250 word album review: Toadies – The Lower Side of Uptown

Toadies - The Lower Side of Uptown

Stars3.5

The Toadies don’t break any ground with their new album “The Lower Side of Uptown” but they definitely are in a place in their career where they really don’t need to either. They still rely on heavy guitar hooks tearing through your speakers and Vaden Todd Lewis’ growly vocals to float their songs.

Starting the record off with the crunchy riffs possessed by “When I Die” and “Take Me Alive” is the most Toadies thing the Toadies could do. “Polly Jean” roars and rips as one of the strongest songs here. Even on a love song the band finds a way to keep things jagged, “You Know The Words” sounds very little like a love song unless you pay attention before the simple refrain of “I. Love. You.” The album doesn’t roar all the way through though, “Amen” is a serviceable change up of the pace but on the band’s lead single from the record things go awry. “Broke Down Stupid” not only shouldn’t have been the band’s single here but it is likely the worst song on a pretty good record. The following cover of “I Put A Spell On You” (the band’s second single) is equally as meh-worthy. Not that the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins cover of “Spell” is bad in any way, it just begs the question “Why?”

The first half of the uneven album is very strong, the second half is average but like all Toadies material still possesses strong moments. It’s still a strong effort for a band a couple decades into their career, it’s still the same old Toadies but it’d be far more disappointing if they WEREN’T the same old Toadies.

Key Tracks: “You Know The Words” “Polly Jean” “Take Me Alive”

 

 

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The Dude Appears and the Return of The Ramey Memo by Danny R. Phillips

By Danny R. Phillips

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The Ramey Memo and The Dude show poster

At just eighteen, Torrin Myers aka The Dude is a rapper of dedication and driven purpose. He twists and turns meanings, words turned inside out, with an ingeniousness and depth that belies his youth. Where some rappers fall upon the clichés of bitches and hoes, calling out other MCs, making money and having nice cars, Myers tells tales of things he knows well: alienation, the feeling of distain for the exclusionary cliques that populate both the fishbowl world that is high school and the disastrous world at large.

Myers speaks to universal themes. The feeling of isolation that rears its head when one realizes this life is not wine and roses, the feeling of a world crushing you under its corrupt feet and the growing, pushing need to belong. Driving you to fit in, to be part of something, even if that place, your place is on the fringes of what society deems normal and uniform. Myers is blunt yet articulate, experienced yet looking to the world with wide, somewhat jaded eyes.

“I’m basically a communist,” he told me on a gray, dismal day in downtown St. Joe. “We ( The United States) don’t have universal health care or socialized medicine because there is too much money to be made. The poor can’t go to the doctor. The government doesn’t care, it (the government) needs to milk dollars from their cattle.”

While his nom de plume does come from his love of The Big Lebowski (does everyone but me love that movie?), choosing to take the stage as The Dude comes from a more deeply rooted place within himself. “Choosing The Dude is a play on how anonymous the rap game is right now; guys with names like Kyle and Kendrick, people using their first names; then there’s generic ass names like Future; it all seems the same to me so I became The Dude.”

The Dude is soft-spoken but confident in his beliefs and his skill as a musician. “I started playing bass when I was around 8 and started free-styling at 14. I was in a punk band but it didn’t go anywhere. And, I did standup comedy a few times.” A long time fixture around our local music scene, Myers (son of Lucky Tiger & Tiger’s Den owners Brian Myers and Amy Heath) has seen bands come and go, fads ebb and flow, seeing musicians grow strong in their music while others dried up and fading away.

Not only will Saturday November 11 see the public unveiling of The Dude on the storied stage of The Rendezvous, it will also see the return from a hiatus on Venus of one of our city’s most legendary bands, The Ramey Memo. Over two albums (300 Voices at the King Hill Pub and Forget It), the trio crafted songs that have left a mark on St. Joe and on all of us that saw them in the glory days of a packed Vous on an autumn Saturday night.

The Ramey Memo (Tyson Bottoroff, Raye Lynn, Garner Quillon) spent much of the early 2000s crafting songs that are equal parts Weird Al, REM, Nirvana and The Pixies. They raged against “Goddamn Kids,” wished for a “Tom Cruise on The Billy Ocean,” kicked out the best cover of The Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” this side of Nirvana and penned a little ditty about being a good Jedi.

The Ramey Memo, while addressing themes of a less than serious nature on nearly every occasion, they are a band of topnotch musicians. Quillon’s drum work is steady without being too perfect (a punk rock plus) and Raye is a talented multi-instrumentalist that holds the bassline down with heavy shades of Kim Deal. Tyson Bottoroff is not a man that takes himself seriously but his approach to the guitar makes him one of the scene’s best guitarists. While The Ramey Memo may not be technically “perfect” in the music theory sense, what they bring to the table makes up for it in power and furious determination.

I, for one, am happy to see The Ramey Memo back…. I hope they stay awhile. And as for The Dude, I’m anxious to see what he has to say and in what way he chooses to say it.

Dr. 47 Presents: The Ramey Memo w/ The Dude

Saturday Nov. 11, 2017 @ The Rendezvous (619 Felix, St. Joseph, MO)

10 pm… 21+… $5

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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.

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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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