Entries Tagged as 'Culture on the Hill'

Loco For YoYo: Interview with YoYo Performer Patrick Canny


By Georgia Hickam

yoyo patrick canny

Did you know that you can pursue yoyo as a professional, competitive hobby?  I didn’t either until I met Patrick Canny.  I first saw him perform at this year’s KU’s Got Talent, a student-run talent show full of gifted singers, dancers, and performers.  Patrick is a professional yoyo performer ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 27 in the entire world.  He has won countless yoyo competitions and can now add KU’s Got Talent to his growing list of successes.  I sat down with Patrick to ask a few questions about his unique hobby and his personal style.

What originally inspired you to pursue yoyo?

“My dad really inspired me to get into yoyo when he showed me the basics on an old wooden yoyo. I was instantly hooked! I started taking yoyo more seriously when I learned that there were competitions around the world and people who were way better than me. Ever since I’ve been trying to constantly improve my routines, and I think 2016 will be a good year ;)”

yoyo2 patrick canny

How would you describe your personal style?

“My personal style is almost 100% based on comfort. Some people think it’s super lame, which I don’t really understand, because if you’re not totally comfortable, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you’re doing. In fact, a few of my friends are always calling me out, telling me to wear “nicer clothes” but I don’t really get it. I guess my philosophy is that I should be ready to take a nap at any time, since you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to just chill out.”

What’s your favorite thing to wear right now?

“I’m really into tailored sweatpants (read: joggers) because they show off the kicks as well. Shoes are pretty much always the highlight of my outfit. Lately I’ve been wearing Vans Sk8 Highs and TNT SG, but I’ve got Jordan IIIs and Saucony Trainers in the mix as well. My favorite things to wear lately have been Nike Tech Fleece products. I have a pair of pants and a jacket, and they’re both really comfortable and functional pieces. The nice thing about Tech Fleece is that it’s double lined, doing a better job at insulating heat than other, comparable products. This has definitely been useful in the cold weather we’ve been having!!”

Describe your style in three words.

“Cozy Or Die!”

What role do you see yoyo playing in your future?

“I’m pretty positive that I want to actively pursue yoyo as a career…I’m practicing really hard this year but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be in the competitive scene. I hope to stay connected to all the awesome friends I’ve made in the community, and I’ll probably try to stick around as a judge/contest organizer. I’m also working on a design for a yoyo right now, which is cool because it ties directly into my coursework as a mechanical engineer. Hopefully one day people will be able to use a yoyo that I designed!”

yoyo3 patrick canny

Photography by Luke Finnell

Photo Feature: KU Swing Society Festival


Some of us spent Valentine’s Day with a special someone, some us spent the holiday alone. But some spent the evening in the Kansas Union Ballroom dancing the night away. Staff photographer Skyler Lucas dropped in on KU Swing Society’s annual swing festival last weekend and grabbed some great shots of the dance competition and its dancers.

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Photos by Skyler Lucas


Playlist: Happy (or Anti) Valentine’s Day


V-Day Playlist

Valentine’s Day is this weekend. For some of you, that may include cute Valentine cards, dressing up and having dinner with a significant other, and maybe heart-shaped chocolate (yay!). For others, it’s another Sunday night spent binging Netflix and eating french fries, and maybe heart-shaped chocolate (yay!). Whatever your weekend calls for, we’ve got the playlist for you. This week we’re bringing you two staff-curated playlists to cater to your inner romantic, or your bitter cynic. If you’re anything like us, you’re a bit of both. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Don’t forget to follow us on Spotify!

WTF is up?! – Super (moose) bowl, lip kit induced depression, and more



By Darby VanHoutan

This week is relevant. I only made 10 pots of coffee this week. I only fell asleep on the bus once. I didn’t post an embarrassing snapchat story (yet). Also, things are happening in the world. The world is your world. Get educated. Find out WTF is up.

Hello February

 First of all, happy February. February is a great month. It’s Valentine’s Day. Time to fill out the FAFSA. We’re one month closer to summer.  However, after being raised in a All American family, February means different things to me. It’s Black History month. My mom was never shy about reminding me about things like my carbon footprint, free education, and what months stand for. I later learned that lots of people have mixed feelings about this. Instead of waking up on February 1st and thinking “Ahhhhh, what a lovely February morning. I can’t wait until Valentine’s Day!” it was more like Rosa Parks-shaped waffles and my mom reminding me that thanks to Kent State University in 1969, it was Black History Month. Some people think taking the time to separate the month from others is just another form of racism. Others think it’s a way to acknowledge black history. Maybe others just want Rosa Parks-shaped waffles. Many celebrities have chimed in, including actors like Morgan Freeman, who interviewed with 60 Minutes last year calling the month “ridiculous” and arguing that “black history is American history.”

Get Political

On a more patriotic note, IT’S PRIMARY TIME! Get excited. Chug a Bud Light. Wear red, white, and blue. Do American things. Unless you don’t know what primaries are? If you’re a person who thinks “caucus” is just someone misspelling carcass, buckle up. Basically, every one of our 50 glorious states has to decide what republican and what democrat they want to vote for in the general election. It’s like getting on Jimmy John’s website and deciding what chips and what sandwich you want: both are equally as important and need some consideration.This process takes voters in all the districts of the states to get together and say who they want, (ya know, like barbecue chips maybe and a 6 inch sub). In summation, the winners of the primaries and caucuses determine who will be the party’s candidate in the general election. February 1st marked the first caucus of the 2016 presidential election, which took place in Iowa. I know what you’re thinking: “Where the hell is Iowa?” That isn’t necessary to know. What is necessary to know is that out of the bajillion (It’s actually 12 republicans and 3 democrats, but you get the picture) candidates running for president, a total of 4 dropped out after seeing the results.

I’ll give a quick recap. Let’s start with Republicans.. Basically, they’re all middle aged white men who love America and hate Obamacare. Ted Cruz won the republican nominee in Iowa with a total of 27.6% of the vote. In a close, and honestly surprising, second is Donald Trump with 24.3% of the vote.

Honestly, I wish I could let you know who won the democratic nominee in the Iowa caucus but no one knows WTF is up there. Technically, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton won with 49.9% of the vote. U.S. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders came in second with 49.6% of the votes. It’s all a little weird, and many districts decided the democratic winner with a COIN-FLIP! A coin-flip.

I understand when this stuff comes on you may have the sudden urge to change it to Keeping Up With The Kardashians or watch grass grow. This is important though. Get excited. Get involved. These are the people who are going to set your tuition and decide super important things like if you can smoke marijuana…legally.

SuperBowl 50

In more patriotic news, football things are happening. A super important showdown is happening at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday February 7. Some big important team (Denver Broncos) is playing another kind of  important team (Carolina Panthers), and us mortals have an excuse to drink a moose bowl at Bullwinkles. BONUS: It’s the 50th annual Super Bowl. Bonus moose bowl for the mortals. For those of you not into football, still maybe tune in. Remember Big Mike from The Blind Side? He’s the left tackle for the Carolina Panthers. That’s right. Cute. Goals. Adorable. Another moose bowl! Don’t forget to watch Coldplay play the Halftime show (the main reason we’re watching).

