Concert Review: Radkey & Scruffy & The Janitors at The Rendezvous 8/5/17

 

Radkey and Scruffy & The Janitors show poster for their show on 8/5/17 at The Vous in St. Joseph, Missouri.

This was a big show for St. Joseph. Sure, it always is when Radkey comes back to play in their hometown but this one was a little bigger. Scruffy & The Janitors signed on to open the show making for a can’t miss bill. Fans packed the hot, sweaty Vous in downtown St. Joseph to make for a killer environment for a Saturday night.

These two bands have an interesting history, sort of a love/hate/jealousy thing. The 6 members of the two bands obviously are friends coming from the same small town and being two of the most successful acts to emerge in the last couple decades. While Scruffy is likely a little jealous of the massive success that Radkey has had, Radkey was never embraced by their hometown the way Scruffy has been either. Whether that is justified or not is beside the point. The combination of these two bands in undoubtedly interesting for the town and the only venue Radkey now plays, The Rendezvous.

Scruffy & The Janitors upped their game for this show as you’d expect. Opening for a very popular local band and knowing that the place would be packed hip to hip in the small shotgun bar. Scruffy dialed in for the show not only because of the magnitude of it but because they are inching closer to the release of their sophomore full-length record “Modeling Is Hard,” an album fans have joked is the new “Chinese Democracy” because of the amount of time the band has taken to put it in fans’ hands.

Teriq Newton and Steven Foster of Scruffy & The Janitors keep a packed crowd on a string on 8/5/17 at The Vous in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Teriq Newton and Steven Foster of Scruffy & The Janitors keep a packed crowd on a string on 8/5/17 at The Vous in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Lead singer and bass player Steven Foster worked his way through the set once again proving he is one of the best singers in the area and has mastered the scream-singing agenda.  Trevin Newton has become a much more relaxed drummer over the years and seems to operate more on feel now as opposed to how technical of approach he previously had. On guitar, Teriq Newton was in top form as well, flipping his sweaty long blonde hair out of his eyes as he lost himself in songs like the extremely dancable “Hermit” is just status quo at this point. They played while screaming millennials snappchatted incessantly on their smart phones with broken screens all while being totally into the show. The band announced the lead single from their new record called “Jonestown” and had it met with an emphatic response. It’s far from the first time they’ve played the new material and it shows. If the new album can regain the momentum the band had about 2-3 years ago they could seriously make some noise with it.

Radkey follows with a no frills intro, they simply set up and play. It’s all business for the band with much less banter than they did in the early days. They pounded through a set of under 40 minutes like they had somewhere to be and for them it works perfectly. The 40 minute power set is what the three brothers, Solomon, Dee and Isaiah Radke, have always stuck with and it’s hard to argue that they aren’t at their best leaving the crowd wanting more. They still dress the same as they did a few years ago while they played older songs like “Cat & Mouse” and “Red Letter” but their stage presence has done nothing but improve.

The three brothers of Radkey (Isiah, Solomon and Dee Radke) power through their set on 8/5/17 at The Vous in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The three brothers of Radkey (Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke) power through their set on 8/5/17 at The Vous in St. Joseph, Missouri.

As they powered into their more popular songs from their newest record “Dark Black Makeup” or “Delicious Rock Noise” depending on which version you have(they are largely the same) the crowd responded by being as loud as they had all night. The songs “Dark Black Makeup” and their set closer “Romance Dawn” are both punky gems filled with giant hooks. Isiah is always the star of the Radkey show because he has the loud personality but Dee’s excellent brooding vocals still drive the band.

There is a lot to Radkey and many reasons for their success. Sure they are talented but aren’t the most talented players in town by any means. They have cornered a stage act and look that really works. It’s not difficult to embrace either, actually quite the opposite. When it comes to putting on a show these guys (still kids really) are pros. They have escaped the label of “local band” and that may be the best compliment they can get.

