For the past 11 years, the Free Speech Coalition has brought Kansas City a unique week of events called Culture Under Fire, during which a certain anticorporate ethic that rarely gets lip service in this region takes center stage and the motto “freedom of expression is social evolution” inspires every event.
Fittingly, the cornerstone of this year’s four-day event, which begins with a performance by aha! (the dance theater, not the Norwegian soft-rock trio) on Thursday night at the Westport Coffee House and ends Sunday with the annual film festival at the Fine Arts Theater in Johnson County, will be held at the area’s newest and most vital all-ages venue: El Torreon, which has been plagued by its share of legal problems related to “freedom of expression” since opening last fall.
The problems started when authorities decided to crack down on the all-ages, nonalcoholic club’s regularly scheduled weekend-night after-hours dance parties. Police cited antiquated KCMO Ordinance No. 991491, which “regulates or prohibits dance halls” and “public dances” in the same sentence as “fortunetellers, clairvoyants, and palmists.” Without the proper permit for a dance hall sans the liquor license, which is apparently more difficult to procure than a liquor license, El Torreon had to close the doors on its dances and institute a “no dancing” policy that’s in effect at all times — yes, even when Sister Mary Rotten Crotch is playing.
That, says Recycled Sounds owner and Culture Under Fire board member Anne Winter, is exactly what makes El Torreon the perfect place to hold “Break the Blackout,” a 12-hour forum/workshop/music showcase that celebrates everything underground in Kansas City.
“We’re all so very supportive of what (El Torreon owner Abe Haddad) is doing at El Torreon because he has been a real boost to the scene: allowing those bands to practice there, having a great place for all-ages events to occur, and really providing a boost to our neighborhood. Hopefully, one of the things that will come out of this is we’ll educate people about that (no dancing) ordinance and start some campaign to get that law removed or changed.”
In addition to these political objectives, the information presented as part of “Break the Blackout” is designed to give people who feel their issues are misrepresented or ignored altogether by mainstream media outlets the tools to make their voices heard in the 21st century. And unlike most “workshops” or other organized events that send shivers up the spines of nonconformists everywhere, this one was largely designed by the punks down the hall and the b-boys up the street.
“The idea is based on a couple of years of programs that the Free Speech coalition has done, including last year’s ‘Rock the Nation,'” says Winter. “We were one of 13 cities to do that. Rock the Nation asked our group, the Free Speech Coalition, to go into the community and find out what young people are interested in and how we can get them involved specifically. We did that, and the subjects of our workshops are the things that the kids said they wanted to know about.”
The diversity of the subjects in the workshop (see schedule) reflects the wide range of topics that confront and interest those MCI wants us to call “Generation D.” This diversity also indicates that marketing strategies devised over the past 30 years, which concentrate heavily on racial and sexual stereotypes, might be obsolete with said generation. Saturday’s performances, by groups ranging from hip-hop instrumentalists Seven Fold Symphony to such indie-rockers as Proudentall and T&A, suggest an audience that isn’t afraid to simultaneously claim influences stretching from the ‘hood to the ‘burbs. “Young people are interested in a lot of different things,” agrees Winter, “and yeah, we’re trying to hit a lot at once, but our goal is to come together and to try and make something work.”
All in all, Break the Blackout, which beings with KC rappers Simile Assembly at noon and runs through the end of the KC independent band showcase, which begins at 8 p.m., could be the most entertaining and educational 10 bucks ($5 for each event) you spend all year.
As for shaking groove thangs: “I don’t know if we’ll be able to dance, because you’ll be breaking the law, but we might be able to since we might have a catering license,” Winter says before clarifying, “but I assure you that’s not why we got the license.”