The Lip Kit is LIT

Finally, the most important update of all: Kylie Jenner added three new colors to her lip kit. According to Kylie Jenner’s Instagram post (@KylieJenner) the complete 6-shade line of lipsticks was“#comingsupersoon” and “#staytuned.” Fast forward one day. At the exact moment that Kylie Jenner posts an extremely important Instagram post announcing her new shipment is available for purchase online, I am at the Underground losing every ounce of chill I had. I nearly spit out my $5 cup of coffee from Reverie. I, with no regrets, log onto her website and try to buy every single one. Her entire line sold out in less than 30 seconds. Ouch, Kylie. I am staying tuned. I am definitely staying tuned. Until then I’ll just overline my lips with drugstore Maybelline lip stain.

Photo by Emma Creighton
Graphic by Hannah Pierangelo

Playlist: Study Motivation


study playlist

Finals are around the corner…but that means the end of the semester is, too! We’re counting down the days. For everyone that has to shut themselves in their room with headphones on to get any real studying done, we made a playlist for you. A nice combination of chilled out songs and motivational jams, this playlist will help you through whatever hell finals week threatens to bring you. Featuring some favorites from Twenty One Pilots, Robert Delong, and Ellie Goulding, plus a couple re-imagined covers, you can spin this playlist until you pass out on your textbook.

Hang in there, guys. And good luck!

Playlist: Halloween Party



Get the vibes right with our latest staff curated playlist. It’s the perfect mix of Halloween and party, featuring classic themes like “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror, and modern pop with a creepy feel, like “Beggin For Thread” by Banks. We’ve got you covered this Halloween. Be sure to follow us on Spotify to keep up with the latest playlists!

Halloween Party Playlist

Halloween Must Watch Movies


Halloween is just days away! We’re getting into the spooky spirit over at Style on the Hill, brainstorming our costumes and watching scary movies. Here are a few of our favorites!

Halloween movies

Tell us what you’re watching this Halloween (if you’re not watching the Royals World Series game) and tag us on social media! We’re @styleonthehill.

Compiled by Holly Kulm
Graphic by Hannah Pierangelo

Playlist: Fall Break Favorites



It’s finally Fall Break. It is just us, or was this the longest week ever?

Whether you’re traveling or staying in town, you can’t go wrong with a killer playlist for the weekend. Today, we bring you our latest staff curated list, featuring some of our favorite songs at the moment from Cold War Kids, Head and the Heart, Years & Years, and more. Plus, we can’t get enough of the new CHVRCHES record Every Open Eye. They’ll be in Kansas City at the end of the month, so be sure to catch their show!

A Guide to Staying in LFK For Fall Break



Fall Break is just days away! We’re practically counting the minutes to the long weekend. Whether you’re staying in town or squeezing in some traveling over break, we’ve got you covered. For those of you holding it down in LFK, here’s our guide to relaxing right and enjoying every second of the break. Stay-cation, here we come.


First, coffee. No, wait. First, sleep in. Then coffee. The weather’s cooling down and it seems like everyone is crazy for pumpkin spice. We can’t deny the power of the pumpkin, but we can direct you to a couple Lawrence staples for a pumpkin latte flavor test.

Prima Tazza | Pumpkin Spice Latte

I asked the barista for recommendations of specialty fall drinks. He thought for a moment, taking his first pause from filling the orders of the long line of sweater-wearing, 20-somethings that had arrived before me. “I guess that would be a pumpkin spice latte,” he offered. I was a little disappointed with this response, hoping that as one of the Lawrence staple coffee shops, the bar might have a more creative seasonal drink selection, especially since their specialty drinks are always so good. I ordered the sole autumn-inspired drink on the menu and took it with the optional cinnamon and nutmeg, which he sprinkled on top of the perfectly foamed milk with particular care. Inhaling, I let the warmth of the drink and mug warm my face and hands—an awe-struck grin overcoming my post-midterm expression. My first sip was filled with anticipation. Hmmm. I tried again, this time taking a fuller gulp, hoping that maybe the first had been just foam. But the second sip was confirmation—the latte was nothing special. In fact, it was almost tasteless. The only spice or hint of fall flavor was that which the barista had sprinkled on top, not within the drink itself. It lacked the distinct pumpkin spirit I had hoped for. Dissatisfied, I left the shop almost wishing (shamefully) that I had gone across the street to Starbucks.

By Audrey Danser

Henry’s | Muddy Pumpkin & Lawrence Phog

The Muddy Pumpkin

I order the twelve ounce Muddy Pumpkin in a ceramic mug. I sit in the corner of Henry’s by the board games and books, and look at the art on the wall while it cools. Don’t you just love the way the frothy milk is shaped like a leaf? One sip and I swoon. This take on the flavor of autumn blends a smooth black chai, not too spicy, a double shot of Southpaw espresso, and only a touch of pumpkin spice. This drink isn’t going to club you over the head to remind you it’s fall. You already know that. Instead, it’s a sweet dose of pumpkin that entices, rather than overwhelms. Add the quick bite of espresso, and this makes for a satisfying drink with a kick. When you want an alternative to the typical Starbucks fall fare, when the traditional PSL and graham cracker nonsense don’t thrill you the way they used to—look no further. The Muddy Pumpkin is here.

The Lawrence Phog

Okay, okay it’s not pumpkin. But one look at the ingredients on Henry’s delightful chalkboard seasonal menu, and I can’t help myself. I have to try it. I get this cup to go, and have to wait a moment for it to cool to the right temperature. It was difficult, let me tell you. When I take the lid off, I can smell the sweet combination of lavender and honey rising through a thick pillow of steamed milk. To drink it now and suffer the burnt tongue? I decide not to risk it. Finally the tea is cool enough. The steamy Earl Grey latte is simply delicious. It’s floral, it’s sweet, and it’s perfect for fall. Plus, with a name like the Lawrence Phog, I can’t help but imagine how this drink might taste on a cold, misty morning. If you like tea, you don’t want to miss this hot drink infused with cool flavor.

By Hannah Pierangelo


There’s plenty to do around town this weekend, and if Lawrence is too familiar, you can always get away to Kansas City! Here’s what’s on our list to check out over break.

Saturday Oct. 10: Fall and football go hand in hand. If you’re staying in town this weekend, don’t miss a chance to see our team play (and show off your game day style). Kickoff begins at 11:00 am.

Sunday Oct. 11: Take a road trip to Kansas City and support the Chiefs, who are playing the Chicago Bears at 12:00.

Monday Oct. 12: A concert is the perfect excuse to get dressed up and go out. The Internet, a soul band made up of several members from Odd Future, will be performing at the Granada. Complex said their new album, Ego Death, “is in the early running for R&B album of the year.” Doors open at 7 pm.

