Buzz Under The Stars – Kansas City

Transforming Kansas City’s 150 year old City Market, into a downtown amphitheater is not always as good of an idea as one would assume. In the past, these events have run into problems: several bands simply didn’t have the pull to sell tickets. Other events, such as Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright saw struggling numbers due to rain the night of the show. This night however, could not have been a better night to open the “2008 Buzz Under the Stars Concert Series.” And, as a reward Kansas City came out in droves.

The evening’s first band, The Morning Benders found its way to Kansas City by way of the Kooks current national tour, serving as the latter’s support. Nonetheless, they couldn’t have fit into the show’s lineup more flawlessly. Their performance, driven by the flow of dark yet dance pop songs, like “Waiting on a War,” set the tone for what would be an energy fueled event. With a sound as infectious and catchy as The Shins and the ability to grab exposure from such great tour mates, I look for big things to happen to this band. The Kansas City crowd of almost 20,000 who seemed glue to the group’s set seemed to agree. They cheered and supported this band in a manner that would almost seem as if they had come to see only them. That was honestly really nice to see.

Following The Morning Benders, we found The Kooks, fresh off the release of their major label release, Konk. We also found our evening’s most energetic act. Vocalist Luke Pritchard‘s interactions with the crowd, ranging anywhere from intense eye contact all the way to hopping on the amps, were second to none. But, not to be pegged as all show and no sound, The Kooks orchestration was tight. Their set, which was a perfect mix of older tunes and new, was constructed and presented in a concise and efficient manner, supplying Kansas City with a showcase of why The Kooks are quickly climbing to the top of the indie scene’s biggest cult bands. This band does not disappoint. If you haven’t already, you certainly need to check them out.

It is my opinion that Rogue Wave, the lineup’s third performer, had the weakest set of the evening, but that might not be their fault. Based on the extreme showmanship of the bands they were following, and the acoustic setting in which they were playing, I feel that this show was not a great fit for them. I honestly think Rogue Wave would be an amazing band to see in a more intimate setting, like an indoor music theater, something that would enhance their somewhat detailed and atmospheric sound. While I was not impressed with their City Market performance, I really do look forward to catching this band again in a different venue. I’m sure they won’t let me down.

Death Cab for Cutie - Kansas City - City Market - 2008

Death Cab for Cutie, the evening’s headlining act, certainly made an effort to not let anyone down. Their set included as many old favorites, like “The Facts Are In and We’re Voting Yes” and “Styrofoam Plates” as well as new radio tracks from Plans and Narrow Stairs. Ben Gibbard‘s uncanny ability to create an environment of happiness and enjoyment through detailed and documented songs of sadness and disappointment is almost amusing. It’s as though the catchy nature of the group’s music overshadows the depressing content of their lyrics. Nonetheless, the set was beautiful and catching, capturing the attention of an audience and generating a unified buzz throughout the Market. Few left following the short intermission, waiting for what would become a fairly long and impressive encore. I was very pleased with the selection of the set and came away from the City Market happy with Death Cab for Cutie’s attention to both its old fans and new.

Overall, I must confess that the night was a success.

The Morning Benders: website | myspace
The Kooks: website | myspace | KONK review
Rogue Wave: website | myspace |
Death Cab for Cutie: website | myspace | Narrow Stairs review

*Photos by Nick Davis and Joshua Hammond


"Weeds" Music from the Series, Vol. 3

It’s only appropriate that a show as hip as Showtime‘s “Weeds” would feature some of today’s hippest artists on its soundtrack. Boasting talent such as Beirut, the Dresden Dolls, Ween, Illinois and Oh No! Oh My has Weeds: Music from the Series Vol. 3 acting as any indie kid’s dream.

It’s even got the perfect amount of kitsch factor for the hipper than thou, featuring Randy Newman‘s rendition of theme song “Little Boxes,” originally by Malvina Reynolds, and a song performed by the hysterically funny Kevin Nealon, who plays hilarious and egocentric CPA Doug Wilson.

