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Dolls on Fire

KCPT features editor Michelle Bacon

We want to express our gratitude to KCPT and videographer/producer John McGrath for airing a segment of our editor Michelle Bacon on their weekly show Arts Upload. It prominently features our website, along with Michelle’s bands The Philistines, Dolls on Fire, and Drew Black & Dirty Electric. Tune in to Arts Upload every Thursday night on KCPT! You can watch Michelle’s segment below.

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Album review: Riot! Riot! Riot! - Dispenser (single)

Just as the sounds of popular music go through various phases and trends, so too do band names. One such example is the combination of repetitive words and exclamation points, a standard with many examples: the New Zealand noise-pop of Die! Die! Die! … the noisy Italian rawness of Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger! (a personal favorite of Chris Haghirian’s) … the California dance-punk of !!! … and many others. We now have a new entry into this field: Riot! Riot! Riot!, featuring members and ex-members of such noted KC soundcrafters as Dolls on Fire, The Hillary Watts Riot, and Drew Black and Dirty Electric. The band’s debut is a two-song effort that shares the same energy and aggression as its exclamation-pointed kin. The production is raw and DIY, which serves its three-chords-and-turn-it-up-loud mission statement perfectly.
“Dispenser” features Zach Hodson’s abrasive guitar and emotive vocals, supported by a thunderous drum-and-bass combo of Sergio Moreno and Mark Johnson, treading the line between hard rock and punk. “So Lost In Love, My Love” starts out as a jaunty little number (yes, a band with exclamation points in its name can do jaunty) that ultimately descends into muddy, grimy depths.
Will Riot! Riot! Riot! be worthy of all those exclamation points? I’d like to think so, but ultimately it’s a question Mark, Sergio, and Zach will have to answer. Period.
And you can “quote” me.
--Michael Byars
Michael is sparing with his usage of exclamation points, but when he does, he means it! OMGRLY!

Tonight, July 30, you can catch the Riot! Riot! Riot! boys at—where else?—The Riot Room. They’ll be playing with The Summit and Trapdoor Social (LA). Show starts at 9 p.m. Facebook event page. 

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Barry Lee interviews Deli KC editor Michelle Bacon (Part 1 of 3)

Listen in as KKFI 90.1 station manager Barry Lee and The Deli KC editor and all-around musician Michelle Bacon converse about growing up in Kansas City, playing music, and the current local music scene in a special three-part audio verite series.

Click below to hear part one of the series.

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Spotlight: Mike McCoy's 50th Birthday with Cher UK at Davey's Uptown, 10.4.13

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
We young pups could stand to learn a thing or two from Mike McCoy.
McCoy is best known as the man behind Cher UK, a band that has been around in various arrangements and cities along the way. Originating in KC in 1989 with Mark Reynolds and Jeff Nichols, Cher UK has undergone several incarnations throughout the years, with McCoy as the only constant—even geographically. In addition, he’s had his hand in other projects here and in his current home of Austin, where he moved in 1998. Among them, The Service Industry, The American People, Wood Roses, Black Rabbits, and Yard Pups.
Throughout his years in his different projects, he has accumulated a smorgasbord of talented players in Kansas City straight down the I-35 corridor to Austin. In fact, he started the North vs. South Music Festival with Baby Grant Johnson in 2003, which brought bands from KC, Austin, Minneapolis, and surrounding areas to collectively display their musical abilities in one place—for the common goal of appreciating of music.
“I am a very fortunate man to have known all these players all these years. The list is long and the people on that list know who they are and why they play music in the first place,” says McCoy. This Friday, he’ll join some of these longtime KC musicians at Davey’s Uptown to play newer tunes and old favorites from the Cher UK catalog. The lineup will include Lyle Wells on guitar, Bernie Dugan on drums, and Jason Beers on bass.
Cher UK reunited at Middle of the Map Fest 2012 and has played a small handful of shows since. Friday’s show will be a special one: McCoy makes his way to the half-century mark.
His thoughts on the big shindig?
“Sometimes you have to go ahead and live in the self enough to fabricate good times with people you love from your history, musically or otherwise. It is indulgent, but it's also not a fucking sport.” To McCoy, performing his songs with friends in front of loved ones and supportive fans has become an integral part of his being. “Though I have intentionally made my life to be a slave to this idea, it also has given me more fulfillment than any one man has a right to. I am a spoiled white American male who depends on his friends' happiness in order to see balance in the world.”
After this symbolic coming of age, McCoy will be working on his first solo record at Sparta Sound in Minnesota with friend Rich Mattson. The studio is in Mattson’s house, a renovated small-town church. “It will be a completely different recording for me, but the lyrical content will be my best so far, appropriately,” remarks McCoy.
The songwriter looks forward to heading back to see old friends. And being a veteran of both the KC and Austin music scenes has given McCoy some perspective on why he’s moved on and what he’s left behind.
“For me, [Austin] is the perfect place to write songs as we get further and further from the ‘good old days’ here. My favorite thing about Austin is its ability to complain about itself and then sit smugly in its own greatness and ballsy creativity,” quips McCoy. “But I need the aural consideration of a town so helplessly out of control and self-indulgent. Austin is the place for that. I need the confusion, I guess.”
But seeing the music community in KC grow over the years has also provided him with valuable insight. “The KC scene is unique and more well-rounded than most scenes. It's insulated at times, but the growth there is surprisingly not marked with the stain of American groupthink that is so common in ultra-fashionable cities and overhyped festival towns.”
Most importantly, there seem to be no doubts in McCoy’s mind that he’s made some incredible musical moments because of the passion he's put forth and has gained from those around him. “It's time with good friends recreating songs that left some sort of mark on my life due to the people who have been kind enough to let me onstage with them, the people who came/come to the shows, the people who have sold the product, the owners of the clubs, the talent buyers in any given region, the production people, bartenders, door staff, sound engineers. Hell, it’s just people.”

