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the latenight callers

Folk Alliance 2015 conference celebrates music from around the world

(Photo above of Betse and Clarke)
The sentimental thank you Facebook posts have all gone out. The Instagram pictures have all gotten their double tap hearts of approval. The videos of various raucous late night room parties have been shared. The hangovers have (mostly) subsided. Over the next 12 months, the hazy “remember that time at Folk Alliance when…” stories will joyously be told and retold. As most of us return to the wicked monotony of the work week, we must finally accept that the 2015 Folk Alliance International conference is over.
Simply put, it was an unparalleled celebration of music over the course of 6 days. For those who did not attend or are not familiar with the conference, it’s like a musical version of Disney Land AND Disney World combined into two hotels with a 4-minute skywalk in between. There was something going on most days in excess of 20 hours. You could rise early to partake in group yoga and meditation before spending the morning in seminars, classes, or the open exhibit hall. Catch a showcase or speaker in the afternoon. Head down to the lobby where a jam with musicians from 4 different continents has spontaneously busted out. As evening hits, the official showcases begin in the ballrooms. As night rolls in, one could argue the real fun begins as damn near every room on floors 5, 6, and 7 of the Westin hosts a showcase put on by organizations across the world. Partake in the various libations flowing freely throughout and wander in and out of rooms listening to hundreds of performers until the wee hours of the morn. Make a plethora of new friends from Australia, Canada, Japan, France, etc. Maybe catch a few zzz’s and then wake up and do it all over again. It is truly unbelievable the sheer amount of activity crammed into a relatively small amount of time and space. Therefore, it would be impossible to offer a full recap, but there were things that stuck out from the sensory overload. Here are some of the highlights.
Official KC Showcases/Local Representation
Wednesday night saw a slew of official showcases played solely by local artists. These musicians did a fine job representing the strength and variety in our music scene. Driving down to the conference, I was treated to Ruddy Swain being live broadcasted on KKFI 90.1 FM from their showcase. A stripped down version of The Latenight Callers (pictured above) offered a sultry set of noir pop tunes. Dollar Fox emerged from a somewhat lengthy hiatus with a slimmed down lineup and new musical focus towards pure rock ‘n roll.  Some of the rooms featured “in the round”-style setups with 4 artists trading performances for hour-long blocks (memorable acts included Amy Farrand, Vi Tran, Cheri Woods, Jen Harris, Ben Byard, amongst many others). The Hardship Letters closed down their room with a fantastic set of emotional rock songs.
Upstairs, the KC Music Collective Tower Room showcases (put together by some of the fine folks from Midwest Music Foundation, Money Wolf Music, and others deeply involved in the Kansas City arts scene) further showed that our little slice of “flyover” country is not to be ignored. Some comments coming later on specific highlights from these rooms.
It’s an odd thing to wander into a random hotel room around midnight and hear a group that describes itself as “a real dance-along turbo-Nordic-folk band which brings back the energy, purity, and sincerity of Estonian folk music.” Featuring a 12-string guitar, a cajon, a jaw harp and more sing-songy group vocals than you can shake a kepp at (thank you Google Translate), this trio was delightfully entertaining, also working the crowded room between each song with gusto.
(Photo by Tyler Bentson Jennings)
Another “I wonder what is going on in this room …” discovery, this duo from Los Angeles (real names Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso) served up an impactful set of smartly written acoustic pop songs. The real draw here is the sensational natural blend of their vocals. Some voices just seem made for each other with the ability to weave into a singular force of vocal performance. Ferris and Caruso have found their respective vocal soulmates, the kind of perfect harmonies that send a gripping shiver down the backbone of the listener.
