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Kansas City Best of 2015 Readers' Poll Results! Missouri Loves Company, Sara Morgan, and Yes You Are

The results for our 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year Readers' Poll are in! We'd like to thank everyone who voted in support of their favorite artists, and a hardy congrats to everyone who made the poll this year!
 
 
 
1. Our 2015 Readers’ Poll winner, Missouri Loves Company (pictured above) brings together six musicians who produce a larger-than-life amalgamation of sound. The band takes a slightly off-kilter approach to its music, accenting dark pop melodies with atypical rock instrumentation (viola, trombone, glockenspiel) and a variety of musical influences. Led by vocals from Margot Gibson—who can dazzle with the style of a twisted lounge singer or an impassioned rock ‘n roll growl—the group showcases jangly jazzy guitar work and blues-inspired grooves that have the potential for broad appeal.
 
 
 
2. In 2015, Sara Morgan won over the hearts of new fans with expressive songwriting inspired by classic country and imbued with a modern accessibility. Since moving back to Kansas City a little under 2 years ago, Morgan has excelled in incorporating a style all her own in her songwriting, and has teamed up with skilled musicians (including guitarist Carl Butler and drummer Duncan Burnett) to back her.
 
 
 
3. Yes You Are has amassed a steady, loyal fan base by creating authoritative, preeminent pop music with a stage show that matches in intensity and vigor. The band is deliberate in its approach, merging infectious dance pop with meaningful spiritual undertones. In 2015, the band had the opportunity to astound audiences across the country by supporting Neon Trees on the first half of their summer tour.
 
 
 
4. Modern Day Fitzgerald describe themselves as “gentlemen who perform music with proper etiquette.” On the trio’s upcoming EP Gorgeous Killing, this sophisticated pop sound breaks through, with a hip-hop flair. Songwriter/frontman Mica-Elgin Vi pours emotion and charm into the band’s personality, with a jazzy rhythmic foundation from Zach Tyler and Steven Callahan. The EP will be released this Friday night at The Buffalo Room.
 
 
 
Again, congrats to everyone who was included! Our nominees went out of their way to promote the poll, and they certainly deserve your attention.
 
If you want to take a look at the results organized by genre, check them out here:
POPPOST ROCKPUNK/METALROOTSROCK
 
Thanks to everyone who shared and voted. Keep an eye out for the winner of our overall poll, compiled by the winners of this Readers’ Poll and votes from local music experts.
 

--The Deli KC Staff 





Victor and Penny Harness "Electricity"

(Photos by Chandra Ramey)
 
The Kansas City Jazz Duo Creates a New Spin From Classic Chemistry
 
Can music based on vintage tastes and ideals create something new? According to Victor & Penny, something as simple as a hook, a dress, or the right recording engineer creates a viable chance. When they planned to bring a specific genre of music into the Kansas City mainstream, they made sure it was based in craft, personality, and style. Against all odds it works and chances are, you'll love it.
 
You have most likely seen or heard their brand of ragtime jazz around town at several venues as diverse as recordBar, Hotel Phillips, Kauffman Center, and The Green Lady Lounge. Sometimes they play as a duo, sometimes they incorporate a full outfit known as The Loose Change Orchestra with trombone, upright bass, and clarinet.
 
Who are Victor & Penny?
In a word, they are “unique.” They create songs out of a time that harbors authentic musicianship and charm, yet the act telegraphs progressive idealism through virtuosity, fashion and playfulness. They find a joyous sound out of some of the darkest musical standards of the classic jazz age, as if blowing soap bubbles through a flophouse opium pipe. But it's not all fun and games. The duo creates music based in an era of serious songwriting skills. Watching them create tunes on stage prompts you to applaud time and time again before the song comes to a close because it's something made with love, humor, and blood.
 
“The way we present ourselves is vital to the way the audience perceives us,” says singer and ukulele player Penny (known locally as Erin McGrane). “We want to show respect for our audience by looking sharp. That also helps to set the stage and mood for our show.”
 
