The Music Man: The Mowgli’s share some love with Kansas City

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Kansas City has a pretty fantastic music scene. With amazing local bands like the Architects and Outsides (who I will be seeing and reviewing on Monday night with Jungle — check back for that) and one of the best alternative radio stations in the country, 96.5 The Buzz, an alternative music junkie like me is basically living the dream. A few Kansas City natives, like The Mowgli’s lead vocalist/guitarist Colin Dieden, have even gone on to achieve national success. Dieden and The Mowgli’s came to the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland in Kansas City on Monday, April 2 for a stop on their “Kids In Love” tour with Night Riots and Hippo Campus. For the band’s first time in Kansas City since playing the Plaza Lighting Ceremony last November, they did not hesitate to show their gratitude toward the city — making their show all the more special.

The Mowgli’s began as an eight-piece alternative rock collective in Los Angeles, making music as a means to spread love throughout the world. They released their debut record, “Sound the Drum,” in 2012 before signing to Photo Finish Records. They then released “Waiting for the Dawn” in 2013, which featured Billboard-charting hits like “San Francisco” from “Sound the Drum” alongside a few new tracks. Founding vocalist/guitarist Michael Vincze left the band in February of last year, leaving The Mowgli’s with seven members but still enough love. Now, their upcoming album “Kids In Love” is expected to be released within the next few weeks, and has been preceded by the songs “Through the Dark,” “I’m Good” and “Bad Dream.”

I fell in love with The Mowgli’s’ recent releases (especially “Bad Dream”), so I was very hyped for this concert. With hopes of hearing even more new music alongside some old favorites, I went to the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland last night (with some fellow JagWire staff members, juniors Tori Aerni and Adri Talavera) to experience some of The Mowgli’s’ love in person.

Opening first for The Mowgli’s was Hippo Campus, four somewhat-recent high school graduates from Minneapolis who recently released an extended play titled “Bashful Creatures” (and who I recently wrote about). Hippo Campus had already made a name for itself in the Minneapolis area, but hadn’t yet been recognized by Kansas City music outlets like The Buzz (despite my multiple attempts at texting in to request “Little Grace”).

Hippo Campus’ set proved to be very high energy, with lead vocalist/guitarist Jake Luppen, nicknamed Turntan (each band member has a performance nickname), interacting with the audience through every lyric he sang and word he said. Turntan, guitarist/vocalist Nathan Stocker — Stitches — and bassist/vocalist Zach Sutton — Espo — danced around stage a ton, especially for the band’s self-dubbed “dance number” (and debut single), “Little Grace.” The band brought some power on unreleased songs like “South” (my personal favorite) and set-closer “Violet,” while keeping it lighthearted during tracks like “Suicide Saturday.” I would’ve cheered for an encore of Hippo Campus’ set if I could’ve, but I’m content with waiting for the band’s upcoming debut album, “The Halocline,” and watching them rise to alternative music fame.

After a long sound check period (one of the show’s only downsides), Night Riots took the stage. Night Riots was a last-minute replacement for Fences, who was originally supposed to be on the tour but had to cancel. I had heard the Southern California five-piece’s single, “Contagious,” on The Buzz before, but didn’t know much more about the group.

Night Riots’ sound was more dark and electronic than Hippo Campus or The Mowgli’s, but this proved to be a nice change in pace. Lead vocalist Travis Hawley had amazing stage presence throughout his performance, working all corners of the stage and spinning his mic stand every possible way (even balancing it upside-down on his hand during “Loyal Blood”). Hawley’s Killers-influenced vocals remained strong throughout the entire set, with an especially powerful performance of “Spiders” that even featured him drumming alongside drummer Rico Rodriguez. The band saved the aforementioned “Contagious” for the end of its set, with Hawley belting out lyrics and playing a sampler as multi-instrumentalist Matt DePauw also contributed to the song’s electronic backing.

The Mowgli’s finally took the stage after another tiring sound check break. Opening their set with the title track off their forthcoming debut album, “Kids In Love,” The Mowgli’s brought energy to the venue right away. Dieden, lead vocalist/percussionist Katie Earl and guitarist/vocalist Josh Hogan fronted the band like best friends, trading off vocal duties and dancing around during nearly every number.

The band played a lot of new music at the show, most of which had more electronic influences and solo vocals from Hogan and guitarist/vocalist Spencer Trent than previous albums. The new songs, from the relaxed “Whatever Forever” to the fun “You’re Not Alone,” were as enjoyable as anything else by The Mowgli’s. “Sunlight” was one of my favorite to-be-released tracks, with moving vocals from the group and a strong electric guitar part on Hogan and Trent’s part.

The Mowgli’s made sure to play a lot of standards off “Waiting for the Dawn” as well, to the excitement of a Kansas City crowd. “Say It, Just Say It” clearly stood out, with the entire band giving the song their all and Dieden even making his way out to the crowd for part of the song. Songs like “Love Is Easy” gave Earl a chance to show off her flawless vocals as well, which were a huge plus to the set. Toward the ending, the band even threw in a surprisingly good mashed-up cover of 4 Non-Blondes’ “What’s Up?” (one of my favorite songs of all time) and Bruno Mars’ “Marry You.”

Like I mentioned before, playing in Kansas City gave promise of an extra-special show from The Mowgli’s. Dieden, Hogan and keyboardist Dave Applebaum repped the city with Kansas City Blades, Sporting KC and Charlie Hustle shirts, respectively. After Dieden expressed his gratitude to play in his hometown multiple times, Earl said all of the band members were basically “second-generation” Kansas Citians — and they played in the city as such. Being in Kansas City even gave a new song, “Home to You,” a deeper meaning, as Dieden was finally home to Kansas City.

The Mowgli’s closed the show with “I’m Good” and “San Francisco,” the latter of which featured Dieden’s younger brother on guitar to keep with Kansas City tradition. They brought the house completely down with amazing gang vocals during “San Francisco,” and Turntan and Stitches from Hippo Campus even made guest appearances. For an encore, the band played two more fun and upbeat numbers — “Hi, Hey There, Hello” (a favorite of mine) and “Leave It Up to Me.” Earl even brought the band’s two dogs on stage before the encore, which made the set even happier.

Overall, The Mowgli’s put on quite the show in Kansas City. I can only expect great things from them when they come back, and can’t wait to hear all of “Kids In Love” on Tuesday, April 14. For now, I’ll just be a kid in love with all of The Mowgli’s.

Hippo Campus setlist: “Souls,” “Suicide Saturday,” Little Grace,” “Sophie So,” “South,” Untitled, “Bashful Creatures,” “Violet”

Night Riots setlist: “Remedy,” “Holsters,” “Back to Your Love,” “Shine,” “Break,” “Spiders,” “Loyal Blood,” “Oh My Heart,” “Contagious”

The Mowgli’s setlist: “Kids In Love,” “Emily,” “Bad Dream,” “Great Divide,” “Love Is Easy,” “Through the Dark,” “Whatever Forever,” “Say It, Just Say It,” “Sunlight,” “Home to You,” “You’re Not Alone,” “Love Me Anyway,” “Clean Light,” “Make It Right,” “What’s Up?”/“Marry You” (covers), “I’m Good,” “San Francisco,” “Hi, Hey There, Hello” (encore), “Leave It Up to Me” (encore)

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