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Claire and the Crowded Stage

Album review: Claire and the Crowded Stage - Kamikaze

Sometimes a gimmick can trample upon the art. We have all seen it. Some band who may or may not be creating something special, only to let it take a firm back seat to a schtick. Perhaps it is an elaborate super shiny multimedia extravaganza. It might come in the form of a five-person, multi-tuned cowbell section and/or audio samples from Dr. Strangelove. These are the kinds of bands that leave the soundman sorely exclaiming, “How many mics and DIs do you need again?” before sulking off and muttering under his breath a filthy slew of words only known to the hardiest of sailors.
With a live set up that features up to double-digit members playing various strings, percussion and woodwinds, it would be easy for Claire and the Crowded Stage to suffer this pitfall. Thankfully, on the new album Kamikaze, the band shows masterful control of how to question the integrity of a stage’s weight limit in a way that is truly synergistic to a great whole.
The range of tones and sounds featured throughout make it almost unclassifiable, a truly wonderful sideshow of pop music. Kudos to the arranger (and sound engineer) for creating a roadmap and space for each part to shine in just the right way. The instrumentation is woven with a delicate and deft touch. At any given time, the listener can focus upon any of the various elements and clearly decipher what dish it brings to the dinner table. It is a symphony of rock music, like a progressive new high school band teacher fresh out of grad school choosing to close his first spring concert with a version of “Helter Skelter.”
At times, it is almost a rock music bait-and-switch. During the proggy break in “Songbird,” the usual scathing guitar takes a back seat in the rhythm section to let the clarinet champion the solo with splitting vigor. The single reed’s moment in the spotlight works especially well in tandem when it returns to its more traditional floaty place on the following “Night Owls,” whose side-to-side head bob groove sounds like the perfect sound track for a Tootsie Roll pop commercial. Extra points for the delightfully arbitrary reprise outro.
Other strong moments include the Avett Brothers-go-to-Disneyland sounds of “Tower of Babel” and the prohibition jazz speakeasy slice of noir in “Technicolor.” “I Saw it All” is perhaps the best use of the symphony style arrangement on the record, growing from simple ukulele to full orchestra pit and back again. “The Nightside of Day” finishes off the record as a delightful denouement with joyful-sounding, yet stormily-themed sock hop flair.
Fronting this well-oiled juggernaut is the powerfully voiced Claire Adams. Her affected vocal stylings pierce the ear in a beautiful misfit manner, ranging from a very airy and playful Regina Spektor to the soulful belt of Neko Case. Much like the success shown by the orchestra beneath her, she shows great discretion on when to play the sweet little skipping girl with cartoon hearts in her eyes and when to let fly the tortured, broken soul inside. The often-paired harmony vocals add a further power and intrigue in all the right spots.
As if it needed yet even another cylinder to fire upon, the lyrics are often nothing short of poetry. Lines such as:
Oh, I’m a boat of awkward, sinking in the shifting waters of our chemistry (from “Kamikaze”)
It's been a long grey time, rhymes in red, blue and yellow fighting to flash well, nobody's talking trash just pass the hat 'til someone steps up to bat sayin' I know something you don't know  (from “Technicolor”)
I watched the sun it rose, standing on my tiptoes to catch the moment when the day broke in halves as people live straining to love and give, it's just another tower of babel falling (from “Tower of Babel”)
… are just a few examples of the impactful wordsmithing flexed throughout.
All put together, it ends up being one damn fine record that should definitely be added to your collection. Having been fortunate enough to catch Claire and the Crowded Stage a few times in various haunts, the live show is equally as impressive. Make sure you check it out and get your own copy of Kamikaze.
--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,Drew Black & Dirty Electric, and Riot Riot Riot, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.
Claire and the Crowded Stage will be commandeering the recordBar stage this Saturday, July 26, to celebrate the release of Kamikaze. Ali Holder & Christy Hays and Bearing Torches will open the show at 10 pm. Facebook event page.