Tuesday Oct. 13: Spend time relaxing and shopping around at the Lawrence Farmer’s Market, before classes resume the next day. The Farmer’s Market is open Tuesday from 4 to 6 pm at 824 New Hampshire, and pick up a pumpkin or two to get in the fall spirit.

By Aleah Milliner

Netflix Binge

We wish we could say that we’re too busy adventuring over break to watch Netflix. But that is a lie. Netflix just loaded some fresh movies and shows this month and we’re ready to binge it all.

  1. The Awakening (2011)
  2. The Babadook (2014)
  3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  4. Bruce Almighty (2003)
  5. The Nightmare (2015)
TV Shows:
  1. Charmed (1998-2006)
  2. Once Upon A Time (2011-Present)
  3. Dexter (2006-2013)
  4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)
  5. Supernatural (2005-Present)

By Holly Kulm


Photo by Abby Liudahl
Graphic by Hannah Pierangelo

Dare to Dream


By Hannah Pierangelo


Woodruff Auditorium bubbles with the chatter of the audience on a Wednesday night. Unsurprisingly, the crowd is almost entirely female. Tonight’s event is titled “Dare to Dream” and is targeted to the young women present—girls with stories, girls with dreams. Christie Garton, KU graduate, college expert and founder of the company U Chic and the 1000 Dreams Scholarship fund, speaks about her efforts to inspire young women and help them accomplish their professional and personal dreams. Accompanying Garton is Farrah Krenek, an actress known for her roles in Orange Is The New Black, Law & Order, Nurse Jackie and SNL, among others.

The point of the event is part advice, part inspiration and part gushing about Orange Is The New Black. But Krenek is more than just a celebrity speaker. Her experiences growing up and working in the entertainment industry tell the story of what it’s like to be different.

Krenek, who stands over six feet tall with short, spiky hair and dons typically masculine attire, says she was bullied as a kid for looking like a boy.

“I went through very bad bullying and very bad ridiculing,” Krenek says. “And I was from an era where there was no Google, no Youtube, no social media that I could report this to, so I just had to take it, which is why I became stronger.”

For Krenek, “Dare to Dream” means pursuing acting as a gay woman and trying to overcome her past, where she says she felt unaccepted. Now, as she has found her success story in the entertainment industry, Krenek values her craft more than ever.

“I am not an actress because I am looking for glamor [or] fame,” Krenek says. “The reason I’m doing it is because I want to represent girls that are like me. Or that were like me and had nobody to look up to. I’m not saying that there were not gay females that could be actresses that could be an example, but they really didn’t look like me. Being a girl that looked like a boy that wanted to be an actress that was auditioning for girl roles, they acted like, ‘What circus do you belong to?’”

“My message is: it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t give up,” Krenek says.

Krenek trained at a modeling school, but distinctly recalls hating makeup. When she auditioned for the massively popular Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black, Krenek says she could be herself.

“Everything I hate—the makeup, the glamor—was everything they didn’t want,” Krenek says. “It was [more like,] the meaner and tougher you look, the better.”Farrah Krenek

Garton says she chose Krenek to speak at “Dare to Dream” because of the actress’ success at a young age and her inspiring story. Moreover, her campaign’s mission is about giving young women role models.

“This is a time to realize that there’s not just one type of girl out there,” Garton says. “This is a diverse generation of young women today.”

Garton reaches her audience of college-aged women primarily through U Chic, which sells items and also gathers college advice from girls across the country to include in the best selling college guide book, The College Girl’s Guide to Everything. The book has sold more than 100,000 copies and is now in its fourth edition. U Chic also launched the 1000 Dreams scholarship fund last year, which uses a portion of sales in its web store to contribute to funding the dreams of girls everywhere.

“This life stage is such an important life stage,” Garton says. “You’re in the midst of figuring out what your dreams are. This is a formative time of your life. I think to hear this information and these personal stories that we’re sharing about how their girls are funding themselves or using support from our company to go out and do things, it’s really about sharing.”

The book gives young women a voice, and also a platform to share experiences, advice, and support. She says the book not only deals with classroom issues, but also aids with relationships and the college lifestyle.

“My experience was very much driven by what I did outside the classroom,” Garton says. It’s the reason she started the 1000 Dreams Fund. While in college here at KU, Garton was involved with her sorority, the symphony, and started her first non-profit at nineteen years old. Music Mentors is still serving the Lawrence community through the KU Center for Community Outreach today. Garton says her extracurricular experiences helped make her a more well rounded student, and she wants to extend those opportunities to all young women.

Over the last year, her company surveyed 300 college women about their college experience. She found that more than half say that extracurricular activites are important to the future, but 95% lack an easy access to funding to pursue these activities.

Garton’s scholarship fund aims to change that. In the last year, it has already funded sixteen women. One scholarship recipient is also here tonight. Gracie Schram steps on stage with canary-yellow pumps and a guitar. The Kansas City high school student is just seventeen years old, but has already recorded a full-length album with a Grammy award-winning producer Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, Brett Dennen) in Nashville. She donates a portion of her album sales to charities and has helped underprivileged children in Africa and Haiti, raising more than $30,000 for The Global Orphan Project.

Gracie Schram

Krenek, Garton, and Schram all take the stage to emphasize the importance of a person’s story and a person’s dreams.

“I have a story to tell, and just because I don’t cry about it every day, anymore, doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult,” Krenek says.

She spends the final part of her speech doling out words of advice, encouraging the audience to make friends with strangers, look up from their phone screens and interact with the world, and above all, value their self-worth.

“If I can hear the story of one girl that tells me, ‘I saw you on TV’ or ‘I got your message’ or ‘I heard your story and it inspired me,’ then mission accomplished.”
The 1000 Dreams Scholarship Fund is taking applications now. Apply here.

Photos by Hannah Pierangelo

Farrak Krenek and Christie Garton spoke at the Kansas Union September 23rd, 2015.

Playlist: First Day of Fall


first day of fall

Today officially marks the autumnal equinox, or what’s more commonly called the first day of Fall. Fall is one of our favorite seasons around here—the weather finally cools off, which means it’s a prime time to add layers to our favorite outfits. Plus, Fall means apple cider, carved pumpkins, and seeing the leaves change color on campus. This week, we’re bringing you a staff curated playlist featuring some of our favorite fall songs from artists like Twin Forks and Bright Eyes, plus everything else we’re jamming this week. Have a listen and don’t forget to follow us on Spotify!

Won’t You Come Down: What Makes Not Like Igor One of Lawrence’s Most Powerful Performances


not like igor

Photo courtesy of Not Like Igor

By Colin Murphy

Not Like Igor drummer Nick Fredrickson leans against the wall of his basement and practice space as we both watch guitarist and singer Maxwell Moore pace the floor. The two are contemplative in their speech, reserved in their manner. “The best shows I ever have are when I can just let go of every thought—just let go, just be in that space,” says Nick. “Forget about your worries, just give it your all.”

