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Victor & Penny

Album review: Victor & Penny - Side By Side

(Photo by Todd Zimmer, at opening of Prairie Logic)

This week we’ll be featuring some of the artists playing at Murder Ballad Ball, this Saturday, December 8, at Davey’s Uptown. This will be the fourth annual Murder Ballad Ball, and benefits Midwest Music Foundation.

While mild thus far, winter is coming to Kansas City. But ‘lo, just in time for the holidays, the city’s favorite Antique Pop duo, Victor & Penny, dumps a treasure trove of cheery music along with deft guitar and lovely ukulele playing to warm cold and possibly bitter hearts.

Victor & Penny are back with more poppy pleasures and meandering melodies. Chalk full of twee goodness and charming renditions of old standards and a pleasing original, Side By Side: Songs for Kids of All Ages, is the second album for the merry twosome, which is made up of Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane.

Side By Side is truly a team effort comprised of not only the dynamic duo and other area musicians—including Kyle Dahlquist, Larry Garrett, Christian Hankel, James Isaac, Nate Hofer, Rick Willoughby—but also the band’s fans.  About 130 backers contributed to Victor & Penny’s Kickstarter campaign this fall to help push the album through the final stages of production.

I recommend putting on this album if you’re feeling blue. It is clear Freling and McGrane enjoy what they are doing and the feeling is contagious. The pair leads you through a pleasant journey kicking the tour off with simple and sprightly rendition of “A Smile Will Go a Long, Long Way.” I’ve heard various versions of this song, but I am supremely attracted to how Freling and McGrane arrange and perform it because of the uncomplicatedness.  

The second track, “Stomp, Stomp,” is certain to get people dancing, or at least chair dancing. It’s a little more of a laid-back cover in comparison to the original, but toe tapping all the same. Though his backing is great throughout the entire album, the use of Rick Willoughby on upright bass is especially helpful in this song.

“Slow Poke,” the third track, takes a trip on a winding road in the country. The blend of the old guitar and ukulele is especially nice on this track.

A cover of the Star Wars’ “Cantina Band” song shakes off the slowness. The reimagining of the song is very well done. I can’t help but think of the Star Wars scene set in the 1920s in a speakeasy during Prohibition. With contributions of Nate Hofer on lap steel guitar and James Isaac playing clarinet, this song is brilliant.

“Pork and Beans” is pretty much a song any kid should adore. The hook and chorus comes alive with the use of the Victor & Penny Pork and Beans Men’s Chorus, which is made up of Dahlquist, Hankel, Willoughby and Freling.

McGrane and Freling contribute an original song to the mix with “The Cat, She Played Piano.” The track has a slightly darker tone and sound to it in comparison to the other songs on the album, but delightfully dreary.  

The LP finishes off with a few more standards including “The Sheik of Araby” and “Up a Lazy River.” To sum up the journey, Freling and McGrane play the album’s title track “Side By Side.”

Victor & Penny met the goal of making an album people of all ages can appreciate.  In short, Side By Side is a great mix of songs that an entire family can enjoy. This album should be a go-to when you need a break from the all-holiday-music-all-the-time radio stations, which can make you wish you got that Red Ryder BB Gun so you could shoot your own eye out. It’s a family friendly and enchanting album!

Victor & Penny will be performing at 9:00 pm on Saturday at Murder Ballad Ball. The event kicks off at 7:00 pm at Davey’s. There will be stages on the bar side and on the venue side; the band will be performing on the bar side. Facebook event here.



--Alicia Houston



Alicia Houston eats toast, drinks coffee and drives a car. Her view on the Oxford comma continually is up for debate. When she’s had a few beers, Alicia impersonates Katherine Hepburn. She has been writing since she was five and listening to music since she was born. She has a tattoo of a gray unicorn. The unicorn gives her advice and daily affirmations.

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Show review: Crossroads Music Festival, 9.8.12

(Photo of Rural Grit All-Stars at The Brick, taken by Michelle Bacon)

By the time I had made it to the Crossroads Music Festival, entertainment was in full swing. I had opted to take the "knowledge" approach to the fest, seeking out only bands that I had yet to experience. Thankfully, the lineup was packed with fresh names, mostly due to my overwhelming tendency to not leave my house.

Due to a pants/dryer fiasco that had plagued me for the better portion of the evening the first set I was able to catch was The Hillary Watts Riot at the Midwestern Musical Company stage. The first thing I noticed while walking in was the room. With guitars at every angle and pop art and vintage toys lining the walls, the space is easily in the running for Kansas City’s best hidden gem. Shove the extremely energetic Hillary Watts Riot in the room and you’ve got a winning combo. Though the band will fuck with your mind like a drunken kitten, the Devo meets B-52 mashup is the type of music you have to stop, think over, digest, process, then accept. However, unique is the fact that while deep and complex it remains fun and approachable on the surface. With a pinup doll look and sunglasses-at-night image, the pedal-heavy band kicks in your teeth with plenty of reverb and a chaotic sound. With glimpses of punk reflecting off the glitters of glam, the band’s sound bounces all over the place. 1990s sound bites bleed through the 1980s influences. Mixed with their witty banter, this band is entertainment at its best. Show up to catch them if not only to catch their drummer (Sergio Moreno) rock his flashlight hands mid-set.