I caught a few minutes of their set on Wednesday night, but it was the performance on Friday that really stuck out. A little less “official,” a little more raucous, a little better sound, and a little more just all-around fun, the band took us through vast points of their catalog with the jangly precision that we’ve come to expect from the country rock sextet. Vocalists Jimmy Fitzner and Lauren Krum are another example of two voices that join forces so damn well as one. Krum also exhibits such exuberance on stage, bobbing and weaving to the groove with a warm childlike cackle that just makes you grin.
This was my first Carswell and Hope show, surprising since they are based in Lawrence and it is musically right in my wheelhouse. Songwriter and lead vocalist Nick Carswell clearly knows how to write intelligent, poignant pop songs. Dreamy and textured in all the right ways, the band behind him (especially keyboardist Austin Keys) provided the perfect complement of additional instrumentation without getting in the way of the raw beauty of the material. It ends up sounding something akin to the more recent mature work of Nada Surf or the poppier moments of the Sigur Ros catalogue. Safe to say, I will be checking them out much more moving forward.
(Photo by Michael Byars)
Another local artist I am kicking myself for not being more familiar with before this event, Arsenia played a very entertaining set of tunes, both while strumming a harp and a cappella. He has such an impressive appearance and performance, like folk vaudeville with a voice that is just unbelievably strong.
In an event with this sheer amount of activity, there is a good chance no two reviews will read the same. Everyone will see a different batch of performances. Everyone will look for their favorite attributes. That is the inherent beauty of an event of this magnitude.
That said, The HillBenders should and will end up on most Best of FAI2015 lists. It’s the age old story of bluegrass band does Tommy by the Who (my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, if you could not tell). Not selections from Tommy. The whole damn thing. Beginning to end.
Now, I will admit that I don’t have an avid knowledge of Tommy. I have heard the record a few times, but I would never describe it as important to me; it’s not even my favorite The Who album. The HillBenders are already fantastic in their own right, but the treatment the Springfield quintet gave Tommy was inspirational and transcendent. The musicality was there, the harmonies were brilliant, the stage presence was vigorous. They took an album featuring arguably one of the most powerful percussionists in rock ‘n roll history and blew the cover off it with no percussion whatsoever.
If I saw anything at the conference that I would label as “about to break,” it would be this.  
The Cody Wyoming Show
God love this man, I won’t soon forget his late night showcase in one of the KC Music Collective rooms. If ever a public event was suited to one individual, it would be Folk Alliance 2015 for Cody Wyoming. It was far from a perfect performance, but more importantly it was a perfect example of the power and purpose of our community as Wyoming invited several random musicians in the room to join his set minutes before he started. This sentiment was shown time and time again throughout the event, but it was his showcase that sticks out in that regard.
The Dollar Fox Room Party Collective
(Photo by Michael Byars)
Rivaling the aforementioned Wyoming for the “Who is Folk Alliance Conference 2015 best suited for?” award, what I will call the Dollar Fox Room Party Collective rolled through the various private showcase floors like bearded ball lightning, leaving a trail of empty whiskey bottles, knocked over furniture, and amazed faces in their wake. It’s hard to encapsulate (or remember) who all was involved at what points. Mostly consisting of members of various Money Wolf Music artists, it’s probably a shorter list of who wasn’t involved in the horde (hell, even I sat in with them for a set late Saturday night). In an event where it is very easy to be forgotten as “just another dude playing an acoustic guitar and singing sad songs,” this group took great care to make sure their show was special, brash and, above all else, damn entertaining. Whiskey, oh whiskey indeed…
I really could write for days about everything I saw, but those are just a few that stuck out. I am sure there were countless other wonderful performances I missed. Folk Alliance 2015 was an amazing event to experience, both as a performer and member of the media. My overall suggestion: do whatever you have to do to attend next year (and any other year you can).
The countdown begins. Only 357 shopping days until Folk Alliance 2016.
--Zach Hodson

