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Pat Tomek

Album review: The Sexy Accident - Lavender 3

(Photo by Paul Andrews)
Jesse Kates writes smart, romantic pop songs. Their literary quality comes naturally, considering he studied creative writing at Carnegie-Mellon University. He also has a background in visual arts and is married to an artist. Considering all that, the idea of releasing an album and a book as a multimedia experience seems pretty natural.
Lavender 3, the fifth album by Kansas City band The Sexy Accident, is an unusual concept among local releases. Instead of a physical CD, it's a hardback book packaged with a download code. To someone who—like me—used to get lost in album art while listening to records, Lavender 3 takes the experience up a notch. Individual song lyrics are paired on facing pages with images by eight artists. The book begins with an introduction by W.E. Leathem (proprietor of Prospero's Books, a frequent venue for Kates and company). In addition to the lyrics and art, there is an interview by The Deli editor (and bassist) Michelle Bacon, The Sexy Accident bassist Mark Hamblin and his long-time bassist father, Don Hamblin. It's about bass. The book concludes with the transcript of a thoroughly entertaining interview between KKFI 90.1 FM DJ Mark Manning, Kates, and producer Steve Fisk.
Lavender 3 is is Fisk’s third full-length collaboration with The Sexy Accident. Based in Seattle, he has also produced The Wedding Present, Low, and Nirvana, among many others. The album was tracked in 9 days at Kansas City’s Westend Recording Studios, mostly with the full band playing their parts live. As Kates says, “There's a certain energy you get when it's people playing in a room.” The band rehearsed for several months before going to the studio, and their work shows. The arrangements are lush, adventurous and tight, propelling Kates’ frequently witty wordplay to the forefront. Besides the five members of the band and Fisk, who plays an organ solo near the epic ending of “Let's Play,” Laurel Parks and Sascha Groshang (who sometimes perform as The Wires) added violin and cello. Other guests include Kates’ college professor Jim Daniels, who recites one of his poems as a prelude to “You Turn My Breath To Steam,” and Sean Nelson of Seattle band Harvey Danger.
No discussion of The Sexy Accident is complete without mentioning vocalist/keyboardist Camry Ivory. Over the last 5 years she has blossomed as a singer and onstage presence, and Kates says he enjoys writing songs for her to sing. “I really like being able to play with two characters in a song, in a duet. It gives you a chance to call the narrator on his bullshit or to have them play together. It's been so much fun to be able to sometimes write from the point of view of a woman.” Ivory's voice provides some of the loveliest moments on the album, as in “Gracefully,” a song about ending a doomed relationship.
Time passes and things change. Ivory, in search of new challenges, has moved on to other projects. Drummer Daniel Torrence has also left the band, replaced by Alex Austyn. The splits are amicable, a more or less inevitable result of outside pressures pulling band members in different directions without financial rewards to push them back together. But Kates is philosophical about it. “I know my band is not a business, because in business you give your customers what they want [laughs]. And I don't care. I do try to make it something that people would enjoy, but at the end of the day I make music I want to listen to.”
If you’re looking for maximum-volume, testosterone-fueled doom and gloom, there are plenty of bands to provide it. Lavender 3 is more of a gentle interlude, maybe a rainy afternoon companion for browsing lyrics and images. “In some ways, this is our most feminine record,” Kates says, possibly because so many women were integral to the project. In any case, it’s their strongest effort yet. With every album, Kates’ voice, both singing and in the narrative sense, gets stronger and better defined. Lavender 3 is a mature effort in a unique package.
The Sexy Accident will be performing a free, all-ages dinner show at recordBar tomorrow, Friday, January 16. The Hillary Watts Riot will open up the show at 7 pm. Facebook event page.
-- Pat Tomek
Pat Tomek currently plays drums for the Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, and Deco Auto. He records songwriters and bands at Largely Studios.

