El Torreon will cease to exist for one weekend. In its place, rising out of the fiery depths of the underworld, Hell On Earth: The Midwest Hardcore and Metalfest will emerge. Starting at noon on Saturday and Sunday, July 22 and 23, more than 10 bands will bring their own particular brands of heavy rock to the brave souls who crave it.
“People are starting to recognize in the underground that Lawrence and Kansas City have something going on,” says Mean Dean, host of KJHK 90.7’s all-metal show, Malicious Intent, and organizational ringmaster for Hell on Earth. “Most places where you have a scene, it’s a bunch of bands that have a similar sound or a similar vibe, and that doesn’t really happen here. We have a scene, bands hang out, they get along, they do shows together, they split records together, whatever, but there really is no Kansas City/Lawrence sound as far as the heavy music goes.”
Hell on Earth was originally going to have but a one-day stay in this mortal realm, though when Mean Dean began the booking, it quickly expanded to two. “It started out as a bunch of the big-name local metal bands, like Esoteric, Origin, Overture, Wormwood — those guys and some more up-and-comers,” he remembers. “Then it grew because Cephalic Carnage ended up on tour and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to play.’ Their package consisted of Mortal Decay, Disgorge, and Deeds of Flesh. Then I found that Hellchild and Disassociate were also on tour and looking to play that same weekend. Then I got routing for Dillinger Escape Plan, and they were routing for their tour with Candiria and Isis at that same time, so I said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do two days, full-on, with a bunch of touring bands, all the great local bands, and just really go at it.”
Go at it they shall, and go at it again same time, next year. “The response has been so overwhelming. The event hasn’t even happened yet and we’re already discussing next year,” Mean Dean forewarns. “I’ve had probably 70 e-mails from bands all around the region. Desecration, this band from Great Britain, e-mailed me and said, ‘Hey, we want to play,’ but at that point obviously I was filled up, having only one stage to deal with.”
Twenty-six bands is a lot of acts to deal with on one stage for two days; thus, the concept of Hell on Earth was born. In theory, the number of participants next time around could be exponentially higher. “There is the potential next year for two to three stages,” Mean Dean predicts. “El Torreon is doing the small stages for the smaller shows in the pit (a room that recently opened) and then the stuff in the big room right now. Then, of course, there’s the upstairs, the ballroom, which they’re working on and should have done this winter. It has a 1,000 seat capacity, so technically we could have three stages next year, all inside El Torreon, and have three times as many bands.”
Right now, however, the time is ripe for Hell on Earth to make its debut, what with all the interest in Kansas City and Lawrence’s scene from the metal labels that are bringing them into their respective folds. “There are so many bands around here that are starting to take that next step and moving on to a national level,” Mean Dean says. “I really believe that if the people here and the bands here and the scene here want something to happen, they’ve got to make it happen. It’s not New York, it’s not Los Angeles; it’s not just going to happen because you’re there, but the people here know that. Everyone works their ass off to be successful and get the recognition and make their music and get it out to the masses. People do labels here and distros here on their own. You don’t see that kind of work ethic in the coastal scenes…. People here work harder, and that’s why good things are going to happen.”
The lineup and ticket information for Hell on Earth: The Midwest Hardcore and Metalfest can be found at www.eltorreon.com.
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Before the metal-inclined ever set foot upon this untamed territory, however, Kansas City was a jazz and blues town. That fact is celebrated annually at the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival, held Friday, July 21, through Sunday, July 23. This year marks the festival’s 10th anniversary, and if nothing else, that seems to be even more of a reason to throw a party.
“Because of that,” begins Connie Humiston, the festival’s operations manager, “we are featuring mainly on Saturday night on the Harrah’s Jazz Stage the sounds that Kansas City is known for — none other than the legendary Jay McShann with the Duke Robillard Band. McShann is the one that brought jazz and blues together, along with some of his compadres.”
In fact, most of our esteemed locals will be highlighted on one of the festival’s three stages, from such treasures as Claude “Fiddler” Williams to upstart blues youngster Brody Buster. That doesn’t mean the festival is limited to just Kansas City residents, though; the KC style has spread throughout the world to some surprising locations. “We’re global,” Humiston notes. “The Kansas City Band from Tokyo with special guest Karen Gallinger is flying clear around the world to bring back the music that they took there.”
Not just for straight blues and jazz, either, the festival brings together nearly every type of music that has borrowed from these two traditions. “We try to represent each musical style in the genres, as well as gospel. Sunday, the Heritage Stage will feature the Kansas City Boys Choir and the Kansas City Gospel Wonders, and those will be real rousing sets,” Humiston says. “Friday night, we feature acts for the aging rock and roller, such as myself: Canned Heat and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Big Al and the Heavyweights will bring some zydeco and Southern sounds.”
Besides giving a listen to all of these acts, interested musicians will have the opportunity to learn a thing or two from them. “Soul School includes 50 minutes of educational workshops followed by a 10-minute question and answer session, which allows the workshop participants of all ages to be able to interact and get some of their questions answered,” Humiston says. “Then, if they have further questions or want to meet the artists, we have a meet-and-greet table in the air-conditioned Soul School tent for 15 minutes after their performance.” Fans also can shake the hands of their favorites or maybe just pick up something to hawk on eBay at the Streetside Records Autograph Booth.