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings begins production. He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects. 

Show review: The Latenight Callers' Lost Weekend Brunch, recordBar, 11.16.13

Kansas City music fans got a rare treat when the recordBar hosted The Latenight Callers for the Lost Weekend Brunch, featuring the complete brunch menu and their famous (in certain circles, anyway) Bloody Mary bar and generous pours. If you aren't familiar with either the recordBar (located at 1020 Westport Rd., on the northwest corner of Westport Rd. and Southwest Trafficway) nor The Latenight Callers, get acquainted with both. The bar has been around for just over eight years and is Kansas City's premier live music venue, and the band pretty much invented the noir a go-go genre.
It was a rare free show—rare for both the band and the bar. The music got started about 12:30 pm and the band played two sets. It wasn't too loud, so the folks who were there for brunch and conversation weren't crushed by a wall of sound, but the people who were there for the music weren't disappointed either, because the band brought their A-Game to a brunch show. Krysztof Nemeth never missed a note on lead guitar, Nick Combs was smooth as silk with the melody lines on the keyboards and percussion—don't ask how he pulled it off, just accept the fact that he managed to do so and move on—Gavin Mac kept the groove on bass, and Julie Berndsen vamped it up like nobody's business while belting out hypnotic vocals; and she looked divine, in a red sweater dress and black beret. She looked as if she had stepped off the page of a Neiman Marcus catalog, circa 1945—and as Martha Stewart would say, “that's a good thing.”
All in all, it was a treat for all the senses. The food served at the recordBar is probably the best bar food in town, and in Kansas City, that is a pretty bold statement, but one I'm willing to go out on a limb and make. The atmosphere at recordBar is always cordial and pleasant, which is definitely a reflection on the owners Shawn Sherrill and Steve Tulipana, and the staff they have hired. Shawn and Steve deserve every bit of the success they've had, and more. Two nicer guys you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere, and when you consider that they are in the live music business, it approaches unicorn rarity.
The Lost Weekend Brunch was the first Saturday brunch the recordBar has hosted, and the only one the bar has ever hosted with live music, but based on the turnout, it was quite a success and something they ought to consider doing regularly... if not weekly, perhaps they will do it once a month. I know that every one they host, I will attend, and you should, too.

--Tammy Booth/Blue Girl



Show recap: Apocalypse Meow 6

On any given night in KC or Lawrence, there are bands playing to groups of varying sizes and intensity levels. Some of the audience is on its feet dancing. Some of them have their noses stuck in their electronic habitats. People order a few drinks at the bar during a quiet song, maybe smoke a cigarette between songs. The Friday night kick-off party of Apocalypse Meow 6 was one of those rare nights when the audience unified to experience and be captivated by the music.
This is the first Apocalypse Meow show since the death of Abigail Henderson, who—along with friends and husband Chris Meck—founded Midwest Music Foundation after friends held a benefit for Henderson when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. On Friday, Meck debuted his trio The Guilty Birds (pictured above), the first project without his wife since they began 10 years ago in Trouble Junction, and his very first project as primary singer/songwriter.
The trio (including Tiny Horse members Zach Phillips and Matt Richey) played a short but poignant rock/soul-infused set, while a packed crowd locked eyes and ears to draw in each note; to admire the musicianship, the ability, the fire, the obstacles and the affirming end result; to feel the anguish of a noticeable absence, but to honor and celebrate its legacy. The Silver Maggies kept the audience at attention with dark Americana propelled by intelligent songwriting. Hundreds of raffle tickets for Meck’s custom-built (with assistance from Phillips, Chris Wagner, and Paul Marchman) Fender Telecaster were purchased on Friday alone, and that spirit of generosity graciously carried into Saturday evening.

