorp’s Monday gig at the Record Bar dried up awhile ago, but DJ Just still keeps busy. On Saturday nights at the Empire Room and at his newly restored weekly residency at old haunt the Hurricane, Just keeps the meat market cookin’ with crunked-up ’80s jams.


In 2002, a collective of artists, musicheads and one America’s Next Top Model contestant (KC expat Shandi Sullivan) married their love of the audio and the visual, and Nomathmatics was born. Now, with members having moved to Los Angeles and New York, it’s up to remaining DJs Sheppa and Johnny D to drop the ‘Math on Kansas City. And when they do, legions of hot young things in terrycloth rompers and wristbands sweat to the sounds of MSTRKRFT remixes and Peaches mash-ups against video backdrops of 1980s aerobics instructors and educational films about meat. Download entire sets for free on the group’s MySpace page.


This amazingly versatile turntablist killed it at the Pitch Ultra Music DJ Contest, and it was with full confidence in his abilities that we sent Spinstyles to rep our town at the Winter Music Conference in Miami. With his cool command of the Serato turntable-laptop combo, Spin turns the club into an ant farm of twitching legs and gyrating abdomens. Sure, he can rock the crowd at Blonde, but it was Spinstyles’ command of hip-hop DJing that prompted Tech N9ne to take him on the road and have him scratch on the rapper’s latest solo album, Everready. Spin’s a chic dresser, too — creds and threads, baby.


The best DJs know how to insinuate themselves in any environment. Booze helps, sure. But it’s intuition that makes a reputation, as with Superwolf (James Trotter), who spins scuff-surfaced soul and funk 45s Fridays at Chez Charlie. Dredging up honeyed soul and welt-inducing, hard-funk bass jams, the man makes the place hum. Granted, the dive’s stalwart jukebox is one of its many charms, but whereas the only thing that a fifth playing of “I Loves You, Porgy” ever did was get people all weepy over their whiskey-and-Cokes, Superwolf’s weekly overriding of the machine’s weathered roster actually incites people to get up and move.


DJ Ataxic

On his Web site, DJ Ataxic claims, “I really don’t feel like my style is fully developed yet.” That’s hard to believe, considering his name is so often dropped when discussing top-shelf KC turntable types. How he got to that level is no secret. He’s been backing up household names (LL Cool J, the Roots) and spinning full time for local hero Reach and other members of the Soul Providers Crew for years. If this is what underdeveloped sounds like, we can’t wait to hear the finished product.

Joc Max

Joc Max usually isn’t one of the first names that comes to the mind of the average music fan when pondering who’s the best DJ in Kansas City. But he could be. Having worked with numerous big names in underground hip-hop on the East Coast and at home, Joc is easily the most revered figure in Kansas City hip-hop. Come what may, Joc will go down as a legend among the pros. This man has been spinning records since before he could even walk. No joke.

Miles Bonny

Miles Bonny is a daddy now, and it’s only appropriate, given his fatherly status in the local scene. The former producer of SoundsGood rebounded from that group’s dissolution by forming the 20-strong Innate Sounds Crew: a busybody collective of local heads that strives to keep KC on the international radar. This past year brought the release of Bonny’s eclectic solo debut, Smell Smoke; a remix EP for CES Cru; a production credit for the new Sage Francis record; and a solo EP called Closer Love. British DJ Gilles Peterson has played Love on his BBC radio show. Oh, yeah, and Bonny’s a sick DJ, too.

DJ Shad

We heard something about DJ Shad awhile back — something that puts his influence over local DJs into some real perspective. Evidently, local radio personalities tend to eavesdrop on Shad whenever he’s performing to find out what the hottest, newest tracks are. But Shad is no stranger to playing the hits before they blow up the radio. He’ll be celebrating 15 years of DJing in January.

DJ Sku

With years of experience under his belt, it isn’t hard for DJ Sku to find a regular gig these days. The two-time Pitch Music Award winner has been filling dance floors on a weekly basis with events such as Sake Bar’s Tabu Thursdays and Flash Fridays at Club 5401. In his spare time, the Lawrence turntablist mans the decks for some of the metro’s finest MCs.

