hozier | 4/3 livestream concert via billboard live

hozier | 4/3 livestream concert via billboard live

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known across the globe simply as Hozier, has been an active participant in the live-stream concert trend that is sweeping the globe. The music industry enigma’s most recent endeavor took place on Friday via Billboard Live’s facebook page in an effort to raise money for the Downtown Women’s Center in LA, which focuses on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women. While in his previous livestreams Hozier has been accompanied by bandmate Alex Ryan, he buckled down in his bedroom by himself for this one due to intensification of the lockdown, joined only by his acoustic guitar. After talking a little about the Women’s Center, Hozier jumped into material from his massively successful 2014 self-titled debut, which birthed chart-toppers like “Take Me to Church” and launched him into wide-spread fame.

The Irish musician started off with an acoustic rendition of “To Be Alone”, a bluesy rock number off of his first album. Even without the driving electric guitar and hard-hitting percussion of the original track, Hozier kept all of his power with his soulful vocals and guitar-playing. He then invited fans to send in requests, humbly stating that he could “try and God knows that’s the best I can do” (Yeah, okay Hozier *insert eye-roll here*) before moving into a soft-spoken version of fan-favorite “From Eden”. The beautiful number was accompanied by bright slide-guitar and whispered falsetto brushed across the tops of the airy track’s high notes. “Cool.” Hozier breezily said before diving into some questions from the stream’s viewers.

“What are you some of the ways you’ve been keeping busy during these times?” He read aloud from the comments and questions streaming in at real time. Hozier took the moment to speak of the effect that the pandemic has had on the live event industry and of his own plans for the year. “I’m very very fortunate that I didn’t have touring plans this year. So a lot of musicians and in particular independent musicians, freelancers, anybody involved in event management or gigging….” He trailed off in thought before coming back, restating “I’ve been very very fortunate”. Hozier shared that his plans have not been heavily affected by the pandemic, a fact not all that surprising for a man who’s infamous among fans for backing out of the spotlight for years at a time when he’s not touring to work on his music without the constant pressure typically forced on artists by labels and the public. He did share what he’s been up to though: reading, writing, and walking “at safe distances from other people”.

Hozier spoke a little more about the Women’s Center and encouraged viewers to donate if they could before cutting off his own thoughts. “And- Yeah. What are we doing? I suppose I’ll sing a song” he said with a grin. “That’s what I do”. He spoke on as he tweaked his guitar. “Today was a sad day, sadder than normal. Bill Withers passed away, who I’m sure you’re familiar with, and it’s an absolute tragedy”. He then spoke of Withers influence on him personally before paying tribute to him with a haunting cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”, one of Withers’ classics. Not surprisingly, he did the soulful track justice, effortlessly building the intensity with his impassioned playing and singing before pulling back to let the last section breathe. “Isn’t that a beautiful song?” He mused.

Hozier followed the heartfelt cover with “Cherry Wine”, one of the most beautiful and patient songs from his debut. Seeing that the album version is a live recording with just acoustic guitar as well, his livestream edition sounded eerily similar and was charged with nostalgia for longtime fans. The world stood still for a couple moments as the musician’s remarkable ability to make everything feel alright washed over like a wave of cool and calm, serving as a personal reminder that if Hozier told me to jump into a volcano he’d probably ask in such a way that I’d not only oblige but think it was a fantastic idea. Remarkable.

There seems to be a tendency among musicians who had a giant breakout hit like Hozier did with “Take Me to Church” to avoid playing these hits when they don’t have to, so I was a bit surprised when he busted out the song that launched him into mainstream popularity back in 2014 to close the set. But Hozier, ever a man of the people (even if he hides from them in the woods for years at a time) brought back the hit for his last song of the night.

“I have not played this song on guitar for um, many moon now, for years I would say”. Hozier teased with a coy smile as he tuned his guitar. “There was a time when I’d play it 3 times a day. So hopefully that will sustain in this first time I’ve played it in years”. Hozier thanked his viewers and Billboard before reminding everyone to donate to the Women’s center one final time.

Not shockingly, he followed that intro with a perfect rendition of the dark and soulful tune, reminding everyone of why we fell in love with his music in the first place.

“Or something to that effect” Hozier said before signing off and returning to his preferred state of anonymity, presumably “In the Woods Somewhere” (Hah, Hozier puns) where he belongs.

“And wash them hands,” Hozier said as he waved his way off the air. Your wish is my command, Hozier.

the lumineers @ enterprise center

the lumineers @ enterprise center

Less than a week into their nearly 9-month long U.S. run on the III World Tour, The Lumineers brought warmth to a cold and snowy St. Louis night through spirited storytelling and electric performance at Enterprise Center.

