Midwest Music Foundation

Midwest Music Foundation Staff Spotlight: Sondra Freeman

 
The Midwest Music Foundation staff constantly works behind the scenes at live music events you have likely attended. They’re the ones who search for facilities, supply entertainment, coordinate with vendors, and generally ensure that your live music experience will be a good one. They’re also the ones that get the word out about musicians’ health care and other educational resources for musicians, filling a vital gap in the community.
 
Before the advent of the sixth annual Apocalypse Meow benefit, we hear back from some of the staff to find out what they do and why they do it. Our first spotlight is on Sondra Freeman, Director of Promotions and Artist Relations.
 
The Deli: When and how did you first get involved with MMF?
 
Sondra: I met Rhonda [Lyne] at an event while buying raffle tickets from her. She explained what they were doing and I said I wanted to volunteer IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. :)
 
The Deli: What is your current role with the organization?
 
Sondra: I handle all of the booking for fundraising events and serve as a liaison between the artist and the foundation. I am also in charge of radio, print, and television promotion, though I think they should find someone much more attractive to do television. 
 
The Deli: Why is MMF such an important cause to you? What do you hope it will accomplish in the future?
 
Sondra: MMF is important to me because I simply believe that musicians who remain true to their craft and make the sacrifices necessary to perfect it are worth taking care of. My ultimate goal is to be a small part of making being a musician a viable occupation. Imagine your life without music. I can't. 
 
The Deli: Who are some of your favorite local artists?
 
Sondra: Did you really just ask me that? The list would be too long! There are SO many. 
 
The Deli: Do you have a favorite memory of a past Meow? 
 
Sondra: Apocalypse Meow III will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first. And the friends we've lost along the way were still with us. 
 
The Deli: What are you most looking forward to about this year's Meow?
 
Sondra: So many things. I'm looking forward to utilizing the amazing space Knuckleheads provides for an extra stage, and the auction items. I'm looking forward to the extra push that our campaign with Boulevard Brewing Co. will give us (more on the KC Pils campaign here). I'm looking forward to TWO bands that I've never seen before performing this year. Chris Meck, along with some of his friends, is building a guitar from scratch to raffle off. I’m REALLY excited about that. 
 
 
Freeman has lined up an all-star cast for this year’s Meow, with thirteen bands/artists over the weekend. It starts tomorrow, November 1 at The Midwestern Musical Co. and Saturday at Knuckleheads. Doors open at 6 pm both nights. Friday’s show is free and all ages, Saturday’s show is $10, 21+. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule. Ticket linkFacebook event page. To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org, and learn about Abby's Fund for musicians' health care.
 

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Apocalypse Meow 6 Preview: Chris Meck and The Guilty Birds

 
(Photos by Todd Zimmer)
 
Chris Meck is a mild-mannered, often soft-spoken man. Like his wife Abigail Henderson, he’s the type of person you instantly feel comfortable around, but in very different ways from her.
 
From a musical standpoint, Henderson was the bold frontwoman whose voice and presence commanded every room she performed in. She also lived with a ferocity that kept her strong through a five-year battle with breast cancer, taking the stage (at Knuckleheads) for the last time with Tiny Horse only weeks before her passing in late August (Read here for an interview with Henderson right before last year’s Apocalypse Meow to find out more about her).
 
On the other hand, Meck’s musicianship has typically been defined by its tastefulness. Though he plays with a finesse and texture that few other guitarists are able to pull off, he exudes a high volume of emotion and heart through each note. Likewise, he has been the perfect complement to Henderson’s big brazen personality and even larger heart. The two of them started Midwest Music Foundation five years ago, after Henderson was diagnosed with cancer. Apocalypse Meow was the name of the benefit originally held in her honor, and they helped provide the resources and manpower for it to continue as a benefit for musicians' health care for many years.
 
This will be Meow’s sixth year, and it’s expected to be the biggest one yet. Days before his wife passed, Meck decided he still wanted to play this show, as it had been a tradition since Henderson's benefit for the two of them to play the first night of Meow (they were unable to in 2011 due to Henderson’s illness). He had no idea what this project would eventually become, but he knew that it should happen.
 
“It’s not Tiny Horse, won’t even try to be,” said drummer Matt Richey. “Chris has his own approach to writing, especially now that he's taking on the role of frontperson; he's experimenting a lot too.”
 
Meck’s project The Guilty Birds will make its debut at The Midwestern Musical Co. for Apocalypse Meow 6 on Friday. It will be his first time as a frontman and primary songwriter of a band, both duties that Henderson assumed in all of their previous projects, which included Trouble Junction, The Gaslights, Atlantic Fadeout, and Tiny Horse.
 
“I stopped writing songs about 15 years ago. My tastes exceeded my grasp, so I decided I was probably a better guitar player and became a side man. I was playing with all these people that were prolific and I didn’t need to write,” he explained. “In our bands, Abby would usually bring in what she would call the bones. Basic musical changes, lyrics, melody. I would do the arranging. That’s kind of what I’m doing now, with the roles switched.”
 