Female Vocalist

Abigail Henderson (the Gaslights)

If Willie Nelson is a punk-rock cowboy, the Gaslights’ Abigail Henderson is a riot-girl rodeo queen. Under that shock of blond hair is a woman with some serious outlaw country attitude and the voice to match. Whether her trademark growl is the result of too many shows in smoke-filled honky-tonks is unclear, but one thing’s for sure — see her live once, and you’ll never forget her.


Anna Cole (Lights & Siren)

Anna Cole has the kind of voice one might expect to hear in the middle of a David Lynch movie or perhaps at the carnival in Something Wicked This Way Comes. The frontwoman of Lights & Siren (formerly Anvil Chorus) possesses a seductive, breathy delivery that can silence a roomful of boozers. It’s by far the most potent instrument in any Cole collective, and it’s part of the reason that our dreams are getting more vivid these days.

Kim Anderson (Flee the Seen)

Kim Anderson of Flee the Seen has become, on a smaller scale, what Gwen Stefani was to No Doubt — a talented singer whose gender and good looks draw attention to a solid group. “The singer’s cute!” reads a YouTube post at Flee the Seen’s online video for “Wire Tap Out.” Another, over at MySpace: “ive been looking for a good screamo band with a chick singer GOOD JOB GUYS!” Anderson surely rolls her eyes and knows she’s not just a girl — she’s one badass performer.

Kirsten Paludan (Olympic Size, solo artist)

Third-time nominee Kirsten Paludan played regular shows over the past year with her three-piece backing band, supporting her 2006 solo debut, Princess in the Tower. Gigs with her other groups (Olympic Size, the Belles, Kokomo and the Metropolitans) filled out her concert calendar. Paludan’s plans for this fall include releasing Olympic Size’s inaugural full-length, recording her own sophomore album and dueting with John Travolta at a fundraiser at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport — yet another celebrity encounter for a sometime thespian whose credits include Ride With the Devil and Melrose Place.

Kristen May (Vedera)

At 2006’s South By Southwest, Vedera played Austin, Texas, venue Emo’s as part of an Alternative Press magazine showcase. Sure, the gig sounds big-time, but the band still had to load its own gear. You’d think Kristen May, Vedera’s petite lead singer, would stand back and let the boys do all that heavy lifting, but you’d be wrong. Girlfriend was lugging monitors bigger than she was — in her bare feet, no less. That strength is evident in May’s powerful, crystal-clear voice, the driving force of this band, which, having recently signed to Epic, will be facing fewer barefoot load-ins.


The Afterparty

There really ought to be a jukebox genre, because that’s where the Afterparty belongs. Drawing from the sounds of AM country, Motown, vintage girl groups and juke-joint blues, the seven-strong collective pens the kind of numbers that Nat King Cole would have snapped up. The band added electric-bass ace Cody Wyoming and tightened up its live act during the past year, booking a busy tour schedule and never sounding the worse for wear.

Arthur Dodge & the Horsefeathers

The first track on Arthur Dodge‘s brand-new solo album, The Perfect Face, is a tranquil and comically devastating song called “She Wants a Cowboy.” It’s the kind of song that keeps coming to mind in pensive moments. Face is doubtless one of the best local releases of the year, a masterful record on which the gruff Dodge, aided by some of his loyal Horsefeathers, realizes himself as a songwriter who crafts material that sounds gentle but cuts deep.

Drakkar Sauna

What is a Drakkar Sauna? Soundwise, it’s a stamping conference of acoustic thrumming and old-time, squinty-eyed Grayson-and-Whittier-style yelled balladry. Wordwise, it’s a dime novel’s worth of small-size tragedies, treacle trifles and well-reasoned observations. In addition to having chosen an inscrutable band name, Wallace Cochran and Jeff Stolz cite Mandy Patinkin as an influence. They get away with it. All of it.