Victor (known around Kansas City as Jeff Freling) continues the thought. “The music and the presentation go hand-in-hand. As we continue to refine and expand our stage presence, we present a more sophisticated show.”
 
Sophisticated is a good description for this musical favorite about town. When you walk into a Victor & Penny showcase, the duo ushers you through classic jazz standards with the energy and vigor of a revival-era tent pastor, as they are unabashed converts to the art form. It's based in an honest love for the intricacies of the style.
 
“We offer the audience more than just a concert,” McGrane says. “We offer stories and a chance to get to know us as people, which is another way to connect to the audience and enrich the experience.“
 
Which is true: they're 100-percent show business, but their connection is real and based in the classic ideals of traveling theater. They parry corny jokes, natural chemistry, and undeniable musicianship out of quick scenarios in clubs, media appearances, and even impromptu videos in their car. Their semi-formal attire contrasts with the easygoing attitude on stage as they sway and jump between old standards and new treasures.
 
So it begs the question; in a town so focused on indie rock and stylized blues, how would they make an impact by focusing on early jazz standards? It's all about the lure of the common experience. McGrane says, ”In college, I got into 1930s vocal music from groups like the Boswell Sisters and the Mills Brothers. Jeff was listening to a lot of early guitarists like Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian when we reconnected, and we found a common pool of tunes that we loved.”
 
 
Recording Electricity
Victor & Penny recorded a new album titled Electricity in August of 2015 and the finished product will soon be available here. They made the journey to Nashville's Sputnik Sound to create it with producer Mitch Dane, who made his cake working up alt-country gold with acts as varied as Woody Pines and Jack White. Even though the producer's tastes were outside Victor & Penny's specific genre, the moment they met with Mitch, they knew it was a special match due to his musical taste for the eclectic side of early Americana and his impressive collection of classic recording gear in his inspiring studio.
 
Did the experience live up to expectations? According to Freling, yes. After speaking with Dane, they immediately hit it off and the day-to-day labors allowed the trio to create something truly special.
 
“Working in Nashville was a great experience and we had the opportunity to partner with a producer to help us rearrange some older tunes and bring a fresh perspective to our music,” Freling says.
 
How did Victor & Penny begin?
According to them, it all came together in Chicago.
 
“Jeff and I met during college years when our rock bands played together in the local KC scene,” says McGrane.
 
Freling adds, “We reconnected in Chicago a few years ago. Erin was working up there as a commercial actress and I had been playing strings on stage with Blue Man Group for many years. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 15 years.”
 
 
Playing the Circuit
This kind of authentic atmosphere means the world to this turn-of-the-century jazz duo because they rely on a certain balance of classic and contemporary to create their singular stage presence. They work hard to create a personable and accessible feel that draws both new and schooled fans of jazz history into their realm.
 
“The tunes that we’re drawn to are endlessly fun to sing and to improvise over musically,” says McGrane. “For example, the melody on ‘Lazy River’ by Hoagy Carmichael is instantly recognizable and much trickier to sing and play than it sounds. It’s just beautiful. ”
 
Freling finishes the thought. “We love to do what we call sonic archaeology and dig for lesser-known songs from the early part of the last century. Our original material combines all of our personal influences to create a modern sound with a vintage vibe.”
 
So yes, it's true. A partnership born from a shared love of musical history proves something new can come from it all. The unique voice Victor & Penny creates gives music lovers in Kansas City an opportunity to participate in a true love of the artform. Experience their brand of musical joy at the Folk Alliance International Conference from Wednesday through Sunday. Check out their schedule here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
--Andrew Schiller
Andrew Schiller has been playing music and writing features for a couple of decades. To earn gear and beer money, sometimes he wakes up and travels to an office of some sort inhabited by your garden-variety marketing types.
 

