Stories for August 2008

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Friday, August 29

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An American in Prague

Koufax frontman takes inspiration from years straddling two continents

"Co Czech ti Muzikant." The phrase is a popular one in Prague, explains Robert Suchan. "The Czech music scene is not as hip as a city like Berlin. But they've always been a musical people. In fact, they have a saying, 'Co Czech ti Muzikant,' which means 'Every Czech a musician.'" That's good news for Suchan, the founder and lone constant member of indie-pop act Koufax.

Monday, August 25

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The Underground Wail Road

A travelogue of Lawrence's karaoke underbelly

Speaking as an ardent karaoke enthusiast, let's face it-karaoke is the musical equivalent of masturbation. It's a stigmatized act of self-gratification, done in the shadows of generally sticky confines, drenched in sweat and shame. Also like furtive onanism, however, we chronically return to karaoke because it's damn fun. And so, for those fellow travelers willing to throw off the shackles of Puritanism and delve into those forbidden pleasures of manual simulation, we offer a tour of the Lawrence karaoke circuit. This is by no means a complete accounting, as some karaoke is so depraved it has been driven deep underground to the same nether regions as cockfighting and Royals baseball, but rather a list of recurring and accessible karaoke that won't land you in a Tijuana prison.

Style Scout: Lisa Fisher

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Lights, Camera, Siren

Kansas City's Lights & Siren preps debut album

Bands are a lot like eggs-they require an attentive incubation period before hatching. Singer and pianist Anna Cole brooded over multiple incarnations of the Kansas City group Anvil Chorus before transitioning to Lights & Siren. A few lineup changes later, the band is off and running as a hard-rocking quintet that's intently more upbeat and showy than Cole's former projects.

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Cloud Factory

Local artists funnel magic from the sky

In 2004, a man from London named Gavin Pretor-Pinney started a group called The Cloud Appreciation Society, a project that was kind of silly and life-affirming in its exaltation of something so commonplace.

Clouds

Clouds are pretty. Why can't we leave it at that? Why do we have to go around naming them? Why do we have to tell children it's important to be able to recognize and label them?I'll tell you all you need to know about clouds. If clouds are white, enjoy them or ignore them-it makes no difference. If clouds are dark (black or grey), you may get wet. If clouds are funnel shaped, seek safe shelter.That's it.

Actual news*

*based on actual news

Monday, August 18

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Land of Odd

Busker Tales : The Thrilling, Revolting & Absurd!

":blowing big fireballs while unicycling, and stuff like that." When asked the standard question, "what is it that you do?" there are very few people who, like Trenten Coy Espinoza, a performer from Kansas City with gauged ears and scars branded into both arms, would be able to say this in your standard, matter-of-fact tone.

Q&A with The Wicked Liars (Land of Odd)

The Wicked Liars are Robert and Valerie Wolf. They juggle knives, do a bullwhip act, swallow swords, play with fire and a lot of other things. Valerie can move a double-edged razorblade around in her mouth. Robert once appeared on a stamp issued by the island of St. Vincent as part of a series commemorating great circus performers. They have been married for 13 years and live in Lenexa.

Q&A with Flying Debris (Land of Odd)

Flying Debris is Richard Holmgren. He has a routine in which he juggles two machetes and a Twinkie and eats the Twinkie. He performs fire breathing tricks and juggles children. His dad always asks him to balance a wheelbarrow on his head to impress his dad's friends. He's from Salina.

Q&A with Stephanie Roberts and Peter Lawless of BOOM! (Land of Odd)

Boom! is a five-person band. They march. They sing. They wear weird costumes. Their shtick is that they're sibling orphans-Lily, Neil, Boris, Peter and Paul-separated at birth and reunited after growing up all around the world. The instruments are ukulele, clarinet, bass drum, trombone, melodica, saxophone and accordion. They were assembled by Stephanie Roberts, who teaches physical theater at UMKC. They're from Kansas City, Mo.

Q&A with Jester Rejects (Land of Odd)

The Jester Rejects are twin brothers Kent and Kevin Mercer. They have traveled around the world, with the circus and on their own, to juggle and perform as clowns. They're from Independence, Mo.

Q&A with Richard Renner (Land of Odd)

Richard Renner has been making a living as a clown for close to 30 years and books other entertainers with his Vodvill Entertainment Company. He won't be performing at the Lawrence Busker Festival because he's got a gig out of town, but he's the guy who dreamt up the whole thing. He lives in Lawrence.

SureFire Jugglers (Land of Odd)

The SureFire Jugglers are Jason Smith and Trenten Coy Espinoza. They juggle objects between each other, perform a two-person cartwheel, blow fireballs while unicycling, etc. They're from Kansas City, Mo.

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All in the Family

Truckstop Honeymoon preps new album relating Katrina experience

Families have one primary advantage over cities: they're mobile. The forthcoming Truckstop Honeymoon album "Great Big Family" explores the new roots Mike West and Katie Euliss have planted since fleeing New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Style Scout: Ren Howard

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Ballin' Idols

A preview of the Kaw Valley Kickball Tournament

Deron Belt and Jason "Cougar" Hwang-warrior-scholars of the Kaw Valley Kickball League-joined us to discuss the clash of kickball titans known as the KVKL Playoffs and why those underage Chinese gymnasts should stick to making the sweat-shop sneakers we use for kicking balls and ass.

Actual news*

*based on actual news

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Friday, August 15

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'Idol' follies: Lawrence singers test their voices at TV auditions

When David Cook won this year's "American Idol," much national attention was brought to his hometown: Kansas City. Consequently, the "Idol" juggernaut decided to select KC for the first time as one of its eight audition sites. Last Friday, thousands of wannabe stars filed into venerable Kemper Arena (not the new Sprint Center, since "Idol" is sponsored by AT&T) seeking their instant ticket to stardom.