In the Pines

It was a line from the folk song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” that provided inspiration for In the Pines‘ name. Like the song it’s named for, the music of this six-member ensemble of strings, guitar, percussion and pump organ evokes a fever of desperate longing for lost love. Late last year, In the Pines released its self-titled debut on Second Nature Recordings, and each of the album’s 12 songs is a dusty, gorgeous narrative of romance, murder and/or betrayal.

Kasey Rausch

Summer music festivals can be impersonal affairs, but Kasey Rausch‘s seasonal itinerary features events such as Dogstock in Melvern, Kansas, and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield — community hootenannies that are cozier than any club gig. She also performs at farmers’ markets, chili cook-offs and weddings, as well as city-folk venues such as the Brick’s Rural Grit Happy Hour and assorted 39th Street stops. Rausch recently released Live How You Love, a bluegrass record that retains the friendly warmth and picking prowess of her concerts. kaseyrausch


The Esoteric

Last fall, the Esoteric released Subverter, a hardcore album heavy on foul, second-person exclamations such as The scene is dead, and so are you, alongside literary references to the late fellow Lawrencian William S. Burroughs. The band’s righteous approach was rewarded by MTV2’s Headbangers’ Ball, which placed the video for “Your New Burden” on its best-of-2006 list. Following a nearly two-year touring bender, the Esoteric is lying low this summer but will be back to point a finger in your face.

The Leo Project

By adding a crunchy backdrop to Tech N9ne’s “Riot Maker,” singer-guitarist Tyler Lyon helped redeem the deeply sullied rap-metal genre. His band, the Leo Project, stocked the 2006-07 calendar with impressive — if not quite as miraculous — achievements. After reissuing its debut, The Burning, now bolstered with acoustic tracks on which Lyon demonstrates that sensitive singing is not synonymous with whining, the Leo Project began work on a follow-up full-length, due later this year. The group rates as the area’s go-to local opener for airwaves-friendly hard-rock touring acts, most recently Papa Roach.


Moiré turns 10 this year, marking a decade of giving metal fans what they truly want — music that sounds like it comes from hell. The cover of the band’s latest album, Public Execution, is appropriately adorned with a guillotine image, and the sounds found inside are a history of real metal: the dual guitars of the ’80s, the machine-gun drums of the ’90s and the horrifying screams of today. No one around these parts offers metalheads more ruthless punishment.

Out of the Suffering

With a singer who goes by the name of Graves, and with Bible-ripping lyrics and a dual-guitar attack savage enough to turn household pets feral, Out of the Suffering oozes metal credibility like a brain-shot zombie leaking gore. The group executes its high-speed grinds with daunting technicality, and Graves manages to enunciate while gargling brimstone. Molech’s Dustin Albright, who booked the band for his Phantasm Fest in June, notes another point of interest: “Their bassist is a really pretty lady. But c’mon, fellas, don’t be that guy.”


Cicadas rank as the insect kingdom’s noise rockers, producing an undulating drone for summer nights. The Kansas City quintet Sicadis draws inspiration from the feedback-replicating swarms, though it switches the spelling in suitably brutal metal fashion. Featuring former members of Evermourn and Raise the Remains, Sicadis incorporates thrash tempos, thudding hardcore riffs and two-pronged guitar harmonies. In the past year, Sicadis has weathered several personnel changes and released its debut EP, highlighted by the incendiary track “Slay the Masses.”



Since making his move from Lawrence to Kansas City and blessing us with a mix titled The Nu, Approach has been keeping quiet — only because he’s been prepping new projects for late ’07. The list includes his second solo album, Welcome To Share; the long-anticipated Will Do with California rapper Oh No; and a mysterious new crew known as Chocolate Gamma. Sounds like the smooth baritone will be holding down his honeycomb well into 2008.