This past year saw the release of the Denver-based Americana group’s third studio album, III. The project was daring, veering almost completely away from the foot-stopping, hand-clapping hits that the group is known for to delve into the dark and and tangled web of the cycles of addiction. But what the album lacks in light-heartedness, it makes up for in it’s expertly crafted stories and songs. The group’s founding members, vocalist/guitarist Wesley Shultz and drummer/pianist Jeremiah Fraites, have been together on their musical journey for just shy of two decades now, and III has brought new clarity to just how talented they are at what is proving to be their true craft: songwriting.

Very little was traditional about the album, which was released in 3 chapters, each one focusing on a different generation of a family whose life has been deeply affected by addiction. The album saw a heavy emphasis placed on the visual aspect of storytelling as well; the band released a music video for every song on the album, and large video screens let concert-goers experience those stories live as the band played the album through and the videos played behind them. While the family depicted, also known as the Sparks, are a fictional family, their stories come from a very real place.

The Lumineers played the new album in its entirety (although not in order as it was originally released) as well as plenty of fan favorites during their set, which lasted nearly 2 hours. The first half of the show contained many of the band’s earlier hits although content from III was dispersed throughout, proving that songs from the dark storybook of an album could stand on their own as well.

While so much of the night dealt with heavy subject matter, The Lumineers didn’t let it weigh them down, and the energy was always light-hearted, electric, and engaging. Of the band’s massively successful breakthrough hit, “Ho Hey”, Shultz encouraged the crowd to join in (as if there was any planet on which they wouldn’t) as he humbly told the audience that to the band “it doesn’t even feel like our song anymore; It feels like a cover.” The stadium was eager to claim it as their own.

In terms of actual covers, the Lumineers busted out a spirited version of Dylan’s fast-paced “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as well as bringing out openers Matt Quinn of Mt. Joy and J.S. Ondra for a moving take on Cohen’s “Democracy”, which is included as a bonus track on the album.

As the night wore on the band got more serious, with the back half of the show containing almost exclusively songs from the grim III, including alternative radio-hit “Gloria”, which at first listen may sound like a bright and shiny sonic match to early Lumineers numbers, but a closer listen to the lyrics would reveal the hopeless and manic addiction fueled-world meant to be represented.

Before “Leader of the Landslide”, one of the pinnacle moments from the album, Shultz took a moment to speak of what the record means to him and his own experiences trying to help a family member battle addiction. “What I learned is that standing up against addiction is like standing up in the ocean,” he said. “It’s so hard.” He dedicated the heart-wrenching and powerful song to those in the audience going through similar experiences.

Despite the large group on stage, which included violinist Lauren Jacobson, pianist/accordionist Stelth Ulvang, bassist Byron Isaacs and percussionist/guitarist Brandon Miller in addition to Shultz and Fraites, the feeling on stage was always intimate and that of one big, happy, musical family. The group was constantly in motion, often swapping out instruments or venturing out onto the stage’s various ramps to be closer to the encircled audience. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects about watching the group is how much fun they seem to be having amongst themselves. Every member seems to possess a true sense of camaraderie that is rare to see with bands playing venues of this size. The Lumineers had a childlike lightness in their step as they danced, frolicked, and (if you’re the wacky, barefooted Ulvang) leapt 10 feet into the air off of pianos.

Shultz, as close as one can get to being an Americana Rockstar, was no exception to this. The frontman nonchalantly disregarded this status and casually hopped off the stage, unencumbered by security, to immerse himself in his audience. He journeyed around the arena for a song, climbing up almost to the nosebleeds to high-five and connect with adoring and respectful fans before returning to stage.

The show closed after a fiery encore with longtime fan-favorite “Stubborn Love”, which audience members joyously clapped, danced, and passionately belted along to with the band before saying goodbye to the always gracious folk-rockers.

As the band loaded out and fans sauntered out into the icy winter night, many concert-goers milled around the arena floor, talking and laughing quietly amongst themselves as adults and children alike gathered and tossed handfuls of the earlier-released confetti and continued to spin and dance in the paper rain as it fell back to the ground, the elation of the experience not quite worn off yet. Unwilling to wake up from the Americana- dream world that we all had spent the night dazing in, they remained there as I reluctantly left to rejoin the real world. Can’t say I blame them.

Keep up with The Lumineers here.

imperfect Fifth + do good co. | year 2 bash

imperfect Fifth + do good co. | year 2 bash

The end of October brought with it more than just a weather cool-down. As we started to bundle up for the winter ahead, we took time to pause on a breezy Autumn evening to celebrate the last 2 years of accomplishments with Imperfect Fifth. We were lucky enough to partner with Do Good Co., an incredible company on 38th Street in Kansas City, MO, who was also celebrating their 2nd birthday that evening. Together, we brought in vendors (Sugar Buffet KC, Scorpio Rising Botanicals, Crystal Ramirez Jewelry) and unique shopping opportunities with an evening of music and fun. Guitarist James Schneider opened the evening, followed by the talents of Danza Special and Fathers. We captured some photographs, caught up with friends, and were able to celebrate some incredible people locally, to boost our change globally.

