KENTUCKY KNIFE FIGHT
TIGHT PANTS SYNDROME
@ MANGIA ITALIANO
AUGUST 4, 2012
Black Diamond Heavies are buzzing over the house speakers as Daniel Kraus throws back another Budweiser. Magic dancing potion, perhaps?
That weave and bob. Those wild strides between twirls with hand nestled against back. These are a few signature moves that have been gracing local concert venue floors for years now. This is The Daniel Kraus. The one with moves like lightning. Much like the ensuing storm outside.
The pre-show playlist this night is a thing of beauty. Besides the aforementioned Black Diamond Heavies, there's a whole slew of fuzzy blues to keep the mood moving prior to a stellar Royal Smokestacks performance. Junior Kimbrough, The Legendary Shack Shakers, R.L. Burnside, Scott H. Biram and Left Lane Cruiser make the cut multiple times. Now the first band of the night is ready to roll and the playlist fades.
Meet Royal Smokestacks.
"Alright, here's one for dancing," Pat Egan suggests. Daniel Kraus takes the cue and the band goes into "My Delilah." But what makes this crowd really shake its bones is an Americana ladened rendition of "Woolly Bully." Ah, the power of familiarity. Everyone's woollying and bullying all over the place and the energy never lets down from here.
Especially not during Tight Pants Syndrome's set.
Tight Pants Syndrome is something of an enigma. There's much more than meets the eye and ear with this band. Tom Stephens, the group's principle songwriter, plays live with the band but away from the crowd. Heard but unseen. A songwriting frontman doubling as musical phantom.
They leap through a diverse catalogue of catchy alternative pop that pushes the shyest of crowds to strut and sing along. The energy that fills the room is exactly what Tight Pants Syndrome puts into their records.
We suggest that you take a gander at some infectious tunage like "Tell Me It's True" or "Breakin' Up With You's Been Great." Wait. Isn't that a Karate Bikini song? Yep, sure is. But it was originally on the Fully Attractive record. Tim McAvin wrote a few of those songs but is now fully dedicated to his new band. Brian and Jenn also play together in Middle Class Fashion. So everyone's okay with playing Tight Pants Syndrome's songs in their other bands and vice versa. It's a musician's collective, naturally.
Kentucky Knife Fight takes the stage.
The transition from sound check to first song is so subtle it moves on undetected by the most unsuspecting of minglers. That is, until the musical rasp of Jason Holler is accompanied by the rest of his fellow knifemen. The band looks dapper this evening, ready to serve an energetic feast of fast blues-heavy songs about sex and violence with a few seductive ballads seared into the mix.
The show begins, the room starts to move. Intentional dancing and not so intentional drunken sway grabs the crowd when Curt Brewer starts to pick madly on banjo, face contorted and all.
Lightning flashes pour through the upstairs windows and line the walls as the storm climaxes. The greening sky and heavy winds are a fitting ambiance for Brewer's fiery twang to pursue, relentlessly unabashed by any possible approaching doom.
"These next two songs are on the new seven-inch," Holler hints to the crowd.
They toss a longing audience "Misshapen Love," the powerfully arranged track from their new 7" of the same title. The studio version features friends Zack Dismukes on trumpet and Andy Ament on Baritone Sax.
The blues-rock explosion dissipates for "Love The Lonely," which First Punch Film recently released a video for.
The crowd chants for an encore mere seconds after the band's first departure and they soon returns Holler-less to perform an extended version of "South Roxana Wiggle" with a guitar solo so boisterous it stifles the surrounding thunder into surrender. The full band continues for a few. Then without word, they leave the stage.
Seeing these local bands draw a full and vibrant crowd is inspiring indeed. Especially when everyone's shouting lyrics. Seriously. Everyone. Punks and cider-sipping fashionistas alike.
Later that night...
Brian McClelland (Tight Pants Syndrome, Middle Class Fashion) tells us about the after party at Mangia, as people at shows all over the city were calling the late running Bunnygrunt / Sex Robots party. Never have we seen Mangia Italiano so completely packed. We're talking wall-to-wall PACKED. Even the nice folks congregating outside are spilling over onto South Grand.
Inside is Bunnygrunt.