Part of “Weeds” underground music tastes have to do with its limited budget: the show can’t necessarily afford hit songs, and are therefore forced to seek out the relatively unknown and obscure. Regardless, “Weeds” music supervisor Christoper Noxon has proven that he’s got his finger on the independent music pulse with an ear for up and coming talent. The show’s writers are constantly swapping mix CD as they plot each season’s story arc and one writer is known for building an entire plotline around a single lyric. The actors on “Weeds” also get into the music mania by playing their favorite songs on set.

Limited resources and the constant search for that perfect song that’s still unknown has lead to many of the cast and crew discovering new favorite music on a constant basis. “Weeds” favorites include Man Man (a favorite of ours, too!), Sufjan Stevens and Page France. These are the only three acts that the show has licensed more than once.

A great deal of thought goes into the placement of each song in every episode and Noxon and crew always manage to hit the nail on the head. The best example of spot on music occurs with Ween’s “You F**cked Up,” appearing in season three’s premiere episode, “Doing the Backstroke.” The song’s ripping riff intro begins as Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) walks into her backyard to find neighbor Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins). Hodes tells Botwin, “I did this for your own good,” and the camera pans out to show thousands of dollars of weed floating in the pool as Ween front man Mickey Melchiondo screams, “YOU FUCKED UP!” The camera immediately closes in on Botwin’s horrified expression as Melchiondo continues, “You bitch! / You really fucked up!” Absolutely spot on.

Definitely a soundtrack to get your hands on. You can score a copy of this digital-only indie gem on June 3rd, same day as the third season DVD set lands in stores.

01. Little Boxes (Randy Newman)
02. Chariot (Page France)
03. Buttmachine (That 1 Guy)
04. Scenic World (Beirut)
05. Girl Anachronism (The Dresden Dolls)
06. You F**cked Up (Ween)
07. Walk In The Park (Oh No! Oh My!)
08. Nosebleed (Illinois)
09. Your Rocky Spine (Great Lake Swimmers)
10. The Earth Keeps Turning On (Mr. Smolin)
11. Just Like The Superdome (Kevin Nealon)
12. Keep Sake (State Radio)
13. Let’s Drive Away (Eleni Mandell)

“Weeds”: website | Music from the Series, vol. 3 | order the soundtrack, season 3 on DVD

Man Man "Mister Jung Stuffed" Video

We love Man Man. Hard. You should, too.
Check out the new animated video for “Mister Jung Stuffed.” Guest appearances by a gay werewolf, a hot nun, a talking hamburger, Santa Claus, Miss Universe, Mr. T, Sally Jesse Raphael and the river Styx. It’s totally rad.

Man Man: website | myspace | Rabbit Habits review | interview with Honus Honus | live review
Anti Records: website | youtube

Violens Summer Tour Dates

New York experimental indie outfit Violens will open for the likes of Grizzly Bear and MGMT on select dates this summer. MGMT asked Violens to join them on the road following Violens front man Jorge Elbrecht’s remix of the MGMT single “Time To Pretend.” On June 5th, they’ll headline a Mercury Lounge show with friends Chairlift and Project Jenny, Project Jan for Mixel Pixel‘s CD release show.

Violens recently released their critically acclaimed new single “Trance-Like Turn” on The Green Owl Records Comp: A Benefit for the Energy Action Coalition. Their contribution is featured among tracks by other notable artists such as Feist, Muse, Deerhoof, Bloc Party, A Place To Bury Strangers and many more. 100% of profits from the album sales will be donated to the EAC, to support their efforts to raise environmental awareness in our community.

Tour Dates:
June 05 – Mercury Lounge ($10/21+) Doors @ 7pm
7:30 Project Jenny, Project Jan
8:30 Chairlift
9:30 Violens
10:30 Mixel Pixel (Record Release)

July 25 – Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church (w/MGMT)
Aug 11-Washington DC @ Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (w/Grizzly Bear)
Aug 14- Boston, MA @ Museum of Fine Arts (w/Grizzly Bear)
+more to be announced!

Violens: myspace | interview with | live review | download “Violent Sensation Descends”

Ingrid Michaelson Headlining Tour

New York doll Ingrid Michaelson will be performing at the WDST Mountain Jam Festival tomorrow before launching her national headlining tour this Sunday, June 1st, in the City of Brotherly Love (Jessica will be there to cover it!).

