Starhaven Rounders

Spotlight on Plaza Art Fair artist: Key Party

(Photo by Jeremy Rockwell)
This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the artists playing INK’s stage at the Plaza Art Fair this weekend, September 19-21.
With a well-established and acclaimed musical career, Kirsten Paludan has proven to be an invaluable asset across various facets of the local music community. From the haunting, celestial sounds of Olympic Size to the country charm of Starhaven Rounders to her catalog of solo work, Paludan possesses a versatility unlike other vocalists and songwriters.
Earlier this year, Paludan wrote and released an album with Key Party, a project that began with her and bandmate Jessica Gomez, eventually becoming a five-piece. We talk with Paludan about her music and the evolution of her group.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
Paludan: Ethereal, soulful, dynamic, and dreamlike music interwoven with stories of life, love, loss, and everything that happens in between.
The Deli: Give us some background on Key Party. What’s the lineup?
Paludan: Currently, the lineup is yours truly (vox, acoustic guitar, keys), Jessica Gomez (electric guitar, keys, background vox), Dalin Horner of Black Christmas (electric guitar), Garret Brown (bass), and Ryan Pope of The Get Up Kids (drums). Key Party started as just me and Jessica in the winter of 2010. I had recently moved back to Lawrence from KC—where I had been living for 10 years—due to a family tragedy, and hadn’t been playing much music. I was offered a show at the Jackpot and was without a band at the time. Jessica and I were good friends and she mentioned that she used to play. I said, “What the heck, join me for this show!” I had to twist her arm since we only had like two practices, but she did it, and the rest is history.
The current lineup has only been together since early spring of this year. There have been several different incarnations since 2010, but this group of people is like family. We all collaborate on a separate project together (LongShadows—our first show will happen this winter) and it’s like we have this little music collective of our own.
The Deli: You're an accomplished songwriter who's done a lot of solo work and has been in several notable bands in the area. What is your approach to Key Party's music? And what are you learning through this experience as a songwriter and musician?
Paludan: When this incarnation of the band first got together earlier this year, I was asking them to recreate the songs from my album Up All Night (recorded with Dave Gaume at Element Recording with an entirely different lineup, other than Jessica). As I continue to bring in new material, the band is giving more and more input.
I really appreciate having people on my side whose opinions I can trust. Sometimes when you are the songwriter, it’s hard to be unbiased and objective about a song, and that’s where having a deep bench really helps. Ryan and Garret are a great rhythm section and always have awesome ideas about arrangement. Dalin is an amazingly versatile and soulful guitarist and one of the nicest guys on the planet. Jessica’s simple yet incredibly tasteful approach to her playing makes her one of the band’s secret weapons. Everyone has taken the songs from the record to another level and has really made them their own. When you have such smart and talented people on your team, it only makes sense to use the knowledge they bring to the table. I’ve found that when you can let go and release the need to control the outcome, the results can be better than you ever imagined.
The Deli: Tell us more about Up All Night, your latest release.
Paludan: I released Up All Night in Spring 2014; it is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, and all other major online retailers. It was recorded and co-produced with Dave Gaume and features John Anderson on drums, Dave Gaume on bass, Jessica on guitar and keys, plus guest appearances by Hermon Mehari, Wade Williamson (guitar), Mike Harte (cello), Chris Tolle (guitar), and Adam Stafford (guitar, pedal steel, background vox).
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
Paludan: Well, since this is a fairly new band, I would say our greatest accomplishment so far is having a great time playing music. It may sound silly, but it is very hard to find that right balance in a band. Where egos don’t get in the way and everyone is there to give their all to the songs. At this point, I’d say I’m the happiest about finding a group of people who I feel really get me and the songs I’m writing. From here, everything else is gravy.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Paludan: To me, it’s not just about supporting local music—it’s about supporting the community. Most people know that a vibrant art scene is the pulse of any city worth its weight, and making the effort to cultivate and elevate that element is just common sense. I am grateful to be a part of a culturally rich area that understands how important this is.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Paludan: I don’t like to play favorites, because I think we have an amazingly talented group of people creating music in our scene and unfortunately, I don’t get out to see bands as much as I’d like (usually because I’m performing myself). However, there are a couple of bands/singers that I always love listening to: The Hips, Drakkar Sauna, The Caves, The Belles, Your Friend, Ghosty, Lauren Krum... to name a few. Also, I am a fan of all of the people I play music with—every single one is a talented artist in their own right. I am damn lucky!!
The Deli: Who are your favorite non-local musicians right now?
Paludan: I’m attracted to a mix of genres and eras when it comes to non-local listening. Currently on my playlist: Loretta Lynn, Ella Fitzgerald, cast recording of The Nervous Set, Lower Dens, Warpaint, Sharon Von Etten, Neko Case, The National, Leonard Cohen, Blonde Redhead, Prince, Emmy Lou Harris, Ray Price, Wye Oak, Fleetwood Mac, Cat Power, Patsy Cline, Sade, the list goes on...
The Deli: Who are you looking forward to seeing at Plaza Art Fair?
Paludan: I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! It’s an event that attracts so many types of people, and it’s great to have a spotlight on local music. Thanks to Ink, a lot of Plaza Art Fair goers are being introduced to the great music being made in their community.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Paludan: Current: Warpaint + Sharon Von Etten + Neko Case
Super duper fantasy bill where time and space don’t matter: Fleetwood Mac (Tusk era) + Sade (of any era, because she is a goddess).
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Paludan: This is a really tough question! I’ve been mulling it over and decided on these four (and I cheated a little) for what they have contributed to music overall.
Beethoven: His music is like the primer for all music that followed it.
Prince: He is a bad ass. That is all.
Lennon/McCartney: No one can deny their influence on popular music and their ability to inspire generations of songwriters and bands.
Loretta Lynn: A force of nature with the voice and personality to match. To me, she is the undeniable queen of country music.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: What other goals does Key Party have for 2014, and beyond?
Paludan: We have plans to begin recording sometime this winter starting with demos in Dalin’s basement studio and more than likely working with Dave Gaume on the final product (as long as he is available, busy as he is these days). Future plans include continuing to have a great time and playing awesome shows. Hopefully, having that as our goal will lead to greater success. If not, we still win.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Paludan: These are things I’ve learned from my family, my bandmates, and friends over the years: Learn as much as you can from other people, even those with different opinions than you. Be open to alternate possibilities. Live your truth. Always try to do your best and you’ll never be disappointed. Be kind. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.
Key Party is:
Kirsten Paludan: lead vocals, acoustic guitar, keys
Garret Brown: bass
Jessica Gomez: electric guitar, keys, vocals
Dalin Horner: electric guitar
Ryan Pope: drums
Key Party will be playing on INK’s stage at Plaza Art Fair on Saturday, September 20 at 12:00 p.m. The stage is located at Ward Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue, next to Gram & Dun and Plaza III. Facebook event page.
You can also catch Paludan in a production of The Nervous Set—a Beat Generation jazz musical—at the Lawrence Arts Center. It runs the first three weekends in October, Thursday through Saturday. Ticket link.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.

