Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pitch Music Awards 2008--Live at the Uptown Theatre


“Is there a Reach here? Is there a Reach … around?”
A firm clasp of brotherly love was given to the Kansas City and Lawrence music scenes this past Sunday night at the 2008 Pitch Music Awards. Hosted by the charming, ambidextrous David Wayne Reed — mastermind behind the above quotation — DJ’d by Bobby Keys, and attended by some 700 musicians and their friends and family, the event was an overall joyous, positive and acceptably rambunctious experience, not at all like last year’s hilariously perverse debauch.
For many, the lingering image of last year’s fĂȘte was Ryan Mattes of the Last of the V8s bloodied from a self-inflicted bottle wound, with a belt around his neck and his dick hanging out. This year, the audience may remember instead the sight of Kim Anderson — who has become a stone-cold fox all of a sudden — lashing her strawberry-blond hair in the limelight at the Uptown Theater as her band, Flee the Seen, closed the show with a gut-punching performance.
I’ll reveal more memories of the night as they trickle through the haze of my near-devastating hangover. In the meantime, here’s a partly annotated list of the winners.
Avant/Experimental: Bacon Shoe (Overheard later at the bar: “Hey, there’s the guy from Bacon Foot.”); Blues/Soul: Ida McBeth; Country/Bluegrass: The Last Call Girls; DJ: Dance: Nomathmatics; DJ: Hip-Hop: DJ Sku (“DJ Fresh, this goes out to you.”); Folk/Americana: Pendergast; Hip-Hop: Reach (Was not around.); Indie Rock/Pop: The Republic Tigers (“We’re going to tour the UK with Travis!”); Jazz: Snuff Jazz; Live Act: It’s Over; Metal: Hundred Years War (“If we won this, the rest of the bands in the metal category must be pussies.”); New Act: Expassionates (By the way, these guys have been around for like 10 years. But they, um, revamped themselves this past year.); Pop: Dead Girls Ruin Everything (These boys tore the dance floor up at the afterparty); Punk: We’re Fucked; Rock: Roman Numerals; All-Star Award: Tech N9ne (Travis O’Guin: “If Tech weren’t on tour, he’d be right here at this podium”).
In addition to Flee the Seen, Josephine Collective, Pendergast and CES Cru all slayed their short sets. I got held up in conversation during most of Pendergast’s set, but a friend reported that “It was like Neil Young at the MTV awards” and added that the men of Heet Mob, sitting at a nearby table, enjoyed it.
Mr. Reed’s performance as host was wickedly delightful and included an opening monologue in which he rhetorically led out the Power & Light district and the smoking ban like lambs to be slaughtered by boos from the crowd.
He roasted last year’s host, “that little moose knuckle Brodie Rush,” then awarded Rush with a brick for his portrayal of Pink in the Urban Culture Project’s Reed-directed rendition of The Wall. Rush appeared and reciprocated by giving Reed the red-and-gold briefs he wore onstage last year as the self-proclaimed king of Kansas City. (I was afraid of what might become of these objects, but as of this writing, no reports have come in of any brick- or underwear-related violence.) There were dirty punks, disheveled emo kids, badly behaved wannabe rock stars, hip-hop heroes and a finely dressed contingent of classy-looking older gentlemen from bands such as the Pedaljets, Mr. Marco’s V7, Federation of Horsepower and In the Pines. Indeed, our local culture was represented royally.
And with that, we put to bed our most rockin’ awards season in the 12 years The Pitch has been saluting local musicians with this increasingly massive undertaking.
And to all Kansas City music makers, we wish you fame, groupies and millions in record sales. But in the meantime, you can crash on our couch.
-- Jason Harper


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Storied Tux


"The thing about a tuxedo is that it is virile and feminine at the same time."


-Catherine Deneuve




For my brother’s first wedding, my Dad rented his first tuxedo. Not one to waste a single opportunity, Dad hired a professional photographer the very next day to come to the farm and photograph him doing daily farm chores--in formalwear. One photo shows Dad bow-tied atop the tractor replete with mud boots. Another shows him, tuxedoed, tossing grain to surrounding cattle. From the church to the feedlot, Dad certainly maximized his rental.


Recently, he asked me where he could get a tuxedo? “What for” I asked.


“Well, see, me and Joe (his septuagenarian ski buddy) want to get some pictures skiing down moguls and playing around in the half-pipe in our tuxes. That’d be real ‘cool’, huh?” he says.


For men in their 70’s, I say “Why not?”


“And why not?” I, too, asked myself when I bought my tuxedo so I could attend the Starlight Theatre gala a few year’s back.


I found it at the vintage shop, Boomerang. This black After-Six tuxedo, previously owned by Gingiss Formalwear, symbolized the store’s name. Just like a boomerang, the tux had presumably gone out to many other galas, proms and weddings before always returning to the rack to await someone else’s usage.


