Being subjected to the Catholic school system for most of my academic life, I can say without a doubt that the greatest thing the brothers and sisters taught me was the concept of Lent. It wasn’t because I enjoyed cramming a full year’s worth of guilt, self-loathing, and fish into one action-packed month, but because Lent gave Catholics and self-described party animals the world over a single day to revel in the Dionysian ecstasy that Brazilians call “Carnival.”
This year in Kansas City that day (Tues., March 7) will go unnoticed by most people, unless you plan to join the Kansas City Blues Society on its 10th annual Mardi Gras Blues Pub Crawl. The setup is easy: for $10 (adv. tix.) you can ride buses all over the city to 19 different clubs where 19 different bands will play. “It’s the best entertainment value for the money,” claims Blues Society member Bill Williams, and it’s hard to doubt the guy.
“The routes will have buses circulating among three hubs that are positioned between three or four different clubs within reasonable walking distance,” Williams says. “So in the 18th & Vine district there will be The Duck Warner Quartet at The Blue Room, and up the street at Club Mardi Gras will be King Alex. Plus, this year we will have some new hubs near the 75th Street Brewery, where The Mistreaters will play, that will go all the way south to BB’s Lawnside BBQ, where Lee McBee and Bill Dye will be. Also this year for the first time there will be a KCK downtown hub, where there’s been a resurgence for the blues, and there will be three clubs over there.”
And that doesn’t even touch the evening’s feature presentation at Grand Emporium where CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band will, with the help of zydeco, achieve every Yankovic’s life dream in proving the accordion cool. So you couldn’t do much better if you were in New Orleans, except that there are no Hurricanes (to drink) and beads do not equate breasts. Still, according to Williams, this is the biggest celebration of Mardi Gras in Kansas City, and unlike revelers in the French Quarter, participants in the Blues Club Crawl can always rest easy knowing money was spent for a good cause, and it doesn’t involve posting bail.
“This is the biggest money-maker for the Blues Society each year,” Williams says. “And even though we’re a nonprofit group, the proceeds also go to support a number of the services we provide in the community, like the Blues in the Schools project.”
Although it’s easy to imagine a more inviting name for the organization’s efforts to raise awareness of blues music among young people, it’s also hard to argue with the group’s methods or results. “We bring in used instruments and refurbish them and supply them to needy students in the schools because we realize that schools can’t spend as much (money) on music education as they have in the past,” says Williams. “We also bring in musicians to perform for these students and to teach kids the history of the blues, going back to their roots in the South.”
So for just 10 bucks you and the krewe can ride around the city in the safety and comfort of a chartered bus and drink Fat Tuesday away to the sounds of the area’s best local blues musicians. Then you can smile through Ash Wednesday’s hangover content with the fact that your 10 spot will soon help a group of children get out of class for an afternoon with Sonny Kenner — all things that would make the parishioners proud.
Quiet riot Ever since the Klammies nominations were printed in last week’s Pitch, the typical, and now annual, backlash against the evil, mainstream minds behind this publication has been in full swing. “Where’s my band?” some lament, while others ask more pointed questions such as: “How can one of the best records of the year (according to the 1999 Best of Music Awards) not get nominated for a Klammy?” Still others take the classic “Pitch fucking sucks anyway” approach. None of these statements is without merit, especially the second, but now it’s time to get to know those folks who are still willing to acknowledge the Pitch, at least until April 1.
Q is a band that would defy the laws of music if its success were on a larger scale. On its 1999 album Heads, Q attempted to revive a brand of rock that was barely dead long enough for its offspring to land in the dollar bin. But the thing is, the band sort of did it, at least around here. Heads brought fans of what was known as “the Kansas City sound” back to the days when distilled hybrids of the area’s brand of “meth-rock” ruled the airwaves in what America knew as Alternative Radio. But at times this year, Q sounded as fresh and energetic as anything by Molly McGuire or Giant’s Chair. It was then that it found fans, and that’s presumably how the group got nominated as one of 1999’s Best New Bands.
“I thought they were the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” says Brendon Glad, the group’s lead singer, of this year’s other Klammies nominees. “There were a lot of cool bands in there — of course my favorite bands are Shiner and Gunfighter, and they’ve both been nominated before — but I pretty much only follow the alternative kind of stuff from around here and don’t pay attention to much else.”
Not a bad thing, really, except that when asked his opinion of the other nominees in his category, Glad replied, “Cross Country Felons . . . are they rap or something?” For the record, though the band does have a dashing rap name, the Felons are in fact a group of amped-up hillbilly rockers with aliases and a story to tell, not unlike the A-Team, but Glad’s just glad Q was nominated.
“I was really pleasantly surprised and happy about it because anyone who looks at that will at least remember the name for a while. And whenever I look at it, I find something new every time — like a couple of the bands in the same category as us I don’t even really know,” says Glad with a Proudentall disc blaring in the background. “But then I was thinking that a band like Proudentall couldn’t go in there (as a new band) because they’ve been around for four years, but their disc just came out. So we were lucky that we got our disc out the very first year we got started, and that made me feel not quite as guilty (about being nominated).”