 
Richey and Zach Phillips provided the rhythmic backbone of Tiny Horse since it was realized as a full band (Cody Wyoming also rounded out the five-piece), and remain with Meck in this new venture. “His writing is sharp and we're really making an effort to keep the focus on the songs, not overplaying as many trios tend to do,” stated Richey. “At its heart it’s still pretty straightforward rock ‘n roll, but there are elements of soul and country. It’s pretty high-energy as well. The more he continues to write, the more it will change.”
 
But Meck seems slightly concerned to be at the forefront. “I’m terrified,” he remarked. “But I’ve always heard... if something scares you, you should probably do it.”
 
He explained that he barely touched a guitar for about a month after his wife passed away. "She was the most prolific songwriter I knew. We played together for 10 years, just a couple months after we started seeing each other.” Not long before she passed, the two of them discussed her songwriting process. "Abby used to say, ‘ass in seat.’ Even when we were on tour, she would always be up early sitting in the corner of our hotel room with a guitar. So I sit down every morning with a notebook and fill it with drivel, waiting for something good to come out."
 
On Friday, The Guilty Birds will execute Meck's newly exercised songwriting process, debuting four original songs, along with a few covers. This year’s Meow will be notably different with Henderson’s absence, even more so while three-fifths of her band performs for the first time without her. "There will be a lot of nerves and it's likely to be quite emotional," said Richey. "I have no idea what to expect it to feel like, but I'll be up there with good people who I have a great deal of respect for and surrounded by a lot of friends. That's what matters the most.”
 
With Meck at the helm, it’s certain that he will take a divergent path from Henderson’s style of songwriting, but it will be handled with the same delicate sense of care and earnestness. “I don’t know if the end result is gonna be good or not, but I'm enjoying the process. It’s a new adventure for sure."
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. Chris Meck is her all-time favorite tall guy (take that, Abe Lincoln) and has one of a very select few hug passes.
 
 
To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org. Find out more about Abby's Fund for musicians' health care also. Be sure to join Chris and The Guilty Birds at Midwestern Musical Co. on Friday, November 1 at 8 pm along with The Silver Maggies. It's a free, all-ages show, donations welcome. Head to the big event on Saturday night at Knuckleheads. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule. Ticket link. Facebook event page.
 

Tiny Horse "Ride" from Jetpack Pictures on Vimeo.

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Album review: Midwestern Audio, Vol. 2 - Electric Hullabaloo


(Photos by Todd Zimmer)
 
Love letters are funny things. The communique between two besotted people is such a private thing. Midwest Music Foundation has taken to writing very public love letters the last few years. The most recent being the release of Midwestern Audio: Volume 2: Electric Hullabaloo. The sampling of Kansas City music covers many genres and shares the talent and passion of Kansas City area musicians with fans and the uninitiated alike. Electric Hullabaloo kicks off with the catchy pop of Rev Gusto’s (pictured below) “Boys Are at it Again” and moves slowly into more straight forward rock and roll via Sons of Great Dane’s “Approximately 18th St.” The first three songs are rounded out by all-out-bare-knuckles-rock-and-roll with Cherokee Rock Rifle’s “Six to Midnight.” The initial offering is finished off by the fourth track, “Divorce Sea,” from Lawrence-based distorted punk-laced garage rock band Bloodbirds.
 
 
Lest the listener think pop and rock are the extent of the musical offerings in Kansas City, Electric Hullabaloo gives you musical whiplash by offering the sonic stylings of “Animate” by Middle Twin. The electronic indie band flawlessly flows into Heartscape Landbreak’s “God Money Problems’” fuzzy guitars, melodic lyrics, and speech sampling. Victor & Penny’s early twentieth-century rock and roll pulls you into each punctuated note on “Rickshaw Chase” and segues into the next chapter of the record.
 
This love letter has something for everyone, no matter your “type.” Dead Voices carry on the tradition of sad songs in happy keys as they bounce along through “Trust of a Fool.” Olassa delivers “Podner” with a deceptively slow start and then hits their indie folk groove with staccato guitar and subdued harmony. The mood mellows with The Silver Maggies’ “Slow Poke” and its smoky, gravel-laden vocals and keening harmonica.
 
Midwestern Audio’s compiler and mastermind, Brenton Cook, picks up the pace with Betse Ellis’s fiery fiddle in “Long Time to Get There.” The happy vibe of Metatone’s “Dark Empress” pulses with African-influenced beats and a nearly monotone lead vocal that clashes in the best way with the peppy popsplosion pulsing behind it. Spirit is the Spirit (pictured at top of article) follows with a throbbing beat, the distorted remnants of 60’s television science reporting, and angelic moaning in “I Believe That We Will Win.”
 