Not Like Igor lets go onstage, where the Lawrence-based band’s persistent energy ebbs from dancy and upbeat into driving, heart wrenching swells. Moore’s voice holds softer melodies with childlike vulnerability, but on the constant brink of growing into a scream—which he often does. Personal and poignant, Igor’s lyrics hit home like Moore has been reading your diary and is giving you the words you wish you had been able to articulate, all while telling his own story. Their album This is Just To Say is “One-hundred percent autobiographical,” Moore said. “The entire LP was mostly to do with my girlfriend at the time, and her role in bringing me out of a really shitty period in my life and making me feel like it’s okay to care about people.”

Math rock inspired guitar spins an intricate backdrop to frame Igor’s songs before settling into grooves that are guaranteed to get their audience moving. Nick’s drum style is primal yet calculated, innovatively driving the songs forward with a presence that is hard to tear your attention from. His demure manner sheds completely as he really loses himself to the music, which encourages the audience to do the same. With the addition of bassist and younger brother Andy Fredrickson, who creatively fills out what space was left open in the songs that were first written for two, Igor’s music has become layered and rich. All throughout Not Like Igor’s dynamic performance, you can’t shake the sense of sincerity and urgency that comes through at every moment. Every hit of the drum, every word mumbled or yelled is there because the band needs to put it out there, and they need you to hear it.

                    KEEP IN TOUCH
Not Like Igor
Music: Bandcamp
Facebook: /notlikeigor
Tumblr: notlikeigor.tumblr.com
Catch the band at their Kansas City show October 28th!

“That kind of show is not expected, but it’s inevitable, because that’s what people in the emo community are doing,” Moore says. “They’re baring their soul, and they’re showing that it’s okay to have them, and be vulnerable and get up on the stage with people who are going through the same shit you’re going through every day. So it’s been wholly cathartic to have my friends and the people in the Lawrence and KC music scene to get up right next to me, and to bare their soul along with me.”

Seeing it live feels as authentic as Moore claims, but it wouldn’t be so if not for the support of Igor’s fans, and their ability to be vulnerable back. “It helps that people come up to us afterwards and tell me that the lyrics and music touched them in some way,” Moore says. “When I first started playing shows it was so hard for me to get up and do that, it was so scary for me to get up there and talk about things like my parents divorce . . . The fact that people tell us that it’s relatable and that it’s getting them through shit and that it’s helping get through things in their lives that I’ve been able to relate with, then it’s hugely inspirational to me and it completely affords me the strength to do it once every week or once every two weeks like we’ve been doing.”

This connection to fans is what gives their style of music purpose, the band believes, and something unique to the genre. Moore continues, “I think that if Nick and Andy and I were to play shows and afterwards no one said anything then it would seem like what we were doing wasn’t relatable, and that would scare the fuck out of me—I don’t think I would be able to play music anymore if that was the case. Because it is very vulnerable to go up and not sing about going drinking on the weekend, but instead singing about things that are sometimes deep and dark and would otherwise be a total secret to those people.” Deep and dark aptly describes the tone of the band’s lyrics, but Not Like Igor is also relentlessly clever. Their particular brand of heart-heavy dissatisfaction is convicting, breaking down any barrier between the band and their audience, pushing everyone in attendance into the same headspace.

Photo by Colin Murphy

Photo by Colin Murphy

The band took their emo influence south last January when they toured through Texas, coming back with nothing but praise for the house shows going on in that region. “The shows were exceptional,” Fredrickson and Moore agreed. “Playing a house show in Houston where our style of music does thrive and house shows happen often, and people come without it feeling like you have to pull their teeth because they’re coming and they’re bringing money to support touring bands and bring their own beer to drink, and they treat their house shows like we treat our parties here. Instead of people just congregating and drinking beer, people are congregating and drinking beer and listening to great music. I’ve been watching videos and seeing this sort of things for years and it was so great to finally go and be a part of it.”

Not Like Igor hopes to release a second full length album this coming winter. Their current releases are available at notlikeigor.bandcamp.com for streaming and download, and be sure not to miss their October 28th show at Davey’s Uptown Bar in Kansas City, Missouri! If you can’t make it out (or can’t plan a month in advance) keep an eye on Mass Street—this band comes with a live show you can’t miss.

For Boos and Giggles: Being Funny For A Living


By Hayley Francis

Dennis Gubbins-comedy

Dennis Gubbins performs standup comedy at West Side Comedy’s Laugh Party in Santa Monica earlier this year.

Sitting atop a stool on the dimly lit stage of Replay Lounge, the sting of two fireball shots lingering in her throat, my roommate, Maddy Rich, grabs the microphone from the mic stand. Twenty-three people fill the bar stools idly holding drinks, or stand eating popcorn, anticipating her opening line. The come-as-you-are dressed crowd has gathered at 7 p.m. on a Thursday night for one reason: to laugh. It’s the weekly standup comedy open-mic and this is Rich’s first time performing.

The MC, Rob Schulte, tries to help. He sits at a podium with his own microphone and laptop contributing “hell yes,” funny sound effects, shout outs, and laughs to engage the crowd and keep the handful of performing comedians rolling.

He’s one of seven local comedians who created Harpoon Presents, an organization with an initiative to spread comedy in the Midwest. Last year, local comedians Bene Garcia, Chance Dibben, Peter Lyrene, Joe Noh, Shadoe Barton, Rob Schulte and Zach White realized that their individual local shows were closely scheduled or overlapped. The self-described indie comedy group decided to get together to collaborate, and it set out to establish Lawrence as a “good place for comedy.” With no comedy club in Lawrence, the group puts on weekly open-mic opportunities and showcases and monthly shows. The goal: “To expose anyone and everyone who is interested in comedy.”

So what drives these people, like the members of Harpoon Presents, my crazy roommate, and professionals, to willingly stand in a spotlight or under dim fluorescent bar lights teetering on a crowd laugh as they do their best to be humorous? Why risk being thrown to the dogs for a laugh? My roommate says standup is her door of opportunity to the improv world, where she feels her class-clown personality can land her a job she’s excited about. She aspires to be on SNL or perform with the Chicago improv group The Second City. Schulte says it’s simply the joy of making others laugh. Fellow Harpoon Presents member Chance Dibben says he’s pursuing comedy because it’s freeing and all for fun.

When I asked professional comedian and actor Joe Torry, a St. Louis native, he justified his 25 years of joke-making saying, “For me it’s therapy.”

Torry says comedy is a way to articulate his feelings through humor and connect with others. “It’s being able to vent and get immediate approval. I feel like I’m a hero when I say certain things because people are going through the same stuff that I’m going through…When some people think like you and they’re not even the same color, or the same age, or the same gender, then it’s like a universal laugh or a universal healing.”

His claim to fame before strictly focusing on comedy was hosting the Russell Simmons Def Comedy Jam in 1992, where he went on to star in several hit comedy films like House Party and Strictly Business, and made appearances in the TV series E.R. and NYPD Blue as well as other films like Poetic Justice and Sprung. He is now working on standup and improv comedy and preparing to do two major tours, one solo and the other with a collection of comedians. The best part of being a professional comedian he said: “It’s more of a talent that’s blessed by being able to make money, and to express myself without getting arrested.”