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Album review: The Rainmakers - Monster Movie

One would think that if any KC band has a right to rest on its laurels it would be The Rainmakers. Members of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame and arguably Kansas City's best known band—both nationally and internationally—Bob Walkenhorst, Pat Tomek, Rich Ruth, and Jeff Porter don't really have anything left to prove musically. Their catalog of songs speaks for itself. Fortunately for us all, this band has no intentions of going through the motions.
The Rainmakers’ latest album, Monster Movie, is a case in point. Recorded in less than two weeks at Tomek's home studio, this is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders. The opening song (which I wish I could play on the radio) is called “Shithole Town” and it starts out like a crowd-clapping sing-along, then morphs into a country-tinged tale of backwoods/back roads folks, bad country music, and small towns. Then it shifts gears again as the music moves from a country feel to a rock and roll song; as the story changes and moves forward, the music does, too. Like other great American songwriters such as John Fogerty and Tom Petty, Walkenhorst knows how to make the words and the rhythm of a song come together in ways that complement both. He also has the unique experience of having played in venues with large audiences and he's learned what kinds of songs are big enough to keep a large mass of people not only interested but moving to the beat of the song, and, if you listen closely to the words, you realize there's depth and poetry there as well.
The title track started out as something quite different. In an interview on my radio show (Signal To Noise on KKFI) last Sunday, Walkenhorst had this to say about the title track:
“‘Monster Movie’ was a title I threw around. I thought ‘Monster Movie’ would be a really funny song. I thought it would end up—you know—being something about bad monsters and bad scientists and all that. Songs have a mind of their own. You can start with an idea of how a song is going to go and the song will suddenly rear its ugly head and go… ‘No, I'm gonna be THIS!’ So this became more of a very blunt, social criticism kind of song.”
In the tradition of songs like Creedence' s “Fortunate Son” and Steppenwolf's “Monster,” “Monster Movie,” to lots of folks, is an apt metaphor for America today. “In our monster movie/these monsters are real,” the song goes.
The album also features contributions from drummer Pat Tomek, who provided the poetry that became the lyrics to “Who's At The Wheel,” a lovely conspiracy song with Creedence-like chooglin' guitar work from Walkenhorst and Porter. Like fellow Missouri resident Chuck Berry, who wrote similar Americana-themed songs, this song takes a wry look at human foibles and Internet-fueled paranoia.
The new guy in the band, Jeff Porter, also brings a couple of tunes to the album, a co-write with Walkenhorst called “Save Some For Me,” which has a folk rock feel aided by Porter’s music and a great acoustic riff; and his own composition, “Believe In Now,” which is a mid-tempo, introspective song with a lalalala chorus that brings back memories of The Kinks from their “Arthur” period.
The album ends with a catchy song about a club in the town where Walkenhorst grew up, called “Swinging Shed.” Having grown up with the first generation of rock and rollers, I always like it when someone references music from the early ‘60s. This sounds as catchy as something by Chris Kenner or Freddy Cannon, and I'm a sucker for it every time.
This is the sound of a band that is comfortable with itself and dares to still care about what can be done musically. I asked the band on the show how they all get along after all these years. Walkenhorst responded thusly: “You may have been chasing a dream—an idea of what you thought a successful musician was—and then, when you get past that, and you're still a human being and you're still a musician, then you relate to each other on much better terms.”
The Rainmakers return to the stage Saturday night at Knuckleheads. When you hear the new songs from this album played live, I think you'll find this band hasn't missed a step after all these years and still has something important to say. And, you can still dance to it, too.
You’ll get a rare chance to see The Rainmakers in KC tomorrow night, May 17, at Knuckleheads Saloon. The Nace Brothers will be opening up for them. Facebook event page. Also, if you tune in to The Bridge 90.9 today at 5 p.m., you can hear an interview and an in-studio performance from the band!

--Barry Lee

Barry is the host of Signal To Noise, which airs on KKFI 90.1 FM every Sunday night at 8 p.m. In his spare time, he's Station Manager at KKFI. 


