Around Hear

“I would like to talk about the really good bands from here that people don’t even notice in the scene,” says Reflector’s drummer, Jake Cardwell, apparently unaware that discussion of his group’s new album, Where Has All the Melody Gone, has dominated discussions in the area’s Internet chat rooms and indie-rock backrooms. But maybe he’s not talking about Reflector.

“The Get Up Kids just came home from Japan, and they brought pictures of record stores there that have The Casket Lottery, Appleseed Cast, The Anniversary, Coalesce, The Get Up Kids, and Reflector on one shelf of a record store. But no one here knows because none of those bands ever play The Hurricane, or whatever.”

Whatever. Said Japanese record vendor has to make a little more space on the shelf for all the material those bands have put out over the past year. As for The Hurricane, Cardwell says it’s nothing personal, but some bands want to play venues where the people actually come to see the band, not to wait around for the retro-dance night to get under way — such as one might experience at, say, the troubled El Torreon club.

“I felt like we were out of town on tour because (El Torreon) was packed and I’d never seen these people before. One hundred people came to a fully local show, and it meant so much more than playing The Hurricane sold out. No matter what Joe Blow band plays Saturday night at The Hurricane, it will be sold out since it’s Saturday night…. But at an all-ages show, the people just come for the music, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Reflector understands the benefits of supporting local music, whether that means having your friends signed (The Get Up Kids, The Anniversary), touring with friends (most of the bands in that Japanese record store will cross paths in L.A. on an upcoming West Coast tour), or hanging around long enough to find yourself in the right place at the right time (“I personally think Ultimate Fakebook’s deal was helped a lot by their touring relationship with The Get Up Kids,” confides Cardwell).

It should come as no surprise that Reflector is again nominated for a Klammy award this year in the Best Alternative/Rock Band category, and with the respect the group shows its peers, it should also be no surprise that the band doesn’t expect any hardware. “I was glad that they recognized indie rock as a scene and we were nominated again, but last year we didn’t win, and this year we won’t win,” suggests Cardwell. “But it’s not about winning, it’s about being in a category with all your friends and having fun.”

In particular, Cardwell says, this year’s fun could come from his performing friends in The Anniversary. “I’m glad they’re playing it, because they will pull some shenanigans. I’m excited to see what they will do, because they are the one band that isn’t afraid to lay it all out, they’ll probably all be wearing starter coats.”

Starter jackets aside, Reflector is another band that isn’t afraid to lay it all out — a requisite for those wishing to enter the brooding world of emo rock. But the cohesiveness of the new Alex Brahl-produced record, which Cardwell attributes to actually sitting down and crafting songs for an album versus throwing together singles like the group did for 1999’s Prelude to Novelty, makes Reflector seem like more than a one-trick pony with hearts pinned to its sleeves. Now Reflector has taken its three-piece circus on the road for a mini-tour of the Rockies and the West Coast but will return for a show at The Bottleneck on Tuesday, March 22, with Hot Water Music, Elliot, and The Dillinger Four. And if you think you had enough Reflector last time it played, Cardwell has this piece of advice: “We always play better when we’ve just gotten off a tour.” So put his words to the test.

Booze for the blues? “I think it’s just a matter of the council setting up resolutions not too long ago in response to community leaders, without realizing the effect it would have on that tourist area as well as other business ventures,” Grand Emporium honcho Roger Naber says in response to a legal skirmish with the city to allow alcohol to be served in The Blue Room, a Kansas City jazz club at the heart of the city’s already troubled 18th and Vine District. For once, though, it looks as though the council will get it right.

“We expect (the new ordinance) to clear this week,” continues Naber. “They set up a resolution to clear the 18th and Vine area, and everyone was in full agreement, so it’ll pass. It’s just a matter of time and dealing with the wrinkles in the road.”

Besides serving liquor, which is a good draw, Naber plans to beef up the promotion of shows there to raise attendance and to work on getting what he calls “more focus in the area by the operators” while maintaining the lineup of Kansas City jazz on the weekends. However, he notes, an all-female jazz vocal group from Detroit called Straight Ahead will perform March 25 and 26.

As for happenings at Naber’s own club, Grand Emporium will host a benefit CD-release party featuring Brody Buster on Thursday, March 30, with all the proceeds going to the Kansas City Fire Department to offset the expense of purchasing thermal imaging cameras. The young blues phenom, whose uncle was a firefighter killed in the line of duty earlier this year, will sell a four-song CD whose proceeds also will go toward these cameras, one of which could have saved the man’s life.

Wham, bam, Sandoval … Bands come and go in this area like running backs for the Chiefs: There are the Hall-of-Fame-caliber veterans (well past their prime), a couple of new projects each season who you know will never last, some big name/washed up “superstars on the road back to fame,” and then there are those guys who will carry the load and do whatever they can when given the chance. Sandoval was one of those bands for the past four years — its members were the kind of guys who make you feel guilty for enjoying some evening hops, because they’re on stage working twice as hard as you did all day. Unfortunately for fans, Sandoval decided to call it quits, like Bam Morris: before the past caught up with them.

“I quit playing in the Misery Boys a couple of months ago to concentrate on Sandoval,” says Anthony Ladesich, the group’s lead singer and co-founder. “Brendan (Moreland) also plays with the Misery Boys and Howard Iceberg, so no one was going to ask him to quit those, and our bass player (Nate Gawron) plays with The Wilders and Chickenhoof also. So it got to the point where those guys had so much going on that it was hard to function as a band, and that’s sort of like being married to someone that you never have sex with.”

Ouch. Don’t fret if you’re a fan of Sandoval’s hard-rocking take on twang, Ladesich and drummer Matt Brahl plan to continue their creative partnership in another incarnation coming soon. All they need is a bass player (Ladesich says he’s looking for anyone interested), and the men can be on their way back to that land where Neil Young is God and those other three CSN guys are Satan’s minions. After all, Sandoval could rock.

