Monday, June 23, 2008

Ashton Shepherd at Country In the Woods

Ashton Shepherd is trying her darndest to bring drinkin' and cheatin' songs back to country music's mainstream.

The placid audience at the free Country In the Woods festival in the Kansas City area was having none of it. Great songs like "Takin' Off This Pain" were greeted with stony silence. She only connected with a cover of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishin' In the Dark."

Lonestar was the headliner, and I suspect that many people were just waiting to sing along with "Amazed". Yet I adored Shepherd. She splits the difference between the feel of the early commercial work by fellow Alabama natives Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer.

I was largely indifferent to opening act Adam Gregory. He seemed stuck to a rigid formula created in a Nashville boardroom. ("Let's find a good-looking guy who's part Jack Ingram and part Keith Urban.")

I had to laugh when he tripped up on the name of a local country radio station. He had thanked their competitor in his introduction to the previous song. Gregory then anxiously and apologetically blurted "I'd like to thank K104." The Q104 staff surely didn't take offense, but it's a drag to see an artist running scared.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Say Anything at KC Live

Say Anything, the penultimate emo band, performed on the Kansas City Power & Light District stage Wednesday night. While no one cried and there was little sulking to be seen, angular haircuts and stereotypical fashion statements were plentiful.

Considering the band's popularity and that the free event was promoted by a 96.5 The Buzz radio remote, attendance was distressingly light. There were probably more people inside the entertainment district's bars than in front of the stage. Power & Light's age restriction- no one under the age of 21 can enter- likely kept the band's core audience away. But the 500 or so people there for Say Anything (above and below) were very passionate about the band.

It seemed like almost everyone but me was singing along to songs I'd never heard, like "Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat". The songs I was familiar with, including current single "Shiksa", sounded great.

One of the evening's highlights had nothing to do with music. During the break between bands, the Royals-Cardinals game was featured on the video screen behind the stage. Loud cheers greeted eighth inning home runs by David DeJesus and Alex Gordon. Who knew emo fans cared about baseball?

Unlike the Royals' batters, Queens Club (above) failed to make contact.

Significantly less impressive than the promising music posted at their MySpace page, Queens Club came across as a High School Musical version of a Cure-influenced indie rock band. With proper stewardship, they could develop into a noteworthy act.

Wednesday night, however, they looked and sounded like tentative kids brought up to the big leagues too soon.