Lawrence music

Album review: Westerners - Westerners (EP)

(Photo by Scott Stormann)

Westerners, a Lawrence-based indie-rock quartet, has been playing a seemingly overflowing swarm of shows in recent months. Having had the pleasure of catching a couple of those performances, I was pleased to stumble across their new EP on a recent Bandcamp stroll. With yet another strong production job from Joel Nanos at Element Recording, the band has managed to capture its raw live energy, tight arrangements, and dynamic range quite effectively in this four-song sampler.
The EP’s opener “Ugly Girls in Pretty Shoes” (which coincidentally is one of the best song titles I’ve seen in awhile) is a nice fiery shot out of the gate. This Nada Surf-meets-Me Like Bees slice of garage rock bounces from jazzy strains to feathers of prog rock, all brought home nicely by a strong and poppy singalong chorus.

“Tetris” sees the band move more in a psychedelic or jam direction. Easily comparable to a more meandering version of The ACBs or the older, less-dancey Soft Reeds material, this song features the best vocal work of the EP. The more tender moments are carried perfectly by Floyd-esque “ooooo”s that transform the listener to a serene place. Extra points for the tasteful and effective use of hand claps.
“Broken Bells” shows a bit of a Midwestern side of Westerners. The proggy, tight rhythm section featured previously is replaced by a content shuffle beat and walking bass lines. The chorus explodes a bit into a chuggling, folk-punk experience, proving even the “slow” songs can have some nuts.

My favorite song of the EP, “Dog Days,” closes things out with a powerful, body-moving Zeppelin-style groove. A little more riff-driven than the other tracks, the guitarist really shines here with a dynamic and careful use of effects. Typically I shy away from a band’s more jam-esque material, but this song seems to be the perfect harder rock culmination for this batch of songs.

I would imagine Westerners are coming to a bar or town near you. As stated previously, they keep a pretty busy schedule about the Midwest. Go over to their Bandcamp and throw them a few bucks for this EP (currently selling for $3 or more). Gas aint cheap and Westerners have some good sounds to spread about.



You can catch Westerners next at Art Closet Studios on Friday, April 11, with The Decatures, Hardi Har Har, Vela, and Monzie Leo and The Big Sky. This is an all-ages show, $4. Facebook event page.



--Zach Hodson
Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings begins production. He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.


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Artists on Trial: Middle Twin

