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: Sonic Spectrum Ramones Tribute, 10.28.12

Show review: Sonic Spectrum Ramones Tribute, 10.28.12

Four bands came together to pay tribute to legendary punk band, the Ramones, as a part of Sonic Spectrum’s tribute series at recordBar. For all intents and purposes, the Ramones saved rock n' roll. When they released their self-titled debut in 1976, the radio was jammed pack with long-winded keyboard solos, disco beats, and mini-operas. The Ramones went back to the original blueprint, designed by the early rock n' rollers and doo-wop groups of the ‘50s. Only the Ramones' songs were faster, louder, tougher, and weirder; punk was born. Their sound continues to influence countless bands to this day, four of which showed up that night.

If there was a secondary theme to the night, it was that covering these three-chord simplistic songs looks much easier than it actually is to pull off. Nearly each band recognized that on stage. The first band, UFT!, kicked off the show right with the shouts of "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" in "Blitzkrieg Bop,” quite possibly the most recognizable tune in the Ramones catalog. Bassist Steve Tulipana shared a funny story about meeting the artist behind the iconic Ramones logo, and his surprise on how getting prepared for the show had been. They played other Ramones classics such as "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Rock N' Roll High School.”

Next, Rockets to Russia took the stage (members of Bleachbloodz, The Uncouth!, Hobo Zero, Appropriate Grammar, The Bad Ideas). Consisting of the largest group of the night, the five-member band tore through songs about as fast as the Ramones would perform them live. Songs like "Glad to See You Go" and "Cretin Hop" were accompanied by boundless energy that seemed to run back and forth on both sides of the stage. Two songs in, vocalist Mitch Clark convincingly told the crowd he'd have to slow down for a song or two or else he was bound to have a heart attack on stage. Still, the band continued through their set this way.

Gene Kreamerz and the Pussycats (members of The Quivers, The Latenight Callers, Drew Black & Dirty Electric, Deco Auto) played their songs closer to how the Ramones sounded on the albums. It's not at the breakneck speed of their live performances, but still animated enough for a crowd to bounce around to. Highlights included "(Do You Remember) Rock N' Roll Radio?" and a personal favorite, "Danny Says,” the true ballad of the night (surprisingly, the Ramones were great at writing those, too).

True evidence of the Ramones influence in even today's world came when Radkey finished the night off. The band consists of three brothers, all of whom were born well after the Ramones had their heyday. The spirit, energy, and rock n' roll the Ramones championed during their career came through the band. Highlights included the seasonally appropriate "Pet Cemetery" and campy "Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” The band ended their set with the anti-political song "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg", a song most fans would consider to be a favorite. The night was a great tribute to the Ramones, and in turn, a great tribute to rock n' roll.

All photos by Todd Zimmer. Please do not use without permission.

--Travis Stull  

Travis is a technical writer who loves rock n' roll. Give him a hug sometime.

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