pale hearts

Lawrence Field Day Fest bridges KC and Lawrence music communities

(pictured above: Oils / all photos and videos by Michelle Bacon)
Spanning over three evenings with 28 acts, the third annual Lawrence Field Day Fest proved to be a large success. From Thursday through Saturday nights, some of KC and Lawrence’s most notable acts converged upon the town and brought with them a score of talent and style.
For this reviewer, LFDF kicked off on Friday evening at Jackpot Music Hall in the middle of Katy Guillen & the Girls’ explosive set. The KC trio had the full attention of a trickling-in crowd, most of whom had never seen them before and all of whom raved over them after. Once you experience one of Katy Guillen’s searing guitar solos—impelled by her tenacious rhythm section—you’re never really the same again.
Immediately following KG&G was Destroy Nate Allen. As the duo began to do a sound check while walking about the room, I realized that this would probably be nothing like what had preceded it or what would follow at any point during the fest. The husband/wife team of Nate and Tessa Allen has a delightfully unusual punk folk style, characterized and enhanced by an unconventional, interactive live show.
The rest of the weekend was a somewhat similar story, where festivalgoers—myself included—were getting to experience bands for the very first time. The lineup dropped a portion of the KC music scene in a setting they aren’t as saturated in, allowing an initial exposure to many Lawrence music fans. In that same vein, the KC faction was also able to see performers who don’t travel east very often.

“Last year, I was burdening myself with the task of finding national acts because I thought that would help the draw,” says festival organizer Cameron Hawk. “I was worrying about stuff like that, and I think it made me forget that not only do we have a huge crop of amazing bands around here, but they are bands people care about. We are so lucky to have that.” So this year, Hawk took the approach of building a solid lineup from both sides of the state line, and was able to draw in fans from the two music communities and parts in between.
Other highlights included Major Games’ highly anticipated set on Friday at The Bottleneck. Emerging from a nearly two-year live show hiatus, the trio played its upcoming album in its entirety and presented an even bigger, fresher, more passionate sound than before. Following them was Loose Park, a pure rock ‘n roll band who manages to somehow become even more electrifying and fun with each passing performance.
The Sluts closed down The Jackpot on Friday night to an enthused, riotous audience. The duo of Ryan Wise and Kristoffer Dover has a steady following in both KC and Lawrence, and was able to prove exactly why with Friday’s performance. They have a stripped-down, DIY garage rock/punk sensibility, with just enough hooks to grab almost anyone who could possibly be entertained by the thought of live music. Wise’s newly added vocal effects also brought more depth and grunge to their songs.
Saturday night marked Pale Hearts’ final performance, as frontman Rob Gillaspie (also currently doubling as Lux Interior in The Cramps’ tribute band Stay Sick) prepares to move to KC. The always enigmatic performer led his band through its dark, poppy, ‘80s-influenced catalog. We hope to see more music come out of Gillaspie, perhaps in future collaborations with KC artists.
At Jackpot, CS Luxem entertained and captivated a new audience, showcasing Christopher Luxem’s talented songwriting both as a solo act and realized as a full band. Meanwhile—and with the help of Jar Jar Binks—Josh Berwanger and his band got the Bottleneck crowd on its feet.
Like other frontmen I was able to catch on that stage (Gillaspie, Matthew Dunehoo of Loose Park), Berwanger can capture an audience and keep it engaged—a feat many lead vocalists haven’t quite figured out yet. His obvious charm, coupled with the group’s grooving power pop anthems, warmed the audience up for Cowboy Indian Bear.
Cowboy recently announced that it would take a hiatus after LFDF, resulting in a lengthy, heartfelt, double-encore show. The band played several songs off its acclaimed 2013 album Live Old, Die Young, and delivered a touching but fervent performance—one of the most dynamic, gargantuan performances I have personally witnessed from them.
And closing down LFDF was Stiff Middle Fingers, who wins the award for Most Spirited Audience of the fest. In true form, frontman Travis Arey riled up the crowd, inciting friendly mosh pits and audience members storming the stage.
The exuberant crowd chanted and shouted right along with Arey, also showing its gratitude for guitarist/fest curator Hawk. The group’s straight-up don’t-give-a-fuck punk style was the perfect environment to congregate in for LFDF’s swan song. The KC and Lawrence music communities let loose together, shouting “I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch” as SMF busted out a Misfits cover, and locked in sweaty embraces to celebrate a job well done.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle is editor of The Deli KC. She is in bands. She is the only person in the world not watching the World Cup right now and is sorry for that.