Gunn Jakc

Patience is a virtue, but for Gunn Jakc, it’s a thing of the past. After spending years honing his craft and making appearances on other artists’ records, he finally got a record to peddle. The KC rapper is at his best when bouncing his verbal acrobatics off other MCs, but he proves with 144 Killahurtz that he’s no slouch on his own. jakc

Joe Good

In early March of this year, an anvil was dropped on the collective chest of the KC hip-hop scene: Joe Good announced his indefinite retirement from rapping, citing a desire to focus on other pursuits and a decline in his passion for making music. Although this move saddened many, Joe exited with a strong salvo in 2006’s Hi May I Help You, a solo shot that showed him at the apex of his lyrical game.

Mac Lethal

Syllables on steroids are this local rap maestro’s calling card, but it’s the substance behind the wordplay that makes Mac Lethal‘s verses so memorably cutting. Local hip-hop heads continue to await Mac’s long-overdue Rhymesayers debut, 11:11. In the meantime, at least, they’ve had his three independently released Love Potion collections to sip on.


Most rappers are positive only about themselves — how well they rhyme, pimp, bust a cap in a rival’s ass, slap bitches, drive around in fancy cars and so forth. Reach‘s positivity extends to the outside world. Next to his family and friends, this MC loves nothing more than the Kansas City hip-hop scene. He books more shows than any rap act in town, rhymes about his love for his roots, and defends the music he believes in against the cries of narrow-minded haters (see: Jason Whitlock). But none of that would matter if his flow were weak, his beats lame or his live show boring. When he gets too old to rap, Reach should run for office.


Grand Marquis

During the roaring ’20s and the raucous ’30s, jazz-rich Kansas City was the place to be. And, like ghosts from that era, the Grand Marquis of today’s scene delivers KC’s trademark sound — bluesy, rough-and-tumble party jazz — with such skill and old-school gusto, it’s like being zapped back in time whenever this band plays. If a fella can’t get at least a foot tapping at a Marquis show, he probably needs to see a doctor.

John Brewer

This year’s ballot sends out a hopeful message to people invested in Kansas City’s native culture. A resounding majority of the players in the jazz category are folks under 30. Not that the local scene isn’t still bopping to older cats such as Bobby Watson and Ahmad Alaadeen, but, hey, the kids do get it. Among the vanguard is pianist John Brewer. He’s got the chops to play with such area veterans as Angela Hagenbach and keep the old guard grooving at the Blue Room. But his musical and promotional collaborations with Miles Bonny’s Innate Sounds Crew have made him a living bridge between the local jazz and hip-hop scenes.

Megan Birdsall

For all her vocal sophistication, Megan Birdsall can get as goofy as any local musician. This summer, she posted a YouTube video (promoting her impending album, Little Jazz Bird) in which she dances like a black-and-white-era musical star and punctuates every phrase with vaudevillian facial expressions. The clip won’t surprise regulars at venues such as Jardine’s, EBT, the Phoenix or the Drum Room, given that Birdsall’s live performances always alternate lush, soulful singing with endearingly silly stage banter.

Mark Lowrey

After playing alongside several past Pitch Music Award nominees (Tango Lorca, Shay Estes), Mark Lowrey earns his first nod as a bandleader. The pianist heads a trio with bassist Jeff Harshbarger and drummer Sam Wisman that gigs regularly at McCormick & Schmick’s, Boozefish and J.P. Wine Bar. With the same rhythm section plus Estes on vocals, Lowrey also leads a quartet that frequently plays Jardine’s. At these gigs, Lowrey plays fluid, melodic jazz that initially adds to the venue’s ambience, then makes diners forget their plates altogether. He’s also been known to spice up his sets with exotic Afro-Cuban numbers, Peruvian waltzes and Tortoise covers.

