Archive for Friday, May 8, 2009

Come together: Lawrence Reunion gathers music, art community from early ’90s heyday

Buffy Barton Davis performs at the 1992 River Valley Music Festival with her band Baghdad Jones.

Buffy Barton Davis performs at the 1992 River Valley Music Festival with her band Baghdad Jones.

May 8, 2009


Lawrence Reunion

Who: Salty Iguanas, Lonesome Houndogs

When: 10 p.m. today

Where: The Bottleneck, 737 N.H.

Ticket info: 841-LIVE

Who: Baghdad Jones, Caribe

When: 10 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass.

Ticket info:749-3320

Saturday Burcham Park Schedule:

11 a.m. drum circle

1 p.m. Come Back To Me Terra Verde

2 p.m. Kayla Jacobs

3 p.m. The Gloves

4 p.m. Darrell Lea

5 p.m. Kawdaddies

6 p.m. Cryin Out Loud

The Sin Sisters earned their nickname during a Halloween night in 1990. From left, Tanya Haller McNeely, Jackie Denning and Nicki Geist.

The Sin Sisters earned their nickname during a Halloween night in 1990. From left, Tanya Haller McNeely, Jackie Denning and Nicki Geist.

College students of today may find it hard to believe that a generation ago, the Lawrence music scene was as good, if not better, than it is now.

Back before iPods, downloadable ringtones and YouTube. Back before the dominance of the DJ culture. Back when the word “Baghdad” wasn’t so rife with other implications, the majority of the club scene was based around going to bars to watch local bands.

Oddly enough, it was Lawrence-based bands that routinely packed out venues, while the national acts were the ones that struggled to draw crowds.

“There were just so many good musicians playing at that time. There were so many good bands,” says Buffy Barton Davis.

During that era, Davis was the singer for Baghdad Jones, a popular Lawrence party band known for its funk/rock grooves and Janis Joplin-esque melodies.

Davis is returning to town along with hundreds of other scenesters of her era for an event titled Lawrence Reunion. For the first time since 1994, the majority of Baghdad Jones members will converge for a concert.

“Most people hate reunions. I love them. I love seeing people again,” says Davis, who’s lived in New York for a decade. “I hope my voice doesn’t sound 20 years older.”

Baghdad Jones is one of four bygone actss coming together as part of the weekend. Others include Caribe, Lonesome Houndogs and Salty Iguanas.

Ironically, this whole idea of a late ’80s/early ’90s scene reunion was fostered by that most modern of cultural devices: Facebook.

Davis recalls, “Somebody sent my friend Jackie Denning a picture of Baghdad Jones (who posted it on Facebook) and commented, ‘It would be great if the band got back together.’”

Within a few days, more than 50 people had contacted her saying she should try and the coax the group into a reunion gig.

“Facebook made it happen. To get these bands back together is a big deal. They’re spread throughout the nation,” says Tanya McNeely, who co-owns The Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass.

As part of the reunion, McNeely is staging an art show at her venue that features many of the same participants. An opening reception occurs at 7 p.m. and highlights the work of McNeely, Denning, Barry Osbourn, Sara Choler Hale, Neil Stockdall and Jeff Ridgeway. A concert gathering Saturday at Burcham Park is also part of the festivities.

Sin city

Denning is considered the brainchild behind the elaborate reunion.

“Most of the people I hung out with were college girls in the art scene, but the guys were musicians who were older than us. A regular college reunion would not have gathered our crowd appropriately,” Denning says.

The current Florida resident says her gang of girlfriends were best known by their well-deserved nickname: Sin Sisters.

McNeely recalls, “It started with me and Nicki Geist. Everyone was always asking, ‘Are you sisters?’ Someone said we were Sin Sisters, and that name stuck. It was like our own sorority. We were all about live music.”

Denning, a 1991 Kansas University graduate in textile design, decided to stage the reunion this particular weekend for “selfish reasons.”