Monday, August 11

Style Scout: Ryan Ward

For Those About to Rock

An introductory survey of Lawrence's super awesome music scene

As all ya'll college freshmen will soon discover, there's more to Lawrence than basketball, big-box retail, and three strip clubs. For our pennies, the local music scene is where it's at. We've seen a lot of great bands come and go since we started publishing five years ago-fortunately, a lot of the best ones tend to stick around. But there's always a new crop of face-melting rockers and body-shockers that we're delighted to stumble upon in a shitfaced daze, and we try to keep up as best we can. In the spirit of a continually viable Lawrence music scene, we present to you an introductory survey of local bands that totally rock.

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Rise and Resist

Project Resistance mobilizes the community to combat violence against queers

As a sort of gruesome milestone, Project Resistance symbolically began nearly six years ago with the beating of Jeffrey Medis outside of a Lawrence bar. Although a full accounting of the incident has never been provided, Medis-a gay man who was then 28 years old-was assaulted while leaving the Replay Lounge in the early morning of December 6, 2002. Among numerous other injuries, he suffered a broken nose, broken jaw, and fractured eye socket. While he lay unconscious and bleeding, a friend of Medis came upon the scene and was involved in an altercation with the four alleged attackers. The response of authorities to this attack proved nearly as galling to the gay community as the attack itself.

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Calamity Cubed

Wichita's existence justified by imported string-band quartet

Whatever you do, do NOT bring up Split Lip Rayfield in the presence of The Calamity Cubes. They're sick and tired of being compared to the area's reigning string-band magnates. Sure, the Cubes do perform with similar instruments acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass. But they'd be hard-pressed to call themselves a bluegrass band, instead preferring to identify as a bunch of songwriters who happened to learn bluegrass instruments.

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Things to do in Lawrence if You're Not Quite Dead

The stuff the sleeping mule misses, but we, the opossums, see.

If you, dear reader, like to do things. And you find yourself in this place, Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.A. Then munch on this cowpie, my friend:our first (last) annual guide, coinciding with the seasonal return of the college students:a lawrence.com special presentation:Things to do in Lawrence if You're Not Quite Dead.

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Actual news*

*based on actual news

Sunday, August 10

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Wakarusa Fest may not play on

Organizer compares music festival with Manhattan event, claims discrimination

Lawrence may have partied at its last Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival. Festival promoter Brett Mosiman has accused the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks of bigotry and said he won't return the festival to Clinton State Park unless the department changes how it treats the event and its largely "hippie" crowd. "The situation reeks of discrimination," Mosiman said.

Benefit concert aimed at helping injured teen

Friends are seeking donations to help the family of a Lawrence teen who was seriously injured in a car accident last week.

Friday, August 8

iPhone reviews - Enigmo, Cro-Mag Rally

We take a look at a couple of the first games to hit Apple's iPhone.

Tuesday, August 5

Review: Soul Calibur IV (360)

Online play is great, Create a Soul mode will keep you busy for a while, and the fighting action is as fast-paced and nuanced as ever. A must-buy for fans of fighting games.

Monday, August 4

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Style Scout: Derek Solsberg

The Underdog

Democrat Jim Slattery battles uphill to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate

Jim Slattery has the unenviable task-some would say quixotic journey-of attempting to be the first Kansas Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate since 1930. A former member of the Kansas delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives, Slattery is now facing popular incumbent Pat Roberts, a Republican senator who has become an intractable institution since first arriving in Washington in 1967.

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Minus One

A podcast preview of Jordan Geiger's solo debut

We've come to know Jordan Geiger as the head of Minus Story, one of Lawrence's longer-running musical institutions. As that band has one-by-one scattered throughout the country (though musically remaining together) over the last couple of years, Geiger has had more of an opportunity to hone his solo material, which has come to be known under the moniker Hospital Ships.

Actual news*

*based on actual news

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Revolving Door

Bring 'em in, bond 'em out, the grueling life of the bail bondsman

On a hot Monday afternoon, Steve Robson was driving toward a row of apartments on Redbud Lane. He had received a tip that the guy he was looking for might be there. "This kid is not the best-natured kid in the world," he warned the two other men in his Ford F-150, license plate BAIL. "He might be a cupcake. He might be a jerk."

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The Tao of Thao

Thao Nguyen Braves 'Bee Stings and All'

The last time Thao Nguyen rolled through Lawrence, she played for approximately four people. But even that trumped her Denver show, where the stage was caked with dog shit and the entrance was littered with raw chickens. Thao's lot has improved considerably since then, with her album "We Brave Bee Stings and All" creating a strong enough buzz to merit a headlining tour and appearances at music festivals like Sasquatch and Bumbershoot. Backed by a fully loaded ensemble dubbed the Get Down Stay Down, Thao's fingerstyle guitar picking gets a jolt of laid-back funkiness and a soulful strut. As was the case on her 2005 debut "Like the Linen," Thao's voice takes center stage and soothes us doesn't it? like a lick of ice cream. The multi-talented songwriter phoned in from a tour stop in St. Louis to discuss her new record, her love of hip-hop, her hatred of karaoke, strategies for confronting sleeping audience members and how you can't wear a dress with no makeup without looking like a crazy lady.

Saturday, August 2

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Green ideas wriggle into 'little' festival

From homegrown wind power to organic food and emission-cutting fuel supplements, Saturday's Little Green Festival isn't little any more. The second-year festival, which entertained hundreds at South Park, welcomed 115 vendors, a significant jump from the 25 that participated in last October's inaugural event.