Margo May appears next as a counterpoint to the multi-faceted Metatone and Spirit is the Spirit tracks. Chanelling Lisa Loeb’s Firecracker, May offers a simple acoustic guitar and a broken heart’s lament. “Close the Door” spills into “Broken Wing” by Sam Billen, maintaining a similar tone and emotional state. Billen’s is a song you would like to put on at the end of the day to ease your transition home. Like a sonic bucket of water thrown on your sleeping ears, Drew Black & Dirty Electric pounce on you with “Love & A Riot.” The driving rock and roll beat and theatrical saucy spoken word “I love you. Let’s riot,” is reminiscent of Rocky Horror Picture show. Six Percent’s “Live Out Loud” is evocative of early Green Day, if Green Day had a horn section. Pounding drums and slamming vocals urge listeners to stand up and listen.
 
Heartfelt Anarchy’s “Funk” opens with horns in a dramatically different sound from the way Six Percent blasted them. Undulating horns flow under Les Izmore’s lyrics and the song exits on shimmering tambourine and harmonica. The experimental music of Various Blonde’s “Blind Samurai” sounds, oddly enough, like The Kinky Wizards in High Fidelity (which is really Royal Trux “The Inside Game”). You just can’t stop listening to the guitar riffs and space sounds twisted all around a manic beat. Furthering your trip down the rabbit hole of experimental music, David Hasselhoff on Acid rides into your eardrums on a wave of weedling guitars and in-your-face drums. Bowing in and out of the speed and thrust of loud and high sounds and the simplicity of drums and guitar, “Breakfast” will either make you lose yours or ask for seconds. The farewell of this love letter from Kansas CIty music is Jorge Arana Trio (pictured below). The experimental noise-rock of “Catching Bullets with Your Teeth” dodges in and out of instrumental traffic to express a frantic conversation.
 
 
To us, from the Midwest Music Foundation and the musicians of Kansas City, this love letter expresses the passion of expression that must be released lest the heart of the musician explode. Enjoy.

 --Angela Lupton 

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Show preview: Midwestern Audio Vol. 2 CD Release Party

 
(Artwork by Sheppa)
 
Join Midwest Music Foundation for the release of the Midwestern Audio, Vol. 2: Electric Hullabaloo local music CD compilation series this Saturday, October 5, at recordBar. The lineup includes four local acts featured on the compilation: Jorge Arana Trio, Les Izmore (of Heartfelt Anarchy and Hearts of Darkness), Rev Gusto, and Spirit Is The Spirit.
 
Show starts at 9:45, 18+, $8, and entry gets you a free CD. Chipotle is also offering a BOGO burrito coupon to the first 100 people through the door.
  
On Sunday, October 7, the compilation will be available at http://music.midwestmusicfound.org. Volume 1 is currently available at that site for a pay-what-you-want download. All proceeds go to Midwest Music Foundation.

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In Memoriam: Abigail Henderson, 1977-2013

(Photos by Todd Zimmer)

Music is an art. It’s something that needs to be tended, and the people who make it need to be cared for… The currency to building a city is investing in its artists.” —Abigail Henderson

The Kansas City music community has suffered an irreplaceable loss today with the passing of Abigail Henderson, who fought a long, courageous battle with cancer. With her husband Chris Meck, Abby co-founded Midwest Music Foundation when she was diagnosed in 2008, with the goal of providing health care assistance to musicians. Since then, MMF has given a number of grants to musicians with health emergencies. Apocalypse Meow, which began as a benefit for Abby, now benefits the musicians' emergency health care fund and will reach its sixth year in November.
 
With the conviction that musical talent from the Midwest rivaled that of anywhere else in the nation, she also helped create MidCoast Takeover, a regional music showcase at SXSW that reached its fourth and most successful year this past spring. The Deli named MidCoast one of the best unofficial showcases of 2012, and approached MMF to head up a Kansas City chapter. Thus, The Deli Magazine—Kansas City was born and thrives with Abby's goals in mind: to promote local music, foster talent, and provide a sense of community and inclusion among those who have a hand in KC music.
 
Abby was also frontwoman and songwriter of Tiny Horse, which began as a duo with Chris Meck and was eventually realized as five-piece band (link to video below). She was also in notable bands including Atlantic FadeoutThe Gaslights, and Trouble Junction.
 
I had the distinct honor and pleasure of interviewing Abby for The Deli KC last fall in preparation for Apocalypse Meow 5. If you want to know more about this amazing woman and read her words (because mine simply cannot do them justice), please click this link. And as a fellow musician/MMF staffer/friend, I want to personally thank Abby for her steadfast spirit, support, inspiration, beautiful stories and songs, friendship, and the wonderful people she's helped bring together as a result of all those things. And I'm certain that I'm one of a multitude of individuals that share this sentiment.
 
To commemorate Abby, please take a moment to find out more about MMF and its mission by clicking on the image below. Donations are always appreciated and will continue to benefit the musicians' emergency health care fund.

Thank you, Abby, for the effect you've had and will continue to have on the music community here. Kansas City has undeniably become a brighter, more vibrant place with you in it.

Tiny Horse "Ride" from Jetpack Pictures on Vimeo.

#shinealight

--Michelle Bacon