“I wanted to also be in town for Art in the Park,” she says of last Sunday’s event. “I was very impressed with all the people who came to Art in the Park. Everybody was very hip-looking, very forward-looking. It made me realize what I loved about Lawrence. I think back in the day I got myself into some trouble, and maybe my memories were skewed of Lawrence.”

Denning left Lawrence in 1992 and “never looked back.” She currently splits her time working as an artist and at a health food store.

“Subconsciously, I put on this reunion because I always wanted to design a poster,” she quips.

She also wanted to help out fellow Sin Sister Davis, a former roommate of hers in New York.

“Buffy had always wanted a Baghdad Jones reunion,” Denning says. “I knew this would make her happy.”

Blast from the past

Davis also graduated KU in 1991, armed with a religious studies degree.

However, she stuck around Lawrence for three years pursuing her dreams of a music career.

Coupled with strong regional performances (opening for the Neville Brothers at Liberty Hall was among the highlights), Baghdad Jones began to earn interest from record labels after a showcase at the prestigious South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. The band’s management determined that in order for the act to jump to the next level, certain changes were required. Suggestions ranged from revamping the lineup to Davis whitening her teeth.

“I think we got close to getting signed, and that kind of broke us up. Bands think somebody is going to sign them and it will be easy, but it never is,” she says.

The singer left Lawrence in 1994, eventually ending up in New York. Now a married mother of two, Davis spent several years as the personal assistant to actress Kate Hudson. Currently, she works as a costumer for Broadway and film.

Davis admits she is “very nervous” about singing live again. She is proud that half of the material she’ll be performing is original, culled mainly from the group’s 1993 album “Beautiful Day.”

“Baghdad was the first and only band I’ve ever been in. I never thought we’d get back together, so this is exciting for everybody,” Davis says. “It’s one big fat blast from the past.”

Denning adds, “I think of it as being a full-circle kind of thing. It was a really big part of my life that I walked away from. I turn 40 this year. I had such intense relationships, and I feel a lot of love again, you know?”


John Kyle 8 years, 10 months ago

Oh Gawd! Can anyone say 'mid-life crisis.' I saw the lonesome hounddogs get together a few years ago and it was awful. It was obvious that they hadn't played together in years. They used to be one of the rockingest, funky bands in town but it was sad to hear them murder their old songs. Let's hope Jones has had time to practice a little first.

homechanger 8 years, 10 months ago

I heard the hounddogs last week and they still funk the rock out of their tunes.

Matthew Fowler 8 years, 10 months ago

There is no doubt that the music scene in Lawrence was better back in the early-to-mid 90's than it is now. No comparison.

The beginning of the decline of Lawrence's music scene coincides with the beginning of the decline of Lawrence proper. My first year in Lawrence was the '95-'96 semester, and I have always remembered what a truly awesome and fun place Lawrence was at that time.

It seems funny to be able to pinpoint a moment in time as "the year everything changed," but I distinctly and clearly remember 1996 as the year when big-boxes, apartment sprawl, and Johnson County-itis made their first appearances in Lawrence.

I also remember being able to see national-level bands downtown practically every night of the week, due to the "convergence" of the alternative/college and pop music scenes around that time. One night a friend and I caught an acoustic set of Weiland and STP's guitarist at the Bottleneck. The next week, Lisa Loeb. Both shows were poorly attended, and the only explanation I can come up with for that is that there was so much good music in Lawrence that we suffered from "choice fatigue."

Paw sucked, though.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 10 months ago

I heard the Hounddogs play just a few nights ago, and though maybe not as tight as they were back in the day, they still sounded great. But you're right, especially if they aren't regular gigging musicians these days, a few practices are in order for any of these bands. However, I think the point is more about the reunion than having perfect performances.

John Spencer 8 years, 10 months ago

A correction to the Burcham Park Lineup, 'Come back to me Terraverde' is now called 'Blue stoplights.' Kyla Jacobs is Kayla Jacobs Also, proceeds from the Burcham Park event will go to the Humane Society!

