By Justin Curto
Day Three: There’s something for everyone at CrossroadsKC
Of all the lineups, I was most excited for Day Three of Middle of the Map Fest at CrossroadsKC. It was heavy on notable local bands, and I was already a fan of the bigger bands, The Struts and Cold War Kids. So, I made the trek to CrossroadsKC just a few hours after my last full week of school ended for another big day full of music and surprises.
The bands I saw varied heavily in genre, with influences ranging from hip-hop to soul to glam rock. Here are the highlights.
After hearing a lot about the Teen Battle of the Bands competition, I was especially excited to see Theta Intellect’s set. A six-piece that formed just before the Battle of the Bands, which it won, Theta Intellect blurs the lines between R&B, hip-hop and rock music. Rapper-trumpeter Parker Bata’s raps are slightly reminiscent of Big Sean, vocalist Jaquaylah Taylor hits big notes but also sings smoothly and the band’s trumpets give its music a fuller sound. Much of Theta Intellect’s set comprised original music, and, after hearing the band live, I’m crossing my fingers for recorded versions soon.
Rachel Mallin and The Wild Type
Admittedly, I had only heard “Razorback” before Rachel Mallin performed with her band, The Wild Type, for Middle of the Map Fest. So, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of upbeat, pop-meets-alternative-with-across-the-board-influences music from Mallin and Co. The name may make the group seem like a solo project, The Wild Type isn’t just in the background — the members interact with Mallin, and the guitarists are especially talented. Despite all the new music Mallin played, the highlight of the set for me was still the heavy rendition of “Razorback.”
Kangaroo Knife Fight
Kangaroo Knife Fight released a new extended play, “The Dark,” Saturday, April 16, and I saw many an amazing performance clip from the release show on Twitter that night. Seeing the band live did not disappoint —especially vocally, on vocalist Anthony Avis’ behalf. The singer, who moved to Kansas City from Australia in 2013, hits huge notes and sings with a lot of soul, putting his vocals at the forefront of the band. The rest of the members play quality rock music, though, rounding out Kangaroo Knife Fight’s sound and making it one of Kansas City’s premier local bands.
The Noise FM
From Chicago by way of Ft. Scott, The Noise FM played with the professionalism of a nationally recognized band, but the feel of a local one. The set, full of no-frills alternative rock, featured a few well-executed guitar solos by lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Alex Ward, along with a cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” mashed up with one of the band’s own songs. The Noise FM’s members showed off their humor as much as their musical talent, with bassist-vocalist Barry Kidd making jokes about nu-metal cover bands during soundcheck and Ward throwing deflated beach balls into the audience because the band ordered them, but only had time to blow up one. Between the jokes and the music, The Noise FM definitely played a worthwhile set.
I already liked The Struts’ music before this performance, but nothing could have topped seeing the band live. From the moment he walked out, lead vocalist Luke Spiller — who channels Mick Jagger, Liam Gallagher and Freddie Mercury, among others — had the crowd entranced by his flamboyant aura and cheering for the band. Spiller, along with the other three members, kept up the crowd’s energy for over 45 minutes of modern day glam rock, with cheering, call-and-response vocals and tons of other crowd interaction in between. Spiller did have a bit of a snafu toward the beginning of the set where he referred to “Kansas” — but, in true Struts fashion, he told the crowd to “Kiss This” as he corrected himself to “Kansas City.” That sass, energy and crowd interaction is what made this set one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Cold War Kids
Cold War Kids had a tough act to follow, but they rose to the occasion. The band played for over an hour to a crowd of dedicated fans — so dedicated, in fact, that lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Nathan Willett barely had to sing during hit single “Hang Me Up to Dry.” Willett brought energy to the CrossroadsKC stage between his frenzied guitar playing and tambourine hitting, and the rest of the band backed him with blistering and heavy notes, especially from the rhythm section. The setlist reached far back into the band’s catalog, but, surprisingly, the crowd knew the words to old songs as well as new — a true testament as to why, even at a festival centered around local music, Cold War Kids seemed to fit.
Between the six bands I saw at Day Three of Middle of the Map Fest, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the best day of music I’ve ever experienced. While that’s a testament to The Struts and Cold War Kids’ performance styles, it’s even more of a testament to the strong music scene in Kansas City and the surrounding area.