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June 25, 2014

KC’s best live music this week: The Fray at Starlight, Junior Brown at Knuckleheads and more

June 26-28: Lawrence Field Day Fest

June 27: Yonder Mountain String Band

June 28: Tech N9ne

July 2 & 3: Conor Oberst

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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Lawrence Field Day Fest

Thursday-Saturday at the Bottleneck and Jackpot

In his mission statement for the Lawrence Field Day Fest, founder Cameron Hawk notes that the event “is really just another good chance for people who live around here to enjoy themselves the way they like to — with great music and cheap beer.” University students may fuel Lawrence’s economy, but Cameron adds that his three-day summer festival allows “townies” to “enjoy the things that make their community great.” The Bottleneck and the Jackpot will host the majority of the approximately 30 locally based indie-rock, blues, folk-rock, hip-hop, dream-pop and punk bands. A “mini-free fest” gets the party started at Love Garden and Wonder Fair on Thursday.

Two-day wristbands are $12 in advance through


Thursday at the Riot Room

“Respect the Architect,” the title of Blueprint’s new album, isn’t the idle boast of a delusional rapper. For more than 10 years, Ohio-based Blueprint has played a central role in recalibrating the sound and sensibility of underground backpack hip-hop. As a solo artist and in collaborations with other luminaries including Aesop Rock and RJD2, Blueprint has served as the music’s fun-loving conscience. Count Bass D, a veteran progressive hip-hop musician based in Atlanta, and DJ Rare Groove, a noted turntablist from Cincinnati, are among the like-minded artists opening for Blueprint.

Tickets are $8 in advance through

Yonder Mountain String Band

Friday at Crossroads KC

As recently as two decades ago, bluegrass was primarily the domain of rural Americans. Practitioners of the music heeded the form’s prescribed rules and rituals. Thanks in part to longhaired, rock-informed musicians like David Grisman and Jerry Garcia, bluegrass is now beloved by urbanites. Two accomplished ensembles that link the traditional approach to the new sensibility appear at Crossroads KC on Friday. Colorado’s Yonder Mountain String Band and New Jersey’s Railroad Earth apply acoustic instrumentation including banjos and mandolins to a sound befitting the new millennium.

Tickets range from $29.50 to $61.50 in advance through

The Fray

Friday at Starlight Theatre

The Fray has created a few of the most perfectly realized pop songs of the new millennium since emerging from its base in Denver in 2005 with the sterling hit “Over My Head (Cable Car).” Neither innovative nor challenging, the Fray specialize in time-tested songcraft. Barcelona, a trio from Seattle, will complement Friday’s headliners at Starlight Theatre with sultry, soul-inflected synth-pop. The show will begin with the frothy pop of the Brooklyn-based duo Oh Honey.

Tickets range from $35 to $85 in advance through

Junior Brown

Friday at Knuckleheads

Junior Brown plays guitar like a tobacco-chewing version of Jimi Hendrix, writes hilarious songs like the mean older brother of Brad Paisley and sings with a booming voice that recalls past country greats like Ernest Tubb. Brown’s signature songs “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” and “Broke Down South of Dallas” are among the most entertaining compositions in the country canon. The longtime cult favorite will be joined by the 44’s and the Roosevelts at Knuckleheads. The 44’s are a tough-as-nails blues band from Los Angeles. The Roosevelts are an Austin, Texas-based folk-rock ensemble with a gift for melody.

Tickets are $20 in advance through

Tech N9ne

Saturday at the Midland

Tech N9ne appears to be an unstoppable force. “Strangeulation,” the latest album by the veteran rapper known as the Kansas City King, debuted at the top of Billboard magazine’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Rap Albums and Independent Albums sales charts in May. His “Independent Grind” tour touches down Saturday at the Midland theater. Aside from his longtime cohort Krizz Kaliko, Freddie Gibbs, a rapper from Indiana, is the most notable artist supporting Tech N9ne on the tour. “Piñata Beats,” Gibbs’ new collaboration with Madlib, is one of the best-received hip-hop albums of 2014. The show will begin with sets by Georgia’s Jarren Benton and Los Angeles’ the Psych Ward Druggies.

Tickets are $30 in advance through


Monday at the Midland

The indigenous music of South Africa rarely makes an appearance on the American pop charts. Kongos have joined Paul Simon, Hugh Masekela and Johnny Clegg’s Juluka in an elite group of musicians who have incorporated the distinctive sound into a radio-friendly hit. Originally released in 2011, the accordion-driven Kongos song “Come With Me Now” came to dominate Western radio playlists only in recent months. The band of four brothers describes its complicated origin as “Phoenix by way of London and Johannesburg.” Brick + Mortar, a rhythmic rock duo from New Jersey, and Scruffy & the Janitors, a grungy trio from St. Joseph, open the show.

Tickets are $9.65 in advance through

Conor Oberst

July 2 at Crossroads KC

July 3 at the Bottleneck

Conor Oberst, the indie-rock version of the Oracle of Omaha, is a polarizing figure. Fans proclaim Oberst, 34, as the voice of his generation. Citing his tremulous voice and bellicose perspective, Oberst’s detractors dismiss his output as the ongoing tantrum of a whiner. He showcases the gentler side of his complex persona on his new album, “Upside Down Mountain.” Oberst seems intent on proving his critics wrong with the new clutch of engaging, country-inflected songs. The selection of Dawes as his tour mates reflects Oberst’s new sense of accommodation. The Los Angeles-based band expertly re-creates the golden folk-rock sound of the ’70s.

Tickets for Wednesday’s show range from $25 to $76.50 in advance through Tickets for Thursday’s show are $25 in advance through

Xavier Rudd

July 2 at the Bottleneck

A kaleidoscopic blend of reggae, blues and folk, the music of Xavier Rudd is comforting. Rudd’s approach appeals equally to fans of Bob Marley and the Dave Matthews Band, but accents from instruments like the didgeridoo make Rudd’s sound entirely distinctive. The native Australian has been honing his style since his startling debut album was released in 2002. Rudd’s deeply felt connection to the earth, a trait he obtained from the the indigenous people of his homeland, also permeates his music. Whether he’s digging into intercontinental blues or jamming on a transcendental groove, Rudd’s loping music is a perfect soundtrack for a balmy summer evening.

Tickets are $19 in advance through

The Antlers

July 2 at the Riot Room

Much like Animal Collective, the Antlers are one of the most critically unassailable bands in indie rock. The signature sound of the ensemble — an ambient gurgling that suggests isolation — is gloomy yet oddly reassuring. “Hotel,” the lead single from the Antlers’ new album, “Familiars,” resembles a quiet hymn of despair. The acclaimed band’s outing at the Riot Room promises to be an impeccably elegant and immaculately fashionable pity party. The Antlers are touring with Yellow Ostrich, another band from Brooklyn. “Cosmos,” Yellow Ostrich’s new album, is inspired by the television science program.

Tickets are $15 in advance through

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