 





Words of Love Gives Back to the Local Music Community

On Saturday, a collection of Kansas City acts will take the stage at Coda for the first Words of Love benefit concert for Midwest Music Foundation. The show was organized by Joelle St. Pierre, who volunteers for the nonprofit music organization. Read our Q&A with her and find out more about the show.
 
The Deli: Give us a brief overview of what Words of Love is all about.
 
Joelle St. Pierre: Words of Love is a collection of artists that include Wyatt West with Tom Hall, Bryan Hicks, AJ Young, Amanda Fish, Nicki Scruggs, Eems, Sean McDonnell, Thomas Freight Train Walker, Max Berry, and more for a musical tribute to the many faces of love. The musicians will play in different groupings as a full band and as duets, smaller ensembles, etc.
 
The Deli: How did this show come about?
 
St. Pierre: The concept began almost a year ago when Matthew Stevens donated to the KKFI band auction for Wyatt West to play an event and had always wanted this to be a benefit for MMF. Matthew has received funds from MMF to cover rent for a local musician who was injured. I began as coordinator and contacted Wyatt, who put together the musicians, theme, date, venue, and logo. Wyatt is a top-notch singer songwriter with 2 new CDs out in 2015 and is associated with the musicians that have volunteered their time for our fundraiser.
 
The Deli: How did you get involved with MMF and volunteering in the music community?
 
St. Pierre: I began 3 years ago after a dear friend turned me on to Diana Ennis's KKFI Tasty Brew show and have volunteered for all fundraisers at the studio and many in our local area. My MMF volunteering began with Crossroads Music Fest and I can't get enough!
 
The Deli: What kind of influence do you think MMF has on musicians and the local music community?
 
St. Pierre: MMF brings together a collection of local musicians to support one another, which is vital for the continued success of musicians as well as local venues and MidCoast Takeover. This particular fundraiser began with a music fan who wanted to recognize MMF for their efforts to help him and the musician. The impact of MMF is widely felt, as it takes very little to become homeless and destitute when injured or ill. MMF creates a feeling of relief, a shelter from the storm and perhaps, even greater, a recognition of the importance of live and recorded music and the venues in which the music is made.
 
The Words of Love show begins at 9:00 pm with a suggested donation of $10. Facebook event page. If you’d like to get involved with Midwest Music Foundation, visit midwestmusicfound.org.
 

--Michelle Bacon 





Album review: Mat Shoare - Mirror Music no. 1

As the title suggests, Mat Shoare’s latest release, Mirror Music no. 1, is about reflection. “The songs are all linked to my last full-length Right as Rain, and draw on the same themes: abandonment, bitterness, and repressed anger,” he states. While Shoare’s description may sound like a recipe for a suicidal symphony, most of the music on the four-song EP is surprisingly upbeat and even approaching optimistic. This may be because Shoare says he is closing the book on this period of songwriting, and has plenty of new, less miserable topics to begin sharing.
 
The EP opens with “I-Yi-Yi,” a mellow yet poppy tune with a solid groove. I-yi-yi is a clever play on aye-yi-yi, the outdated term used to express sadness, hopelessness, anger, or frustration (you may have heard your grandmother say this when you were a kid). The song deals with frustration over things not going as planned, yet the realization that the circumstances could be worse. It’s about waiting and yearning, yet understanding the need for patience. It’s a commentary on life as most of us know it. “It’s not going better, but it’s not going worse / It’s not going good, but it’s not going bad.” Through reflection, Shoare decides to make the best of things, ending the song singing “I-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi” in a cheery, so-be-it kind of way. We could all stand to look at life like this.
 