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COMING SOON: Cracker in Kansas City 8/9/17

WHO’S PLAYING?  Cracker with a special opening set by Ashley Raines & The New West Revue

Cracker is to play Knucklehead's Saloon on 8/9/17 in Kansas City, MO

David Lowery and Johnny Hickman of Cracker

WHAT TO EXPECT?  To see one of the finest relics from the 1990s alternative movement that is not only still going but likely making the best music of their career. The hard edged rockers you know from “Low” and “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)” are still going strong, sure you’ll hear those songs but you’ll also hear a few of their great newer songs off of their latest triumph of an album “Berkley To Bakersfield.” It’s an album split into two parts, a distinctly country disc and a hard edged rock disc.

The cornerstone duo of Johnny Hickman and David Lowery are still heading the band with a new cast around them. They tour hard to promote each record and are likely nearing the end of their supporting tour for “Berkley To Bakersfield.” They play a solid about 16-18 song set usually with a few longer jams included (see “Euro Trash Girl).” They stick to mainly a “greatest hits” type of set that is sure to include “Low,” “Teen Angst” and “Get Off This.” The gems to look out for are “One Fine Day” from their 2002 album “Forever” and the gut punch of “Almond Grove” off the country side of their latest album.

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue is to play Knucklehead's Saloon on 8/9/17 in Kansas City, MO

Ashley Raines & The New West Revue

Ashley Raines knows the bumps of the road when it comes to a career in music. Battles with venues, promotors, record labels and multiple online entities are just part of the back story for Raines. The one underlying factor is that he is a great musician. He plays dark spirited music that is bursting with precision detail. Raines is fresh off the release of “King of Nothin'” last year and is soon releasing his most refined album yet with “It Could Be Worse.”

That latest record abandons Raines’ normal stark, stripped down style for the most part. There are horns, keyboards and a full band sound. The songs, as always, are great. Raines writes about the trials and tribulations in life and wears them as a badge of honor. He adds some swagger to “Desperate Man” and a little bit of hope to “Better Days” on the new album. It stands out as likely his most accomplished album to date and this show will feature many of those songs that haven’t been played live at too many shows as of yet.

WHERE IS IT?  Knucklehead’s Saloon (2719 Rochester Street, Kansas City, MO)

WHEN IS IT?  Wednesday, August 9th, 2017; 8:00 PM, $20

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Tickets are $20… so that’s not bad for two bands with about two dozen albums combined
  • Cracker is a national treasure. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary of their debut album as well.
  • You’ll get to hear “Almond Grove” probably, it’s one of the best songs written in the last few years by anyone.
  • Johnny Hickman is one of the nicest guys in rock, say hi to him, he’s great to talk to.
  • Ashley Raines is playing a rare show at a larger venue, he normally sticks to smaller clubs for a more intimate environment.
  • Knuckleheads is a great venue, tons of music and this show will fit right in with their style.
  • It’s a good mid-week break. Wednesdays suck, make this one not suck.

You should RSVP on facebook to the event so you don’t forget, here is the link: FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE

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SHAMELESS: 5 Songs I’ll Never Be Ashamed to Say I Like

As a male in my mid 30s there can be a lot of shame associated with liking certain songs. Nobody wants to be the guy busting at the seams when Cher’s “Believe” comes on the radio (that’s not me) but that guy is probably out there. There are songs that I’ll simply never be ashamed to say I like that may get me a little grief at the bar or the water cooler so I’ve compiled a list of 5 shameless songs along with a little reasoning.

 

5. Hootie & The Blowfish – “Only Wanna Be With You”

Hootie

Why this song sucks: Everybody loved Hootie for about 3 months then wanted them to go away forever. The very sound of Darius Rucker’s voice on this overplayed hit makes most people’s stomach turn now. The band instantly became the punchline to tons of jokes and I still don’t really see why.

Why this song doesn’t suck: It’s a very well written song, it’s what pop-rock should be. Rucker also references Bob Dylan multiple times which is always cool. The lyric “Ain’t Bobby so cool?” gives me a sinister smile every time. I’m not ashamed, I’ll sing along to this one if it ever gets out of radio play purgatory.