Check our merch shop all week for discounts! Sales end at midnight, 11.11!

**photos by Erin P.S. Zimmerman, Elizabeth Schneider, and Meredith Schneider

kongos @ riot room

kongos @ riot room

If you haven’t experienced KONGOS live yet, it’s really high time you should. The South African quartet — comprised of brothersJohnny Kongos, Jesse Kongos, Dylan Kongos, and Daniel Kongos — boasts incredible vocal harmonies and layered, striking instrumentals (hello, accordion!). Their captivating stage presence is no surprise, as their musician father must have had quite the influence on them. Just a few days after spending time in the studio with Hanson in Oklahoma, the brothers performed compellingly to an audience in Kansas City, MO. Nothing could have been more beautiful than the full moon on October 13th, shining brightly over this collective crooning to the patio stage at Riot Room.

Through every track, there was a sense of belief in the story that was being told. At times the vocals were raspy and rough, while at others there was a smoothness you almost didn’t expect from this handsome group of men. Regardless of its delivery, each song felt so effortlessly inspiring. For example, during the more tropical-infused track “I Am Not Me”, the audience sang at the sky, as though every individual was having the same existential realization at the exact same time. It was such an intensely beautiful moment, illuminated by the red stage lights, that by the time we got to crowd favorite “Come With Me Now”, I felt like most of the audience had become family. Litter percussive tracks like “Birds Do It” and “I’m Only Joking”, and you’re in for a night of blissful camaraderie with strangers, no matter your surroundings.

What was perhaps most notable was the friendliness with which the group welcomed the crowd and shared anecdotes to introduce their songs. I’m not certain what it was, but a sense of magic surrounded this performance that I wasn’t altogether expecting. Charming, incredible musicians with a lot of love and fire for their work. And simplified, that’s the experience KONGOS creates.

Keep up with KONGOS here.

preview: the bacon brothers {{yes, those bacon brothers}} take kc this week!

preview: the bacon brothers {{yes, those bacon brothers}} take kc this week!

Next Tuesday, October 8th, join us at the intimate Folly Theater in Kansas City as we welcome The Bacon Brothers on their latest tour, The Shaky Ground Tour.  The Philadelphia-based genre-bending collective — comprised of Michael Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Paul Guzzone, Tim Quick, Frank Vilardi, and Joe Mennonna — has been lending their talent to the advancing Americana scene for decades. Though the two namesakes of the act have been making music together for most of their lives, they began to record music with this project in 1995.

So, if you haven’t heard of them yet, then your head is officially under a rock.

The perfect news in all of this? They have been touring pretty heavily as of late and — though originally they were only to come as close as Des Moines to the actual heart of America — added us to the tour a little later in the game, which made our hearts absolutely swoon.

Their latest single “Play!” that was released earlier this summer received critical acclaim and served as the backdrop to hot summer nights at the tail end of our warm months. Just enough of a boogie flare wraps itself in a warm embrace around such a beautiful chord progression, and we’re just so excited to see this one performed live.

Take an evening off and visit these Grammy-nominated musicians on Tuesday evening, October 8th. Tickets are available here.

See you on Tuesday! In the meantime, keep up with the brothers here!

noah gundersen @ recordbar

noah gundersen @ recordbar

On Monday, September 30th, we were thrilled by the crowd packed into Kansas City’s recordBar to enjoy an evening of music by Noah Gundersen. Quite honestly, weeknights in Kansas City are difficult to draw fans out for, especially with our weather being so unpredictable. But the night was beautiful, and the music was absolutely enthralling.

Packed to the brim, there was an excitement in the air as we pushed through the doors on that beautiful autumn night. Couples in droves, though largely we noticed how wide Gundersen’s audience is, as there was no obvious demographic. Young, old(er), couples, single people rocking out, people in all types of outfits and moods. It was probably the most intense melting pot we have been a part of in a while, and it was thrilling.

As soon as the first chords of “Robin Williams” came from the speakers, the entire crowd was captivated. As you can view in some of the following photographs, the audience was respectful of the ambience of each song, making sure to slow down and engage on a different level with songs such as “Heavy Metals”, “Watermelon”, and “Bad Desire”. And we truly can’t blame them. Noah does an amazing job at making each person feel as though they are the only one in the room, both with the emotion in his vocals, his intense gazes into the audience, and his inventive and beautiful musicianship. But he didn’t stop there, and the setup’s light display was actually mesmerizing as well. We can only imagine how intricate a show in a less intimate venue would be, and we can’t wait to see him come back through town.

Robin Williams
Crystal Creek
Heavy Metals
Lose You
Out of Time
Jesus, Jesus
So What
Bad Desire
Send the Rain (To Everyone)
Wild Horses
Kamikaze (with Lemolo)
All My Friends

Keep up with Noah Gundersen here.