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Album review: Pale Hearts - Hollowtown

A shift has taken place. Balance granted once again to the world. Emotionally thought-out sleaze has reared its head on the Kansas prairie. Pale Hearts are alive.

Like frontman Rob Gilaspie’s former band­—the sadly departed wonder that was The Spook Lights—Pale Hearts channel The Cramps in disturbing and distinctive ways on their debut Hollowtown. The band masterfully blends elements of surf, punk, rockabilly, Latin, new wave, and even grunge to make a sound that is fully formed, complete, and unique. Always a twisted, off-kilter force of nature, Gilaspie’s vocals are more Richard Hell than Lux Interior this time around. The tone and body of his lyrics has changed as well, and for the better.
While still certainly offbeat (he sings about fucking a hole in a phone book on the record’s title track. Ahhh, classic Rob) the last year has been one filled with tragic loss, financial setbacks, and the collapse of a long-term relationship has caused a shift. Now, Gilaspie seems to be a changed man, unafraid to stand out front and exorcise his pain through rockabilly-fueled yelps, screeches, and screams; to say what he is thinking without coating it in layer upon layer of camp. The honest excitement and joy that he conveys during his live performances translates perfectly to tape on Hollowtown, while the band makes fantastic, strangely serene surf-influenced rock ‘n roll to feed the schizophrenic fire of the album.
Where The Spook Lights, while great at times, could be limited in scope, Pale Hearts are a band more than capable of reining it in or filling the horizon with sound, and it shows on Hollowtown. Rob Kemp’s guitar on “Breakheart Mambo” sounds as though it came straight from a David Lynch film; sauntering around the room with Mike Young’s drumming filling the song with restrained power as Gilaspie takes shots at a presumed former lover. “You made the scene on your back / you’ll go out the same way.” 
“Motorsports” is the song that feels most likely to make it to the radio. Melinda Robinson’s bass work is of a quality that would make Joy Division’s Peter Hook proud, razor sharp and ominous, while her background vocals bring a soft, otherworldly touch to Gilaspie’s wounded words. An amazing sonic feat considering the entire album was recorded and mixed in drummer Mike Young’s bedroom.
Hollowtown takes many paths; there is lamenting the loss of love (“Moon in the Gutter”), straight up weirdo surf interplanetary sleaze (They Pass for Human, High Plains Disko) and beauty (Motorsports). Hollowtown has powerful touches and velvet gloves, gnashed teeth and sincere smiles.
It is a weird record, not in a contrived way but genuine. This is who they are; forceful, delicate, talented and astonishing. Gilapsie has finally found the right band to help him make the record that has always been there, lurking just below the slime. Hollowtown left me off balance, not knowing where to go, which was up; all of these things are meant in a good way. It has been said that everyone has one good book in them. Hollowtown is The Pale Hearts epic novel. Dashell Hammett would be pleased.
The release party for Hollowtown is this Friday, May 24 at Frank’s North Star Tavern in Lawrence. Fake Surfers (Detroit) and Jocks will also be playing. Facebook event page. If you can’t make it out there, they’ll be at Black and Gold Tavern on Wednesday, June 5 with Deco Auto. Facebook event page.
--Danny R. Phillips

Danny R. Phillips has been reporting on music of all types and covering the St. Joseph, MO music scene for well over a decade. He is a regular contributor to the nationally circulated BLURT Magazine and his work has appeared in The Pitch, The Omaha Reader, Missouri Life, The Regular Joe, Skyscraper Magazine, Popshifter, Hybrid Magazine, the websites Vocals on Top and Tuning Fork TV, Perfect Sound Forever, The Fader and many others. 


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