Concert Review: Craig Finn and John K. Samson at The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 10/17/17

Signed Craig Finn and John K. Samson tour poster for the "We all want the same things" tour in 2017.

Signed Craig Finn and John K. Samson tour poster for the “We all want the same things” tour in 2017.

Seeing Craig Finn jolt to the side and point up in the air to emphasize his point is nothing unusual. His hand gestures are immediately noticeable and to be honest a little abrasive at first. The normally calm Finn may appear collected off stage and in interviews but he puts on his performer cap when he takes the stage. He becomes a commanding and gravitating figure that has the ability to lock the crowd into the show and keep them on edge. At the Record Bar in Kanas City on October 17th he proved this to a moderate Tuesday night crowd and gave them a classic performance.

First his tour-mate John K. Samson would take the stage. He was the lead singer and songwriter of the popular indie band The Weakerthans. Now, like Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, he is off touring on his own. He would take the stage by himself, armed with nothing but his electric guitar and remain that way for his whole set. He would split the next 40 minutes pretty evenly between songs from his two solo records and his catalog with his former band. Bearded onlookers formed a half moon around the stage keeping their hands in their pockets if they weren’t holding their favorite IPA. It wasn’t a big sing-along with Samson and his very distinct voice but the casual observer could see many people lip-syncing along with the songs, especially the selections from The Weakerthans.

John K. Samson plays solo electric live at The Record Bar in Kansas City, Missouri on 10/17/17.

Samson would work his way through his past by way of song hitting intellectually themed topics many times like on “Pamphleteer” and “When I Write My Master’s Thesis.” The latter being one of the more rocking numbers from his set and probably providing the most tasty hook of a chorus in the night. He would work through the Virtue the cat trilogy of songs concluding with the latest of the three, “Virtue at Rest” before moving on to the title track from his latest solo record, “Winter Wheat.” He would then close with the crowd favorite “The Reasons,” the self-deprecating song was truly the perfect set closer.

Craig Finn quietly tuned up his guitar, taking advantage of the intimacy of The Record Bar before leaving the stage so he could arrive with his full four-piece band at once. He nodded at his keyboardist to start the opening keys of a shiver-inspiring “God In Chicago.” The quiet, nearly spoken word song was an incredibly bold choice to start a set because any crowd noise could drown out the delicate number. When his backing group, The Uptown Controllers, launched into “Apollo Bay” Finn’s demeanor would change as he gave darting looks, pointing and using hand gestures while happily shredding away on his electric guitar that was just a little louder in the mix than all the other instruments.

FinnRecordBar

The night would find him hitting his new album “We All Want The Same Things” extremely hard, playing seven songs from it. It was appropriate, it was the name of the tour. He would push the theme of all of the songs being about two people in one way or another; some were in love, some were out of love and others were just sharing the song with one another by chance. The other underlying theme Finn would state is one of his monikers, be honest. He would point this out before easing into the song “Be Honest” but the theme would continue to carry until the set’s end.

When Finn let The Uptown Controllers take a small break he grabbed his acoustic guitar and took full advantage of the quiet, patient crowd once again. He would play “Tangletown” about avoiding loneliness and “Dudes From St. Paul” about fear of the unknown.  The highlight of the entire night would fall in between with the gut-wrenching “Dennis & Billy” about two friends taking different life paths and not getting exactly what they bargained for. He introduced it as a sad song and did it ever deliver, the crowd silently took in every word and got lost in the story.

The Uptown Controllers would return to play a thunderous “Newmyer’s Roof” and with the help of John K. Samson, “Birds Trapped In The Airport.” The evening would end with Samson and Finn dueting on the great Gillian Welch song “Wrecking Ball” that really seemed to sum up the show as the powerful evening that it turned out to be.

FinnBand

John K. Samson setlist from The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 10/17/17

One Great City! (The Weakerthans song)
Postdoc Blues
Reconstruction Site(The Weakerthans song)
Alpha Adept
Pamphleteer (The Weakerthans song)
When I Write My Master’s Thesis
Left and Leaving (The Weakerthans song)
17th Street Treatment Centre
Plea from a Cat Named Virtute (The Weakerthans song)
Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure (The Weakerthans song)
Virtute at Rest
Winter Wheat
The Reasons (The Weakerthans song)

Craig Finn setlist from The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 10/17/17

God In Chicago
Apollo Bay
Jester & June
Preludes
Be Honest
Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son
Rescue Blues
Screenwriters School
Ninety Bucks
Tangletown (solo acoustic)
Dennis and Billy (solo acoustic)
Dudes From St. Paul (solo acoustic)
Newmyer’s Roof
Trapper Avenue
Birds Trapped In The Airport (with John K. Samson)
Wrecking Ball (Gillian Welch cover with John K. Samson)

 

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The Vinyl Court: Nick Waterhouse – Never Twice

Nick Waterhouse - Never Twice

  • Artist: Nick Waterhouse
  • Album: Never Twice (2016)
  • Purchased at: Live concert at Record Bar (Kansas City, MO) for $20

Nick Waterhouse doesn’t belong here. He is transported straight out of the late 50s or early 60s R&B scene and it seems weird we are lucky enough to have him here. “Never Twice” is his third record and quite possibly his best. It has a great time capsule quality that can take you away to another place and time.