But getting to his status didn’t come easy. “It was a hustle.” Attaining professional success begins at ground zero for most. Torry says the process begins with re-locating oneself, like he did, to Los Angeles, the best place for opportunity and exposure. Self-promoting your talent is also important, like uploaded performance footage to YouTube or sending out DVDs to prospect companies. From there it’s casting a wide net and performing as much as possible, networking, seeking agents and managers, and ultimately being at the right place at the right time. Along the way, Torry advises that aspiring comedians should, “try to find [their] own voice. And to stay well read, meaning to be able to perform anywhere and tackle any subject.” And once a comedian gets a bite, it’s about continuing to elevate him or herself while climbing the ladder.

The climb to individual fame for the core members of Harpoon Presents, however, doesn’t seem to be its main objective. Each person has their varying, individual aspirations, but the group’s goal is to collectively build a larger audience for themselves in Lawrence, and help others to get a foot in the comedy door. While they all joked about being jealous of blossoming newbies that surprise them at open-mics, their collaborative work is simply about the laughs and a shared love of comedy.

“I don’t expect to become famous, but I do enjoy creating something fun for my town,” Schulte said. “I just want to do weird stuff.”

Harpoon Presents is aiming to achieve this with it’s weekly and monthly events, as well as bringing “some of the country’s best, most interesting, and weirdest comedians to Lawrence” in its annual Riptide Comedy Festival. The festival, which took place in April, is a downtown Lawrence showcase of more than one dozen comedians from around the country performing over three days. The hope, according to the members of Harpoon Presents, is that the showcase will “grow the seed” of comedy in Lawrence. There are already over twenty affiliates outside of the group’s core seven that perform regularly at the organized shows; the seed is growing.

Keeping the seed alive will be the challenge. Outside the efforts of Harpoon Presents, it will be even more challenging for individuals aspiring to be professionals to make it. Torry says maintaining and elevating success as a comedian is an ongoing battle:

“People talk about retiring, but that’s when you’re dead. At every level you need to try to take your game to another step, another roof, another plateau. And I guess that’s what keeps me inspired, and everyone else inspired, is that you’ve never made it. The energy of still having to prove yourself, which most people do especially when you’re living out in L.A. or Hollywood. People don’t care what you’ve got, what you did yesterday.”

My roommate is beginning this ambiguous climb to hopeful success as she raises the microphone to her mouth on the Replay Lounge stage. “Well, coming after that guy,” (a mid-thirties bearded man who joked about “hot twenty-year-olds” and having sex with them) she begins, “let’s talk about ladies. And all that we do for you guys.” She uses this springboard to talk about guys’ desire for nude selfies from women and tells the story of her first, failed, nude selfie to her high school boyfriend. She unknowingly included the fresh poop sitting in the toilet in the background of the photo. “I felt pretty good about what I sent, but I nervously waited for his response. He finally texted back and said, ‘Flush the toilet.’” The crowd erupted in laughter. She chuckles and concludes her one-and-done story with, “Well, that’s all I got.”

As she walks off the stage, relieved to be done, the MC hollers, “Yeah! First time for Maddy Rich, let’s hear it!” The crowd gives a supportive clap, and a few people lend some shouts. Flustered she didn’t use the entire five minutes, but relieved to have broken the performance ice, Rich exhales loudly when she greets me behind the bar. “Whatever, it’s done.” But when the butterflies settle, she excitedly begins talking about what to change and add for next week’s open-mic act.

Q+A with Dennis Gubbins

Professional comedian and actor Dennis Gubbins is known for films such as Beer Fest, and The Horror of Barnes Folly, and he has acted in commercials, a few T.V. shows and award-winning independent films. He was also a writer for South Park, and is currently a writing consultant for the upcoming Netflix series Flake’d, and a writer and producer for Comedy Central’s Brody Stevens: Enjoy it! In addition, he is working on stand-up comedy, writing various TV pilots, and auditioning for acting positions. I asked him what it’s like to be funny for a living.

Where do you get your material?

DG: Generally my material comes from real life experiences. I like to tell stories and a lot of times those stories are about awkward and funny things I have done or said. I am pretty self-deprecating and not really into making fun of people.

Is any topic off limits?

DG: No, not really. I think if it is funny then it is okay. But you never know if it is really funny and not offensive until you try it a couple times. Like rape…I don’t find it funny so I avoid it, other than the couple times I referred to myself as the child produced by Louis CK raping Zach Galifianakis. I don’t do that joke much. Any “hot topic” like religion or racism is certainly fertile ground and free game, but it is a fine line between funny and interesting and offensive and tired [or] hack.

Who is your favorite comedian and why?

DG: I don’t really have one, but I really liked Robin Williams growing up because he was physical and wacky and I was like that too. I was compared to him by a mutual teacher we had. He grew up in Marin County like I did. Today I think Bill Burr and Louis CK are great. I really like Zach Galifianakis and his comedy, and Sarah Silverman and Tig Notaro always make me laugh.

What has comedy taught you about life?

DG: I wish more! Ha. Comedy has taught me to look at the hard and awkward things in life from a different angle, to find the humor in all things. That is not to say I laugh in the face of death–I don’t–but it has taught me that it all depends on how you look at something and choose to interpret it. I also learned this growing up in an Irish Catholic family with a lot of funny people. Gallows humor was always big in our homes and so was pushing the taste a bit.

Photo courtesy of West Side Comedy. 


Playlist: Labor Day Weekend


playlistHappy Labor Day Weekend! We’re stoked to celebrate the holiday, even if it does mark the end of summer. We put together a new playlist featuring some new favorites from Halsey and the X Ambassadors to keep your stereo on all weekend long.

Follow us on Spotify (styleonthehill) to stay updated with all our new playlists!

Playlist: Back to School



Welcome back to the hill, Jayhawks. We are beyond excited to start this semester! To kick it off right, we gathered the staff for another awesome playlist to keep you pumped all day long. Featuring the bouncy and addicting 80s pop style of The Griswolds and our favorite songstresses Demi Lovato and Beyonce, these jams will put some spring in your step on the first day back in class.

Don’t forget to follow us on Spotify (styleonthehill) to stay updated with all our new playlists!

Playlist: Weekend Jams


Weekend Jams Playlist

It’s only Thursday, but we’re kicking off the weekend early with a brand new staff-curated playlist. It features some of our favorite artists, like BORNS (who will be playing in Kansas City at the Starlight Theater with Charli XCX and Bleachers in two weeks!) and Vinyl Theatre. Pretend it’s Friday with us and turn up the music!

Playlist: Summer Vibes


It’s 4th of July weekend, which means it’s time to get decked out in red, white & blue and indulge in a little pyromania. Just don’t forget to keep a drink in your hand and the music up loud. Start the weekend off right with our staff curated playlist on Spotify and keep the vibes going all summer song.

View this playlist in the Spotify app.