Free Counters


Show review: Crossroads Music Festival, 9.8.12

(Photo of Rural Grit All-Stars at The Brick, taken by Michelle Bacon)

By the time I had made it to the Crossroads Music Festival, entertainment was in full swing. I had opted to take the "knowledge" approach to the fest, seeking out only bands that I had yet to experience. Thankfully, the lineup was packed with fresh names, mostly due to my overwhelming tendency to not leave my house.

Due to a pants/dryer fiasco that had plagued me for the better portion of the evening the first set I was able to catch was The Hillary Watts Riot at the Midwestern Musical Company stage. The first thing I noticed while walking in was the room. With guitars at every angle and pop art and vintage toys lining the walls, the space is easily in the running for Kansas City’s best hidden gem. Shove the extremely energetic Hillary Watts Riot in the room and you’ve got a winning combo. Though the band will fuck with your mind like a drunken kitten, the Devo meets B-52 mashup is the type of music you have to stop, think over, digest, process, then accept. However, unique is the fact that while deep and complex it remains fun and approachable on the surface. With a pinup doll look and sunglasses-at-night image, the pedal-heavy band kicks in your teeth with plenty of reverb and a chaotic sound. With glimpses of punk reflecting off the glitters of glam, the band’s sound bounces all over the place. 1990s sound bites bleed through the 1980s influences. Mixed with their witty banter, this band is entertainment at its best. Show up to catch them if not only to catch their drummer (Sergio Moreno) rock his flashlight hands mid-set.