Help toast McCoy as he celebrates his 50th on Friday, October 4 at Davey’s Uptown. Get there early for a song-filled evening: the show kicks off at 8 pm with Baby Grant Johnson, followed by Dolls on Fire, John Velghe and The Prodigal Sons, Drop A Grand, The Dead Girls, Cher UK, and Ernie Locke with Missouri Bultaco Association. Facebook event page. 

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. She likes to schedule naps in between her regular schedule whenever possible. There's no shame in that.

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Album review: Dolls on Fire - Ladies and Gentlemen...

As its title suggests, Ladies and Gentlemen... is an introduction, as well as a dialectic declaration of the gender wars we’ve been waging since we were knee-high in sandboxes. Dolls on Fire lets its geek flag fly on a brisk seven-song debut that’s heavy on hooks and harmonies, hearkening back to the (dis)comforts of adolescence.

Our guide on this synth-pop rollercoaster is Zach Hodson, who embraces his frontman role with the enthusiastic charm of a carnival barker and the hamminess of a Vegas showman. Rachel Jaggard is right there with him, sharing lead vocal duties or layering on confectionary harmonies. They are joined by the tight, muscular rhythm section of Mark Johnson and Michelle Bacon, who form a two-headed bass-and-drum monster.

There are swirling synths. There are crunchy guitars. There are layers upon layers of pop harmonies and new wave influences all around, as well as a heavy dose of intelligent nerd punk, ‘90s nostalgia, and lounge music theatricality.

It’s a bit like The Cars being driven by Neil Diamond, with early Weezer riding shotgun, and a bunch of Squirrel Nut Zippers in the backseat—particularly on tracks like “Give Me A Reason To Love,” “GFY (300 Hands),” and “Hosanna (On The Radio).”

“Hosanna” is the jungle-gym time-capsule anthem of the bunch, with its “na-na-na’s” and auto-tuned talkbox vocals, theremin, and references to Atari, Ninja Turtles, Gwar, Hot Topic, and ear gauges. When Hodson swears, “That bitch is on the radio!”, it’s at once a kiss-off, dumbfounded disbelief, and begrudging pride.

The girls get their rebuttals too, as Jaggard narrates “Minotaur,” a torch song for mythical wintry forests after dark. “Jem Vs. The Volcano” is a call-and-response adventure between Hodson and Jaggard of its titular heroine, who evades tormentors by escaping into her imagination. She declares that “these should be damn good times for me!” It’s manic and melancholic and carthartic for Jem, and for us listeners too.

Beneath the humor and whimsy is the frustration of adolescence. The finely-tuned duet “A Boy Like Me” pleads, “Would you wait for me? Would you dare to see / The celebration that is me? The transformation that will be / From a boy like me?”

Similarly, “No One Will Love You Unless You’re A Man” implores, “Don’t be a boy, child, please be a man” and presents the crux of the battle between the fairer and rougher sexes: “Take all your regrets, darling / Set them three by three / Multiply and see / All the pain that you caused for me.”

So it goes with the battle between boys and girls. Dolls on Fire excavates the long passage from youth to adulthood and rappel the large chasm between ladies and men. For as long as we can remember, we’ve been fascinated and frustrated by the opposite sex. Ladies and Gentlemen... frames the gender war in the fun and fantasy of the farther recesses of our early memory and imaginations, reminding us of the pain and wonder of growing up.

Join Dolls on Fire with The Electric Lungs, The Sexy Accident, and Deco Auto this Saturday at Club 906. The group will be playing at 10:00 after The Electric Lungs.

 --Vi Tran 

Vi Tran is a singer-songwriter, actor, and arts advocate who plays his own songs in Vi Tran Band and other people's songs in Hot Caution.

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