Earlier this year, she headlined the sold out Hotel Café Tour and performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” promoting her self-released sophomore album Boys and Girls, which has garnered nothing but critical acclaim since it 2006 release. Hit single “The Way I Am” was featured in an Old Navy commercial last fall, propelling it to over 630,000 digital downloads.

In addition to taking over television waves with her beautiful music, Michaelson is also one of four musicians to compose original songs for bestselling author Augusten Burroughs‘ new audiobook, A Wolf at the Table. “Spare Change,” inspired from the text, appears exclusively alongside songs from artists Patti Smith, Sea Wolf, and Tegan Quin from Tegan and Sara. Earlier this month, she performed in the children’s ward at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City as part of the Fifth Annual Project Sunshine Gala, raising money for free programs and services to children and families who are affected by serious medical challenges.

When her headlining tour wraps in early July, Michaelson will perform at several festivals, including Philadelphia’s XPoNential Music Festival, Milwaukee’s Summerfest and the Mile High Festival in Denver, CO before a string of dates opening for Dave Matthews Band in stadium-sized venues. She can also bee seen playing Austin City Limits this fall.

Tour Dates:
May 31 – Hunter NY / WDST Mountain Jam Festival
Jun 01 – Philadelphia PA / Theatre of Living Arts
Jun 02 – Pittsburgh PA / Mr. Smalls Theatre (POSTPONED)
Jun 04 – Louisville KY / Headliners
Jun 05 – Chicago IL / Park West
Jun 06 – Minneapolis MN / Fine Line Music Cafe
Jun 07 – Madison WI / Barrymore Theater
Jun 09 – Nashville TN / Exit/In
Jun 10 – Atlanta GA / Variety Playhouse
Jun 11 – Orlando FL / The Social
Jun 12 – St. Petersburg FL / State Theatre
Jun 14 – Birmingham AL / City States Festival
Jun 16 – Greenville SC / Handlebar
Jun 17 – Carrboro NC / Cat’s Cradle
Jun 18 – Richmond VA / Toad’s Place
Jun 19 – Towson MD / Recher Theatre
Jun 20 – New York NY / Terminal 5
Jun 22 – San Francisco CA / Golden Gate Festival
Jun 23 – Anaheim CA / House of Blues
Jun 24 – Los Angeles CA / El Rey Theatre
Jun 25 – San Diego CA / House of Blues
Jun 26 – Tucson AZ / Club Congress
Jun 28 – Salt Lake City UT / Avalon Theater
Jul 01 – Kansas City MO / The Beaumont Club
Jul 02 – St. Louis MO / The Pageant
Jul 03 – Milwaukee WI / Summerfest
Jul 06 – Rothbury MI / Rothbury Festival
Jul 13 – Philadelphia PA / WXPN Festival
Jul 20 – Denver CO / Mile High Festival
Jul 22 – Omaha NE / Qwest Center *
Jul 25 – Noblesville IN / Verizon Wireless Music Center *
Jul 26 – Noblesville IN / Verizon Wireless Music Center *
Jul 29 – Columbus OH / Crew Stadium *
Jul 30 – Cuyahoga Falls OH / Blossom Music Center *
Aug 23 – Staten Island, NY / Edgewater Festival
Aug 26 – Binghamton NY / Anderson Center for the Performing Arts
Aug 31 – Seattle WA / Bumbershoot Festival
Sep 26 – Austin TX / Austin City Limits Festival

* w/ Dave Matthews Band

Ingrid Michaelson: website | myspace | Hotel Café photos
Original Signal Recordings: website

*Photo: Nick Davis

Weezer – The Red Album

After more than a decade of existence, one would assume that the general public should have noticed that Weezer misses far more than they hit. It’s fairly clear that there is a blatant difference in content between the absolute brilliance of both The Blue Album, and it’s baby sister Pinkerton, and the major label, radio driven content that has followed.

Now, while the common argument from the masses of talking heads would resemble something along the lines of, “They have sold nine bazillion records, so they must be doing something right,” the musician and critic in me believes in quality not quantity. But, since this is the same general public who is responsible for the rise of songs like “Who Let the Dogs Out” and programs like “American Idol,” I’m not completely sure that logic is involved in the process of popularity.