Bill Lee 8 years, 10 months ago

The Lawrence music scene has been important and vibrant for fifty years, and while each decade has been different, each has produced terrific bands that live in the memories of their fans. I could prove my point by naming acts from each era who found commercial and critical success, but I don't think it's necessary. We can all recall bands from the past we'd like to see again, but since we have differing frames of reference, we would each name different bands. I'm looking forward to seeing the bands this weekend just as I look forward to the older bands play at the Kansas Music Hall of Fame show each year. Maybe we'll see the Micronotz and/or the Embarrassment inducted next March.

kmat 8 years, 10 months ago

Paw sucked! I unfortunately knew those guys. Maybe if they could have been sober for a moment and not spread every cootie around town, they might have had a shot. Huge egos and average talent. and it's hard to make it when all you preach is how everyone else is a sellout, while at the same time they were doing everything in their power to be sell outs. They thought they were punk. Ha!

Killcreek? Seriously?

Baghdad Jones won't be the same without Toyo (sax). He got deported because the govt didn't consider his musical career to be enough to give him a green card once he finished school. He was such an awesome guy and so fun to party with.

The only bad thing about this is that so many people are coming in for the shows that there isn't enough room for everyone to attend them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 10 months ago

Yea, Toyo was a great guy. He was a student of mine (ESL classes at KU) when he first arrived in Lawrence in the late 80's. Another Japanese student in that class, Akio, was a piano student in the music department. They performed a great duet at the class party at the end of the year.

Sure wish he could make this reunion.

Jock Navels 8 years, 10 months ago

nobody goes there's too crowded.

cabella 8 years, 10 months ago

My favorite was always Stick... I saw them pretty much everytime they played.

terrapin2 8 years, 10 months ago

Ahhhh, fuzzy memories! I'm looking forward to tonight's line-up at the B-neck and Saturday night with Bgd Jones & the group formerly known as Caribe.

Stick = Mark Smirl, Tim Mohn, Mike Tobin, & Darrell Brannock

I was just hanging out with Mark Smirl (from Face First / Kill Whitey / Stick) in Chicago over the weekend! Good times!

kugrad 8 years, 10 months ago

Those would be welcome choices JackRipper but they were not available. The Greys were asked, as was Chuck Meade by himself, but neither worked out. A Dogs/Greys/Sin City show would give me teepee flashbacks!

Hilary Morton 8 years, 10 months ago

Give me Danger Bob, and Cher UK!!!!

Ah, that was my youth...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 10 months ago

Maybe this can become a semi-annual event, and some of the groups named will make it then.

Of course, Chuck Meade can sell out the Bottleneck or even Liberty Hall all by himself, so not much incentive to do it just for nostalgia's sake.

camper 8 years, 10 months ago

A nickel ain't worth a dime these days.

Not only was Lawrence good, it also attracted regional acts from Minneapolis like Trip Shakespeare and the Jayhawks (no pun intended).

Those were some good ole days. I'm not sure what the scene is like these days because I don't have the stamina anymore to just stand around and wait a couple of hours for the acts to change and set up the sound. Nothing to do but drink beer. In a way, I'm glad those says are behind me too.

Jaylee 8 years, 10 months ago

you guys might not dig what is going on right now in the Lawrence music scene, but that doesn't mean it has cooled down. there was just that article like last month or something about how, behind Nashville, Lawrence is the leading city for a musician to make a living in the country.

the tides are changing again though! i feel the funk and i know other people around town are digging the lounge/funk sound.

RKLOG 8 years, 10 months ago

Where's the 80s and 90 punk bands? I want to see them!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 10 months ago

"Did anybody every go to see Common Ground? Now, that was a great local band."