They say that a bride knows her wedding dress when she sees it—“It spoke to me” they say. Likewise, when I tried on my tux, I knew, too.


In the full-length mirror, I examined the glove-like fit and traced my fingers across the black velvet lapels and snapped them across the sateen finish. Standing there I felt both rico AND suave.


Just like Ricardo Montalban.


Muy guapo.


By buying the tux, I celebrated a new male-stone (milestone for men), and entered into an inherent commitment with the tux. Like the tux, I had grown accustomed to a dutiful social itinerary. So it was an understood that it was my duty to keep up appearances for both of us. Like the tux saying, “If you’re going to be out of closet, then so am I!”


And so the tux and I went making our debut to both compliments and flashbulbs at the gala.


From that night on, that tux and I became like best friends, partners in crime and brothers. Inseparably together, we emceed events, we hosted karaoke, we danced with the Marching Cobras, we drank Manhattans up and smoked cigars, we made out, and we awoke in the morning wondering what the hell happened the night before. We laughed together. We even cried for joy. I tell you, my tux and I are tight.



***



The tux and I even went to weddings--as guests. I know this is kind of like wearing a wedding dress to someone else’s wedding. (“Oh! I thought bridal was just the theme!) And yes, I understand that it can be viewed as presumptuous and as tacky as a groom’s cake to wear a tux to a ceremony that you’re not a part of, but to be fair, I was ‘kind of’ in both weddings.


Now I’m generous with the “air-quotes” when I say I wasn’t “officially” in the bridal party however I did read a Pablo Neruda poem from the outdoor pulpit at one ceremony and I did sing ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie at the other.


I admit that wearing a tux to a wedding you’re not in does push the proverbial envelope. But like wearing leather pants to the office, I simply think it works if you work it.


***


Like any relationship there are certainly bound to be hurdles to overcome. The tux and I were not immune. The tux and I had our only spat at my childhood friend Caroline’s June wedding in the St. Louis Botanical Garden. Under a chardonnay haze, I thought it would be a great idea to round up the entire groom’s party and myself to make a run for a naked nighttime fountain photo-op. Why not?


Surprisingly, the groomsmen and ushers were all too willing. That’s one great thing about straight guys, call it “male-bonding” and add liquor and they’ll do just about anything. Besides, there really is no other answer than “YES!” when you have an entire botanical garden to yourselves at 11:30 on a warm summer night.


And so we raced to the center of the garden leaving formalwear strewn across the lawn and stood fountain-side in our own Full-Monty. Our naked butts reflected like Narcissus in the Dale Chilhouly glass sculptures in the backdrop. It was magical. The picture depicts as much.



We re-dressed and re-joined the reception inside. After dancing to the now obligatory wedding songs ‘Thriller’ and ‘Jump Around’, we began the exit to the wedding’s after-party. That’s when my tux jacket came up missing.


Not on back of my dinner chair, not at the fountain or any point in-between: my tux jacket had split. Presumably, it left while I jumped around and thrilled.


I felt guilty. But then repeated the mantra "Set it free, if it's meant to be it will return to you.” My kinship with the tux had become a sacred one and I trusted that despite this temporary loss, the jacket would one day find it’s way back to me.


A week later, a groomsman, Frank called to say he picked it up by mistake and would have it sent to me. The jacket and tie returned from a trip from St. Louis to Charleston, and then on to Pittsburgh before making it back home to KC.


It was meant to be.



***




Since St. Louis, the tux and I continue to attend more events though not always together. In fact, my bus friend, April asked if her boyfriend, Nate could borrow the tux for an event. “Sure” I said. “Which event?”


“Oh, I just won tickets to the Starlight Theatre gala and Nate needs a tux to attend.”


My tux went all too willingly. Like going back to the place from whence it came.


Just like a boomerang.





Weatherby Lakehouse

Wednesday

I'm having what you might call a stay-cation--that is I'm vacationing in my own city. I'm house-sitting for my friend, Mary at her house on Weatherby Lake.
Naturally, house-sitting isn't a real chore. All I have to do is bring in the mail and feed her cats (including the one that clawed my face last summer; this bitch-kitty she named Sweetie--of all things).

She says "Make yourself at home...there's beer in the fridge."

The pleasure here is all mine. Her home is a catharsis outside the concrete of my weekly 9-5. Staying here is like the Starting Over house but without the tears and the emotional baggage. Here, you can run out the back door and down the lush yard to the dock before jumping off into the lake. Which is exactly what I plan to do.

Tomorrow.

Thursday

My co-worker, Aaron has the biggest man crush on our local meteorologist, Gary Lezak. He subscribes to his weather blog and even makes t-shirts in his honor.
Any mention of the daily weather and Aaron scrambles for his computer to pull up Lezak’s up-to-the-minute forecast. Today, Gary Lezak calls for rain.

"Later, though" affirms Aaron. "We should be clear for the game this afternoon. That's what Gary’s Doppler looks like anyway."