This album starts with “Troublemaker,” a song that sports the finer aspects of 3rd grade poetry, put to music. Rivers screams, “Put me in a special school / ‘Cause I am such a fool / And I don’t need a single book to teach me how to read.” The spoken word verses and unneeded accents on certain words somewhat distract the listener from the fact that Rivers has not moved on from his typical lyrical complaints; his quest to be famous, his need to be an individual, and his life as an outcast. Honestly, the only redeeming quality of this song rests in its catchy ending, which in reality in just the piano intro to the albums fairly quality second cut, “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.”

“Pork and Beans,” The Red Album‘s first single is pretty witty, to be quite honest. Musically, this cut resembles the Weezer of old. Coupled with a quality video, jam packed with cuteness, I would be willing to consider “Pork and Beans” a success story. The album’s next cut, however, “Heart Songs,” while a touch overproduced, might be the album gem. Calmer and more lyrically based than your typical Weezer cut, “Heart Songs” is laced with string hooks that will grab you with a white knuckled grip. Upon listen, expect this sing-along track to be the song that gets stuck in your head.

Following two pretty ignorable tracks in “Everybody Get Dangerous” and “Dreamin’,” guitarist Brian Bell grabs the vocals, resulting in the albums most unique song, “Thought I Knew.” While completely different and foreign from the Rivers based cuts, this song is certainly worth checking out. In fact, it’s worth listening to more than once, a rarity on this album.

Skipping ahead three tracks, Weezer ends The Red Album on a note that reminds me a bit of The Beatles. Rivers vocals on “The Angel and the One” are very passive and out of character. The music wraps itself around the lyrics, which are genuine and emotionally driven in a story that reads like a hand written apology letter, taped onto someone’s bathroom mirror in the middle of the night, as the author sneaks out of the recipient’s back door and life forever. I would be willing to go out on a ledge and admit that this might be Weezer’s finest song since “Say it Ain’t So;” a victory in itself.

The fact remains that while a handful of songs on the album may have exceeded my expectation, the album as a whole is only sitting at about 40% quality. Is it worth the money? My advice: buy the stellar cuts on iTunes and leave the rest alone.

Weezer: Website | Myspace | “Pork and Beans” Video

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

There is one thing that I am still sure of after listening to Death Cab for Cutie‘s latest album, Narrow Stairs: the band can still put together and record some really beautiful music.

I was immediately wrapped up in the elegant and open first track, “Bixby Canyon Bridge.” That’s a great thing about Death Cab: the openness of their songs. There are, however, many spots on the album, most notably “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which I really just don’t like. It feels, just as on Plans, like they are taking themselves too seriously. It was songs with simple and romantic messages like “I Will Follow You into the Dark” that propelled Death Cab into the hearts of so many self-obsessed teenagers (read: all teenagers), and they shouldn’t forget that.

Otherwise, this is really a pleasant album to have around. And as someone who fell in love with them during my own self-obsessed teenagerdom, it’s nice to see that they don’t make me feel like a dick for still listening to them. Death Cab won’t make you feel guilty for listening to music from which teenagers pull lyrics for their MySpace pages.

I recommend listening to “Talking Bird,” which may be my favorite song on Narrow Stairs. It is ideal for contemplating anything and everything with some friends and some beer around sunset. Listen to any of these songs while you’re alone (I recommend during the commute to work or while you clean your room) and you’ll feel a little more whole than you did before.

The best thing about the album is they’ve kept the invitingly introspective feel of their previous work alive and well. However, I can’t say that I don’t long for the days of really well put-together but less produced songs that could be found on The Photo Album or We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. But the boys of DCFC have chosen the direction they’d like to go in, and that’s heavy sounds to match their yearning, heartfelt lyrics, although some more upbeat melodies for the chronic head-bopper can be found in “Long Division” and “No Sunlight.”

There’s a comfort in Death Cab for Cutie’s work that I haven’t found in many other bands and it’s something in which I place a lot of value. This album certainly has its downs as well as its ups, but it’s worth picking up at your local independent record store (support them, folks!), as I personally have done with all of my Death Cab albums. Narrow Stairs will be great to pick up and listen to, after having nearly forgotten about it , every few months. It’s definitely a satisfying listen that you’ll want to have around.

Death Cab For Cutie: website | myspace

by: Jimmy