“People who saw us when we first started playing or heard about us, they already formed an opinion about us and never got the opportunity to see that if you put us in front of a group of people, we’re a fucking badass rock and roll band,” he says.

The new project should be all badass too, but in a different, more subdued way — sort of the way Sandoval intended to be. “This whole (new) thing will have a little more pop sensibility, twangy songs but really poppy. That was what Sandoval was supposed to be, but when Brendan joined he brought some more instrumental prowess, so minus that it’ll go back to being less guitar solos, and I’ll just do my best Neil Young imitation on lead guitar,” says Ladesich. In other words, “It’s more economical, more stripped down.”

The economics of Sandoval, while the band remains together to finish out scheduled shows, will be supplemented with performances on Sunday, March 20, between Johnny Dowd and The Mekons at Grand Emporium, and the next night at Davey’s when the group performs as Secret Liquor Cure, an act that should maintain its infrequent show schedule after Sandoval’s demise. And, claims Ladesich, one more very important thing will remain intact when all is said and done.

“It wasn’t all wasted time. I feel fortunate because Matt and I found each other,” he says. “There are certain people you meet who you have a connection with that you don’t have to explain what you want, and that’s the way our relationship is. He likes the way I write songs, and I love the way he plays drums. So now we just have to find the third player in our unholy trinity and we’re on our way.”

No snaps allowed In the Feb. 3 issue of The Kansas City Star, columnist Jason Whitlock made the astute observation that hip-hop culture and rap music influenced the behavior of professional athletes on and off the field. I think I saw Scott Hamilton apply the same equation once to show tunes and figure skaters, but I digress. Whitlock’s column generated a deluge of responses, some in complete agreement, but many cried foul over what they perceived to be his stereotyping of a unique and vibrant culture. One of those responses came from PitchWeekly writer Shawn Edwards in a “Reverberations” column published Feb. 13 that must have produced as many positive reactions as Whitlock’s original column had disagreeing. So in the spirit of the political season, Whitlock (a former lineman for Ball State) and Edwards (a former wide receiver for Morehouse) have agreed to come together in a noncompetitive setting to present their opposing viewpoints Wednesday, March 22, at 7 p.m. in the Bruce R. Watkins Center (3700 Blue Parkway). Just in case any of the verbal jousting leads to fisticuffs, local strongman and KCTV Channel 5 sportscaster William Jackson will reprise his role from the Chiefs locker-room show and moderate the discussion, which also will include Dr. Susan B. Wilson, the Chiefs’ team psychologist.

Swank Hillary Few bands have generated the sort of critical response in their first few months of existence as The Hillary Step — even getting the nod of approval from those know-it-alls at the Pitch before they were a flavor of the month. That’s why no one was surprised to see the group nominated as one of this year’s Best New Bands. Now that the group has an album (The Second Time Means Nothing) that has received as much support as its live shows, it appears that members won’t be going anywhere soon, except, surprisingly, back into the studio.

“The next one I’ll be engineering,” says guitarist-vocalist Brad Hodgson. “We’ll record it at a friend’s place, so it’s going to be nice since we can take a bunch of time on it.” Not that they didn’t take enough time on the last one, Hodgson says, but things must have felt a little rushed this fall: budgeted time in the studio for a group that, as it turns out, likes to experiment a bit with its sound. “For this one we’re going to bring in … instruments like cellos and violins, so it’ll be nice to take your time and get the right sound.”

A lot of groups would kill to duplicate the sound The Hillary Step achieved on its debut: a pleasant mix of loud-soft dynamics that might grow monotonous without the musical and lyrical depth the band found room to squeeze into these songs. But Hodgson still wants more. “The drummer and I really talk about wanting to get out of normalcy, to try to do something new. I want it to be a lot more intricate and soothing and have the rock parts be extremely intricate.” But that doesn’t mean Hodgson all of a sudden hates rock.

“I’ve always been a fan of hardcore, but at the same time I like really beautiful things,” he says. “The live show now is really sort of hectic and chaotic compared to the CD. But after the new record, I want to produce the mellow stuff (live) like it is on the record and have the chaotic live parts be chaotic on the record as well.”

Right. Some of this chaos should be resolved at the Klammies, where, like all good nominees, The Hillary Step is just glad to be invited. “When we heard we were nominated, we totally weren’t expecting it, and now I don’t even care if we win. It just feels good to get thought of, and I know that sounds really cheesy, but our girlfriends are all excited to get dressed up.” Of course they are, I suggest, it’s just like prom. “Yeah,” says Hodgson, “except I got a bald head now and a fat stomach.” Chances to see the skinny and hairy members of the group performing with Hodgson are Thursday, March 16, at Davey’s with Shiner; Saturday, March 25, at the River Market; and Friday, March 31 at El Torreon.

FFA it ain’t Time is running out for up-and-comers to submit their demo “of any length or format” (sorry, no DATs or minidiscs) for consideration by the esteemed experts at KJHK 90.7 to participate in the year 2000’s legendary Farmer’s Ball. The student-run radio station has used the battle-of-the-bands event for years to usher in the growing season and, more important, to determine which local group will occupy the coveted opening slot at KU’s annual Day On the Hill. The winners of the Ball also receive studio time at Red House in Eudora, which comes in handy for most of the winners because, sadly, claiming victory at the Farmer’s Ball can have career ramifications similar to those enjoyed by winners of the Best New Artist Grammy. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m., Friday, March 31, and they must be mailed/dropped off/channeled to: KJHK, Attn: Farmer’s Ball Panel, 2051A Dole Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045.

Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at

Categories: Music