Middle of the Map Fest 2013 Recap

Middle of the Map Fest 2013 Recap

There is nothing more dangerous than a local band.  Walking into the venue, you’re presented with a couple possibilities.  Maybe that band is gonna be an absolute pile of shit.  You’ll suffer through an hour or so of masturbatory, juvenile, or unenlightened musical onslaught, get the hell out of there, and listen to your favorite band on the drive home in an attempt to purge your brain of the sounds that recently invaded.  Or, there’s always the possibility that you’ve caught a true star in the making.  Maybe you’re seeing Pitchfork’s next golden boy before he hits it big.  On the way home you’ll Spotify him and find that he’s actually got two EPs.  You’ll star every track and a week later you’re reciting all the lyrics and telling all your friends about the unreal act you have personally discovered.  A local act can be the greatest thing to happen to your night, or it can completely derail it.

 

TWO4ONE

TWO4ONE

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The Appleseed Cast

The Appleseed Cast

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But if a local act is double-edged sword, an entire festival full of them is a musical minefield.  Middle of the Map Fest, held every year in Kansas City, is exactly that.  The festival is held in early spring and showcases the local Kansas City music scene, with a few national touring acts sprinkled in for good measure.  The result is a conglomeration that gives you a pretty darn good look into the type of music the city is capable of producing, both the good, and sometimes the bad.  Middle of the Map is spread over three days, and takes place in the Westport district in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

 

The Beautiful Bodies

The Beautiful Bodies

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Soft Reeds

Soft Reeds

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This year, Thursday to Saturday, April 4th to 6th, the shows were held in eleven different venues throughout Westport.  With so many shows in so many locations, the fest feels like a scaled-down South-by-Southwest (QRO recap).  There’s a vast diversity in the venues, the Gusto Lounge’s cozy intimate setting makes the moderately sized Uptown Theatre feel like a stadium.  But that diversity makes each show feel like it’s own separate event, whereas a big-box festival like Coachella feels like one never ending marathon of acts.  At the end of Middle of the Map, it’s easy to recall and distinguish between each separate show.  At the end of Lollapalooza day two, all you really remember is that you were at a music festival, your feet hurt, and you smell like a petting zoo.

 

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

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The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

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Ritzy BryanRemember, Middle of the Map isn’t all local acts.  Grizzly Bear, Kids These Days, Deerhoof, JEFF The Brotherhood, and Owen Pallet were among the touring acts that made appearances, but it was the youngest among them that made the biggest splash.  Grizzly Bear was wonderful, no big surprise there, The Joy Formidable X marks the minormade a big impact on the crowd at the Uptown, but just around the corner at The Conspiracy Room, it was Kids These Days, a jazzed up hip-hop outfit from Chicago, that tore the roof off.  Every single member of the band sports ‘I’m under 21’ X’s on both hands, but their music has the technical prowess of seasoned artist.  The combination of such instrumental mastery combined with youthful exuberance and a rapper that is surely one of the best MCs I’ve ever seen makes for a set that cannot be missed.

 

Kids These Days

Kids These Days

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But back to the double-edged sword that is a local act.  Both edges are present and accounted for at Middle of the Map.  Festivals are always choose-your-own-adventure, a well-navigated schedule can make or break your experience.  Middle of the Map is no exception.  It’s important to do your research, know people, and plan out your day well.  There are usually a few different shows on at the same time; picking the right one to see is vital.  Pick the wrong show and you might end up watching a girl sit on the floor and sing along with prerecorded tracks she’s got loaded on her iPhone while an energetic garage rock outfit blows a hole in their amps a few doors down.  Nobody wants that, but it’s the risk you run at Middle of the Map.

 

Dutch Newman

Dutch Newman

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Dutch NewmanEven if you make a few missteps, Middle of the Map gives you ample opportunity to rescue your night.  On Thursday night, Dutch Newman’s crowd nearly doubled over the course of his hour long set.  He played the Riot Room, a mainstay in the KC music scene, and the local rapper had the crowd singing along with him.  What Dutch may lack in production value and straight up spitting skill, he makes up for with charisma and a love-able face.  The husky rapper had us all on the floor with the last line of his closing song: “Jumping Jacks / I need to do more of those / I’m fucking fat.”  He was all smiles, and the healthy Riot Room crowd ate it up.  Later that night, The Caves had a terrific set at the Westport Coffeehouse, and Oh, Giant Man had me mesmerized with a set that made it hard to believe it was their first show in something like six months.  KC’s local music scene is healthy and producing much more than just the twangy, country-fied, roots rock that most local acts tend to stick to.

 

Oh, Giant Men

Oh, Giant Men

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Middle of the Map Fest does not make you smell like a petting zoo.  It doesn’t have underground appeal of South By Southwest.  It doesn’t have the booking strength of Lollapalooza.  But what it does have is some genuinely great local acts, an endearingly grassroots vibe, and the benefit of being a pretty damn good time.  There’s not a better local music experience in Kansas City.

 

Maps For Travellers

Maps For Travellers

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Abnorm

Abnorm

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-words: Sam Behrens
-photos: Kevin Champ

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