From there, I wandered downtown towards The Brick to catch Victor & Penny. I had wanted to catch their antique pop set for a while, but could never manage to get their schedule to align with mine. In addition, their tour schedule has been nothing to scoff at. Neither is their live act. Victor (Jeff Freling), who runs his vocals through a vintage throwback radio, is a treat to watch. His guitar chops are stout and his rockabilly licks are well-rehearsed and down pat. Paired with the beautiful Penny (Erin McGrane), who rocks a tiny uke and a sunshine smile, the group is unstoppable and refreshing. Her act has a bit of snarl to it, growling when you least expect it. She is also in full control of her facial expressions, turning them on at all the appropriate moments. She is the perfect front lady and in full control of her craft. She knows her charms and makes certain that her audience is enlightened of them as well, as she swims through her 100-year-old material. Of all the sets of the night, this one was the hardest to leave early.

Begrudgingly, I meandered toward the Czar Bar to catch John Velgne & The Prodigal Sons. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get a fair judgment of their sound due to an overwhelmingly extreme use of soundboard. Turned up to 11, the band’s layers and depth were missing, buried somewhere in a clutter of echo and earplugs. You could, however, gather the way the horns filled the room. Making note of their E Street ways, I gave my ears a break and headed back toward Midwestern Musical Company’s setup for Dim Peepers.

Sporting a suitcase bass drum, kazoos, a homemade washtub bass and tiny horns, Dim Peepers won my heart and the award for the fest’s most unique band. With a fantastic do-it-yourself sound, the band owned the room, the crowd, and in my humble opinion, the fest. Requesting that I not be afraid to get drunk and make a fool of myself, I lived wildly. I didn’t take notes and instead danced a little. Just a touch. Not enough to be noticed or lose my reclusive wallflower status, but enough to feel silly. Good times.

From there, I lurked at the Midwest Music Foundation tent, listening to Hearts of Darkness and watching cougars shimmy across the parking lot. Even from my lawn chair, I found the set enjoyable. The female vocals belted across the city skyline as people danced (poorly and drunkenly) in the wood chips. After a nice break, I bolted for Appropriate Grammar down the street.

Shifty eyed and crooked smiled, the band brought its best chops and left their R-rated jokes at home (due to parents in the room). With great guitar riffs and power-pop hooks slamming into the occasional alt-country structure, the band is somewhat unique to Kansas City. Think Rhett Miller without the band bleeding all over the stage emotionally. The charming female "ohs" blended well with the male vocals and seemed to fit flawlessly over the band’s epic drum usage. Sadly, battling Hearts of Darkness, the band played one of the fest’s most promising sets to an almost empty room. Take note of that and catch them when you can.

Starhaven Rounders would serve as my next adventure of the evening. I mean, can you think of a better follow up to power-pop than a country cover band? Nope. I didn’t think so.

There is a bit of irony to my catching this set. As I sat in The Brick in a purple emo hoodie, rocking a fairly impressive-sized jewfro, one would never assume me the type to catch the latest gossip at the honky-tonks of Nash Vegas. But honestly, is there anything better than a good, solid country band? With slide guitar, violin (called a fiddle in this case) and sad bastard lyrics. The interactions of a good country band are without question better than anything that any other genre can offer. There is nothing more real in music. Hearing our local member crank out Don Williams, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash makes me both proud and disappointed in Kansas City. This sound is something we could use more of (says the emo kid). We can debate this if you want, but before we do, I challenge you to catch this band and tell me that they don’t possess some of the finest instrumentation in the 816.

If you can debate convincingly, I’ll buy you a beer. I’ll be the one wearing the cat shirt.

The Hillary Watts Riot at Midwestern Musical Company (Photo by Michelle Bacon)

Bill Sundahl, Crossroads Music Fest organizer (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

Kasey Rausch, Mikal Shapiro, and Shane Ogren at Czar (Photo by Michelle Bacon)

Thom Hoskins at Midwestern Musical Company (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

The Supernauts at Crossroads KC at Grinder's (Photo by Todd Zimmer)

--Joshua Hammond

After stints drumming for both The Afternoons and Jenny Carr and the Waiting List in the Lawrence/Kansas City music scene, Joshua Hammond found his footing as a music journalist, launching the national publication Popwreckoning. After running the show as Editor in Chief for 6 years, Hammond stepped away from the reigns to freelance for other publications like Under The Gun Review and High Voltage Magazine. This shift allowed the adequate amount of time for him to write passionately, allow the Kansas City Royals to break his heart on a daily basis and spoon his cats just enough that they don't shred his vinyl. 