Follow Style on the Hill on Spotify to stay up to date with our playlists throughout the year. Show us how you celebrate the holiday weekend on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Buzzed on Bro-Funk: A Conversation With Captiva


Captiva 2015

By Hannah Pierangelo

“Someone described it to me as Bro Funk,” Hank Wiedel says of his band’s unique sound. He’s the drummer for Captiva, a young band based out of Kansas City. Jackson Ries, guitarist and one of the vocalists, calls it indie alt-pop for now, but admits he still doesn’t know what category his music falls into.

Though Captiva may not have its genre figured out, the band certainly knows what sound they create. Wiedel and Ries tell me they draw their influences from indie-rock chart-toppers Young the Giant and another genre defying rising to fame—Twenty One Pilots.

“They’re like my favorite band ever,” Ries says. “I get a lot of my inspiration from them.”

Captiva will be opening for Twenty One Pilots at Starlight Theater in September. Wiedel says he simply reached out to the Starlight staff and managed to land the gig. Ries says playing in front of his idols will be a dream come true.

Captiva will play a handful of music festivals in the midwest this summer. Catch a show and add some “bro-funk” tunes to your playlists!

I heard you met in detention?

Jackson: “Well, [Hank] and Pat MCQuaid, the guitar player, met in detention. He got me into detention when it was all happening. We were at Rockhurst high school, and I had been talking to [Hank] about jamming. We weren’t really a band yet. He never texted me back and I guess he got his phone taken away at school and they saw that I texted him, so he got me three detentions.”

Hank: “Me and McQuaid, we both got detention for something stupid like being late or something, so we were taking out trash together after school. We had just been featured in the school newspaper on the same page, so that’s how we recognized each other. Then we just started talking music and he wanted me to play on their [Captiva’s] record. It kinda blossomed from there, into a beautiful flower.”

Jackson: “It eventually became Buzz Like Bees.”

Does Captiva have plans for an EP or an album coming up?

Jackson: “Yeah. We have like a five-song EP. We’re starting on it later this month and we have pretty much the whole summer with the studio. Not sure what it’s going to be called yet.”

Hank: “It was going be one theme, but we changed it up and started writing more progressive music.”

Jackson: “We have a lot of old songs in our arsenal, but ended up writing these brand new songs that we’re super excited about. So we’re kinda changing up the vibe.”

Hank: “It’s kind of a whole different Captiva, really.”

Jackson: “Yeah, it’s us evolving for sure.”

What would you say makes it different?

Hank: “It’s a little bit more poppy, almost, more up tempo, more dance-y. It’s got the same funk and Captiva charm, but it’s a little more mainstream honestly.”

The band has a pretty impressive lineup scheduled. Is there anything special you do to get your name out there?

Hank: “Really, it’s just like being as unique as possible. And being ourselves. A lot of bands, a lot of people in general, try to put on a façade of something that they want to be. If you just go out and be yourself, it’s easier to be charismatic about what you do if you’re not faking it.”

Jackson: “When you go out there and people see that you’re not pretending—that it’s all real, it’s all you—that’s what I think is the main instigator to get our name out there. Just staying true to ourselves. And sweet Instagram pics.”

On your social media, you tag a lot of posts with “Stay Buzzed.” Is there any meaning behind that?

Jackson: “Our song Buzz Like Bees is the song that got us the most hype. We just kinda like to promote the “stay buzzed” because we’re Captiva, we’ve kinda got that island feel and we want to bring people on vacation. And you’re buzzed on just whatever’s around you.”

Hank: “High on life. “Stay buzzed” is kind of a statement like “keep digging it.” If it’s not us, then dig whatever you surround yourself with. Enjoy life.”

Captiva will play Field Day Fest in Lawrence this weekend. Catch their 9 p.m. set at The Bottleneck on Friday, June 26th. The band will also perform at Audiofeed in Urbana, Illinois, Backwoods Music Festival, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus, Ohio.

Check out the band on Facebook and Instagram, and hear their latest music on iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

Photo courtesy of Captiva. 

Cream of the Crop: How A Band Called ‘Maybe Not’ Defied Its Own Name


By Lyndsey Havens

Maybe Not KJHK Farmers ball 2015

Short, concise and memorable — that’s how Alex Chanay describes the name of the band he is part of. Chanay, a junior from Topeka, plays guitar and sings in the band Maybe Not. In addition to Chanay, the trio includes Sam Goodrich (drums) and Gus Cobb (bass), both seniors from Topeka.

“We would go back and forth on what we should call ourselves,” he says. “Most suggestions would get met with a ‘maybe not,’ so basically our band name was chosen from our indecisiveness.”

On the contrary, the audience at Farmers’ Ball—a music competition held by the University of Kansas’ student-run radio station, KJHK—voted a decisive yes when it awarded third place to the band on April 25.

Farmers’ Ball grew out of a KJHK program featuring local music called Plow the Fields in 1994. Tom Johnson, general manager at KJHK, says the event began “as a way to recognize the best in local Lawrence musical talent.”

For Mitchell Raznick, a senior from Omaha, Neb., the competition has evolved to more than just that. Raznick, the live event director at KJHK and one of the emcees at the event this year, says Farmers’ Ball is one of the defining events for local music. He says, “It creates an opportunity for the local musicians to get their work out there, and it helps KU students and Lawrence residents interact with the local music scene through tradition.”

That tradition started on the hill in 1994 when SUA still held Day on the Hill, a daylong music festival on Campanile Hill that featured national acts like Pearl Jam. Farmers’ Ball was conducted in partnership with this event. The local band that won Farmers’ Ball was awarded “the epic prize” of serving as the opening act, Johnson says.

Damage to the hill from concertgoers brought Day on the Hill to an end, but KJHK, unwilling to surrender, carried on with Farmers’ Ball. The competition offered substantial, though somewhat less “epic” prizes, such as studio time and t-shirt printing. The competition is now held at the Bottleneck and the prize is straight cash. Johnson says offering a cash prize “makes the most sense to support local bands, giving them the ability to invest in what they see fit to grow their act.”

Fresh Crop of Talent

Maybe Not KJHK Farmers Ball 2015

This year, there were 85 submissions to Farmers’ Ball. Johnson says each year the competition averages anywhere from 50 to 80 entries.

“I can tell you that every single band that made the top eight semifinal spots deserved to be there,” Johnson says. “I think that’s the first time I can honestly say that about all of the bands since I began at KJHK, so that indicates to me that the local music environment is as robust as ever.”

This was Maybe Not’s first time participating in the competition; the band officially formed in August 2014. Its music teeters between upbeat and emo-esque, finding a balance that’s pleasing to the ear.

Chanay says the group was having a tough time reaching a fan base beyond their immediate friend group and felt that Farmers’ Ball was the best way to gain exposure in Lawrence. Travis Diesing, a junior from Papillion, Neb., says the Bottleneck was at least three-fourths packed for the semifinals.