I think a lot of those guys are playing with Ras Neville, as the Kingstonians.

betterbelieveit 8 years, 10 months ago

Although I did see the Dogs, I think this lineup is kinda jambandy and represents a very small fraction of the scene at the time, obviously.

Food Head, Todd Newman, and Zoom come to mind for that era, although Todd Newman might have already gone to Minneapolis at that point. Todd Newman is the only one among these who constitutes real lasting talent, in my opinion- I still listen to his demos from the late 80's and his Leatherwoods releases-fantastic stuff.

Paw lucked out plainly and simply- poopy personalities aside, the songwriting is still sucky after all these years.

Kill Creek has one good effort, but it is definitely a product of it's time- Grunge.

But like misterlee points out, every era has good bands, and being signed to a major or minor label has no correlation to artistic success. If you think things are worse now, you probably aren't paying attention.

I don't even live in Larry anymore, and I still know that Drakkar Sauna is a great band to check out right now.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 10 months ago

Meanwhile, a few of us will be going to the Big Eat.

sunflower5 8 years, 10 months ago

I love the Houndogs & can't wait to 'Get Some Funk' tonight! It's going to be a beautiful day tomorrow to go to Burcham Park for a day of friends, family & great music! Also, looking forward to hearing Baghdad Jones 'Beautiful Day' live! :•)

sunflower5 8 years, 10 months ago

Yes, wereallmonkeys, Random Aztech was real good! They had a great soundman too!

Matthew Fowler 8 years, 10 months ago

Stumbled across my datebook/planner from '95 - '96: Lisa Loeb played the Bottleneck exactly 13 years ago today. Weird. Not exactly a local act, nor was she particularly "good," but still.

Other observations from that time period: Arthur Dodge and the Horseflies or whatever their name was, and Reverend Horton Heat. I don't have exact figures, but I think both must have played Lawrence upwards of 3,456,786 times.

Lesta 8 years, 10 months ago

At least one of the Paw dudes (who shall go nameless) was a good guy. His brother (i.e the drummer)? Total a**wipe. The night they opened for Nirvana at the KU Union, someone had an after hours party, where said drummer was running the tap on the keg. When I walked up to get my fill, he purposely avoided me and when it was clear he had to finally pass the tap my way (afterall, I was the only sorry SOB still standing at the keg), he sized me up, shoved the tap in my cup and asked, "Who's your favorite band?" Realizing what was going on, I replied, "Sin City" (I wasn't going to lie...certainly not in this situation). As soon as he heard that he mumbled something and immediately pulled the tap ouf of my cup, afterwhich I took my four fingers of Meisterbrau foam right out the door to Joe's Donuts...

I will say this, though: I do think Dragline was a good album but everything went south once Death to Traitors came along.

Y'all have a good time this weekend. Sure wish I could've swung into town for it...

Lesta 8 years, 10 months ago

You know the Lawrence music scene is good when even Soundgarden gets booed at the Bottleneck after a number of local bands, including the Grays and Sin City, opened up for them.

Lots of great shows at the B'Neck but you have to put Living Color towards the top of the list....They blew the roof off...

SearchingForTruth 8 years, 10 months ago

Salty Iguanas, Lonesome Houndogs , Monterey Jack, Bastard Squad and the original Omega parties...that was the 90's.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 10 months ago

Yawn. The Outhouse was the center of the scene and the scene went to hell once it was shut down.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 10 months ago

Replay in the 90s... that brings back memories... I knew it (my memory) would come back someday.... Oh well, it's almost 8pm... getting ready for bed... Things really have changed.

cutny 8 years, 10 months ago

OK...Here's the situation:

Paw rocked. The songs still do. Just try to find a copy of "Save the Last Bullet for Yourself." If they weren't your best friends, you can only partly hold that against them.

Random Aztech? Seriously?

Sounds like a fun weekend, but the bands are not my fave of the time.

Can you all fight/comment about "The Note" now?