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Photos: Plaza Art Fair, 9.21 and 9.22.12

(Above photo: Diverse)

Last weekend, hundreds gathered at the Plaza Art Fair for art, food, music, and fun. The Ink stage hosted some of Kansas City's most popular bands. See our photos below, from Todd and his budding photographer son, Ian Zimmer.

Cadillac Flambe

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

The Grisly Hand

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

Sons of Great Dane

Photo by Ian Zimmer:

Victor & Penny


Not A Planet

Beautiful Bodies

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

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Artists on Trial: Victor & Penny

Victor & Penny is the charming, self-proclaimed "Antique Pop" duo of Erin McGrane and Jeff Freling. The two have spent their summer touring the country extensively, and look forward to recording another album this fall. Their unique brand of ukelele and guitar music brings a modern flair to early 20th century songs and a clever, intimate approach to original songs.

The Deli: Gun to your head, 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?

Victor & Penny: Antique Pop is the popular music from the time when jazz was young, sassy and all the ragethe Top 40 before there was Top 40.

The Deli: Tell us about your latest release or upcoming shows. What can we expect?

V&P: We just returned from an extended summer tour that went really well. We've played over 100 shows so far this year (most of them on the road), traveled 30,000 miles and we're still going strong. We've been touring on and off since last summer and we've learned a lot about the road and ourselvesit's been a fantastic experience. But now, we're home in KC for most of the fall and winter and we're glad to be back in the thick of all the great happenings here. The news is that we're going to record our next album in October here in KC and we're writing songs that will appear on the album alongside more antique pop. The album will appeal to kids of all ages.

The Deli: What does "supporting local music" mean to you?

V&P: First and foremost: going out and seeing live music performance. There's nothing else like the thrilling give-and-take between performer and audience. Secondly, please purchase local music when it's for sale. Many independent artists (especially those on the road) live on the income from merchandise sales. People might not know that the bar doesn't always pay the bands, nor do bands always get the door money. These days, often it's the audience buying merch and tipping the band that is the payment for live music. I'm not saying that's the best system, but it's often the way it is.

The Deli: Who are your favorite "local" musicians right now?

V&P: KC is exploding with talented artists of all kinds right nowit's hard to choose. But we've been very impressed with the dedication and character of some of the young stars like Enrique Chi (Making Movies) and Hermon Mehari (Diverse).

The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?

V&P: We love to listen to other independent artists we've met on the road like Tina & Her Pony, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Brian DeMarco and Lucas Young & The Wilderness. Besides that, the new Fiona Apple album is really interesting.

The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy bill to play on?

V&P: It's a triple bill: Us, Radiohead and Duke Ellington.

The Deli: Would you rather spend the rest of your life on stage or in the recording studio?

V&P: We'd split that 50/50Erin enjoys the stage most and Jeff enjoys the recording studio.

The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?

V&P: Erin: Aretha Franklin, Julie Andrews, Ella Fitzgerald and Joy Williams. Why: These are women singers I admire (all for different reasons).

Jeff: Django Reinhardt, Johnny Marr, Les Paul, Marc Ribot. Why: These guitarists influenced me the most

The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?

V&P: http://victorandpenny.com

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

V&P: We're glad to be backwe've missed everyone!  Come out, come out and play...

You can hear the delightful sounds of Victor & Penny this Saturday, September 15. They'll be at La Esquina for the Manifest Destiny Art Installation at 2:00 pm, then at Davey's Uptown with Howard Iceberg & The Titanics and Miss Tess and the Talkbacks at 9:00 pm.  

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She is lactose intolerant but really enjoys cheese.

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Show review: Victor & Penny at Nica's 320, 6.16.12

One of the most underappreciated items on the list of why Kansas City music is so outstanding is its diversity of genres. Kansas City duo Victor & Penny is among those unique bands with their antique pop sound, which includes ukulele, guitar, and old-timey microphones.

Although Victor & Penny are on a lengthy tour all over the country, we were lucky to have them back in Kansas City at Nica's 320 after a drive-in from a Chicago show. The duo of Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane shared their songs to a full audience, including the 101-year-old “Some Of These Days."

Although Victor & Penny are regular staples in this reviewer's music collection, there’s nothing like a live show with these guys. After the lovely Danielle Ate The Sandwich made her hilarious mark on the stage, Victor & Penny appeared with the talented Rick Willoughby on bass to melt the ice cubes in the drinks of all audience members. McGrane's quick wit and amazing antique pop fashion rounded out the duo’s humble command of the stage. And as a special treat for the Nica’s crowd, local musician Barclay Martin stood in on the trumpet sound – sans trumpet – and wowed us for a song.

Victor & Penny are on tour, currently heading through Arizona and will hit the rest of the east coast before returning to Kansas City. The duo's next performance in KC is at Harry’s Country Club on Saturday, July 28 with Phantoms of the Opry

Here's a video they made called "Way Back Home":

--Hillary Watts

Hillary wears a pocket protector during the day as a computer geek and a corset at night as Queen Bee of the freak pop band The Hillary Watts Riot.



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