Saturday, April 14, 2012

Middle of The Map 2 w/ Rocket and Beets

What else to say about our trip to KC?  It was great seeing my sister Amy, her son Aaron, and my brother Neal's sons Alex and Graham.  They are to the age where being identified as nephews is probably irritating.  They are their own people now, but permit me some avuncular pride: they are great guys.  And I was happy to catch the first pitch of the Royals season with Graham and Alex at Record Bar during the Life and Times set before Mission of Burma.  I was always the youngest growing up, so when nieces and nephews came along, it was a great thing.  However, the older they get, the more they are like older siblings to me, and they assure me I turned out pretty good, and stuff like that.

On Saturday, Aaron showed us around in his cool car, down through the Brookside and Waldo neighborhoods (drove past a toy museum, gotta check that out sometime) and we had lunch at Waldo Pizza.  Their beer list was thicker than the Goshen phonebook, holy smokes.  Pretty righteous for a humble pizzaria.  Amy told us about Aaron's birthday present to her--getting her seated behind Anthony Bourdain's booth at Jack Stack BBQ (where Aaron was employee of the month last month) during Anthony's KC shoot.  (I think that airs tomorrow, actually).  Plus tickets to his talk at the Midland. Amy feels about Anthony Bourdain the way Tracy feels about Wayne Coyne and John Doe.  He is her special reserved imaginary husband.  So that was pretty cool for Amy, who continues to dual with my sister Sara for best-cook-that-I-know honors.  Like I said: good fellows.

Restaurant-wise, we did pretty well, visiting two places twice: Beer Kitchen and The Westport Cafe.  I managed to get fennel soup at both these places--tomato fennel at the first, and roasted fennel at the second. As I get older I get less moon-eyed about menus and am happier with soup and a little something else, kind of a core sample of a restaurant's approach.  If we over-order AND I eat part of my beloved's ravioli, then I am rolling out the door like Mr. Creosote in a flannel shirt, sweating shame. (Anna's Oven will forever be known as the place where the chicken we intended to share was eaten by ME.)

By the time we finished our first meal at The Westport Cafe, the sound of Mansions' set was breaking souffle's, up through the floor from the club next door.  The plumbing fixtures were rattling; the water in the toilet bowl shimmying like an early warning of impending dinosaur attack in Jurassic Park.  After the manchego and ham, after the ravioli with sweet peas, after the beet and goat cheese and rocket salad (a perfectly balanced salad that is on every menu anymore, I guess), we went downstairs to have our heads taken off by this amazing band, Mansions, who played kind of a melodic, instrumental Melvins-meet-mathmetal thing. 

They blew me away.  Hundreds of bands drop tune their guitars and liquify innards with doomy riffs these days...this band had a shimmer that took something from affirmative psychedelic rock, or what is sometimes called "head music."  It was ascending affirming metal with its feet planted firmly in the sludge.  A drummer with pigtails who was like RoboCop in full machine gun mode crossed with Bill Ward.  Wayne Dyer would have stage dived during this set and come up grinning with a missing tooth.

Did not get to Pot Pie.  Boo hoo.

The last day we ate at Classic Cup on the Plaza, it was real good too.  It's kind of swanky Plaza style lunch--I had chicken under a brick, loaded with oyster mushrooms and cream sauce.  Tracy had asparagus in puff pastry over greens.  They had a King Estate Pinot Noir...we saw a fair amount of Oregon wine on the lists we read. I can't remember if Classic Cup was around when I was a kid, but Mom and I often drove past that cafe location on the way to Winstead's. I imagined taking a hot date there, but I seldom had a hot date, until NOW.

We also got a fair educational survey of the 90's KC sound: Season To Risk, Molly McGwire, and Life and Times (which features Alan from Shiner.)  The KC sound, I guess, combined industrial rock, early grunge, punk rock, and the hammer down rhythm sections of other rustbelt post-hardcore bands like Killdozer and Naked Raygun.  Scratch Acid and Slint also hit these guys hard, you can tell.  You also get an overt sense that the guitar players were Van Halen guys before they discovered the first Die Kreuzen record.  Chops, bright pingy bass sounds, and hard-hitting drums.  Instrumental proficiency.  So it's complex riffoid music delivered with FM leather pants rock chops--no dilettante goofing around. 

It's weird to me how this happened; how the Northwest, where I transplanted, didn't seem to cough up bands like this back in the day.  Maybe Skinyard gets close.  The NW indie sounds come out of garage rock, proto-punk, and surf rock (Sonics, Dead Moon, Wipers), I guess, and the geology and weather are watery and psychedelic, and slow down the brain waves and digestion.  

All of this ancient rock history, of course, in today's skinny jean pop music environment.  New Wave Synth Music is back, with dirty vegan whiskers, personal trainers, licensing deals and STDs.  Alt-rural art school music is now in the back seat, even.  Like the man said, give me back my mullets.

Sadness: Penny Lane Records, gone.  Record Exchange, gone.  But BCR is still playing gigs!

Along with my selfishness and gluttony around the poultry served up on 39th,  I also hogged the Kindle Fire, blowing through the new James Lee Burke, and a memoir of rural life in Andalucia called <i>Driving Over Lemons</i>, by Chris Stewart.  Loved that book.  It got me thinking of Steve Gould and Olvera and missing him and that place so much.  Then, via Twitter, Mr. Random alerted me to the fact that Jim Bouton’s <i>Ball Four</i> was the 99 cent book of the day on Amazon, so I am deep into that classic.  A brave and funny book, a raunchy tell-all from the days when that was not standard m.o. for celebrity memoirists.  The thing he is honest about that was probably most offensive, at the time, was the insecurity and boredom and money issues and family stress. Not the pep pills and hangovers and looking up dresses under the bleachers and all that. 

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