With a larger-capacity venue at Knuckleheads, eleven bands/solo performers commandeered the indoor and outdoor stages on night two. She’s A Keeper began by grabbing and enveloping the filtering-in crowd with its brand of colossal folk rock. The entrancing, aggressive outlaw blues of the duo Freight Train & Rabbit Killer (pictured below) demanded attention with its minimalistic setup, menacing costumes, and otherworldly presence. Meanwhile, the acoustic stage was occupied by a few KC music legends, all of whom were dear friends of Henderson’s. This connection translated into each musician’s cathartic sound, beginning with heartstring-pulling stories from Tony Ladesich (pictured below). Betse Ellis followed (and guest starred with the other acoustic stage performers later) with a fierce fiddle that could have sliced through any act on the main stage.
As the evening grew colder, warm bodies migrated toward the front and moved their hips to power trio Not A Planet (pictured below), pushed by the dynamic rhythm section of Liam Sumnicht and Bill Surges and steered by Nathan Corsi’s steady, pitch-perfect vocals. And no matter which stage you chose or floated to and from, each remaining act performed with no shortage of moxie. Howard Iceberg—KC’s answer to Bob Dylan—played a quiet but potent, storied set that included a duet performance with Michelle Sanders, a dulcet complement to Iceberg’s earnestly gruff voice. Federation of Horsepower frontman Gregg Todt (pictured below with Ellis) traded in his distorted axe for to round out the acoustic stage with a bluesy soul tone.
The second half of main stage featured three acts with female powerhouses at the forefront. The Latenight Callers’ Julie Berndsen allured the crowd with a coy sensuality that developed into a fiery, lascivious character, enhanced by the band’s electrifying, mammoth noir sounds. The Philistines continued in that same vein of ferocity from Kimberely Queen, whose appropriately unbridled theatrics amplified the band’s barbaric psychedelic rock sounds. The musical climax came when Sister Mary Rotten Crotch (pictured below) was welcomed to the stage right after Meck’s guitar was raffled off and subsequently auctioned (Artie Scholes, the raffle winner and also owner of The 403 Club, gave the guitar back to MMF for this purpose) to the highest bidder. But outside of this positive gesture and outside of the fact that many fans had been waiting for Sister Mary to take the stage again (the band’s last performance before taking a five-year hiatus was Apocalypse Meow 1 in ’08, and they only recently reunited to play a couple weeks before), frontwoman Liz Spillman Nord injected the hungry audience with an acrimonious punk vitriol. The veteran band showed old and new fans alike that they still pack a mean, purposeful rock punch and they still don’t give a fuck what you think.
Midwest Music Foundation and Abby's Fund for Musicians' Health Care made $12,000 at Apocalypse Meow this year, thanks to the efforts of all that were in attendance or made a donation of time, money, and/or resources. And though it was impossible for each moment of Meow weekend to have been as uninterrupted and uplifting as its inaugural set was, a sense of community was felt by each attendee and volunteer/staff member, each auction bid, each raffle ticket that fell into each bucket, each embrace or tear shed, each note or beat played.
On behalf of Midwest Music Foundation and The Deli Magazine—Kansas City, we thank you for your support of local music and those who work to make it happen. We thank you for honoring Abigail and helping us continue to carry on her legacy.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. Thanks to everyone who made this weekend beautiful. #shinealight



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Album review: The Latenight Callers - Songs For Stolen Moments

(Photos by Todd Zimmer)

From the first time I watched the video for “The Tease,” I succumbed to the fact that I was a fan of The Latenight Callers. Their ability to blend classic sounds with contemporary styling and a fresh approach is exactly why they are a local favorite. No doubt that TLNC has a very high ceiling. Those unfamiliar with the band will love their unique sound. They have a swanky blend of early Portishead, Garbage, and Lana Del Rey, but with an attitude that is genuinely their own.
I listened to Songs For Stolen Moments—the band’s first full LP—three times prior to initiating this review. Like a good movie, this record sucks you in and gives you a departure from the world for 53 minutes. The drum machine programming and keyboard work by Nick Combs is standout; the musicianship and vocal performances overall are top-shelf.
Songs For Stolen Moments starts off with “In Cold Blood,” which leads me to expect Humphrey Bogart stepping into a smoky bar with TLNC on stage. Classy and timeless come to mind. The journey steps to “Gypsy Moll,” which has a slight Garbage-meets-Ray Manzarek sound. The guitars are ripe with feel and the solo is perfectly suited to the song. Julie Berndsen’s voice is seducing, with or without the bullhorn effect.
The third track, “Straightrazor,” could be the next James Bond theme song. Krysztof Nemeth’s baritone guitar work on this track is catchy while maintaining a sultry feel.
Since it was the TLNC first song I heard, I’m partial to “The Tease.” The song represents the hit potential of this band. Its hypnotic nature is a consistent aspect throughout the record—it really does compel you to listen completely. The flow into “Red Bricks, White Ghosts” feels natural. “Thunderbolt” takes it up a notch, with a little nastier and dirtier sound. I appreciate how the album evolves that way.
I’m a fan of any production that uses sound effects and short titles on its albums, so “Interlude” into “Sleepless” is a perfect story to tell the listener. “Sleepless” ended up being my favorite song on the album. It has everything that you expect of TLNC’s sound. Gavin Mac’s bass line is catchy, the melody line is memorable, and Bernsden’s voice sounds amazing. “Tourniquets,” with its wild syncopation, was a fun track.
The album winds down with the cool marimba sounds and great arpeggio guitar of “The Big Sleep,” a nearly seven-minute song. It is followed by “Odessa,” another great song with nice effects and sonic landscape, which proved to be my second favorite track. Lastly, they lead us to the door of that swanky bar and bid us good night with the last cut, “Epilogue.” Overall, the production and song craftsmanship is blissful and intriguing.
Editor’s note: Songs For Stolen Moments was mixed and mastered by Duane Trower at Weights and Measures Soundlab in Kansas City. Video for “The Tease” was produced and directed by Anthony Ladesich. The version of the song for the video was on the band’s debut EP, most of which was re-recorded for this new LP.
Be sure to don your finest suit or gown and head to recordBar this Saturday, June 8, where The Latenight Callers are hosting a special release party for Songs For Stolen Moments. Thick and the Foolish and In Back Of A Black Car will also perform. Show starts at 10:00. Facebook event page.

