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Artist of the Month
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December 2015
Mikal Shapiro
"The Musical
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Singer-songwriter Mikal Shapiro’s perfectly titled latest release, The Musical, is a collection of not merely songs, but 10 short stories set to wonderful music. The album is a work—or multiple works—of art that are just as mysterious and intriguing as any paintings you will find in a gallery. Shapiro’s palette is splattered with the complete spectrum of colors. There are dreary gray tones and bright whimsical flashes, melding together to create a soundtrack to life—one that touches many musical genres, including rock, folk, jazz, old-school country, and even gospel.
 
The Musical's opening act, “Nope,” is an airy, ethereal fantasy. Odd, evasive lyrics over a folk sound made jazzier by a muted trumpet give the listener a sense of drifting in and out of a dream on a rainy Sunday morning. Drums and crashing cymbals briefly end the slumber, until you are lulled back to sleep as the song comes to a close. Several tracks share this jazz feel, including “Out on the Town,” “Two String Blues,” and the wonderfully whimsical "Hot Cool." Shapiro's vocals are poised and effortless on each of these. 
 
“Here and Now” explores rediscovering love and a desire to forget (or never remember) the past. A dull snare beat blanketed by beautiful steel guitar rivals the purest of cry-in-your-beer country songs. Similarly, “This Way to Heaven” is country with an emphasis on gospel. It begins a cappella and, as the band joins in, becomes the loveliest song on the album. It is simultaneously serene and haunting.
 
Matching the mystery and irony found throughout the album, “Daniel,” the catchiest and most up-tempo tune, is also possibly the saddest. Daniel himself is an enigma. The storyteller, who acknowledges being a “friend” of Daniel’s, clearly knows little more about him than that he can “sleep like a Christian” and “drink like a demon.” The song turns dark when the protagonist is found dead, presumably by suicide. “But on that Saturday, Daniel was down / They couldn’t say where he was found, or how he was found.” Brilliantly, the listener is left to decide how Daniel may have met his demise, and why.  
 
Shapiro is fortunate to be backed by Chad Brothers (guitar and vocals), Johnny Hamil (electric and double bass), and Matt Richey (drums), along with a small army of additional local musicians. This adept team provides a canvas that Shapiro expertly fills. My interpretations of The Musical may differ from other listeners. As with any painting, the artist is not only revealing her emotions, but is also attempting to provoke a response—and Shapiro certainly does. My response may be lost in translation, as the peculiar, personal songs will pierce each listener differently.

--Brad Scott  

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Artists on Trial: Red Velvet Crush

Artists on Trial: Red Velvet Crush

 
If you seek hooky, strong rock anthems, look no further than KC’s own Red Velvet Crush. Fronted by veteran vocalist Jillian Riscoe, the young band has already received recognition around town (Riscoe won female vocalist of the year and the group won best acoustic performance of the year in the 2013 Project Backstage Midwest Rock Awards). Now, the five-piece group is getting ready to debut its EP Smoke & Mirrors. We talk with Riscoe and guitarist Daniel Mendala about the album and what they have coming down the line.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?

Red Velvet Crush: Pop/rock with hints of punk, dance, electronic and hard rock mixed with what we do.
 
The Deli: Tell us about your upcoming EP Smoke & Mirrors. What can we expect?
 
RVC: Chapters of what we've been writing over the last year while putting the band together. We (Riscoe and Mendala) wrote and recorded the whole EP at yellowDOGstudios in Austin, TX with producer Dave Percefull and studio drummer Josh Center. Smoke and Mirrors is the just the first of what's to come.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?

RVC: Creating genuine support and networks of music loving people. Going out to shows and supporting bands that are working to get to the next level.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?

RVC: Nick Marshall and the Evalyn Awake crew, Beautiful Bodies, Rocker Lips, Jonathan Theobald, just to name a few.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
 
RVC: Jillian: In This Moment, Deftones, Lana del Rey.
Daniel: Eskimo Callboy, Young Guns, Our Lady Peace.
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?

RVC: Jillian: Christina Aguilera.
Daniel: Our Lady Peace.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
RVC: Jillian: Christina Aguilera, Axl Rose, Steven Tyler, Katy Perry.
Daniel: Axl Rose, Raine Maida, Duff McKagan and Lisa Loeb.

The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?
 
 
The Deli: What other goals does Red Velvet Crush have for this year?
 
RVC: To promote Smoke and Mirrors, finish building our stage show, tour in the fall, and step back in the studio at the end of the year. Plus, Daniel and I are doing a lot of writing for Red Velvet Crush and for other artists.

The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?

RVC: Dreams to realities.
 
Red Velvet Crush is:
Jillian Riscoe – vocals, guitar, keys
Daniel Mendala – guitar
Kelsey Cook – drums/percussion
Josh Colburn – keys, synth, guitar
Bill Wald – bass
 
 
Make sure you hit up the release of Smoke & Mirrors this Saturday, June 15, at Czar. Doors at 5:30, show at 6:00. Red Velvet Crush will be playing with I Am Nation, Fight The Quiet (Nashville), The Amends (Colorado), and Root & Stem. Presale tickets are $5 for general admission and $10 at the door. You can also order a $15 presale ticket, which comes with a limited edition autographed copy of the new EP and a vinyl sticker. Order tickets here. Facebook event page.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
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