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Album review: Claire and the Crowded Stage - Technicolor (EP)

Technicolor opens with the quirky and cleverly written “Tower of Babel,” which sets an intriguing backdrop for the EP. And two things are immediately made clear about Claire and the Crowded Stage. First, the band’s handler, Claire Adams, does not need a crowded stage to capture an audience’s attention—her voice alone will do the job. And, second, nothing about this band is superficial. Its music is a unique combination of raw emotion and refined sound. The nine-piece, coupled with Adams’s knack for songwriting and compelling vocals, radiates with talent and versatility.  

Adams’ vocals haunt the heart-wrenching “Tower of Babel” [and “Tower of Babel (minimal mix)”] as she sings: “I never lost you / You were never mine.” The strong piano, clarinet, and accordion parts make the ballad memorable and unique. The album’s title track, “Technicolor,” is perhaps the most danceable track on the EP. It carries a rolling-‘20s-esque feel—breaking out into the jitterbug certainly wouldn’t be inappropriate. “Songbird” starts slow and instrumental with an exotic sound unlike any other on the EP. About halfway through the track, however, the tempo, chords and mood change completely and the song becomes very upbeat. It’s another example of the group’s ambidextrous abilities.

Claire and the Crowded Stage is full of enduring talent that will only get better with time. This isn’t just a group of musician friends who are aimlessly plucking away on guitars or noodling around on a piano. Their sound is purposeful and polished. They weren’t thrown together by accident; this crowd was brought about to give local music a good name.
Technicolor, the group’s second EP, was released January 5. Claire and her crowded stage comprises: Claire Adams (vocals, ukulele and guitar), Katelyn Boone (bass and keys), Pete Lawless (accordion and saxaphone), Meredith McGrade (electric guitar), Katy Guillen (electric guitar), Stephanie Williams (drums), Jerod Rivers (drums), Brent Jamison (keys) and Teri Quinn (clarinet and guitar). As is par for the course of being a musician in Kansas City, several of these band members can be found hopscotching from lineup to lineup and venue to venue across the city. 
You'll be able to listen to Claire and the Crowded Stage on 90.1 KKFI next Wednesday, March 27 at 11:15 a.m. Members will be performing live on Mark Manning's weekly show, Wednesday MidDay Medley. The group will next be crowding the Coda stage on Friday, March 29 with Rev Gusto. Facebook event page here.
Here's a video from the title track, "Technicolor":
--Alex Peak

Alex Peak is a magazine designer by day and a music listener by night. To her, stumbling across great new music is even better than finding a $10 bill floating around in the laundry.


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Show announcement: Sangha Studios Showcase at recordBar, 1.5.13

Tonight, local production company Sangha Studios will hold its own music showcase at recordBar. The show kicks off at 7 pm with a special dinner performance by Stacked!. At 9 pm, performances will begin from A Thousand Dreadful Things, followed by Run With It, and Claire and the Crowded Stage. All three bands will be releasing EPs at the show.

A Thousand Dreadful Things is a seven-piece band born out of the musical performance of Titus Andronicus last summer at The Living Room. Composer Eryn Bates and the band sets Shakespearean language to lush, theatrical tunes. The group will release its debut self-titled EP at the show.

Run With It is also releasing a debut self-titled EP. This energetic party rock four-piece has a groovy, crisp blues sound while incorporating R&B and soul into its repertoire. 

Claire Adams and eight multi-talented musicians make up the collective Claire and the Crowded Stage. Adam's smooth voice weaves in and out of a unique brand of quirky, intricate music. The group will be releasing its second EP, Technicolor

The show will be hosted by The Deli KC's editor Michelle Bacon. Sangha Studios is committed to help showcase local bands through reasonably-priced recording options, as well as music lessons and for-rent rehearsal spaces. The Deli KC and Midwest Music Foundation strive to help musicians further their craft through several different methods, and we're happy to work with other local groups—like Sangha—with these same goals in mind.

Tickets are $7 at the door or can be purchased at the link here.

On The Beat with Stephanie Williams

This week, we sit down with Stephanie Williams, who plays in nearly every band in Kansas City, it seems. She plays with The Prolific, The Clementines, The Cave Girls, Claire and the Crowded Stage, Adam Evolving, and by the time of this posting, there's no telling who else. Catch the beat right here!