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Album review: David Burchfield and The Great Stop - Homesongs & Lullabies

Many songwriters (and other artists) say the process of creation is a sort of archaeological dig. They tend to describe it as exposing a shape that was already there—it's more like sculpture, where the old joke is that you chip away everything that's not a statue. Not so much like, say, ceramics, where everything is built up from scratch.
In any case, there's an excitement to the process, and a song demo can be literally a demonstration of that excitement. Fluffed chords, a scratchy throat, even a cough in the middle of a section—none of those really matter. They're little stumbles that happen while trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Some might say they're the flaws that make it all real.
Jules Shear, a revered songwriter, if not all that well-known these days, may have been the first to play with this idea, in his 1985 album Demo-itis. It was a collection of song demos with a certain spark that the "actual" songs (some of them big hits) never quite regained.
The case in point here is a new collection of song demos, Homesongs and Lullabies, by David Burchfield. Some of the songs, mostly recorded alone late at night, are the original versions later fleshed out and released by his band The Great Stop. Others are reworked and rearranged versions of those songs, proving that the creative process isn't necessarily over when the song has been released.
Of course, it takes a lot of nerve to do this. The emperor may have no clothes, but it's quite another thing when he deliberately disrobes. As Burchfield explains on his website, "the recordings are uncut, unproduced, and messy…. [S]omething about that vulnerability sounds really good to me."
The sound? Well, it's not polished. These are probably boombox or recordings, mostly just a single guitar and voice, and "lullabies" is an apt description of the relentlessly down-tempo mood. But the thoughts and heartfelt melodies that come just before bedtime rarely make for a party scene.
There are some lovely moments here, particularly in the full band's rehearsal take of "Rite Two," a song that appeared on the recentalbum Perseids. The demos of "Embers and Ash" and "By the Coast," in particular, struck me as perfectly viable in this stripped down form. Mostly, though, this collection is the sound of vulnerability, a soul laid bare.
Burchfield, in an email, said this release is mostly for the fans, to add another layer of meaning to songs they already know well. For anyone, though, it could be a welcome accompaniment to the winding down process at the end of the day. And who knows what dreams may come as a result?
You can stream and buy Homesongs and Lullabies at http://davidburchfieldmusic.com/store.
Burchfield returns to Kansas City for the holiday (he recently moved to Colorado) and will be performing with The Great Stop this Saturday, December 21 at The Brick, with special guests Attic Wolves and Devon Russell (of The Natural State/The Great Stop). Facebook event page.
—Pat Tomek
Pat currently plays drums for the Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, and Deco Auto. He also records songwriters and bands at Largely Studios.

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On The Beat with Pat Tomek

(Photo by Chip Duden)

Pat Tomek is one of the most versatile people you'll meet in the Kansas City music community. He plays drums in town with legendary KC songwriter Howard Iceberg, spends time rocking across Norway with the Rainmakers, and engineers albums for local groups. This week you can find out a little bit more about one of the most successful drummers in the area. Catch the beat right here!

On The Beat is typically brought to you by Sergio Moreno, but has been overtaken this week by KKFI 90.1 host of Signal To Noise, Barry Lee. This weekly interview features some of the many talented drummers in the area.

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On The Beat with Pat Tomek


Not many KC drummers get to do what Pat Tomek does. One night he can be playing drums in a neighborhood bar with Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, the next week play a sold-out opera house with the Rainmakers in Norway, then come back home to produce an album for Deco Auto in his home studio. Recently inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, he's a true Kansas City star.    

The Deli: Pat, tell us about your first set of drums.

Pat Tomek: It was a blue sparkle Stewart (cheap Japanese drums from the '60s). Between my junior and senior years in high school I worked a summer job at a furniture store and scraped enough money together to buy a used kit.

The Deli: Who or what inspired you to be a drummer?
Pat: A few years before that, my brother's best friend got a drum kit and they let me sit down to play it. They said, "You sound really good! You should play drums!" and I believed them. I spent a year or so playing along with songs on the radio or stereo, pounding on pillows first with pencils and then some real sticks, until I got a job and bought some drums. I was going to leave them at home when I went to college, but a friend told me I could make some money playing parties. He was right, and you could say I owe my career to him.
I never had lessons. I guess I must have had some innate talent because I played with high school stage band when I'd only had the drums a couple of months. I couldn't really read music (I still suck at it)—I just made things up and the teacher was none the wiser. I did sweat one time when he asked me, "What are you playing on bar such-and-such?" I just made something up, and then he told me what it should have been. Whew!
I should say some friends were putting a band together when I got the kit, so I started playing immediately. We did stuff by Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Spirit, Creedence—a lot of what was on the radio at the time (1969). 