Will the band perform next year and try to move up in the rankings? Chanay, true to form, says, “probably not.” He says Farmers’ Ball achieved what they wanted it to this year—build its audience in Lawrence and form friendships with other bands. “We’d rather leave the slot open next year for another young band trying to do the same,” he says. When the next competition comes around, Chanay says the band hopes to be on tour.

The most challenging part of competing, Chaney says, was “having extremely disparate sounds go up against each other to be judged.” He says the band didn’t expect to make it to the finals and that they felt extremely lucky to share the stage with equally deserving groups.

“The stakes are high when you’re dealing with a concentrated event that can literally launch a band’s career,” Johnson says. “We respect how much care we have to pay to the process throughout.”

Margaret Hair, a graduate student from Greensboro, North Carolina, is a full time staff member and program coordinator for the SUA-KJHK Live Music Committee. In simple terms, she explains there are five steps to the process, which begins with bands submitting their music to KJHK.org. She says about 40 students spent a Saturday listening to all of the submissions and voting on every band.

From there, online voting begins. People are able to listen to music from the top 16 bands and vote for their favorites. The top eight bands then move on to perform in the semifinals — which took place on Saturday, April 18. Each of the eight bands plays a 20-minute set and the audience votes for their favorite at the end of the night. The four bands with the most votes advance to the finals show.

For the finals, each band plays a 30-minute set and audience members again vote for their favorites at the end of the night. No Cave, a hard-hitting fusion of a rock and jam band, won the first place prize of $2,000. Via Luna, an instrumental group with electric-indie flair, won the second most votes and prize of $1,000. Toughies came in fourth, winning the prize of $250.

Maybe Not says it plans to use its cash prize of $500 for promotional t-shirts and making CDS of its two EPs. Aside from the participating bands’ increased publicity, KJHK largely benefits from this event as well.

“Having the event every year means we can try to catch bands as they form and grow,” Hair says. “It’s also a big boost to the station, in that it gives us access to a huge set of local music every year, and establishes connections with dozens of local acts.”

Farmers’ Ball is a collaboration of every area, not only within the station, but also including the live music partners at SUA. Hair says while it’s rewarding to see the various areas work together to produce the event, it takes a lot of work to get to the finish line.

“There are challenges to navigating the year-long campaign of encouraging bands to submit music and then working through all the voting rounds,” she says. “But the end result — a big, buoyant local music extravaganza — is easily worth the work.”

Photos courtesy of KJHK Staff. View more live photos from Farmer’s Ball here, or check out kjhk.org

Hear more of Maybe Not on Bandcamp.

Concerts From The Couch


By Hannah Pierangelo

Abandon Kansas concerts from the couch

“It’s magical out here.”

Jeremy Spring speaks in passing, but he’s right. There’s something special in the air tonight. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s decently warm for the first weekend in April. Maybe it’s the fairy lights setting the mood. Maybe it’s the lawn chairs casually arranged in the backyard of a home in west Wichita. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m attending an intimate living room concert and it’s not actually in a living room.

Spring, vocalist and guitarist for Abandon Kansas, who played the 14th show on their national living room tour in the band’s hometown, Wichita, laughs off the comment. But there is a little magic out tonight.

Abandon Kansas embarked on their tour in the middle of March. They wrapped up a total of 46 shows in the cozy homes of their fans last weekend, playing almost every single day for the majority of the spring. It’s the band’s sixth living room tour and clearly a hit with their fans.

Playing music in living rooms is not a new concept by any means, but it is flourishing again. Google “house concert” and tons of entries show up. Most stories on the subject describe a growing trend of artists playing in homes, though none can cite any data to support the claim. However, with so many people taking note, it’s clear that house shows might be everything but trending.

Live performance in private space may be a tale as old as time, but this type of intimate event was most popular in 1920s New York. With the modern communication available in social media and event planning apps, it’s easier now more than ever to host concerts in unique spaces like homes and backyards.

Tonight the band plays in a backyard instead of a living room, which Spring says is unusual. But the house is familiar—Spring recalls helping friend and previous Abandon Kansas drummer Brian Scheideman renovate and flip the house. Scheidman still owns the house, and the hosts for the evening have rented the space from him for the last five years.

The band take their makeshift stage, a grassy place beneath a swing-less swing set adorned with fairy lights, just after 9 p.m. The sun now fully set and a crackling bonfire lit to keep the guests toasty on the still chilly spring night, Abandon Kansas croon out their new songs, carving their electric indie-rock in the dark.

“There are a lot more loose moments, a lot more mistakes,” Spring says. “We don’t play to metronome like we do onstage. There’s not a ton of lights and all this jazz. It’s just right there, raw. It’s very exposed. People are sitting on the floor right next to us. It’s the real deal.”

If you’re a concert fanatic like I am, then a private show limited to 40 people, including the band members, is a dream come true. I’d expect this level of up-close-and-personal time from a VIP all-access pass, complete with bodyguards and maybe even red velvet rope. It’d probably cost a fortune.

For this exclusive evening with the band and the first play of their brand new record Alligator, I paid $10. That’s a Chipotle burrito if you add tax and guacamole. That’s the cost of the Moleskine notebook I used to take notes at the show.

“House shows have always been around,” Spring says. He thinks they’ll always be there, too. “They just kinda come and go. But to do a full tour of house shows, I think that’s kind of unique. I haven’t seen a ton of bands doing that.”

                    KEEP IN TOUCH
Abandon Kansas
Website: abandonkansaslovesyou.com
Twitter: @AbandonKansas
Facebook: /abandonkansas
Soundcloud: /abandonkansas

The Golden Age of the House Concert

The living room concert dates back to the Harlem Renaissance, which spanned from the early 1920s to mid 1930s in New York and cultivated African-American art, literature and culture. Residents of Harlem experienced both rent and wage discrimination and faced exorbitant costs of living during the time. The 50-block district emerged as a slum by definition of its living conditions. During the early part of the decade, it’s estimated that nearly 200,000 blacks migrated to the neighborhood, with up to 7,000 people inhabiting a single block. The residents began to host Saturday night parties in their small apartments, enlivened with good music and “refreshments,” as alcohol was prohibited at the time, and invited friends to pay at the door for a good time. Friends were happy to oblige, well aware of the living conditions they shared, and the cost of the rent party typically amounted to less than entry to Harlem’s popular clubs.

Langston Hughes writes in his autobiography The Big Sea: “The Saturday night rent parties that I attended were often more amusing than any night club, in small apartments where God knows who lives . . . but where the piano would often be augmented by a guitar, or an odd cornet, or somebody with a pair of drums walking in off the street. And where awful bootleg whiskey and good fried fish or steaming chitterling were sold at very low prices. And the dancing and singing and impromptu entertaining went on until dawn came in at the windows.”

Professor Jacob Dorman of the History and American Studies departments at KU says that soul food and music were a large part of rent parties. Upright pianos were prominent fixtures in the small living spaces and players innovated the “Harlem stride piano” method of playing, which allowed the player to create a bigger sound and cut through the noise of the party.