On The Beat is a weekly interview brought to you by drummer Sergio Moreno (of Hillary Watts Riot and Alacartoona), and features some of the many talented drummers in the Kansas City area.



On The Beat with Stephanie Williams


This summer… A coming of age story…One woman will give everything she has…To play the instrument she loves… A journey of passion and skill…A hero like no other…Coming to a music venue near you. Well, anyway, that was the kind of script I had imagined for a movie about this week’s featured drummer, she’s the kind of epic character that makes you think in cinematic terms. But when asked what the narrator’s deep, dramatic voice would say, she replied, “I’m guessing it would be something like, Stephanie Williams starring in Pretty Good, For A Chick.” She’s funny like that, and humble. Perhaps too humble. This week we chat with one of Kansas City’s most talented (and nicest) drummers.

The Deli: How did you get to be such a fantastic drummer?

Stephanie Williams: Thanks for the kind words! I started when I was 12, and I guess I play the way I do because of my passion for the instrument. I would spend every minute of the day drumming if I could. I've had some excellent teachers (Dave Jarman, Kent Rausch, Mike Sekelsky), but most of my playing is a result of marching bands and jazz ensembles, as well as all of the great local and touring drummers that I’ve played with. I take something from every player I hear, and I think this helps my sound reflect a lot of different styles and techniques.

The Deli: How do you approach drumming?

SW: When someone comes to me with a riff or a song, my first step is to come up with a feel that makes it groove. Later, I’ll add in fills and expand on the original idea. I have to be interested in what I’m playing, and my main goal is to create parts in a way that would allow any given performance to be recorded and released to the public. I’m all about structure and consistency, but I also like to keep things fun.

The Deli: What's going on in your head when you're playing?

SW: When I’m drumming, there's nothing else in the world I'd rather be doing. It’s hard to explain what’s happening in my head because it seems like I go somewhere else. I listen to the music, and my arms and legs pretty much take over. I’m not typically a counter. I read music and understand the theory behind rhythm and time, but my playing comes entirely from what the music makes me feel. Sometimes I’ll “wake up” and realize that I’m on stage. I guess drumming is my happy place.

The Deli: Okay, but you're also a great bassist. What's that like?

SW: I love the bass. Always have. As a bassist, I still get to work with rhythms and grooves, yet it gives me a chance to try something new and more challenging. I've found that performing on bass offers a bit of nervousness (the good kind) that I don’t experience while drumming. Joining The Cave Girls just sort of happened after a drum jam one day, and it’s one of the most exciting groups I’ve been a part of. I am a drummer though, and there is something about hitting things with sticks and driving a band that is irreplaceable.

The Deli: What are your bands and projects right now?

SW: I’m playing with The Prolific, The Cave Girls, The Clementines, Claire & the Crowded Stage, and Adam Evolving. I also play every night at Worlds of Fun, and I record and perform with a number of other artists on the side. I’m just fortunate to know a lot of talented people.

The Deli: Holy cannoli! You must really love the KC music scene. 

SW: The music crowd here feels like a big family, and everyone is very supportive of each other. I’ve made so many friends within the community, and the coolest part is that all of them are insanely talented.

The Deli:

 Does that leave you time for anything else?

SW: I spend my time away from music teaching special needs students and working toward a master’s degree in counseling. Most of my free time is spent going to friends’ shows, being with family, trying new wines, and wasting time on Netflix. Also, I have a ton of fun with special effects makeup, and I’ve spent the past 2 years creating the monsters at Worlds of Fun Halloween Haunt.

Catch Stephanie’s blockbuster skills in action Thursdays through Tuesdays at Worlds of Fun through the end of July and see her perform with The Cave Girls at Angels Rock Bar, July 25.

 -Sergio Moreno

Sergio is a drummer drone for The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set buffoon with Alacartoona. He wishes he could get paid to practice meditation, do yoga, and drink white tea all day long. But in the meantime he earns his keep making greeting cards in Spanish.


Stephanie Williams












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