Performed September 28, 2013 at Front Space in Kansas City, Missouri

Calvin Johnson dancing while singing an a cappella version of a Hive Dwellers tune, Photo by Andrew Erdrich

Calvin Johnson dancing while singing an a cappella version of a The Hive Dwellers “Sitting Alone At the Movies.” Photo by Andrew Erdrich

Any review of Calvin Johnson is obliged to mention his place as the Grand-Wizard of the Northwestern underground, earned through his founding of K Records and his lead role in such influential bands as Beat Happening, Dub Narcotic Sound System, and The Halo Benders. As significant as Johnson may be, the indie underground circuit is still–cough, cough–underground. So we find our hero at the modest yet adequate Front Space, an intimate gallery located just blocks from Kansas City’s new performing arts center, plopped in the middle of the crossroads arts district. The numerous onlookers are cozied up, seated on the ground smiling while completely rapt by Johnson’s sing-song story time. Days after, the occasional lament from those who, “Would have attended had I known about it,” doesn’t surprise me in the least; legendary cult status carries no guarantees of wide distribution, street teams, or promotional reach.

Johnson’s set was mostly acoustic, with intermittent a cappella pieces, all combined with free form dancing (pictured above). In fact, if you listen closely to the recording, you can here subtle variations in the sounds of his voice and guitar coinciding with a sudden twirl or a moment of turning his back on the audience. It’s all part of the show, which of course can sometimes fail to be adequately captured via recording (aural or visual). Years ago when Johnson’s first solo album “dropped” reviewer William Bowers was aggravated by the lack of drums and overbearing presence of vocal-only-tunes. He may not have taken into account Johnson’s at-the-time-newly-realized path of (what he calls in track 14) a traveling, wayfaring, troubadour. As such, Johnson’s true value as a performer may be bound to the “You had to have been there” qualities of the troubadours, where record is a wanting replacement for in-person experience.


Listen to Calvin Johnson’s set now with the embed below (1:07:00)

Listen to Calvin Johnson’s set later, with tracks already separated, by clicking the mediafire link below

Set List for Calvin Johnson

1. Ambulance Driver Blues [Amelia, Peter, Scott + Calvin]

2. Love Will Come Back Again (3:08)

3. Unknown [Lazy Mondays*] (7:06)

4. Unknown [Gallow’s Wine*] (10:57)

5. Sitting Alone At the Movies [The Hive Dwellers] (13:42)

6. Pine Shaped Box [The Hive Dwellers](18:16)

7. Can We Kiss? (22:30)

8. Apple To The Core** (26:53)

9. Farmer’s Market Interlude (30:30)

10. Kick These Boots** (33:13)

11. When You Are Mine (36:58)

12. Unknown [Every Woman*] (43:52)

13. Somebody’s Phone Is Ringing [The Hive Dwellers] (46:18)

14. Recycled Sounds Interlude (48:56)

15. Shake-A-Puddin’ [Dub Narcotic Sound System] (50:41)

16. Diamonds Are Forever [Shirley Bassey] (54:40)

17. Platinum Slumbers [The Halo Benders, Unreleased] (57:48)

18. Get In [The Hive Dwellers] (1:02:01)

For More Calvin Johnson, K Records, or other affiliated acts click the link below

I’m also including a link to my favorite Beat Happening track out of sheer self-indulgence. Enjoy!

When I asked Calvin Johnson if I could make this recording he replied, “Do whatever you want,” which I always do anyway, but thanks to Calvin for that affirmation. Show your affirmation for him and his efforts by supporting K Records and the litany of bands on their roster. If you like this blog then kindly share it, subscribe to it, leave some comments, and keep reading. Thanks much!

*These are my working titles for these songs as I was unable to find a precedent for them somewhere else

**This song has been titled and credited in other places but I am unable to find it on a specific recording anywhere

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