Matt Harnish (guitar / vox for Bunnygrunt) has been a longtime staple in St. Louis music. He's worked at Vintage Vinyl for almost two decades and has been releasing music even longer.
We arrive to a cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla." Need we say more? Karen Ried's big muffy bass and Harnish's chunk tone rips these chords to pieces. "Debutants in Bondage" is an instantly recognizable highlight of the night, in part due to the new Tower Groove Records compilation. This song was originally written and recorded in 1979 by The Welders.
The Sex Robots set, made possible by the band's vocalist / guitarist returning from New York for a night, induces rampant fist-clenching. "Take Me Out Dancing" has the place is a frenzy. The biggest "sing alongist of the night" award goes to Jason Potter of Bruiser Queen. Alright, so we already love Bruiser Queen's music and play them constantly. Which is why it's all the sweeter when the band's support really shines at a show. It's a kind of support that they themselves deserve. And yet they're cool enough to give it, simply because they really dig the music. It's great when that visibly shows on someone like it did with so many in this crowded space.
This was Tight Pants Syndrome's last show of the year. But fear not, TPS will be back in full swing with a new record that'll be released early 2013.
Royal Smokestacks finished recording their debut full-length a few days prior to this performance. It will include a track featuring Funky Butt Brass Band. Keep an ear peeled.
Miles Long (Royal Smokestacks) also plays banjo in the traditional bluegrass band Liquid Gold. Where "he's the youngest player by like thirty years," a bandmate tells us.
Far Off To The Side Note:
We ran into Andrea Royals, employee at Plush and previous intern for Pokey LaFarge. She told us that Pokey is featured on Jack White's new album, Blunderbuss. Pokey plays Mandolin and sings falsetto background vocals on "I Guess I Should Go To Sleep". Pokey also has a 7" out on Third Man and recently opened Jack White's Red Rocks show, too. It'll be interesting to see how that relationship builds as Pokey's career continues to blossom. Thanks for the info, Andrea!
Ryan Humphrey & Pat Egan (Royal Smokestacks)
Miles Long (Royal Smokestacks)
Tight Pants Syndrome
Brian McClelland (Tight Pants Sydrome, Middle Class Fashion)
Kentucky Knife Fight
Curt Brewer(Kentucky Knife Fight)
Jason Holler (Kentucky Knife Fight)
Nate Jones (Kentucky Knife Fight)
Daniel Kraus & Sarah Ross (Jump Starts)
Kentucky Knife Fight @ Plush August 4, 2012
Matt Harnish (BUNNYGRUNT) @ Mangia Italiano August 4, 2012
Karen Ried (BUNNYGRUNT)@ Mangia Italiano August 4th, 2012
Photos by Abby Gillardi
CHEVY MUSIC SHOWCASE
MIDDLE CLASS FASHION
@ OFF BROADWAY
AUGUST 2, 2012
Alas, the last Chevy Music Showcase concert of 2012 has come and gone. Scarlet Tanager, Sons of Great Dane (Kansas City), and Middle Class Fashion wrapped up the first season at Off Broadway on this fully mooned Thursday. Let's face it, there's really no greater night of the month to have a show than on a full moon. There's a certain tribal element to it. And it does bring out the freaks. Like Danny the Mexican, as he called himself, who was stumbling around Lemp and offering us "coca or mota" as he drunkenly waved his tall Modelo Especial, half-wrapped in a brown paper bag. It's the moon's fault, Danny. We understand.
The natives of America referred to a full moon in August as something that loosely translates to Green Corn Moon. There's plenty of growing going on this time of year for fall's bountiful harvest. And whereas this fine lunar occasion may symbolize a rebirth or new beginning of sorts, the Chevy Music Showcase 2012 is lulling into hibernation until next year. But the behind the scenes work doesn't stop for the creators of the showcase. The awareness is there. Now it's time to do it right all over again. The task is to find the next twelve local acts that will be exposed on network television via two minute band on band interviews and plenty of Chevy product placement, all while hosting local concerts throughout the summer months. This leads up to a half hour long televised segment that also gains quite a bit of online virality. Not a bad gig.