“Forty-five percent of our attendees come from outside the Kansas City area,” Humiston cites. “Our push this year is to let the locals know what we’re all about and get them back out.” A complete lineup with set times is available at www.kcbluesjazz.org, and ticket information can be obtained both there and by calling 800-538-KCMO. No excuses are being allotted for those who don’t want to deal with parking, either, since shuttles will go to and from the festival every 10 minutes from Grand between Truman and Pershing.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then perhaps for a musician, having one of your songs covered is the frankest compliment. It’s one that veteran Cleveland rocker Michael Stanley has paid to Bob Walkenhorst, formerly of The Rainmakers, by recording the KC band’s “Downstream” on his new Razor and Tie disc, Eighteen Down.
“I’ve got the album, and it’s pretty good,” Walkenhorst says of the song on Stanley’s 17th record. “It’s not as quirky as ours, which I guess is both the blessing and the curse of what The Rainmakers sounded like. He’s turned it into something a little bit more straight-ahead. It’s still actually pretty true to the original. I was surprised; I thought he might bend it a little more. But they particularly got Steve Phillips’ slide guitar stuff — he kind of got the same feel on that.”
Though “Downstream” does come from days long past, originally appearing on The Rainmakers’ 1986 self-titled record, right now Walkenhorst is working on some new, non-Rainmaker-related material. “I kind of have the luxury of time right now. I think when you’ve done music as long as I have, and life has evolved and bands have come and gone and come again and gone again, you kind of decide, ‘Well, I still want to have music in my life. Music is still ringing around inside my head; what do I do with it?'” he explains. “You figure out what that is you’re hearing in your head and what parts of it you want other people to hear, and you figure that the day and the opportunity will eventually come around, which is right — which I think is on the horizon for me right now.”
When Walkenhorst says “me,” that’s exactly who he’s referring to, since the music he’s creating is solo in the strictest sense of the word. “There’s nobody working on it with me. It’s a hundred percent solo,” he confirms. “It’s actually something I did a long time ago. I was always a tape fanatic, bouncing parts back and forth, and it kind of fits into my life that way now. I don’t exactly have time for a band, and a band doesn’t exactly have time for me, but when you’re the only guy in the band you can work whenever you want.”
With that said, a Rainmakers reunion, which would not be unprecedented, hasn’t been ruled out entirely for sometime down the road. “The Rainmakers right now, our lives just aren’t in the same places to where it wants to happen. About a year ago we approached the idea of trying to make another record and trying to get rehearsals together. There were certainly songs ready, but it just wasn’t lining up. You can tell when the vibe is there, and you can tell when the time and the place of those factors are presenting themselves, and it just wasn’t. Part of that is we’re not teenagers anymore, and we’re not in our 20s or even our 30s. The thing with music is that it has to be a healthy vibe for the music to be good. It can’t be a struggle to make it work, and we were kind of getting into those struggling waters,” Walkenhorst recalls.
“I’m not one to say never again, but not right now.”
Coming to a Used Record Store Near You
What happens when people stop being polite and start getting real? Apparently, they turn on The Get Up Kids, or at least that’s true in the case of current Real World cast member Melissa. This is what is to be learned from the track listing of the first-ever Real World New Orleans soundtrack on Hollywood Records, released two weeks ago. Each cast member got to pick two tunes for inclusion, and besides selecting our chief indie-rock exports’ song “Red Letter Day,” Melissa also chose The Promise Ring, another band all the too-hip kids enjoy. Other cast members’ selections (including those by former Lawrence resident Kelley) were much less impressive — though it does make one wonder what Kansas City native Dan from the Miami season would have chosen. May this forever satisfy anybody’s need to have a mix disc populated with the odd bedfellows of Paul Simon, Ohio Players, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Hmm … Sounds Kind of Dodgy
Those lucky, lucky Germans. For the past five months, they’ve already been enjoying Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers’ third disc, Nervous Habits, released on the German label Blue Rose in February much to the chagrin of copyless stateside fans. Nice guys that they are, however, the Horsefeathers are going to put out Nervous Habits for local consumption, domestic label or no.
“It’s been long enough,” Dodge says of the situation. “We were sitting, waiting for the right deal, but it hadn’t come along. And people have been asking about it a lot. I might head to Nashville for a six-month sabbatical or so this fall, and the band may be taking a little break, just play here and there. We decided we’d just go ahead and make some money.”
But the vicious circle is already beginning anew for Dodge, who’s been back in the studio to start honing some new tunes that he might release at a later date. “I’m working on some demos this weekend, demos that are geared more towards the songwriter type of stuff, but we’re not working on anything as a band as far as a record goes right now. We’ve probably got 15 new songs that we play in the set,” he says. “We’ll probably record that next spring.”
In the immediate future, though, Dodge and his trusty Horsefeathers will be heading out to Colorado for a week’s worth of shows, but not before a performance at Louise’s Downtown in Lawrence on Tuesday, July 25, in anticipation of the disc’s August release.
Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at firstname.lastname@example.org.