Snuff Jazz

The sharp-dressed men of Snuff Jazz destroy all perceptions of traditional jazz. Saxophonist Mark Southerland (also of Malachy Papers) blurts dissonant, mangled notes out of horns he builds himself, and Jeff Harshbarger thumps and baps on his upright. Drummer Josh Adams, who also plays in Ghosty, came into the fold last year, and although he usually works his chops in indie rock, he keeps up with these crazy cats just fine. With a weekly gig at Lawrence scenester hangout the Eighth Street Taproom and sporadic, aptly named “Snuff Jizz” mix-’em -ups with art-rockers the Ssion, the Snuff is making KC jazz hip again. malachy


Mafia Mafia Norteña

Suits with the open-collar look, cowboy hats, pencil-thin goatees and mean corridos that prick like cactus thorns — the guys in Kansas City’s Mafia Norteña gotta be getting laid 10 times a week. Hell, we’d do ’em, and we don’t even habla español. Mafia Norteña is best known for its songs about bad guys, those narcocorridos about border-crossing drug traffickers. Sexy. It also doesn’t hurt that this band has achieved international recognition. What’s Spanish for groupie, anyway?

Mañana Band

The Mañana Band holds down the fort at Johnny G’s in KCK, keeping the dance floor hot with a greasy enchilada of tejano and mariachi sounds. All five members have been in the pros for more than 30 years, allowing the group to spontaneously shift into Norteamericano mode with an alter-ego rock-R&B-country band called All Funked Up. Don’t wait until tomorrow — party with the Mañana Band hoy. ofkansascity

Miguel “El Mambo” Orchestra

When Miguel “Mambo” DeLeon moved to Kansas City in 1983, the only kind of salsa to be found was the lumpy red stuff served in little bowls at Mexican restaurants. For that, El Mambo would not stand. The singer and percussionist’s first local band, Sensation Caribe, brought Caribbean music to the old Parody Hall in the River Market. Since then, he has opened for the likes of Tito Puente and Ruben Blades, and in 1992 he recorded a ridiculously awesome cover of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” (hear it on Miguel’s MySpace page). Now that salsa has taken hold in Kansas City nightlife, DeLeon towers triumphant.

Tropical Azul

Founded way back in 1980 by brothers Andrew and Jose Torres, Tropical Azul is still playing the beats that drive the kids wild. This 10-piece band of brothers, nephews, cousins and friends spreads the party-gospel of cumbia music at clubs, weddings and lots and lots of quinceaneras — which explains why Tropical Azul retains a young following. The band blends reggaeton and hip-hop beats, with some rhyming provided by the band’s multitalented guiro player. And just to keep the old folks happy, Tropical does the occasional corrido or ranchero song, too. calazul1

Son Venezuela

Many of the Kansas Citians who actually know how to move their hips with Latin swagger owe that knowledge to Son Venezuela. A longtime local purveyor of salsa, merengue, cumbia, calypso and other funky south-of-the-border beats, this 10-piece continues to sizzle its way around the Midwest. In fact, the temperature’s rising: DJ Jalapeño now anchors the band with electronic zing while percussionists Luiz Moreira and Fernando Reynoso work the congas for crowd after sweat-washed crowd.

Live Act

The Architects

See Rock.

Bacon Shoe

Whereas most of us stopped writing joke raps at age 16, Bacon Shoe MC Lethal D kept at it into his 20s and, lo — he’s actually funny. The decidedly ungangsta rapper has the ill prescription for comedy, spinning explicit yarns about squid tentacle enemas, finger fucking, STDs, meth, bestiality, creamed corn, dildos and dead pig heads. Throw up earmuffs if you must — the antics of the group’s hype man (‘Toine) and mascot (Mr. Ruggles) will still crack your shit up.

The Beautiful Bodies

There’s well-known, and then there’s notorious. Thanks to Beautiful Bodies singer, keyboardist and all-around temptress Alicia Solombrino, this art-rock band has quickly been catapulted into the latter category. That rep undoubtedly has at least something to do with her risqué costumes and undulating dance moves, but beneath all the onstage theatrics lives a band that simply knows how to bring the noise.

It’s Over

See Pop.

Roman Numerals

See Rock.