This year the Chevrolet sponsored local music campaign featured bands from Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and St. Louis. If this gets picked up again next year, and it looks like it's going to, they will expand to Chevy dealers in Northern Texas. There will also be twelve more bands sponsored by our Mid America Chevy Dealers. St. Louis bands play a heavy role in this and will continue to be featured on television spots as well as play sponsored shows, all on Chevy's dime. Needless to say, we want that to happen. We want that a lot.
Middle Class Fashion took to the stage first. They're a true DIY band. Brian McClelland plays bass and Casiotone on the record. He also produced, mixed, and designed the album art for the record. Jenn Malzone's piano heavy pop-esque ballads aren't your average fun time dance soundtrack. They have attitude. Her lyrics are often unconventional and unsuspecting, like comparing the desire to do away with petty gossip with trapping lightning bugs in jars. Or comparing love with cavities. You know, stuff girls talk about. At least girls like Jenn Malzone (keyboard and vocals for Middle Class Fashion and Tight Pants Syndrome). There's loads of these comparisons and descriptions in Middle Class Fashion's songs. Like a sort of musing interpretation of the writer's reality, played to climactic piano arrangements. They call it like they see it. They play it how they like it. It's cool.
Sons of Great Dane followed. After their set we had the pleasure of chatting with Cam Mullikin, one of the brains and faces behind all of this Chevy business. Cam was there to disperse branded guitar picks, give away shirts, record footage, schmooze with the talent, and buy drinks for the night. With the company card, of course.
While talking to Cam, we asked him which city has the best music. "I think they're all really great." He smiles, knowing that he did in fact just give the exact answer he's supposed to give. Scarlet Tanager starts plugging in and tuning up. Then Cam starts to open.
"Saint Louis definitely has the most supportive people." It was assuring to hear that from someone who's been totally immersed with music culture in various cities, as well as played in bands himself for many years. Business aside, it was a sincere moment. Alcohol induced, maybe. But sincere.
Scarlet Tanager starts.
Sincere moments just happen to be what a Scarlet Tanager show is made of. Each song overflowing with sincerity. Sometimes stripped to it's core, letting the air breathe between verses and marital banter. Susan's voice singing those lyrics demands an emotional connection, all while being jovial and at tender ease. Her husband Michael accompanies with vocals, guitar, trumpet, marching band drum, and foot. The stompin' foot, that is. It doesn't end there. But for the sake of brevity, let's just say the guy can play some instruments. And each song, as sincere as they may all be, are completely their own thing. It's a recipe perfect for soothing the audience into reflection. Some folks danced, some gawked, and many sang along while swaying heel to toe.
The originals paused for a more traditional cover. Susan addressed the present Beth Bombara and then proceeded to sing along with the crowd as they wished this fellow St. Louis musician and Chevy Music Showcase featured artist a happy birthday. Another sincere moment.
Here's a few songs from their American Songbird record:
"Knives and Swords"
"The Birds of the Dawn"
"Zipcode (Version 2)"
Scarlet Tanager's song "Zipcode" is a shining example of all of this aforementioned sincerity. It's a heartfelt song about having to part ways at the end of the night with the one you love. This can be as simplistic or as metaphorical as one would like to make it. But it's something we all know, regardless of complexity or lack thereof. Scarlet is a declaration to all that a band doesn't need highly technical players to move a crowd. Relatable songs with a great voice will do just fine. As long as it's with a six-piece foot stompin' band, with the occasional marching band drum.
Of the three bands that played this night, Middle Class Fashion was the lone St. Louis band that was also a featured Chevy Music Showcase artist. Brian McClelland (also in both Middle Class Fashion and Tight Pants Syndrome) suggested Scarlet Tanager to Cam, who fell in love immediately. These Chevy business types have feelings too, ya know.
Sure, at first glance it's easy to assume that Chevy is simply trying to brand themselves amongst the local music loving to grow sales in a very targeted demographic. And yeah, that's how it was pitched to Chevy bigwigs. But are their car sales really jumping through the roof because of this new branding venture? Probably not. But we hope that they are. Enough so as to keep this good thing going, anyway. Because more than anything else, Chevy is helping independent musicians get exposure in their respective cities and beyond. This is helping bands more than exploiting them. You can bank on that.
Full Moon Over Lemp Avenue
Photos by Abby Gillardi