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September 2014
Katy Guillen & the Girls
"Katy Guillen & the Girls
"
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Normally when I discover a band for the first time, I listen to their album first, then go see them live. In the case of Katy Guillen & The Girls’ new release, the situation's been reversed. I saw them live a couple of times before the album was released, so I was interested to hear if the record was going to capture the ferocity of their live performances. I have to confess that my hearing is not in the best of shape, and, due to a poor sound mix at what shall be an unnamed Lawrence venue, I never got to hear the words or even the melodies properly live at the most recent concert I attended. But upon hearing the self-titled LP, it’s nice to hear that Guillen can write literate lyrics to these songs I've heard played out.
 
The album opener, "Don't Get Bitter," hearkens back to the sound and feel of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Claire Adams' bass introducing the song. It's short, catchy, and lasts exactly as long as it should. If there were a single release off this album, this would be it.
 
This record is no-frills. It's the band pretty much as you hear them live, with the mix capturing a live in-studio sound. What strikes me listening to this record is that Katy and the Girls are not strictly a blues band. There's certainly an infusion of the blues in what they do, but, to my ears, they hearken back to some of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hard rock bands like Mountain and Free, but with better lyrics and songs. I also hear some White Stripes in there somewhere. The melodies and harmonies are accentuated and they help blend with the powerful playing.
 
Katy Guillen, Claire Adams, and Stephanie Williams fill up a lot of space in these songs. It's obvious they are all very well in sync and have that great intuitive blend that comes from playing lots of live gigs together. I also like the changes in some of the songs, which go in directions you don't expect, like "Woke Up In Spain," which switches tempo adroitly.
 
The absolute masterpiece of this album is the last song, “Earth Angel.” It's the longest tune on the album, but it doesn't feel long. It starts out with Guillen’s dirty-sounding guitar intro, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and builds in intensity as it moves along. Guillen takes one hell of a solo during this song. It's obvious from hearing this record that she is an excellent guitarist but never overplays during the songs. But when the song calls for a lengthy solo, like "Earth Angel," sparks fly. The rest of the band is equally as adept. Adams’ bass lines are nimble and fit right in place with Williams’ active drum work. It's a pleasure to hear a band that obviously loves to play together rolling through these songs. The album’s producer (Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab) captures the clarity of the music as well as the power of a live performance.
 

--Barry Lee

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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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