I spent a full 10 hours in the Crossroads Arts District Saturday for the last day of Middle of the Map Fest, but it was worth it for the seven bands I saw. I’m eager to get to the specifics, so here are the highlights.
Seeing Gracie Schram started off my final day of Middle of the Map Fest nicely. In comparison to the rock music I’d witness later at CrossroadsKC, her set was light, happy and bubbly. Schram took ample time between songs to explain stories behind the music she was about to play, developing a nice relationship with the audience from the beginning. Her sunny voice, coupled with uplifting lyrics, truly made the set great and helped me to realize why this was her third year in a row playing the festival.
This was my fourth time seeing Tall Tales live, and it was still a fun experience. The set at Collection was more casual than previous ones I saw at venues like The Granada, but still drew a significant crowd. Tall Tales debuted some new music during the festival, including a slower and more stripped track called “Narrow Vision,” which was the set’s highlight for me. The band said it expects to release a new album this summer, and, after this, I can’t wait to hear all the new music and see Tall Tales live again.
I moved to CrossroadsKC after Tall Tales’ set, and I got there just before doors so I could be sure to catch Pink Royal’s set. I was treated to great music that spanned pop, rock and R&B, held together by catchy guitar riffs. Most of the crowd fixated on Pink Royal lead vocalist-guitarist Dylan James Guthrie throughout the performance, as he danced and performed with an infectious energy that started the night off right. Though Pink Royal may have been the only band from the Kansas City area at CrossroadsKC for Day Four, the band surely represented the city well.
Of all the bands I saw at Middle of the Map Fest, I knew the least about Light Music — I did no prior research, and knew no songs beforehand. This worked to my advantage, actually, as the band’s performance sparked a string of surprising sets. Light Music’s electronic rock sounds cool and heavy at the same time, and the band makes creative use of its resources through techniques like playing a trumpet into an auto-tuned microphone. The band is signed to The Record Machine, a label out of Kansas City that co-sponsors Middle of the Map Fest, and its set at CrossroadsKC still managed to make me feel immense Kansas City pride.
Before this performance, Bassh was one of the more talked about Middle of the Map Fest artists, between a Band of Horses collaboration and a catchy single called “Body.” The music that the duo, onstage with a drummer, performed at the festival lived up to all this talk with a sound that’s polished and professional. The music Bassh played featured loud guitars and catchy choruses, and great chemistry between lead vocalist-guitarist Jimmy Brown and bassist-vocalist C.J. Hardee made the band’s performance even better. A photographer told me on Day Three that Bassh could easily fit in on KRBZ 96.5 The Buzz, and. after that set, I wholeheartedly agree.
All Get Out
At first, All Get Out may seem too similar to Manchester Orchestra in style to open for the band, but Middle of the Map Fest showed me why this isn’t the case. Obviously, All Get Out performs hard rock music, but there’s more than that involved. Lead vocalist-guitarist Nathan Hussey sings with unrivaled conviction, and this informs his rough and raw performance style as well. Between the screams and blistering guitars, I felt every word of the band’s songs, making All Get Out’s set a standout of the night.
Manchester Orchestra picked up with the hard rock right where All Get Out left off. Lead vocalist-guitarist Andy Hull’s vocals might hold the band together, but, for once, the band’s true talent is in the instruments, between the jarring guitars and strong drumming that work together to make heavy-sounding rock music. Hull was extremely grateful to Kansas City throughout the band’s set as a city that supported Manchester Orchestra early on, and the devout fans in the crowd proved his words right as they knew the words to popular songs and deep cuts alike. Manchester Orchestra notably left the rock behind twice in the set — once when Hull performed a solo song about rapper 50 Cent, and once during the last song, a mashup of Willie Nelson’s “The Party’s Over” and the Mountain Goats’ “No Children,” where Hull called off band members one by one.
When the lights finally went up and the show was over, I knew I had experienced another great day of music. After going to three of the four days of Middle of the Map Fest, I feel immensely more connected to Kansas City’s music scene, and, along the same lines, extremely thankful to be from somewhere with such a thriving music scene.