 

Chumbawamba

4. Cumbawamba – “Tubthumping”

Why this song sucks: It’s a gimmick, although an unintentional one. The big hookey chorus that gets repeated over and over and the sweet female vocals as a refrain are nice and gentle on the ears. It can be annoying for sure, hearing it in it’s prime when it got played on the radio a lot was probably torture looking back.

Why this song doesn’t suck: It’s fun. Chumbawamba isn’t a shitty flash in the pan either, they are a cool punkish band that are heavy on politics and have put together a career spanning 4 decades. Their big hit seems to almost be an accident and it’s a cool song when played at minimally.

 

3. Garth Brooks – “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

GarthBrooks

Why this song sucks: Garth Brooks sings it. As Waylon Jennings once said: “Garth Brooks did for country music what panty hoes did for finger fucking.” I think that sums up Garth and his music for the most part. He sings with little feeling and seems to concentrate on “sounding country” rather than being genuine.

Why this song doesn’t suck: Garth didn’t really write it and it’s a kick ass song. Sure Brooks gets a writing credit but that seems shady to me, I think the “idea” was his and and someone else wrote the words. It was really written by a guy named Kent Blazy and it is a flat out beautiful song. The words are heavy and true, plus… it’s gotten a lot of guys laid.

 

2. Limp Bizkit – “Break Stuff”

FredDurst

Why this song sucks: It’s Limp Bizkit, the most butt of all of the butt-rock bands ever. The pompous attitude, the backwards hat, the whole image of the group was just disgusting. The song’s lyrics aren’t very good (no surprise there) and singer Fred Durst likes dropping in cuss words as often as possible to show how cool he is.

Why this song doesn’t suck: The guitar riff to start the song is straight-up sick. The songs is a good aggression song, when you’re having a bad day just crank up this shitty early 2000s butt rock and let it go.

 

1. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone”

KellyClarksonSinceUBeenGone

Why this song sucks: It doesn’t.

Why this song doesn’t suck: I don’t care if it is by the American Idol girl or whatever, I know a great song when I hear it. The lyrics are good, the hook is phenomenal, it even rocks. I don’t view it as that far from a punk song actually. I love pointing out to unbelievers how good this song actually is. Turn it up, it’s killer.

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250 word album review: Nick Waterhouse – Never Twice

Nick Waterhouse - Never Twice

Stars3.5

The book is out on Nick Waterhouse and now he is settling in to a career of perfecting his sound. That distinct sound is taken straight out of 50s and while Waterhouse isn’t the only artist tracking songs like this, he is clearly among the best.

On his Third album “Never Twice” Waterhouse sounds as comfortable as ever. He puts his band up front giving tons of solos to various players throughout the album. This can be problematic sometimes but for the mostpart it works here. Sure “Stanyan Street” gets a little long in the tooth at nearly 8 minutes but it is a good jam. The best songs here are where Waterhouse is straightforward though, like on the album opener “It’s Time” and side B’s lead track “The Old Place.” The hooks on the Leon Bridges cowritten tune “Katchi” and “The Old Place” are simply irresistible in every way. The fact that “Katchi” isn’t blasting out of the speakers at every pop radio station in the country is just a shame. The finale is where the sweetest fruits lie though. The west coast feel of “LA Turnaround” goes beyond its name and lyrics, it’s a jaunty, smooth swinging tune that is relaxed and patient in all of the right ways. The organ coating the background gives it a perfect 50x-60s feel and the track is so good yet hard to put finger on exactly why.

Overall any Nick Waterhouse album so far is pretty great and consistent but this one may just rise to your favorite after a couple listens.

Key Tracks: “LA Turnaround” “Katchi” “The Old Place”

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250 word album review: Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Navigator

Stars4

Hurray For The Riff Raff gained a ton of attention with the album “Small Town Heroes” in 2014 and now they (she) is taking a shot at an even larger audience. On “The Navigator” the sound is clean and more produced making it a bit harder to classify it as simply folk music.