BREAK THE BLACKOUT SCHEDULE:
noon-12:15 p.m.: Simile Assembly
12:15 p.m.-12:45 p.m.: ‘Zines 2000 by Victoria Crowder
12:45 p.m.-1:00p.m.: Verbal Attack (urban poetry)
1:00 p.m.-1:30p.m.: Relationships in the 21st Century, hosted by Shawn Edwards (PitchWeekly), Dr. Susan Wilson (Swope Park Health Center), and the hosts of “Generation Rap” (KPRS)
2:00 p.m.-2:30p.m.: Why Hip-Hop Takes a Bad Rap, hosted by Flavor Pak’s Jeremy McConnell and Tech N9ne
2:30 p.m.-3:00p.m.: Turntables 101, a DJ demo hosted by Jesse Jackson with DJ Just & Joc Maxx
3:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.: So You Want To Change the World: How To Grassroot, hosted by People’s Rally organizer Mike McCormack
4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.: Billy Wimsatt, author of No More Prisons and Bomb the Suburbs
6:00 p.m.-7:15 p.m.: Break the Blackout DJ Battle, hosted by Joc Maxx
7:30 p.m.-8 p.m.: 7 Fold Symphony
8 p.m.-the wee hours: Bands for Free Speech Showcase: Proudentall, Onward Crispin
Glover, T&A, and Powerglide.
For more information, call 816-691-8784 or visit www.urbancipher.com.
Rekindling an old flame
“I’m just selling a guitar so we can have some money to record a new album,” reports the Zippo Moment’s Jon Freeman, which sounds odd because the group has a CD release party coming up at the Hurricane on Tuesday, May 23. “Actually, this is a CD re-release party,” Freeman clarifies. “That seems to confuse some people because no one has ever had a CD re-release party in KC.”
Trendsetters that they are, the members of the Zippo Moment decided to be the first kids on the block to release the same CD (its November ’98 self-titled debut) twice. Not only that, in a savvy marketing scheme that mimics the technique of any good drug dealer, the group has been giving away CDs for free, hoping to hook people on their sound and cure their fans’ jones with a live fix from The Hurricane. After that, it’ll cost ya ($5 at the shows, $8-10 in retail).
“We’re just trying to get a bunch of people at The Hurricane show,” Freeman explains of the Zippo Moment’s marketing strategy, “so we gave out as many as we could to get people interested in the band.”
Extreme measures? Sure, but these are extreme times, Freeman says, when local bands have to fight with the Kids and Bizkits of the world to get a little radio play on the weekend. “Without (Jeff) Petterson hosting a specifically local show, even though he’s trying to do what he can at V100, it’s harder to get your name out there than it used to be.
“So for our next record, we’re going to do more with posters, and there are still local shows that not as many people listen to, but we’re going to get whatever airplay we possibly can and try to spread the news about this album through word of mouth.”
Guerrilla promotional tactics aside, a group still has to win over the listeners with its live show when radio and videos aren’t cooperating, and seeing that the Zippo Moment hasn’t played live in five months, selling folks on its stage prowess could conceivably be a problem. Not at all, Freeman says, assuring me that after the group’s brief hiatus (during which some frustrations pushed the band near its breaking point) the Zippo Moment is “better than we’ve ever been. We’re tighter than ever, and we have some new songs that I think are some of our best yet.” Besides, Freeman continues for the benefit of fans who might be skeptical, “It’s not a problem once people hear our music — if they like rock music (without sounding too egotistical), they usually seem to like our music. It’s just a question of getting them out there.” Your next chance to get out there comes Tuesday, May 23, at The Hurricane, and June 17 at Mike’s Tavern, or you can visit the group on the Web at www.zippomoment.com.
60 Minutes of fame
Andy Rooney’s crazy — a fact that leads the nation’s crazies to believe that they too should bombard anyone within earshot with their opinions — but he’s still good for a few laughs, so maybe that’s why 60 Minutes lets him rant about the good ol’ days and riboflavin every Sunday. Unfortunately, he’s either not hip or spry enough to appear on the program the other eight days a week it airs, so there’s really not much reason to tune in. Rooney or not, you’ll want to check out the Tuesday, May 30, edition of 60 Minutes II, when the news magazine will do a feature segment on the Blue Heaven Recording Studio and the Analog Productions Originals (APO) record label housed in a 76-year-old Gothic church in Salina, Kan. According to a released statement, the studio “came to the attention of 60 Minutes II through the oddity of being headquartered in the Former First Christian Church in Salina, Kan.,” which sounds like a topic with which Rooney could have a field day. But those caterpillars above his eyes will really furrow when he learns that groups like Lawrence’s the Hefners (God help them) have recorded there, as have a number of less licentious blues and rock artists, since the all-analog studio’s 1996 construction. Don’t fret if you miss it, as the story should turn up on ABC’s “edgy” 20/20 Downtown or NBC’s Stone-y Dateline in following weeks.