From there, I wandered downtown towards The Brick to catch Victor & Penny. I had wanted to catch their antique pop set for a while, but could never manage to get their schedule to align with mine. In addition, their tour schedule has been nothing to scoff at. Neither is their live act. Victor (Jeff Freling), who runs his vocals through a vintage throwback radio, is a treat to watch. His guitar chops are stout and his rockabilly licks are well-rehearsed and down pat. Paired with the beautiful Penny (Erin McGrane), who rocks a tiny uke and a sunshine smile, the group is unstoppable and refreshing. Her act has a bit of snarl to it, growling when you least expect it. She is also in full control of her facial expressions, turning them on at all the appropriate moments. She is the perfect front lady and in full control of her craft. She knows her charms and makes certain that her audience is enlightened of them as well, as she swims through her 100-year-old material. Of all the sets of the night, this one was the hardest to leave early.

Begrudgingly, I meandered toward the Czar Bar to catch John Velgne & The Prodigal Sons. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get a fair judgment of their sound due to an overwhelmingly extreme use of soundboard. Turned up to 11, the band’s layers and depth were missing, buried somewhere in a clutter of echo and earplugs. You could, however, gather the way the horns filled the room. Making note of their E Street ways, I gave my ears a break and headed back toward Midwestern Musical Company’s setup for Dim Peepers.

Sporting a suitcase bass drum, kazoos, a homemade washtub bass and tiny horns, Dim Peepers won my heart and the award for the fest’s most unique band. With a fantastic do-it-yourself sound, the band owned the room, the crowd, and in my humble opinion, the fest. Requesting that I not be afraid to get drunk and make a fool of myself, I lived wildly. I didn’t take notes and instead danced a little. Just a touch. Not enough to be noticed or lose my reclusive wallflower status, but enough to feel silly. Good times.

From there, I lurked at the Midwest Music Foundation tent, listening to Hearts of Darkness and watching cougars shimmy across the parking lot. Even from my lawn chair, I found the set enjoyable. The female vocals belted across the city skyline as people danced (poorly and drunkenly) in the wood chips. After a nice break, I bolted for Appropriate Grammar down the street.

Shifty eyed and crooked smiled, the band brought its best chops and left their R-rated jokes at home (due to parents in the room). With great guitar riffs and power-pop hooks slamming into the occasional alt-country structure, the band is somewhat unique to Kansas City. Think Rhett Miller without the band bleeding all over the stage emotionally. The charming female "ohs" blended well with the male vocals and seemed to fit flawlessly over the band’s epic drum usage. Sadly, battling Hearts of Darkness, the band played one of the fest’s most promising sets to an almost empty room. Take note of that and catch them when you can.

Starhaven Rounders would serve as my next adventure of the evening. I mean, can you think of a better follow up to power-pop than a country cover band? Nope. I didn’t think so.

There is a bit of irony to my catching this set. As I sat in The Brick in a purple emo hoodie, rocking a fairly impressive-sized jewfro, one would never assume me the type to catch the latest gossip at the honky-tonks of Nash Vegas. But honestly, is there anything better than a good, solid country band? With slide guitar, violin (called a fiddle in this case) and sad bastard lyrics. The interactions of a good country band are without question better than anything that any other genre can offer. There is nothing more real in music. Hearing our local member crank out Don Williams, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash makes me both proud and disappointed in Kansas City. This sound is something we could use more of (says the emo kid). We can debate this if you want, but before we do, I challenge you to catch this band and tell me that they don’t possess some of the finest instrumentation in the 816.

If you can debate convincingly, I’ll buy you a beer. I’ll be the one wearing the cat shirt.

The Hillary Watts Riot at Midwestern Musical Company (Photo by Michelle Bacon)

Bill Sundahl, Crossroads Music Fest organizer (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

Kasey Rausch, Mikal Shapiro, and Shane Ogren at Czar (Photo by Michelle Bacon)

Thom Hoskins at Midwestern Musical Company (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

The Supernauts at Crossroads KC at Grinder's (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

--Joshua Hammond

After stints drumming for both The Afternoons and Jenny Carr and the Waiting List in the Lawrence/Kansas City music scene, Joshua Hammond found his footing as a music journalist, launching the national publication Popwreckoning. After running the show as Editor in Chief for 6 years, Hammond stepped away from the reigns to freelance for other publications like Under The Gun Review and High Voltage Magazine. This shift allowed the adequate amount of time for him to write passionately, allow the Kansas City Royals to break his heart on a daily basis and spoon his cats just enough that they don't shred his vinyl. 

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