There are great songs here like “Living In The City” with its Bob Dylan style layout which is the strongest song here. On “Hungry Ghost” there is more drive and a much bigger sound, in a better world where shitty music didn’t dominate the charts this would be a pop hit. On “Rican Beach” things get experimental with a primitive yet expansive sound on the protest song. Songs like this really help tie an album together as it shows the same tunes weren’t just rehashed a dozen or so times. On “Pa’lante” there is no hiding the love for John Lennon, it’s so blunt that it’s obvious there was no attempt to hide it and the song is stronger because of that transparency. On “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” there is a much softer approach and you see a rare spot of vulnerably from Hurray For The Riff Raff. You also get to hear the unashamed sweet vocals on the track featured up front making it for an album highlight.

This album is everything a fan of the band can hope for and for listeners just getting into Hurray For The Riff Raff it is a perfect place to start.

Key Tracks: “Living In The City” “Nothings Gonna Change That Girl” “Rican Beach”

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250 word album review: Justin Townes Earle – Kids in the Street

Justin Townes Earle - Kids in the Street

Stars4.5

Justin Townes Earle is finally back. After a very disappointing foray into the albums “Single Mothers” and “Absent Fathers” he returns to the artist that had been so interesting over the last decade. This album is the third part of that trilogy in many ways but is far superior than either of the other two releases.

Somehow Earle had been baited into slower singer/songwriter songs with few hooks and not a whole lot interesting about them so “Kids in the Street” is a breathe of fresh air. On “Champagne Corolla” he writes a classic car song about a not so classic car and it’s great, it stomps and drives making for a great lead single. On “Maybe A Moment” and “What’s She Crying For” his keeps it slow and lets his songwriting take the reins but the songs are very good and never fail to be interesting. On “15-25” he gets rowdy again and keeps the tempo of the record from becoming monotonous. He hits many of his influences that he spent whole records exploring in the past. He does some traditional folky blues on “Same Old Stagolee” that would make Taj Mahal proud and he adds some steel guitar to “What’s She Crying For” to give it a classic Hank Williams feel. There’s a little New Orleans sound with the added horns to “What’s Goin’ Wrong” and he ends the record on a slower note with “There Go A Fool,” a song that fits the sound of his last couple records perfectly.

Key Tracks: “Champagne Corolla” “Maybe A Moment” “15-25”

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250 word album review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound

Stars4

Jason Isbell has watched his career simply skyrocket since that day he split from the Drive-By Truckers. Now he finds himself with more success than that band all together. He is making great sounding records in big studios, is a revered songwriter rubbing shoulders with John Prine and Willie Nelson and is winning Grammys.

He doesn’t put together story songs from the South so much any more, instead he is examining sobriety and his place among his peers. “The Nashville Sound” is not his best record but it is in no way a disappointment. On “Last of My Kind” he unfurls a John Prine song that Prine never got around to writing (likely something Isbell has always strived for.) He includes a couple more rockers here than his last couple releases in “Cumberland Gap” “Anxiety” and the excellent single “Hope the High Road.” He writes an all time classic love song with “If We Were Vampires” that is sure to be one of the endearing songs of his career and rightfully so. Isbell writes lyrics a little more straight forward than in the past here too. “Anxiety” is a good jam but it seems not as clever as Isbell can be and on “White Man’s World” the guilt of being white gets to him and it is possibly one of the worst songs he has put on a album in his career. Just listen to the lyrical layers on “Chaos and Clothes” if you want to hear how great Isbell’s writing is.

If you wanted Isbell to rock, you’ve got it here for the most part. It’s nice to hear those guitars blast again a bit, something many fans had been missing. This record is far from perfect but it another great resume piece.

Key Tracks: “Hope The High Road” “If We Were Vampires” “Chaos and Clothes”

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