Each year, we take a company outing to a Royals baseball game. We sign up for all the fixings on a potluck list before grilling out in our parking lot. I sign up for bacon—running down to Succotash in the River Market to buy it fresh at the last minute. After lunch, we head over to Kauffman Stadium, or The K as we natives call it. The weather is clear enough for a mild sunburn but I don’t mind. For the first time in the three years we've gone, we actually win this time. 6-5. Take that, Texas Rangers.

After the game, I walk the vast parking lots twice searching for Lynn’s car. Finally, I hail a golf cart. Though I should probably be handicapped or elderly to deserve a ride on the golf cart, the security person drives me past the new construction between Arrowhead and The K to my car now sitting completely alone in the C-lot.

It's starting to rain.

I drive back to the lakehouse resigned that I won't be able to jump in the lake. At least not tonight. Instead, I settle in for a massive thunderstorm watch. The sky is gray, dense and mad--the lakewater reflects such. Lightning strikes hard and close, the wind screeches against the windows and the incessant ping-ping of hail hardens.

Gary Lezak says no to tornadoes but Katie Horner says yes.

I force myself to sleep--I'm an automatic narcoleptic when it comes to emergencies. If I'm going to get swept up in a tornado I'd rather be unconscious for it.

I swig the last of a Boulevard Lunar and batten down into a deep sleep.

Friday

I wake up (alive!) and head off for work. I drive through Jo-to-Go and order a coffee, (black with 2 Equals) and drive to work. I actually enjoy the commute. Driving along in Lynn's hybrid, with hot coffee and KCUR playing, I feel fresh--cute, even. Kansas City seems new again as the skyline closes in from the distance. I imagine what visitors see once they arrive here and shuttle in from the airport. And I'm impressed. Again.

It's the weekend in Kansas City and I have options. I could go to a Gen-X networking something sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. I could go see a Journey tribute band at Crosstown Station. The Heartland Men's Chorus is also doing a show called DIVAS (natch). Instead, I return to the lakehouse.

I want to jump in the lake.

There's a mermaid that sits directly across the lake. She is engraved into the marble gesture of a perpetual wave.
I toast her with the half bottle of BITCH wine I've brought down to the dock. And then I jump in the lake. In the pastoral setting, it feels almost ceremonial. The water is cold from the storm but I don't mind. In fact, I jump in three more times.

Saturday

Mary called. Her oldest son just won $831K in the 2008 World Series of Poker in Vegas. Wow. I don't feel so bad about drinking all of her wine last night.

Today is the 9th Annual 18th Street Fashion Show. Here in the epicenter of KC hip, 18th St. is being transformed into a stage and runway that extends a full city block. Each summer, Kansas City's top designers send a fury of models down the runway past KC's hippest boutiques; Birdies, Spool, Peggy Noland and Habitat.

I'm the house manager of the fashion show this year--in charge of the VIP section that seats 375. Apparently, we have a lot of VIPs here in KC. The theme is Summer at Sea and appropriately I gather the ushers; which we thematically call "the seamen." We’re dressed dapper in sailor whites with scarves and matching Captain hats.

The VIP isn't as fussy as I was warned it would be. Everyone is easily seated, with the one exception of a woman showing up 15 minutes late and repeating "I'm VIP, I've got to sit in the front, I'm a VIP. See I've got a VIP ticket right here!" I threaten to tear up her ticket if she mentions the word VIP again. After all, I'm the Captain of this ship. At least I'm dressed like it. Her friend pinches her and mouths 'shut up, Cathy' before I usher them into the last available seats. Enjoy the show, Ladies!

The designs are innovative and beautiful, the street is full and the show is a well-documented success.

To celebrate, I go to the afterparty. I get a sangria and stand outside a warehouse watching a girl spin balls of fire around in balletesque fury. Shortly thereafter, there is an aerial fabric demonstration where women curl their way through fabrics hung from an 18 ft. ceiling. They nosedive like fighter planes; as elegant as swans.

Later, we sneak over to a speakeasy for the secret party. I utter a password and gain entrance in to what is best called 'a bumping little sugar shack.'

We pass a flask. And we dance. Oh, how we dance.

Sunday

It's 8 a.m. and I have to go out of town on business. The Super Shuttle comes right to my door--this after the driver has already picked up seven other departing passengers from area hotels like the Intercontinental, Rafael, Marriot and Hyatt. I jump in the front seat next to the driver. Shotgun! We drive and I make small talk with the other passengers, sometimes narrating as we drive. I ask where they're from, I tell them about the new addition at the Nelson-Atkins, I brag about the Performing Arts Center. Oh, you'll just have to come back and see it the next time.

I'm proud and I just want to send the visitors home with a little something extra. In the shuttle, I feel like it's my duty to be a good ambassador and give them a proper send-off. Kansas City becomes my party and, in our bus, I'm it's host.

Hope you had a good time. Come back soon.