The Deli: Before you joined the Rainmakers, you played in a variety of bands. Is there one particular band you remember most fondly?
Pat: Well, the best-known band I was in before the Rainmakers was The Secrets*, with Brent Hoad and Norm Dahlor (now with The Elders) and Steve Davis (Liverpool). The first professional recordings I was on were with them, recording for Titan Records in 1978. We eventually did an album out in LA, produced by Greg Penny and Stan Lynch (Tom Petty's drummer). I don't think Stan liked me, but I learned a huge amount just being around him. Looking back on it, I'd never had a role model before. 
If I can mention another band, the 4 Sknns was loads of fun. We played '60s and early '70s covers back before anyone else (except Steve, Bob and Rich, who started about the same time). We did exactly what we wanted and more or less dared anybody to fire us. We just didn't care, and that was very liberating for me. Joe "Guido Toledo" Welsh, Richard Streeter, and Gary Charlson (another Titan Records alum). If I can put a plug in here, the Sknns are doing a reunion weekend October 12-13 at The Brooksider. Hopefully we won't suck.
The Deli: The Rainmakers evolved from a trio: Steve, Bob and Rich. Bob Walkenhorst played drums for that group. How did you come to join the Rainmakers?

Pat: Oh good, I can segue from the last question! The Sknns and Steve, Bob and Rich were playing a lot of the same clubs, like Parody Hall and Blayney's. We got to know each other, and one day I got a phone call from Bob. He said they had been signed to Mercury/PolyGram and the plan was to replace him on drums so he could move up front. I never auditioned, just started learning the songs. In fact, we had to take promo pics before we even had a chance for a rehearsal; I remember thinking, "I sure hope this works."

The Deli: You've also played with lots of area bands, including Hidden Pictures and Howard Iceberg and the Titanics. How would you describe your role within a particular band? For instance, does your approach to playing change depending on the type of band it is?
Pat: Every band is unique. One of the benefits of playing with different groups is that you can't just do the same old thing, because it won't work. You have to stay on your toes. In some bands, I have a lot of latitude. In others, like the early days of the Rainmakers or in Hidden Pictures, the songwriter is also a drummer and may have some definite ideas as to what I should do. 
Of course the material has a lot to do with itI'll be a lot busier playing Who covers than in a straight country band, for instance. In general I do try to play the fewest notes possible, because I think it sounds cleaner. If that means people don't think I'm very good, that's okay. I'd much rather they think the band is good than that the drummer is.  
Occasionally, though, clutter is good. For instance, there's no point in being restrained on "Won't Get Fooled Again!"
The Deli: You've had the great fortune to tour all over the world. What would your advice be to a drummer about to embark on his or her first tour outside their hometown? 
Pat: Try to sleep, and eat well. It won't happen, but do what you can. You'll last longer. Yoga has been a huge help to me, though I'm not very good at it. In every sense be as flexible as you can, because everyone around you is under a strain, too. Keep your eyes and ears open: my biggest regret from my touring days is that I didn't force myself to be more outgoing, to make contact and learn as much as I could from the amazing people I met. 
The Deli:  When you're not playing music, how do you like to spend your time?
Pat: I've been a freelance web designer since 1996, but haven't done as much with that since the Rainmakers started up again. I have a Pro Tools-based studio in my house; I've done most of Howard Iceberg's recording since the early '90s. I tracked the Rainmakers' 25 On album (Bob mixed), recorded The Cave Girls and Deco Auto, and I'm in the home stretch of a double-CD album with Forrest Whitlow. It looks like I might be recording The Lucky next. 
In my spare time, I like to hang out with our cats. There are lots of them.

The next time you can catch the Rainmakers in Kansas City will be at the Parktoberfest at English Landing Park in Parkville on Saturday, October 6 at 3:30 pm. Pat can be seen banging the drums at the 4 Sknns reunion shows on Friday and Saturday, October 12 and 13.

--Barry Lee

Barry Lee is the host of the long-running free-form radio show Signal To Noise, which is broadcast on Sunday nights at 8:00 pm on KKFI.

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Pat Tomek

Photo by Chip Duden

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