The Record Machine Showcase @ Crossroads Music Fest

2016 has been a great year for Kansas City music. With phenomenal releases from Haymaker, High Dive, The Company, and Record Machine, there has been no shortage of great wax from artists residing in the Mid-best city. And the aesthetics represented in these releases run the gamut from the 60s influenced psych pop of The Conquerors to the mathy experimentalism of Jorge Arana Trio, from the rock melange of The Philistines to the sludge-doom of Keef Mountain. And this Saturday, The Record Machine will be hosting a showcase during the Crossroads Music Fest, so you can see some of these act tear up the stage.

Starting the night, B R O T H E R will invariably whip the crowd into a dance frenzy. The Kansas City trio mixes synthy textures with soulful grooves to make indie pop that is coy and understated. The band’s latest single, “Rolling Thunder,” has all the sex appeal of The Weeknd and pop sensibilities of The 1975. “Rolling Thunder” flirts with the darkwave 80s sound revival while remaining focused on pushing pop sounds past their breaking points. This balance between remaining faithful to pop structures and infusing those structures with more soulful melodies and hooks gives B R O T H E R a sound that is slick without feeling overproduced.

Spirit Is The Spirit moves in a more mystical vein. With bass tones that feel a wall away and reverb-doused vocals, the Lawrence band makes music that constantly expands. Spirit Is The Spirit’s music swells outward, slowly enveloping all in earshot. Whether on record or on stage, the band’s sound arrests with its transcendental pop beauty. Mellow without becoming glacial, Spirit Is The Spirit is able to craft hooks and melodies that feel almost criminal in how they balance personal genuineness and universal consciousness. In short, Spirit Is The Spirit simultaneously exists on this physical plain and an astral one–bringing the two worlds together with their seriously catchy indie pop.

Continuing down the psych pop continuum, Westerners make garage pop that is blistering and energetic. The Lawrence trio’s music is incredibly full. Whether its their ragged harmonies or their overdriven guitars, Westerners can pack a song with so much without causing the track to feel overstuffed or stilted; each riff hinges off another, creating songs that truly surprise with their twists and turns. Combining the lushness of their recorded material with a stage show that is dynamic and warm, the band is truly a force behind the local scene. If you haven’t caught these guys live, then you should change that ASAP (preferably this Saturday).

As I stated in a mini-review of their album, The Philistines rock. The Backbone of The Night unfurls like cubist interpretation of the rock world at the intersection of psych and glam rock. Each song approaches the genre in new and interesting ways, always anchored in angular riffs and catchy vocal melodies. The Philistines manage burn through solos and break into noisy interludes without losing the tautness of the most produced rock music–a feat far more attempted than achieved. With songs that simmer beyond the 8 minute mark and songs that fit more squarely within radio-friendly time limits, the band knows how to pace their records and their sets. To hear The Philistines live is to travel down a well-orchestrated music odyssey.

Ending the night, Various Blonde will undoubtedly play from their forthcoming debut on The Record Machine, All Bases Covered. The record (out 9/16) is a beast at the edge of firelight–dark and grimy, certainly dangerous but also intensely alluring. The de facto single and title track offers a good glimpse of the album’s grooves. “All Bases Covered” rises from a distorted bass line into its shimmering arpeggios. The track, and much of the album, spreads its grime like dance remixes of Rage Against The Machine. This juxtaposition of rage and sensuality within Various Blonde’s sound gives the band’s music a dimenionality that I have never heard pulled off so naturally.

Check out these bands and more at the Crossroads Music Fest. Weekend passes can be picked up online here or at the gate. While this is just one event of the myriad of great things happening in the Kansas City music scene, it is definitely one to check out.

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