George_Braziller 8 years, 10 months ago

Buffy used to live in the apartment right above mine in the late '80s. My god what a voice. She'd sing even as she was cleaning her sink. That's the neighbor you actually want. Haven't seen her for years.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 10 months ago

To me, when KLZR went top-40, it went downhill. Much like Nirvana killed hair metal, Backstreet Boys killed Alt. rock.

Mike Blur 8 years, 10 months ago

Hee hee Pywacket, I provided the source cassette for that oxideflake link you posted. You can check with Jason on this fact.

I've been invited (3 separate times) by facebook friends to this weekend's jamfest. It's simply not appealing to me, as I never saw most any of this fest's attendees at my favorite shows (Sin City, Kelly Girls, King Trash, 2 Mile Death Plunge, Joe Worker, Cher UK, Zoom, Bubble Boys, the list could go on...) and I was never into smoking pot and getting my groove on. Back in my younger days, fill me up with a 12 pack of Weidemann and I'll pinball off the walls of the Off the Wall Hall/Loft/Outhouse/Crossing/Hideaway/Replay (until I turned about 35 or so).

It's fascinating to read the turns in this comment thread (less than 50 percent that relate to the actual featured band), and the festival itself. I don't mean to belittle the efforts of the organizers; heck, nearly 3 years ago the J-W gave the same last-minute coverage to one of my favorite shows this decade (Embarrassment/MIcronotz/Kill Creek in Aug. 2006.) It's just not my cup of beer, and as far as seeing friends, I'd rather hang out with Uncle Andy (who is actually younger than me) at the bar of the Replay than some quasi-hippie fest where I would have to deal with roaming dogs, screeching children, the 75 percent of scenesters I cannot stand, and frisbees that are liable to hit me on the head at any time.

A couple more notes. The guys in Paw were generally decent guys, given to moments of outrageousness. Two of them (Mark and Grant) are still facebook/myspace friends of mine. The band was pretty average, and they would agree with me that their lives and (small) fortunes were changed when they were still Hammergod and heard the "Bleach" album. To anyone to tries to smear them on the internet because of their sex lives, I have only one thing to say. Sex was a two way street back then. Nuff said.

Cutny: about the Note. You did great work, esp. fabricating the one time you non-interviewed me! We never met up, but you knew what I would say anyway.

true_patriot 8 years, 10 months ago

Blur filled in some gaps, here are additional local bands including fleeting ones that all contributed in some way or the other over a span of older times and bridging the different scene niches, very loosely chronological:

The Embarrassment, (Yard Apes - K.C.), Start, Mortal Micronotz, Micronotz, Get Smart!, Pillbox, Regular Guys, Buckthrusters (K.C.?), The Blinkies, Short Notice, Shup Bish, Brompton's Cocktail, Guardrails, Other Geese, Der Stil, Invisible Order, Days or Rage, Chapter of Fear, Exploding Rodents, Hayseeds, Von Bulows, Swinging Dicks, Dashboard Buddha, Pink Bike, Sinn Fein, Blue Riddim Band, SDI, Oj's Allstars, Altered Media, Big Toe, The Catherines, Leatherwoods, Tofu Teddy, That Statue Moved, 2 Mile Death Plunge, Wayback Machine, FishStyx, 5-0, Crucifux (Topeka), Slackjaw, Cocknoose, Ricky Dean Sinatra (each incarnation had a different sound), Klusterfux, Schloss-Tegal (Birch & V2), Near Death Experience, Battery Idiot, Red Zone, Eubarneia Campaign, UltraViolets (Manhattan?), Worthless Pukes, Pedal Jets, Broken English (wrong spelling I'm sure), Sinister Dane, Platonic Bondage, Full Circle, Rabbit Scat, Master Cylinders, Foodhead, The Poverty Wanks, The Filter Kings, Parlay, Satan's Jeweled Crown, Names Don't Matter, Parlor Frogs, Love Squad, The Mahoots, Punchin' Judy, Freedy Johnston's band with Doug Hitchcock - don't remember the name, that Jim the Painter - Lawrence Peters trio thing - can't recall the name but lots of fun, Alferd Packer Memorial String Band, L.A. Ramblers, Which Doctor, Cum Puppies, Cancer Stick, Bubble Boys, Black Water, Coyote Ugly, The Wilmas, Danger Bob, Action Man, The Anniversary, BeNon, Barking Geckos, Proudandtall, Onward Christian Glover, 11-11, many many more and of course the ones alread mentioned in the article or comments.