--William Saunders 


William is a local record producer, singer/songwriter, and guitarist/singer for The Walltalkers. He is also the head monkey at Saunders Street Records and still likes movies with giant robots.

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Show recap: MidCoast Takeover Fundraiser #2 at Czar, 2.1.13

(All photos by Randy Pace)

The night was gently prodded into motion by the serene sounds of Eyelit. This more Civil-Wars-than-The-Civil-Wars duo skillfully bounced from tender folk ballad to ballad, much to the delight of the already large crowd. Backed by a group of varied instrumentalists, the songs were at their best when allowed to become luxuriant and a little more upbeat, while at the same time not detracting from the lovely simplicity of Dansare and Austin Mark’s constantly harmonized vocals.

Jorge Arana Trio took the stage next. Shaming damn near every musician in the building, they tore through a compact and lively set of jazzy math rock (amongst many, many other descriptors I could have used). The band’s sound was playful and neurotic, often shifting from genre to genre with no remorse. Possibly most impressive was the trio’s ability to fuse all of these influences and sounds into a set of songs that was cohesive and impactful.
Next up was David George and A Crooked Mile. Despite being added to the bill at near the last minute, DG&ACM was able to put together a solid show that thoroughly pleased the full bar. Fronted by the namesake himself (who also has this little side job of playing guitar for John Fogerty), the band brought a brisk set of good old folk-country tinged rock ‘n roll. George’s tender, yet commanding vocals were the perfect counterpart the instrumentation beneath, provided by a concrete band of KC veterans. From the stripped-down acoustic moments to the lush and thumping strains, this band proved to be in full control of their sound.
The Latenight Callers finished up the evening with their customary blend of noir pop. Truly a growing and unique force in the KC music scene, they kept the crowd grooving and drooling with a sexy sound all their own. Ms. Julie was on her game this evening (but then again, when is she ever not?), teasing the crowd with overtly sensual vocal stylings. However, the band was plenty able to keep pace with her entertainment value, delivering blow after blow of well-orchestrated build ups and break downs. Even technical difficulties couldn’t stop The Latenight Callers on this night (kudos to the ginger superhero who shall remain nameless for having an amp in his car).
Overall, this night showcased the vast versatility of our scene. Countless kudos to all the bands that played and the fine folks at Midwest Music Foundation/MidCoast Takeover for putting together something that we can all be super proud of.
(Video by Nate Heavilin)
Don’t miss the fourth fundraiser for MidCoast Takeover, this Saturday, February 16, at The Brick. The lineup will include Rev Gusto, Cherokee Rock Rifle, David Hasselhoff on Acid and Not A Planet. Facebook event page here.

--Zach Hodson


Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.


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