Artist of the Month

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November 2015
The Old No. 5s
The Old No. 5s’ second album, Steam, is first and foremost a blues record. But it shouldn't be pigeonholed. A self-proclaimed rock/roots trio, members Brock Alexander (guitar/lead vocals), Derek Tucker (bass/vocals), and Aaron Thomas (percussion/vocals) prove they can play the blues with the best of them, but also have the chops to bust out some serious soul, bring the funk, or simply construct a nice power pop song.
The majority of the 11 tracks are fairly straightforward blues rockers, beginning with the album's first song, “Going Nowhere.” A perfect appetizer, it gives listeners a taste of what can be heard throughout the album: solid vocals, nimble guitar, and one of the best rhythm sections you'll find on a local or national release this year. There is an undeniable Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this and several of the other true blues tunes, including “Starting to Show,” “Easy,” and the harder rocking “Hill Country.” While few guitarists can match his licks, Alexander certainly dials in Vaughan's tone, and has plenty of salty riffs himself.
Alexander's vocal style varies. On “Easy” he is confident and powerful, channeling a cocky Jimi Hendrix. He shows off a deep soul sound during “Keep Lovin' Me Baby.” On “Little Man,” a jazzier number, he is a bit more transparent and vulnerable, much like a young John Mayer. While he is very capable at each, I couldn't help wondering which one is Alexander’s real voice.
The standout track on Steam has to be “Barn Party.” A tightly wound ball of energy, it combines ferocious slide guitar (sounding very similar in this case to a pedal steel), brilliant bass, and a shuffling beat to create foot-stomping fun. Reminiscent of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, it starts uptempo and only gets faster, ending at a blistering pace. Be sure to have your air instruments handy for this one.
The Old No. 5s display a more unique style on the album's final track, “Just the Way I Am.” While remaining true to the band's bluesy vibe, the song has a catchy pop sensibility—with an impressive jam in the middle—and should appeal to a wide audience. The trio seems to find their own identity here, something I hope to hear more of on future recordings. 
Steam is filled with truly fantastic music that taps into several genres. The songwriting and execution is top-notch. The expertise and use of each instrument, tempo changes, and drawn-out solos make it one of the most enjoyable local albums I've heard in some time. As the band continues to mature and distinguish itself, The Old No. 5s should become a force to be reckoned with—both locally and beyond.

--Brad Scott 

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Show review: Drop A Grand/The Quivers/Radkey/Soft Reeds at recordBar, 6.30.12

Show review: Drop A Grand/The Quivers/Radkey/Soft Reeds at recordBar, 6.30.12

(Pictured above: Isaiah Radke of Radkey)

recordBar was home to a diverse showcase of local musicians on Saturday night, handpicked by Sonic Spectrum host Robert Moore. Drop A Grand, The Quivers, Radkey, and Soft Reeds played to an interested and expectant crowd.

The night started out with Drop a Grand.  This was my first experience of them, and indeed an experience they are. Electronically playful costumed noise punk like AC/DC, the Sex Pistols, and Elton John getting lost in the keyboard room at Guitar Center. The songs were short, loud, and brash, often sounding like the musical version of a stoned teenager fumbling at the top button of his high school sweetheart’s skinny jeans.  The wolf playing bass (Steven Tulipana) brought the technological side, often howling into the microphone through various processed effects. Overall, fun and interesting.

Kansas City's Motown napalm darlings, The Quivers followed Drop A Grand. A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n’ roll, a little bit Carrie Fisher with a flamethrower, their groovy tunes really got Ricardo dancing. Their set was quick, no nonsense, and a hell of a lot of fun. The well-dressed band jumped from song to song, never letting the sweaty crowd get too much of a break from the groovy vintage tunes. The set really picked up steam in the second half when vocalist Terra Peal let her voice play in the sandbox a little. Her vocals carry a combination of pure power and snarl that contrasts wonderfully with the organ and guitars beneath.

Next up were the young men from St Joseph, Radkey. Sporting clean cheeks, dreadlocks, and one fantastically groomed Billy Dee Williams moustache, they brought a simplistic and raw energy to the night.  Their straightforward rock n roll borders on radio metal at times and is the perfect music to nervously bite your fingernails to. It comes across as a young man’s Van Halen/Misfits mash up, minus the chainsaw guitar solos and the really, really short bodybuilder singer obviously compensating for something. They were tight, strong, and kept the crowd (who mostly seemed to be there for them) cheering for more.

Finishing out the evening were the hipster prophets themselves, Soft Reeds. Easily the most seasoned and talkative group of the night, Soft Reeds brought the show home with their energetic blend of dance rock. Despite their best effort to emulate The Killers or Franz Ferdinand, the Soft Reeds pop more when they allow themselves wade into the Talking Heads side of the pool. That said, they showed a true mastery over the cliffhanger art of dynamically building songs up to almost the brink of bursting only to stop them suddenly. It is certainly good music to not think too hard about and just sway side to side.

--Zach Hodson

Zach is a lifetime Kansas City resident who plays multiple instruments and sings in Dolls on Fire, as well as contributing to many other Kansas City music, art, and comedy projects.  He is very fond of edamame, treats his cat Wiley better than he treats himself, and doesn't want to see pictures of your newborn child (seriously, it looks like a potato).

Photos © Todd Zimmer, 2012. Please do not use without permission.


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