The third annual Boulevardia festival launched like its two predecessors: The weather was hot — humid, sticky and oppressive — but thousands gathered nonetheless in the West Bottoms to indulge in food, beer and music.
Friday’s music comprised a mix of local and regional bands and performers.
The local agenda started early, with the Greeting Committee, a band of friends from Blue Valley High School who opened the main stage in the midst of rush hour and scouring heat.
Nonetheless, an impressive crowd of several hundred was present to watch the four-piece band dash through a set of well-crafted indie-pop songs.
Lead singer Addie Sartino displayed enough moxie and enthusiasm to keep the happy-hour crowd engaged.
They are an entertaining band, and Sartino seems comfortable in front of a large crowd. During one song, she patty-caked with a band member (it was charming), and during another she hugged and welcomed two small children who, inexplicably (at least from my vantage point) were on the stage.
Friday’s stage times made it easy to trot from the main stage to the second and acoustic stages.
Kangaroo Knife Fight, a Kansas City band, took over the second stage just after Greeting Committee finished.
KKF draws from a mix of American roots rock — Springsteen is an easy comparison — and Australian/New Zealand rock, including Crowded House, Paul Kelly and INXS. Their set at the secondary stage drew an impressive crowd that submitted to the band’s pop-dance groove.
Meanwhile, back at the main stage and after the Kangaroo Knife Fight set, Grizfolk, a band from Los Angeles via Sweden, took over. The five-piece is a adult-alternative rock band with a familiar vibe, one that recalls groups like Coldplay, The Fray and Phoenix. They showed some appealing contemporary country-ish flavor during “The Ripple.”
Meg Myers drew a big crowd to her main-stage set.
She’s a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles via Tennessee who delivers the kind of heavy, dark and dramatic rock that recalls Alanis Morissette and Florence and the Machine. She has some Pat Benatar in her blood, too.
Her set included the skyscraping anthem “How Do You Want Me” and “Adelaide,” which ignited a boisterous singalong.
Several other Kansas City bands drew big crowds to the second stage. The Phantastics lived up to their name during a lively 40-minute set that mixed hip-hop, funk and soul.
Cheers to a band that knows how to work an audience.
Radkey followed them, drawing a huge crowd that reacted jubilantly to its melodic blend of punk and rock.
As they were playing, Kansas City singer/songwriter Jessica Paige and her band entertained a sizable sit-down crowd at the acoustic stage with a set of songs that recalled the styles of artists like Norah Jones and Edie Brickell. Her cover of “Kansas City” from the “New Basement Tapes” got a rowdy response.
The headliner at the main stage was Andrew McMahon, most famous for piloting Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate.
He now leads Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, a high-energy indie-pop band that recalls piano-centric artists like Ben Folds and Elton John.
McMahon, a cancer survivor, is a kinetic performer, one who bounces at the piano, then leaps and bounds around the stage. His enthusiasm is infectious, and it spread noticeably among a crowd of several thousand at the main stage. The highlights of his set were “High Dive” and “Cecilia and the Satellite,” both of which prompted some widespread singing and dancing.
The three-day Boulevardia festival continues Saturday and Sunday in the West Bottoms. General admission tickets are $20 and are available at the gate. Saturday’s headliners include Nikki Lane, Mariachi El Bronx and Nate Ruess of the band Fun.