We will be highlighting some of the artists playing The Deli KC’s showcase for Middle of the Map Fest next Thursday, April 3 on the Seen Merch Stage at The Riot Room patio. Today’s Artist on Trial is Lawrence’s own Middle Twin.
If you haven’t heard of Middle Twin yet, no doubt you will. The five-piece collective stemmed from the electronic DJ duo Brain Food, and is quickly gaining traction in the area with its dancey grooves and frontwoman Demi Renault’s striking vocals. We talked with keyboardist Joel Martin and guitarist Eric Davis to find out a little more about the group.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Middle Twin: I think Ink called us “peculiar art rock.” We liked that. We have a lot of pop influence though, so we are peculiar art pop.
The Deli: Give us some background on the band.
Middle Twin: Joel started this project a couple years ago as a kind of a DJ-electronic thingy called Brain Food. Demi and Eric joined in November of 2012 and it became more of a band thingy. We then added Jonny [Fitzgerald] and Isaac [Flynn] and eventually decided to change our name to Middle Twin. We’ve been playing as Middle Twin for about 6 months now.
The Deli: What have been your biggest accomplishments as a band?
Middle Twin: Probably the time we drove all night from Austin to Lawrence and made it back in time to catch the India Palace lunch buffet.
The Deli: You are releasing your EP City of Gold this weekend. What can we expect?
Middle Twin: Seven unique, well-crafted songs with very high production quality. We had a lot of fun making it, so hopefully it’ll be a lot of fun to listen to.
The Deli: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Middle of the Map this year?
Middle Twin: We’ll go with Gary Numan. I’ve heard his live show is crazy.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Middle Twin: Towns that have great local music scenes must first have great local bands. Bands need to prove themselves to get support, not the other way around. The best thing you can do is be aware of what’s happening in local music. If you think something’s good, for the love of God, tell people! High-quality local music is an amazing phenomenon. There are local bands making great music and they are doing it on practically no budget. Those musicians who achieve that deserve all the support possible.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Middle Twin: I’d like to give some love to two Lawrence bands that’ll be playing Middle of the Map and who a lot Kansas City folk might not know yet. Forrester and Psychic Heat are both incredible bands that put on amazing live shows and write really cool, interesting music.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Middle Twin: We’re all pretty into James Blake and Toro y Moi right now. A really sweet band from Montreal called TOPS came through Lawrence recently and we caught their show at Replay. We’ve been bumping their tracks for the past couple days.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Middle Twin: Hmm… Let’s go with a bill with us, LCD Soundsystem, and Radiohead.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why? 
Middle Twin: Eric: Brian Wilson, George Martin, Thom Yorke, and Quincy Jones. I'm not sure if any musician can say they've never been heavily influenced (knowingly or unknowingly) by at least one of those men at some point in their lives.
Joel: James Blake, Damon Albarn, Steven Ellison, St. Vincent. For their beautiful music.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
Twitter: @middle_twin
Instagram: middle_twin
The Deli: What other goals does Middle Twin have for 2014?
Middle Twin: I think our main goal is to keep improving as musicians and as artists. We’re constantly trying to improve our live show. I think the best thing we can do for 2014 is get back in the studio and get better and better at writing and recording music.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Middle Twin is:
Demi Renault - vocals
Eric Davis - guitar
Isaac Flynn - drums
Joel Martin - keys
Jon Fitzgerald - bass
Tonight, Middle Twin and Forrester will both be celebrating the release of their EPs at The Bottleneck, with a free show. The Phantastics, and Narkalark also play. Facebook event page.
If you want to catch them in KC, come by The Riot Room on Friday, where they will celebrate the KC release of the album with Antennas Up and Rev Gusto. Facebook event page.
Middle Twin will also be at The Deli KC’s showcase at Middle of the Map Fest next Thursday, April 3. They will take the Seen Merch stage on The Riot Room patio at 9:00 p.m.
Middle Twin recently released the video for “Savoir Faire,” from the City of Gold EP. It is directed by Weston Getto Allen (Getto Art). Watch it below.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays bass in The Philistines and Dolls on Fire, and drums in Drew Black & Dirty Electric.


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Album review: The Sluts - Virile

