KJHK’s Farmers’ Ball 2018 is over! After a killer semi-final show on April 6th, four acts advanced to the finals that took place last Saturday, April 14th. Those acts were: Brendan Mott, Maybe Not, MK Ultra!, and Shoebox Money. After seeing all the acts perform, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that all of the acts deserved to play the final show.
First up, promptly at 8pm, was Brendan Mott. Mott stood alone on a stool with his acoustic guitar center stage. I could be wrong but it looked like he laces his shoes with horizontal lines instead of criss-cross. That last part doesn’t matter in the slightest, but I thought it was interesting. Mott’s lyricism and storytelling was his greatest talent. His rough, gravelly voice about disappointment, the uncertainty of the future and all-around depressing introspective self-doubt made me really understand the person behind the guitar in an amazingly connecting way. The powerful lyrics were belted out as he swiveled back and forth on the stool. I was entranced with the sorrowful tale he was able to tell with his set. It was a great way to open up the event as I was able to draw myself into the crowd to listen intently from what others had to share. Do yourself a favor and look up his single “Dirty Dishes.”
Following up Mott’s performance was a great high school band MK Ultra!, which I found out after finishing this review have changed their name to LK Ultra! This group formed at Girls Rock Lawrence, a rock camp conducted here in Lawrence. Apparently, they had just minutes to come up with a name before they performed and they came up with MK Ultra, which has been used by a handful of successful bands in the past. Apparently they’ve decided they don’t want to be confused with others, and the change to their name really stands out. LK Ultra! is made up of 3 chicks and a dude, and boy did these kids rock the show with their indie punk rock sound and the very firm announcement: They are not a Girl Band! At first, they sounded like a typical punk garage band, but their lyrics about the trials and tribulations of being young women, the lead singer’s relationship with her Native American heritage, and the battles of transsexualism shined through and were at the center of their performance. Their keyboardist, Auggie Hyde, was by far my favorite part of their set. His excitement and enthusiasm was evident immediately. During Pussy Hat, there are parts where the front three (keyboardist, lead singer/guitar, and bassist) sing into the microphone in unison and his voice pierced through while playing the keys and made it perfectly clear that he connected very strongly with the material. Another memorable note, in between songs the front three used sign language to communicate with the drummer, despite her not being deaf. Auggie said to me that it was because the drummer, Aoife Conway, has trouble hearing over all the noise and they figured it’d be a great way to normalize the use of ASL and help talk to each other on stage. This band was great and I recommend listening to “Two Spirit” and “Indian Princess.”
Following up that set, was the bluesy, southern rock band Shoebox Money, which, to be honest, is just a great band name. I had the privilege of seeing this band before at the more timid and controlled Tunes at Night, so unfortunately nothing was too surprising about their sound or performance that night. By the time their set was scheduled to perform, the Bottleneck was packed, either due to their own merit or the nature of a typical Saturday night concert. This really helped them out because as the crowd was getting into it and jumping around, I too found myself enjoying the vibe of the crowd, possibly overlooking the merits of the band. Showbox Money can certainly sound like a generic alternative rock band instrumentally, but their southern inspired sound really does resonate through to the audience. What She’s Got was my favorite of their set, which, again, I had already had the good fortune to listen to before. The band, in unison, all seemed to feed off each other’s energy during the high points of the song. I am unable to figure out which song it was, but at one point, their guitarist Ben Wellwood, broke out the harmonica for a great solo which really matters in my concert experience. It’s always nice seeing somebody break out a different instrument they are skilled at playing and incorporating it into the show. And man can you really get down with a harmonica solo.
The band to end the event was Maybe Not. They put on a great finisher for Farmers’ Ball. They too benefited from the large crowd at the end of the night. This 3-piece male band seemed very prepared for the show, never one to miss a beat. Not a note seemed out of place and they were a great technical band. Maybe Not had a nice mix of varying tempos. The band’s energy and intensity increased with each song they played, culminating in a bombastic final song. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their two EPs, found on their bandcamp. They gave Farmers’ Ball 2018 a great send off into the Saturday Night and had people rushing to the KJHK table to cast their vote. Kudos to them and all involved.
Of course, KJHK’s Farmers’ Ball is a Battle of the Bands, thus there must be a winner. The winner by audience voting was awarded to: Shoebox Money! Congratulations to Ben Schenberg, the sharp dressed lead vocals and guitarist. Ben Wellwood, the lush red-haired guitarist and harmonist. Patrick Spanier, the average Joe rocker on bass. Dylan McCune, the pretty boy drummer (according to literally everybody I talked to about their set). You guys did an amazing job bringing in people to the event and rocking the show. I was fortunate enough to be standing right by them and their friends as they were announced the winner and it really hit home how much this means to these musicians that participated. The screams of “We did it!” as they jumped and hugged fueled the happy night that transpired long after the event was over. It was truly a memorable moment being able to experience their happiness for their hard work and amazing set.
The runner ups were Maybe Not in second and LK Ultra! and Brendan Mott in an undisclosed follow-up finish (specifically ambiguous in that order: We don’t do last place here.) Overall the show was amazing, with all acts bringing their own spice and flair. Expect some of these acts to return next year. If you missed the show, there are in-studio recordings which can be found on the this website and the Live@KJHK YouTube channel.
All photos taken by KJHK’s Multimedia Staff