Male Vocalist

Adam Stotts (Overstep, the Lucky Graves)

A rock-and-roll anti-hero who prefers rumpled plaid shirts and actual men’s jeans to any sort of peacock attire, Adam Stotts keeps it pure and mean. His guitar work is almost as unmatchable as his voice. When he steps up to front the on-again, off-again local mainstay Overstep or leads his bluesier Lucky Graves, the sound generating from the towering brute could kick-start a Harley. He has the range of a young Chris Cornell and the rugged sass of Paul Westerberg, and he deserves to be as famous as either one.

Billy Smith (Olympic Size, Roman Numerals)

It may be his first nomination for an individual award, but Billy Smith is certainly no stranger to these awards, let alone the local music scene. Besides bringing some of the best live music to the city as booker for the Record Bar, Smith somehow also finds a way to squeeze in some stage time of his own with two bands — the spacious, moody Olympic Size and the disco-slaughtering Roman Numerals.

Brandon Phillips (the Architects)

In this corner, the returning champion: Brandon Phillips! He’s last year’s Best Male Vocalist winner, vocal flamethrower for the Architects, co-founder of ska throwback the Sex Police, half of the Anodyne Records brain trust, and all-around good guy and local rock star. And, really, that’s all that can fit in one paragraph. If you’re keen on voting for the underdog, Phillips ain’t the one, but keep something in mind — he didn’t get to the top for no reason.

Danny Fischer (the Afterparty)

With swarthy good looks, dusty denim jeans and a harmonica in hand, Danny Fischer looks like a train-hoppin’ troubadour from another time. In folk-pop band the Afterparty, Fischer channels Santo & Johnny’s dreamy “Sleep Walk,” Bob Dylan, and even the zany meanderings of Daniel Johnston. On last year’s superb Under the Rainbow, Fischer croons and warbles about young women who are as sweet as candy and who leave a young man wrecked and happy. The Afterparty live isn’t always consistent, but when Fischer puts his heart into it, the shows are pure gold.

Shaun Hamontree (American Catastrophe)

OxBlood Records was the local label to know over the past year, and Shaun Hamontree was its carnival barker — and not just because the American Catastrophe frontman’s cavernous whiskey barrel of a voice and nearly 6-and-a-half-foot stature make him seem like something out of a backwoods traveling sideshow. Of course, all of that’s important, but it wouldn’t mean a thing without his commanding stage presence and a charisma that Kansas City music hasn’t seen in years.

New Act

Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk

This may come as a shock, but playful, multilayered indie rock doesn’t have to originate from Montreal. In fact, the Kansas City trio Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk would be happy to demonstrate what an American take on Broken Social Scene might sound like with some extra-jangly guitars, bounding drums and ethereal vocals mixed in for good measure.

The Popsicles

The poet Robert Frost said that when it came to the end of the world, fire would be favorable but ice would suffice. Had the road-less-traveled-taker written instead about Armageddon via a blue-raspberry-flavored comet, then we’d know the man would’ve been a Popsicles fan. This eccentric troupe of rockers and over-the-top backup singers can be frightening to watch, especially when frontman Erick Sharda starts physically fighting with Erika Marshall onstage during the cathartic climax of “Oh My Dear (My Darling).” But then the band kicks into a tasty disco-stomp number like “Woo Wot Kid,” and the world seems momentarily safe from the Popsicles’ wrath. music

The Republic Tigers

See Pop.

The Rich Boys

In the halls of retro rock, there comes a point when something sounds so good, it eclipses any concern of derivativeness. Such is the case with the Rich Boys, sprightly youths who rock all L.A.M.F.-style with the requisite drainpipe jeans, haystacked hair and overgrown-teenager ‘tude. The band’s ascent to local popularity suggests that a foppish rock-and-roll youth troop was exactly what KC needed. Green enough to worship in the house of Thunders and old enough to pull it off perfectly, the Boys might not have ruled the 1977 New York scene that they’ve siphoned, but they sound like they could’ve.