Why am I sitting in my office at 6 a.m. listening to a band named The Sluts? Perhaps it’s insomnia; it could be that it’s tough to sleep through a dream about the Three Stooges playing badminton with Presidents Taft, Reagan, and Taylor. Maybe it was my damned barking dog. But mostly, the band’s name drew me from my bed at this ungodly hour, and to the music. What self-respecting rock fan could possibly avoid a band named The Sluts? It should draw you like a magnet to a pile of metal shavings and rusty razor blades, It is unavoidable. Did I mention this two-piece from Lawrence is named The Sluts? The Sluts, I say! The Sluts!!!
The music on the band’s release Virile is rock ‘n roll, plain and simple. Finally, the tide may be changing, shifting back toward guitars and volume. Is electronic music finally ready to shoot itself in the head, to make room for the glory that is rock ‘n roll? It sure as fuck sounds like it. “Flip the Tape Over,” the album’s opener, blasts out of the gate like a fire-breathing dinosaur from a time when music was released on tapes before it was cool and ironic to release new music on cassettes. It is a strange collision of Mudhoney-like power and a Bruce Springsteen story; a song that, on paper, must’ve been a mess but on tape is incredible, firing on all cylinders.
It is clear The Sluts (Kristoffer Dover and Ryan Wise) worship at the altar of grunge. There are flashes of the movement and her greatest acts are slathered all over Virile: Tad, The Fastbacks, The Fluid, Nirvana (especially on “My Hour,” a track reminiscent of “Return of the Rat,” a Wipers’ tune later covered with love by Nirvana), Green River, The Gits, a pre-fame Soundgarden, The U-Men, they are all here. However, do not get me wrong, there is something else, something lurking below the slime. The Sluts are not simply a band regurgitating their influences. They are a band acknowledging what came before and deconstructing it. Isn’t that what rock ‘n roll should do? What it’s meant for? Worshipping your heroes while simultaneously blowing them up into a billion pieces? The Sluts do that in spades.
“I Want You To Die” is a stomp that reminds me of Joan Jett’s “Do You Want To Touch Me?” except instead of talking about sex, it’s “it’s not like I hate you girl / I just want you to die.” Obviously this guy has issues. “Loose” is a power-driven ass shaker, “Misdemeanor” opens “Hey Mom and Dad / I got picked up last night” then rips into garage punk at its finest.
The dark “Friends” has a Tad Doyle licked guitar pushing a song about a guy whose friends have all quit smoking, quit drinking; it’s about the fears of growing up and growing old. Again, it is The Sluts tapping a vein and drinking deep of the rock n roll monster. Moreover “Victim,” the closer, is a turn-it-up middle finger to all those who were never there to save us from ourselves.
There must be something in the water in Lawrence. Over the last couple of years, great rock bands have been popping up left and right. The Sluts, Black on Black, Mr. and the Mrs., Stiff Middle Fingers—all of these bands have pushed aside the banjo wielding masses, let their freak flags fly and insist that rock ‘n roll will not be allowed to die a slow, boring amplifier free death.

The Sluts’ Virile is a work that was made by and for people who love rock n roll. Goddamn, I’m so happy I couldn’t sleep this morning.

--Danny R. Phillips

Danny R. Phillips has been reporting on music of all types and covering the St. Joseph music scene for well over a decade. He is a regular contributor to the nationally circulated BLURT Magazine and his work has appeared in The Pitch, The Omaha Reader, Missouri Life, The Regular Joe, Skyscraper Magazine, Popshifter, Hybrid Magazine, the websites Vocals on Top and Tuning Fork TV, Perfect Sound Forever, The Fader, and many others

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Show preview: Müscle Wörship's Homecoming Show at Replay, 12.19.13

What’s in a name?  A name can be something to hide from (case in point: A Boy Named Sue), something that builds an enigma around you or describes something perfectly, leaving no room for speculation.  For Lawrence band Müscle Wörship, the name tips a hat to punk rock, where uncomfortable names like The Circle Jerks were often used and the muscle and power that inspired them, while the lyrics and music hearken to bands like Gang of Four, Fugazi, The Cure, and the jittery, off-kilterness of Bloc Party and Sunny Day Real Estate.  The name could very well be nod to any number of ‘90s underground bands that had the strength to stand by their musical convictions.
This Thursday, December 19, Müscle Wörship (comprised of singer/guitarist Sean Bergman, bassist Anthony Piazza, and drummer Nathan Wilder) will celebrate the end of a two-week long tour that took them from Brooklyn to Moline, Illinois, and many a place in between. The show—a homecoming extravaganza at the Replay Lounge—will undoubtedly see the bar packed from pinball machine to the sidewalk as the band do their best to blow out speakers (I’m told they are the loudest band in Kansas) and convert the non-believers, the unsure, the ones not yet basking in the warm, deafening glow that is Müscle Wörship.
Formed by members from Paper Airplanes, Ad Astra Arkestra, Volara, Proudentall, and Ricky Fitts, Müscle Wörship pushes boundaries of melody and speaks about the human condition as they blast out one post-punk-colored gem after another.  The band’s eponymous album  is a testament to growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s: there is melody and joy hidden among stilted rhythms and powerful guitars, emocentric vocals with a backbone. No tears to make the mascara run, just powerful words laced within great music.  So kids, do yourself a favor and join the welcome wagon; come make it a night that the conquering heroes will not soon forget.