“One reason why rent parties are so important is that they illustrate that the way most people lived in Harlem was not the way white visitors experienced Harlem,” Dorman says. Popular Harlem venues like The Cotton Club were white owned and only admitted white guests. Other clubs allowed blacks if they passed a paper bag test, meaning that their skin had to be lighter than the color of a brown paper bag.

“What this meant was that ordinary working class people had to find their own entertainment and make their own fun, and they did so in small cabarets and bars and in these occasional rent parties that might start late and go all night,” Dorman says. “So rent parties, with their music, soul food, and opportunity for sociability among black working class people, illustrate one powerful way that people were able to put their cultures and their bodies to work for their own pleasure, even if they worked low paying jobs or were not allowed into Harlem’s more famous commercialized leisure spaces.”

Though the repeal of Prohibition and The Great Depression effectively ended the rent party in the early 1930s, the Facebook invitation for the Abandon Kansas show tonight boasts a cheap ticket and a BYOB attitude, ringing in the house concert once again. The living room show isn’t a formal event—it’s just an opportunity for a good time and good music, same as in Roaring 20s Harlem.

“Most people aren’t brave enough to go out to a house show so it’s like, just the hardcore fans come out and the people that really want to know what’s going on,” Spring says. “That gives us a chance to get some real hang time with the people who really know who Abandon Kansas is ‘cause [these shows are] not highly publicized.”

The band promoted this tour the way they promote all of their tours—through social media. But for first time, Abandon Kansas tried organizing the national tour by offering the option to host as a perk for donating to their crowdfunding campaign last year.

Spring says it’s been hard to put out a new record. It’s been four years since their last full-length, Ad Astra Per Aspera. The title comes from the Kansas state motto “To the stars through difficulty.” Spring says there was plenty of difficulty to get the new music released. The band left their record deal at Gotee Records and instead opted for an independent approach. Teaming up with post-hardcore band Emery and their new label Bad Christian, Abandon Kansas were able to set up an IndieGoGo and raise $15,000 to fund their third full length, Alligator.

A Siren Song of Social Media

Abandon Kansas concerts from the couch

Social media and online event planners have been crucial to the renaissance of the living room show. The concert-tracking smartphone app Bandsintown, used by 250,000 artists and more than 16 million concert goers, just announced a new analytics feature in February that allows artists to view their best markets at a glance.

“We are living in an age where data is becoming increasingly accessible and in music, analytics are critical to decision making,” says Leah Taylor, the director of communications at Bandsintown.

“Bandsintown Analytics shows where the highest concentrations of concert-goers are worldwide,” Taylor says. “The purpose of the tool is to help artists understand where it would be wise to book shows—from a house party to a stadium.”

Crowdfunding is another method, and one of the newer ways for musicians to raise money and connect with fans. Backers donate money to the cause, usually a new record or tour, and gain rewards in return. Abandon Kansas, like many artists of late, endeavored to crowdfund for a new album and a living room tour to get back to playing for their fans. Spring emphasizes that it’s not charity, but more like paying in advance. Backers got a copy of the album, tickets to the living room tour, and for $300 upfront, the option to host the band in home.

Tonight’s hosts, Allison and Molly, have hosted a house show before with a handful of local Wichita acts at their last home, a duplex shared with their best friends on the other side of the dividing wall. They pitched the few hundred bucks to have Abandon Kansas play in their new place in west Wichita.

“We like doing it,” host Allison McElroy says. “We both love music and I’ve listened to Abandon Kansas since high school.

Once the band met their crowdfunding goal and the living room tour became a reality, the band and the hosts began promoting primarily through social media.

Spring finds that Facebook is the most successful for the band, though they also try to post frequently on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up with podcasts. He says the word of mouth is still the best way to get people interested in the show.

KU grad Ryan McGee recalls hosting a living room concert here in Lawrence in 1995, pre-dating the ease of instant online communication.

McGee hosted the small folk act Catfish Keith in his house on Mississippi Street, which has since been torn down for the parking garage. He remembers putting posters around campus and trying to entice as many friends as possible with the promise of a keg. Without even e-mail, McGee says he called the phone number on the back of the band’s CD to figure out how to book him.

“At the time, that’s all you could do—hang up posters and talk to people,” McGee says. “I would have had a much bigger reach on Facebook, or even gone beyond my social circle with something like Twitter.”

McGee remembers the living room packed with people of all social circles—friends, strangers, even a few professors.

Though it’s been 20 years, McGee has thought about hosting another living room show.

“It lives on in memory the way a traditional concert might not,” McGee says. “The best part is the feeling of being responsible for the event around you, bringing all the people to enjoy music.”

David Bazan, solo artist and the man behind indie-rock band Pedro the Lion, is another musician finding success in living room tours. He began touring in homes in 2009 before the official release of his debut full-length solo record, Curse Your Branches.

In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Bazan explained his start by asking himself, “What do I need to do to play songs and have people pay me money?”

“That’s what it comes down to,” Bazan says. “I genuinely love playing my music. I’m going to do it for the rest of my life. How can I do it to make the money to provide for my family and have it make sense? I said: house shows. If I can’t play anywhere else, I’ll play living room shows. That’s really how it all started.”

Bazan says he couldn’t do his living room tours without social media. Initially, the tour was just an email list of potential hosts that eventually grew to be his successful national tours today.

In the beginning, Bazan says he got “a lot of whisperings about making a bad career move.” Most musicians follows a traditional tour and release cycle that expects new material release about every two years, filled with touring in between.

“The thing is, though, people undersell how these shows connect with the fans,” Bazan says. “There’s no hype, no promotion, no gimmick. If I wanted to tour 100 to 150 days a year and put out a record every two years, I could do that.”

Beyond the cycle, Bazan says he loves to play house shows and get the chance to connect with his fans. “These 50-person living shows feel way more meaningful, even more meaningful than 300-person club shows,” he says.

Cash for Chorus

Just as Harlem rent parties emerged to cover the rising cost of living in New York, Spring says he began doing living room tours out of necessity.

“The touring scene is tough,” Spring says. “It got to the point where we’d play a bar and you know maybe a couple hundred people come out, but then we’d leave with a few hundred bucks either way.”

Spring breaks it down for me. In traditional touring, there are a lot of middle men. Typically bands give up around a third of the ticket price to the booking agent, manager and venue. With the living room tour, fans get a cheaper ticket at only $10, and the band gets the whole pie.

“Really, we’re not like buying new cars,” Spring says. “We’re just putting gas in the tank and making sure everybody gets fed and ordering more CDs and just keeping the business going.”

Another perk with playing in the living rooms of dedicated fans—the band gets a free meal and a place to spend the night. Spring says the living room tours are definitely the most financially successful tours for Abandon Kansas. Though he prefers to plug in and play loud, Spring likes to take on the living room tour once a year.

Spring sums up the living room tour best: “I think it just became survival. The music business changed. The way we download music’s changed. So the way we tour has to change.”


Alligator is available now on iTunes. Stream it here.

Photos courtesy of Abandon Kansas. 

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