Glad won’t feel guilty if Q wins either, since he guarantees the band won’t attempt that most time-honored populous election tradition of ballot-box stuffing. Not for any moral reasons, mind you. Glad simply thinks “the other three guys in the band aren’t that outgoing, so it’s not like we have that many friends.”
Actually Glad isn’t being completely honest. Before moving to the Lawrence/Kansas City area, he was a Language Arts teacher in Liberal, Kan., and has continued to substitute at the middle and high school level in Lawrence, thus giving him access to a block of voters no other candidate can tap into. But from his platform, “preaching to the kids that there is a lot of good music around here if they can just keep their faith up, be patient, and wait till they’re 18,” this molder of young minds refuses to take advantage of them as malleable voters.
Glad takes this non-campaign strategy one step further by actually endorsing a candidate besides himself for Best New Band of 1999. “I’ve never seen Resident Clark or the Cross Country Felons,” says Glad. “But Aerialuxe and Hillary Step are awesome, so this is really tough. But I think I’d pick Hillary Step, just because they play the kind of stuff that I’m addicted to — like heavy distortions — but it’s not as old-school as Molly or Season to Risk, and they have a lot more dynamics. But really, they’re good at a lot of the things we’re trying to work on, so that’s why I like them.”
So if nothing else, Glad should get the sportsmanship award. But even if he doesn’t win, he has other issues on his mind for next year’s Klammies. “Get people to quit nominating Rex Hobart and the country band so he’ll re-form (his previous band) Giant’s Chair. No more positive reinforcement.” Q’s next opportunity to experience positive reinforcement comes on March 24 when the group plays with its heroes Gunfighter at The Hurricane.
Mo Cheez, no problems To the folks at Rap Pages, Murder Dawg, and Vibe, the Midwest means Tech N9ne, The 57th St. Rogue Dog Villains, and Jason Whitlock, respectively. If you think there’s more to this area’s hip-hop tastes than hard-core rap and the people who hate it, then you’re right, and Mo Cheez magazine is still the only periodical devoted exclusively to urban music in the Midwest.
Now on its third issue, the publication is finally getting some legs under it and will continue to capitalize on distribution throughout the Midwest, as well as far-flung ports of call such as Atlanta and the Bay Area. “This is the one,” according to publisher Ben E Lewis. “They say third time’s the charm; this one’s the charm.”
In accordance with Lewis’ mission for Mo Cheez to become the Midwest’s rap bible, the glossy magazine will be available in area “record and convenient stores, beauty and barber shops.” And it can be found in Kansas City public schools — an attempt that’s sure to be a hit with those who blame life’s problems on the music Lewis’ mag attempts to promote.
“We’re just trying to get them to read more and get them informed about what’s going on,” says Lewis, noting that this issue has interviews with Mac Dre and a sit-down with Solé that Lewis claims is the best he’s ever read.
Whether or not you admire Lewis’ taste in interviews, there is still the weekly opportunity to support his entrepreneurial spirit every Thursday at the $20,000 Club on Truman Road and Spruce, near downtown Kansas City. “I can do anything I want Sunday through Thursday, so that’s the night for local live entertainment,” declares Lewis.
Past players have ranged from Vell Bakardy to Poppa Daddy, and the Rogue Dog Villains to the 8-1-6 Click, and on Thursday, March 2, The D.B.L. Rhyme Family will make its debut for the one-hour live set. Admission is only $5 for the 21-plus venue, and the party starts every week around 9 p.m. with the live acts hitting the stage at 11 p.m.
“DJ Cheez is there every week,” says Lewis. “We just do one group per week. After they’re done, it’s time to party.”
The invisible? If you’ve gone to shows in the past few weeks hoping to get some “ultra-alternafunk” love from The Incredible, you might have come away a bit disappointed. Not because the group failed to live up to its high standards of perfection in alterna-rock/funk fusion, but because the group simply was not there.
“We’ve been taking a little hiatus because we had no bass player,” explains co-vocalist Erik Schmutzler, formerly “Woodstock” on The Fox (KCFX). “Now we have a new one, Todd Smith. But we were getting this weird reputation for not showing up at gigs — but it was just some disorganization.”
Disorganization on whose part is hard to say, exactly. Schmutzler claims he informed contacts at booking agencies that his group would be taking a brief hiatus until another bassist could be found, but for one reason or another, he says, that information never made it to the right people, a situation that is not impossible to believe given the recent position shifting at a couple of the area’s most active agencies.
The Incredible is not here to play the blame game, however. The group just wants to get down with its funky self, and whatever fans haven’t yet given up on them. “We’re not disappearing, nor are we unprofessional in such a way that we would book shows and not show up,” says Schmutzler. “I just don’t want a reputation for not taking these things seriously, and this is not how we behave and not how we handle our business. We want the club and the people to know that we aren’t responsible for those bookings and there will not be any problems in the future.”
The next chance to see The Incredible play (or not) happens March 9 at Davey’s Uptown with Jibe from Dallas. Or visit the group’s new Web site at www.theincrediblemusic.com.
Send local music information to Robert Bishop or J.J. Hensley at email@example.com.