Middle of the Map Fest – Day #3

Middle of the Map Fest Day #3 featured another great lineup especially in the Kansas City music department.  The night started off with a bang at Riot Room on the patio where the Jorge Arana Trio was playing one of the loudest jazzy sets in recent memory.  Their music is fairly complex but still very accessible to the average music fan.  It’s great to listen to how their songs progress from one place to the next.  Where the end up is often light years away from where they started.  It’s a really refreshing sound.

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Listen to the Jorge Arana Trio on the Riot Room Patio

Inside the Riot Room, the Phantastics led by Kemet Coleman were tearing the roof off with a heavily 70’s funk and soul inspired sound that had quite a crowd and dancing aplenty.  Coleman’s presence on the mic and dance moves kept the crowd going while the band laid down solid funky sounds.

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After the Phantastics finished up, we hiked over to the Westport Saloon to catch Lauren Anderson.  Lauren Anderson and her band are a Chicago-based bluesy 4-piece outfit featuring Lauren on guitar on vocals.  The soulful tunes with a solid rhythm section and great guitar work make for a really balanced, well-executed set.

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Listen to Lauren Anderson performing “Shame”

Back over to the Riot Room, we caught Various Blonde.  The Joshua Allen led group features funk, rock, and dance tunes.  A couple times Joshua Allen joined the crowd while singing setting the stage perfectly for the next group, St Louis’ Illphonics.

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Listen to a clip of Various Blonde at the Riot Room

The Illphonics are pretty easy to draw comparison’s to early Roots albums but the band executes the hip-hop with a backing band very well. Socially conscious lyrics and neo-soul sounds create a show that’s virtually impossible to stand still for.  But while it may be neo-soul inspired, the Illphonics are clearly their own band with something to say.

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Listen to a track from the Illphonics set

Finishing up our night at the Westport Saloon, we caught Katy Guillen and the Girls playing a blues inspired set that is decidedly rocked out. All the members of the group have a great level of musicianship and instinct that allows them to really lock in a put on a show.  At this point in the night, the bar was packed, the crowd was moving and it the perfect time for an act like KG and the Girls.

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Listen to Katy & the Girls performing “I Can’t Live Here Anymore” and “Quiver

Then there was the final day/night…check back for more on that later this week.

Not a Planet, Kangaroo Knife Fight and Teach Me Equals at Riot Room

Back on February 27, Not a Planet headlined a show with Florida duo Teach Me Equals and KC’s own Aussie led rock group Kangaroo Knife Fight.  This was Not a Planet‘s final show before heading out on a southeastern US tour on their way to SXSW in Austin, TX. Not a Planet debuted several new tunes at the show and we got a couple of them for your listening pleasure if you follow the links below.

Teach Me Equals was also an interesting duo in that their instrumentation consisted of a cellist, and female vocalist who played violin and guitar.  Their sound was rounded out with a drum track.  It was pretty interesting.

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 Not a Planet performing “Gang Goes The Gun”

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Audio from the show is here.

Angel Olsen Live at the Riot Room


Angel Olsen’s set at Kansas City’s Riot Room in Westport was one of blissful contradictions. Before the show even began, Olsen asked for “a little more vocals,” as if her spring-loaded cannon of a voice needs extra amplification. In between tales of lost time and vacant lovers, she warmly asked for a beer with an “appreciate ya” attached to the end. Fuzzed-out brawlers and barely strummed wailers managed to coexist in the same intimate space. Similar to her terrific second LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Olsen’s set was both bristly and tender.

It was the tenderness that captivated the crowd first. Soft splashes of tambourine accompanied opener “Free”, which found Olsen keep her fingers tightly crossed for “pure love.” While “Hi-Five”‘s rural trod picked up a few paces, Olsen continued to ruminate on making a lasting connection. “All I ever need is someone out there to believe,” she lonesomely sang as the tightly packed crowd nodded along. Whatever dark alley she wandered down, the audience was eager to follow. And few roads were as pitch-black or rocky early on as “Drunk And With Dreams.” Olsen nearly shred her voice to promise “I’ll be the one, I’ll be the one,” each facial shiver making the promise seem more real.

For someone so frequently guarded in song, Olsen’s on-stage presence was remarkably candid. She gave tips on fiscal beer drinking: the higher the alcohol content the less you have to drink and offered Duchess Sour is “how I feel about myself some time.” As the night continued, that openness spilled over into the band’s songs. Rather than whisper what song should come next, Olsen half-yelled “you wanna do “Forgiven/Forgotten”?” to her guitarist. Even with the cat out of the bag, the Burn Your Fire For No Witness-highlight still bulldozed the enthusiastic crowd and wracked Olsen’s voice as she screamed “I don’t know anything, but I love you.”

Such transparency is what allows for a song like “Miranda” to exist. Whether or not it’s an autobiographical tale is irrelevant, constructing a song around a partner’s knowledge their other half is with another is devastating enough. Throughout the course of the entire night, the 2012 track came closest to pure country. When Olsen asks “what lover is waiting up for you tonight,” the question keeps up the embattled tradition of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. Further clawing, she slowly realizes every nice thing that was said may have been a white lie.

Songs such as foot-stamper “High And Wild” and “Sweet Dreams” helped to temporarily ease these sobering realizations. The latter stole into a world of reverie, a world where warped, flanging guitar was more mushroom-fed than whiskey gulping. In “Tiniest Seed”, brushed drums painted Olsen’s tortured references to time in a warmer light.

But some things can only be avoided for so long and by the time her band left her alone on the dark stage, it was becoming clear which half of the contradiction had won out. Save for one lone wolf, everyone in the audience looked dead ahead as Olsen delivered an astounding version of “Unf***theworld”. When she warbles “I wanted nothing but for this to be the end,” it’s one of the most arresting musical moments of the year. An old manner insists “begging is undignified,” though Olsen imbues the indignity with tremendous courage. In that instance, the breathless crowd wasn’t intently focused on Olsen because she was the last one standing. Like Olsen, they were praying for peace of mind.