The Sex Police

When word gets out that a musician has played ska, he can usually kiss his cred buh-bye. Just ask the Phillips boys. As the Gadjits, brothers Brandon, Adam and Zach rode ska’s third wave until its backlash. Now that they’re the hard-rockin’ and Who-lovin’ Architects (see Rock) who couldn’t give a fuck whether their cred’s in check, they’ve safely returned to their rude roots as the Sex Police. Backed by both of his brothers and some players from a few of KC’s finest (the Stella Link, Doris Henson), oldest Phillips boy Brandon helms vocal duties alongside well-coiffed chanteuse Lori Demanche. The Sex Po’s live shows, peppered with rocksteady classics from the Skatalites and the Specials, make for some arresting dance parties.



Having already earned comparisons to great pop outfits of the past, Ghosty decided to actually become those bands on a bimonthly basis, performing entire sets as Big Star and the Zombies at the Eighth Street Taproom. The Lawrence outfit will replicate an as-yet-unannounced classic act on August 31 at the same venue. Also undetermined is the title for its long-delayed second full-length, set for an October 1 release on OxBlood Records. “Dumbo Wins Again,” an advance track from that album, sees Ghosty cultivating its fusion of lush chamber-pop layers and Spoon-style minimalist riffs. music

It’s Over

With a stunning array of styles up its sleeve, It’s Over is one band that defies casual labeling. It’s heavy on ’50s- and ’60s-inspired rock and roll, so labeling the band pop-rock would be fair enough. But then along come the twisted polka ditties and semi-sinister carnival-rock. Some things that are consistent: megawatt energy, slightly oversized suits reminiscent of David Byrne, and an ability to get an audience on its feet.

Minus Story

Minus Story finally entrusted its “wall of crap” sound to an outside producer. Collaborating with John Congleton, who has worked the board for Explosions in the Sky and the Polyphonic Spree, the Lawrence group concocted the June release, My Ion Truss, a stunning psychedelic pop-rock record with shimmering guitars and layered vocals. Earlier this year, Minus Story issued the Make the Dead Come EP, on which wispy-voiced Jordan Geiger sounds especially ghostly and the rumbling drums carry the ominous portent of unexplained late-night crashes from the cellar. minusstory


This band has been up for past awards in the (late) Electronic and Avant/Experimental categories. We welcome Namelessnumberheadman now to Pop, where this trio of talented multi-instrumentalists probably belonged the whole time. It’s hard to think of another area group that has managed to turn out gorgeous, memorable tunes with such consistency and inventiveness over the years. This year, the band’s third full-length and fifth overall release, Wires Reply, continues the Nameless tradition of smart, dynamic and sensitive electronic-enhanced music that’s as accessible and catchy as the best indie pop out there. namelessnumber

The Republic Tigers

Republic Tigers leader Kenn Jankowski’s old gig was being the utility player for indie glammers the Golden Republic, one of the most promising almost-made-it local acts in recent memory. After a brief stint on high-profile label Astralwerks and tours abroad, the Republic disbanded, leaving Jankowski free to make his own magic. He surrounded himself with other good-lookin’ cats and began making lush and dreamy electronic pop with more sweet layers than Grandma’s blackberry trifle. Now if they’d just put out a record. lictigers


Ad Astra Per Aspera

For Lawrence’s Ad Astra Per Aspera (the Latin moniker, which translates to the stars through difficulties, is the Kansas state motto), the name fits. After six years of sporadic creativity and broken-down vans, the band has produced a gem of a debut album. On Catapult Calypso, Ad Astra rolls out hellish, bare-knuckled rock that writhes with rhythm and employs trebly, urgent vocals, creating music that’s something like Sonic Youth making violent love to the Oath.

Flee the Seen

After exploding into national view last year, Flee the Seen has remained highly visible. The crowd fave is in the throes of writing its second full-length album, which faces the tall task of following 2006’s Doubt Becomes the New Addiction. Boasting the rare distinction of a woman (Kim Anderson) who can scream along with the hardcore guys, including guitarist R.L. Brooks, the sophomore release promises to deliver the latest evolution of these jerking, jumping bodies dressed in black.