Müscle Wörship’s homecoming show will be this Thursday, December 19 at Replay Lounge, featuring special guests American Cream and This Is My Condition. Facebook event page.



--Danny R. Phillips

Danny R. Phillips has been reporting on music of all types and covering the St. Joseph, MO music scene for well over a decade. He is a regular contributor to the nationally circulated BLURT Magazine and his work has appeared in The Pitch, The Omaha Reader, Missouri Life, The Regular Joe, Skyscraper Magazine, Popshifter, Hybrid Magazine, the websites Vocals on Top and Tuning Fork TV, Perfect Sound Forever, The Fader, and many others.

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Album review: Black on Black - Get On With It (EP)

At this point, it seems impossible for Lawrence band Black on Black to make a bad record, at least not in this reality. With its latest album Get On With It, Black on Black has completed its climb to the top of the heap as King Shit of Rock n Roll Mountain. It stands—in my opinion—as the best band in town, in the state, in the region, bar none. Many try gallantly and come close, but few have the realism, the emotion, or the genuine aggression that lives between the lines of every song Black on Black delivers.
The album blasts out of the gate with 2 minutes and 32 seconds of power on “Fork In The Road.” It changes speeds, throws the listener off center, and blows minds. With this album, Black on Black has managed to make their best, most powerful, grittiest music of its thus far short but stellar career. This is the band’s crown jewel of a record exploding in 12 minutes; that’s right—five songs in 12 minutes, and nary a repeated word or laziness in a chorus. Songs are written by cutting the fat, removing all bullshit, and making a punk rock record devoid of gimmicks, full of conviction and gnashed teeth spirit.
On “The Good Fight,” frontman Wade Kelly spits “I’m at the end of a short leash / I keep running,” and this is the perfect analogy for the life of Black on Black. From Help Yourself to Let’s Get Cynical and now, Get On with It, Black on Black has chiseled away at a world that tries to pigeonhole musicians, molds them for MTV, and throws them away after the powers that be tell their automatons to grow tired of their music and move to the next big thing.
With Get On With It, there seems to be no agenda other than to rip rock a new asshole. Aaron Riffel’s bass, John Benda’s drums, and Kelly’s guitar work come together in a dog fight on “Car Fire,” each trying to outdo the other while the vocals are distorted at times beyond clarity, collapsing in a pile of spent fury. As with Help Yourself and Let’s Get Cynical, pop melody does exist sporadically on Get On With It but only to push the songs deeper into your head; their catchiness deceives you, like the Serpent in the Garden, lulling you to peace, calling you to taste the fruit before you.
Black on Black has taken everything it has done in its previous EPs and mixed it all, roughed the already splintered edges, threw in influences like Death, Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, Bad Religion; and what comes pouring out is genuine, fierce, intelligent, and incendiary. While some punk bands leave me cold in my old age, getting by on regurgitated stuff to live in the shadow of perceived cool, Black on Black rings true. It’s a group that clearly does not care about being cool, but only cares about rock ‘n roll.
That's the way it should be.


This Friday, Black on Black will be celebrating the KC release of Get On With It at recordBar. Special guests include We Are Hex, Sundiver, and Wrath and Ruin. Facebook event page
--Danny R. Phillips

Danny R. Phillips has been reporting on music of all types and covering the St. Joseph, MO music scene for well over a decade. He is a regular contributor to the nationally circulated BLURT Magazine and his work has appeared in The Pitch, The Omaha Reader, Missouri Life, The Regular Joe, Skyscraper Magazine, Popshifter, Hybrid Magazine, the websites Vocals on Top and Tuning Fork TV, Perfect Sound Forever, The Fader, and many others. 

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