It’s Time” and “The Old Place” are both driving songs that lead off each side of the LP. “The Old Place” being one of those ear-worms that is near impossible to shake. Speaking of shaking this record will make you do it, the loose style of the recording is great and impulsive with plenty of room for various solos. “Katchi” is probably the best song the radio pretty much never played too, the track features soul ace Leon Bridges and is the catchiest thing you’ve heard since George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.”

The vinyl here is standard black with no frills but look at that cover… just look at it. Doesn’t it just scream out to you as something you should have in your collection? It definitely does me. This is one I keep on the end of my stack so people can see the cover and be mystified by it.

Verdict: You need to like this loose swinging R&B to get into it, think Buddy Holly meets Sam Cooke and you’re in the ballpark. If that sounds good and you don’t own this you are missing out. If that doesn’t sound good steer clear.

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Coming Soon: Craig Finn and John K. Samson at The Record Bar

WHO’S PLAYING?  Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers (of the Hold Steady) and John K. Samson (of The Weakerthans)

Craig Finn and John K. Samson poster for their show at The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO on 10/17/17

WHAT TO EXPECT? A showing of as much poetry as music. It will be in the form of music but both of these amazing artists are so careful with every word they choose, making sure each one carries its weight that poetry isn’t that far off when describing them.

John K. Samson is a longtime indie rock darling fronting the band The Weakerthans and now controlling his career through solo records and touring. He also has released a book of his combined lyrics and poetry available. Samson has released two solo albums now in addition to five Weakerthans records since 1999. He recently released a Gandaddy-esque new single “Prayer For Ruby Elm” from his latest record “Winter Wheat” from 2016.

Speaking of indie rock darlings, Craig Finn is about as bonafide as it gets when it comes to credibility in the field. His three solo albums and six records with The Hold Steady have provided him with the clout to have a massive fan base and universal respect among musicians. His latest record “We All Want The Same Things” is a driving collection of songs filled with conflict and heartbreak. What makes Finn’s music so magical is his storytelling; he has a way of revealing enough details to paint a vivid picture while never closing the narrative to interpretation.

WHERE IS IT?  The Record Bar (1520 Grand BLVD, Kansas City, MO)

WHEN IS IT?  Tuesday, October 17th, 2017; 8:00 PM, $20, 18+

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Tickets are $20… so that’s not bad for two artists with a huge discography of established work
  • Craig Finn’s new album is fantastic, just like his other two solo albums. He will likely be playing a lot off of that new record.
  • It will be a quieter reality of the bands The Weakerthans and The Hold Steady
  • These two artists excellent solo records will be on prime display.
  • The new record bar location is great, the small balcony provides a range of views of the stage and the sound quality is always supreme.
  • This is a chance to see two touring acts who don’t make it to the Kansas City area all that often so seeing both of them at once is a big advantage.

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

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The Vinyl Court: Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

QueensOfTheStoneAgeVillains

  • Artist: Queens of the Stone Age
  • Album: Villains (2017)
  • Purchased at: Entertainmart (St. Joseph, MO) for $25

It’s hard to beat Queens of the Stone Age at this point. They are hard rock enough to satisfy the urge to headbang and catchy enough for radio. Their new record “Villains” comes a lengthy 4 years after their last great effort “Like Clockwork” and looks to be just as strong. It is a different album stylistically (thanks to the efforts of producer extraordinaire Mark Ronson) but still has the feeling of a special album just like their last release.

It’s a dance rock record and there is no denying it. It will make you move and that is exactly what Josh Homme and company intended. The opening “Feet Don’t Fail Me” is a raucous rave-up and “The Way You Used To Do” is simply irresistible with it’s great hooks and bouncy guitar riff. “The Evil Has Landed” is a monster late in the record with it’s crunching guitar intro that sounds like it is straight out of the Led Zeppelin songbook.

The vinyl had a deluxe version but the lofty price tag made me opt for the more affordable double vinyl version. Still, it has 3 sides studio of great new Queens songs and a pretty cool etching on the 4th side. The matte vinyl jacket is always a good choice in my book and the cover is pretty killer artwork-wise as well. Overall this was a great addition to the collection.

Verdict: Get it, if you like dance rock this is probably essential. Queens is likely the best hard rock band active right now; enjoy it while they are making music.

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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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