Getting the word out hasn’t been a problem so far for Jumbo’s Killcrane. Good things seem to fall in this Lawrence punk trio’s lap even when its members aren’t expecting them. Take the group’s first show ever. “It’s our first fucking gig,” recounts guitarist-vocalist Erik Jarvis, “and Fusion — that show on Channel 6 — shows up and starts taping us, which was weird. It turned out they ended up there because this guy (Brandon from Derailer) who practices next to us had been listening and told them to cover us, so we were playing this label showcase and we were the only band they showed up for.” Or consider its most recent trip to New York, where Jarvis says the group enjoys its best support outside Lawrence. “We got lucky or somethin’, because we did as much promotion as we could, which was just a few posters, and we played with the Workhorse Movement and Belvedere at CBGB’s, but you know how it works there: Everyone comes to see the band they want in a certain time slot and then they leave. But we actually had a really good turnout and got an encore…. It was great. I think they were really just enthralled that three guys from Kansas could come to New York and rock like that.”
Actually, Jumbo’s Killcrane goes all over the country to rock like that, including but not limited to: L.A.’s Whiskey, aforementioned New York legendary punk venue CBGB’s, and a basement in Tulsa. Still, after all that, Jarvis insists the Replay Lounge is his favorite place to play, and not just because it’s a cool place to hang out. He’s baffled to hear that the Illinois-based duo National Skyline ditched its recent show there due to a “shitty crowd and a shittier P.A.” “What a bunch of assholes,” Jarvis counters. “What-the-fuck-ever. I mean, it’s not that great of a P.A., but it’s nothing to go home over. We do hang out there, whenever we’re not busy, but it’s a great place to play. It’s an intimate place.”
Intimacy is not a quality you expect to hear the members of Jumbo’s Killcrane embrace, but because the group’s life is spent on the road with intermittent trips home to tend bar and make enough money to hit the road again, intimacy — the kind you find in a van after traveling for three straight weeks — is fast becoming a way of life.
Catch Jarvis with mates Adrian Proctor on drums and James Riley on bass in the intimate confines of another great dive, Davey’s Uptown, on Thursday, May 25, with Panel Donor, but don’t get too close to Proctor, Jarvis cautions, because “there is blood on the skins after every show — guaranteed.” If you miss ’em then, try www.jumboskillcrane.com or catch them on the road, because that’s where they’ll spend most of their time until Rocktober rolls around.
Boot Hill’s hell
Last Thursday night, after being pronounced the winners of KY’s Battle of the Bands at the Flamingo Casino, the local cowpunks who comprise Boot Hill returned to their van following some libation to discover that all their equipment was missing. The band members might have to break up, or they might not; they might settle with some large corporation for a portion of the damages, or they might not. More on this story as it develops, but until next week, here’s a description of the most important items taken:
ð Epiphone Viola Bass (new)
Serial # U99072498
ð Boss Bass Overdrive pedal (yellow)
ð De Armond M-75 guitar (new, midnight blue)
Serial # 4921
ð Fender Squier Telecaster (cream with white pickguard, covered with stickers)
ð Fender Squier Super Sonic (metal-flake aqua-blue) left-handed neck, strung for a right-handed player
Serial # A009322
ð Ampeg Bass Head SVP 150 amphead EQ
The Boot Hill theft is known as KCPD case #00046226, which is what you should refer to if you volunteer information to Kansas City’s finest. Those who come across any of this equipment can also contact Gary and Allegra Cloud at Boothell@aol.com or 913-677-0678.
Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at firstname.lastname@example.org.