Current or recent bands with folks from days gone by still playing:

Uncle Dirty Toes, Mahoots, Kawdaddies, Barry Barnes, Cryin' Out Loud, Gourmet Mushroom X, The Gloves, Chubby Smith, Hyperopia, Late For Dinner Band, Beer Belly band, probably several more, just don't get out as much anymore

Hoots 8 years, 10 months ago

I went last night...the bands sounded great and everyone was having a great time.

RKLOG 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm glad that someone mentioned some good bands (thanks to Blur and true_patriot). The "Klusterfux" are still playing (several times a month) with "Joe Worker" drummer, Randy, now behind the beats.

And "The Gloves", who feature many old-time local musicians such as Mike from The "Lonesome Houndogs" and Randy from the above named bands, on drums (yes, two drummers), also with Uncle Andy on guitar, bassist John C. from "Wasted Stacy," and "Tenderloin," to name a few.

These bands play nearly every week and need the local support. All you folks should check them out sometime.

RKLOG 8 years, 10 months ago

And if rock and roll isn't your bag, check "The Wise Acres," a bluegrass band made of several local old-time musicians, who do originals and are even the featured soundtrack for an upcoming documentary on Kansas called "Overlooked."

I believe the show times are Sundays (May 10, 17, 24, 31) at 10:30 p.m. on KTKA 49 ABC, Sunflower Channel 12.

This town is still rockin' and rolling, you just have to stay up a little later than 8:00 to hear it.

Mike Blur 8 years, 10 months ago

Also don't forget "Cryin out Loud" which features Marc Koch from Get Smart, Steve "Speg" Eddy from the Micronotz, plus longtime locals Steve Dahlberg and Matt Dollar. Old school crap-kickin country in your face!

Good list true_patriot, there are a few errors in fact, but too inconsequential for me to point out now. One thing I do want to say--Action Man was an awesome, talented band with a far too brief life span. Chris Tolle (who is still active in the KC scene) plus Steve Buren (one of the great old school bass players--he can play 32nd notes!) and the aforementioned Randy Fitzgerald...."Adventures in Boredom" is still one of my favorite local records to this day.

For those of you that have the vinyl version (not the CD) of "Adventures in Boredom" a neat little fact about the record is that during the final song, "Frank," the band recorded the typical lunchtime crowd at the Free State Brewery from the balcony! Totally local!

I have been cleared by the owner of oxideflake to post a "guest post" of a local show from bygone days, a recording that will absolutely amaze the few hundred that subscribe to that blog! Look for that in the next few days.

Also, next Monday the 18th, I will be on the air at KJHK FM 90.7 radio, playing many of the bands listed in true_patriot's post, as well as whatever I feel like! 4 to 8 pm.

townie79 8 years, 10 months ago

what ever happend to "Day on the Hill"? or I remember going to the FIRST Vans Warped tour held here in Lawrence at Burcham Park...the Mighty MIghty Bosstones were one of the headliners...why did Lawrence lose out on those 2 events?

Mike Blur 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm fairly sure Day on the Hill was de-funded by SUA because of the costs involved in relation to attendance. Day on the Hill may have been a victim of its own success--they got incredibly lucky when they booked Pearl Jam when they did, and now everyone expects a "name" headliner, and get disappointed when quality acts like the Gin Blossoms and the Poster Children headline.

Other local outdoor music fests are probably subject to the whims of the City Commission.

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