The Pixel Panda

When Kiss took off the makeup, people cringed. But when the Pixel Panda did away with its trademark panda masks, a lot of fans rejoiced. The shape-shifting noise-metal outfit turned out not to need a sight gag to get people’s attention. All it took were a completely out-of-control live show and an album (Burial Suite) to match. Beneath those creepy Halloween costumes lurked some talented, lightning-fast musicians just waiting to pounce. Who knew?

The Ssion

Before the Ssion became the dance-pop confection with a punk ethos that it is now, Cody Critcheloe and company rocked it like 1980s Californian nihilists the Germs. Critcheloe cast Pistol Social Club proprietor Laura Frank as the yin to his yang, and the two hissed and moaned behind traditional blues and punk riffs courtesy of Jon Crocker on drums, Johnny “Diamond” Eastlund on bass and Rachel Helm on guitar. This stripped-down lineup proved the Ssion still had it, even without the outlandish animal costumes and crude videos that initially garnered them acclaim.

Super Black Market

Super Black Market shouldn’t be nominated for best punk band; rather, all other punk bands should be nominated for acting the most like Super Black Market. With guitars that hit with atomic-clock accuracy and atomic-bomb force, and with artillery drums and the anti-pretty-much-everything snarls of frontman Sonny Remlinger, SBM doesn’t set the bar — it picks the bar up and smashes you in the forehead with it.


The Architects

What’s left to say about the Architects that we haven’t said before? The band’s live shows are a sweaty assault of hammered-out R&B riffing and cocksure strutting? Check. It’s one of the hardest-working acts in town, touring relentlessly all over the country? Copy. Most of ’em are brothers? Uh-huh. The members have matching skull tattoos? Yupper. Well, there’s a simple reason that the Architects get so much ink and are a perennial nominee at the PMAs each year — they kick fuckin’ ass. myspace .com/architectskcmo

American Catastrophe

If all you hear when listening to American Catastrophe is Shaun Hamontree’s towering baritone, you’re missing the point. Sure, the frontman demands attention, but it’s his bandmates who complete the picture. Guitarist Terrence Moore, for example, co-penned most of the tracks on the band’s two-fisted 2004 debut, Excerpts From the Broken Bone Choir (reissued in 2007 by OxBlood Records), and backup singer and bassist Amy Farrand and drummer Eric Bessenbacher color in the deep, dark notes and beats that stalk listeners in their sleep.


In Be/Non‘s 10-plus years, frontman Brodie Rush has changed lineups as many times as Paris Hilton uttered “like” during her post-jail Larry King interview. One thing remains constant: his pure genius. Culling from Frank Zappa, Queen, Devo and T. Rex, Rush (and whomever he employs at the time) lays down delicious, dizzying jams that appeal to prog geeks and dance-happy hipsters alike. Rush’s musical wizardry is often overshadowed by his gonzo karaoke-jockey persona, but this year’s stellar Freedom Palace oughta rectify that.

The Last of the V8s

Grab your girls, and grab your guns, the Last of the V8s demand, listing only two of the things you’ll need to survive a V8s show. (Earplugs, kegs, condoms and devil fists all serve a utility.) The only thing you won’t need: inhibitions, which tend to disappear like the bras of classy broads in V8-powered cruisers after dark, when the mood is right. Clear your calendar bare-ass naked for these scuzz-rock supremacists.

Roman Numerals

The Roman Numerals rank among the area’s most powerful live bands without the constant motion, impressive volume or visual spectacle that usually characterizes such acts. This quartet entrances by creating and controlling an atmosphere that makes concertgoers feel less like spectators and more like awestruck but uneasy visitors to an unfamiliar realm. The Numerals occasionally explore dark musical terrain, but they also defibrillate their sets after gloomy stretches with pulsing, dark-wave dance rhythms. Last year, the Numerals toured in support of their self-titled 2006 record; this year, they landed a cut from that album on the soundtrack for the inventively unpleasant film Captivity.

Categories: Music