“One of My Songs,” the second track, is probably the most listener-friendly. It is about breaking up with a girl, and is both a jab at the woman (or women) as well as possibly a bit of self-deprecation from Shoare. “Now you’re just a girl in one of my songs / Please sing along if you’ve heard this one before.” As with “I-Yi-Yi,” this potentially blue topic is in no way a ballad. Instead it is almost a doo-wop song, complete with Beatles-esque background vocals and a clap track. Shoare shows off his musical talents by playing all of the instruments on the recording. “All About You” is similarly upbeat, yet with a totally different sound. It starts with a drumbeat that could be mistaken for Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” and is layered with jazz chords and a driving bass.
 
The only gloomy song is the fourth and final cut, “Real Woman.” Truly lo-fi, it is simply Shoare playing an acoustic guitar while crooning about a relationship lost. Sticking with the theme of the record, he reflects and realizes his mistakes—and what traits constitute a good (or bad) companion. “If I had known how much you would hurt me / I would have been with a real woman.” Despite being barely over a minute long, “Real Woman” is a perfect goodbye. It touches on remorse, but focuses on the resolve to move on to better things.
 
Like life, Mirror Music no. 1 isn’t perfect, but perhaps Shoare and his band (Evan Ashby on guitar, Ross Brown on bass, and Ryan Carr on drums) intended it that way. There is a constant yin-yang, showing how opposites can be complementary. It’s dark and light, sad and happy, and ultimately gives listeners something that is strangely inspiring, given the subject matter. It’s an ending to one place in Shoare’s life, and a peek at happier things to come.
 
--Brad Scott
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
 
 

Shoare will be touring in support of the album starting tonight in Columbia at Café Berlin. Facebook event page. You can also check out his website for other upcoming dates at matshoare.com.   





Album review: My Oh My - Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way

There’s something special about a band made up of eight talented musicians who can speak together with one unique voice. Kansas City’s My Oh My is led by vocalist and guitarist A.M. Merker, and a couple months ago he and the band put out their second album, Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way. While the band’s 2014 release, Your Heart Not Mine, seemed to ask questions about the unpredictability of life, the 6 tracks released in December provide some of the answers. The album is incredibly reflective—nearly every song references “old times,” “what might have been,” or “yesterday” in some form or another. But the band makes a point to emphasize acceptance and appreciation for the past instead of regret. Imagine a wise monk writing profound lyrics for an Americana band—you’ll end up with lines like “a life worth living is a life eventually forgotten / and that’s okay with me” and “I believe the time we get is all that matters / It's good enough for little old me too / better be good enough for little old you.” Combined with full-bodied folk rock, Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way is a rare blend of confidence and humility. It’s a country music kind of straight-talk for rock and roll fans.
 
The album’s title track features a strong driving chorus that shakes the listener awake. Merker’s vocals recall the wild times of youth and offer a happy approval of the craziness of his current life—after all, there’s no crazy like being crazy in love. Backup vocals provided by Sarah Dolt, Stephanie Gaume, and Melissa Geffert add a special flavor to many of the songs, complete with old-timey “oos,” “ahhs,” and echoes. One of the female vocalists sings lead during the bridge in “Thief” with a voice that wouldn’t sound out of place on Broadway. My one complaint—we don’t get enough of her! Her powerful voice complements Merker’s smooth one, and it’s a treat to listen to them as a team.
 
A personal favorite is the third track, “Parade,” which progresses from a mid-tempo ballad to an upbeat breakdown delivered by Grant Buell on keyboard and Stephan Berry on guitar. If any listener hadn’t been convinced yet, “Parade” is proof that My Oh My are experts at their craft; the song is beautifully arranged and features a splendid melody. And when it’s time to close the curtain, the band sticks to sweet simplicity. Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way closes with the only acoustic song on the album, “That’s Alright By Me.” It’s a gentle conclusion to an album of grand rock and roll, but it feels right.
 
 
--Mary Kennedy
Mary is a lifelong Bostonian learning her way around Kansas City. She can often be found in an art museum, checking out local music, or taking a nap.
 

My Oh My’s next appearance in KC will be this Saturday at The Brick, with Pocket Vinyl (CT) and 40 Watt Dreams. Facebook event page. 

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