The big three venues — The RecordBar, the Riot Room and the Uptown — are likely familiar to most music fans in Kansas City. Each is a dedicated music venue, and all have hosted national bands for years, in the RecordBar’s case, or for decades.
The RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road: Along with the Riot Room, the RecordBar is a pillar in the local music scene, and for good reason: The sound is always good. So is the food. Sight lines can be an issue when it is full. Capacity is around 250. For Middle of the Map, it will be an 18-and-older venue. Music recommendations: All three headliners: Wovenhand, Deerhoof and Tennis; plus local bands Making Movies, La Guerre and Spirit is the Spirit.
The Riot Room, 4048 Broadway: One of the premier rock venues in the city is also becoming a destination for the electronic-dance music crowd. For Middle of the Map, its patio, which holds about 300, will feature DJs and bands. The indoor venue, also 300-capacity, has a full-service bar stocked with some of the world’s best craft beers. Music recommendations: The patio hosts a great four-band bill on Saturday afternoon, starting at 2 p.m. The indoor stage: the Appleseed Cast on Thursday; Jeff the Brotherhood on Friday; and Pujol, Dent May and the Whigs on Saturday.
The Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway: One of the best live-music venues in the city, the Uptown has hosted some of the biggest names in music history. It’s an all-ages venue. Music recommendation: Grizzly Bear is one of the festival’s marquee bands, and the rest of the bill is stout: Joy Formidable, featuring the dynamic multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallet, and the ambient and ethereal Cowboy Indian Bear from Lawrence.
Conspiracy Room, 3700 Broadway: This room is part of the Uptown Theater and will be a venue Friday only, when the Uptown’s main theater is hosting the Grizzly Bear show. It’s a well-appointed room with a capacity of 400 people and its own full-service bar. It’s an all-ages venue. Music recommendation: The five-band bill is as diverse as any, but if you’re a fan of the new-folk/rock ensembles like the Lumineers, see Quiet Corral, a Lawrence band, and the Last Bison from Virginia.
Gusto Lounge, 504 Westport Road: Better-known for hosting DJs and dance parties, Gusto showed at last year’s Middle of the Map that it can put on a wild-eyed rock show. If you saw Ghosty or the Beautiful Bodies’ set, which literally brought down parts of the ceiling, you know what we mean. This year, the stage will be moved back into the corner north of the bar, improving traffic flow and creating a better view of the stage from the dance floor. Capacity: about 250. Music recommendation: Thursday’s one-two punch of the Silver Maggies and Sons of Great Dane ought to be great. If you’re a fan of pop music, don’t miss the Friday lineup.
Open Fire Pizza, 3951 Broadway: This venue is new to the festival. It’s south of Westport, on the east side of Broadway. The stage will be set up in the north side of the large dining room. Owner/manager Micah Williams said capacity was about 250, though it looks like it could hold more. The place does not have a license to serve alcohol, but it will be serving its full menu. It is an all-ages venue. Music recommendation: This is the venue to visit if you like roots and country music in their many flavors, a three-day, 25-band fest they’re calling MoKan Twang. There is also a burlesque show at 10 p.m. Saturday
Outdoor Stage, Westport Road between Mill Street and Pennsylvania: This stage will be the main venue on Saturday. It will be erected in the parking lot outside Buzzard Beach. It’s an all-ages venue. Music recommendation: The eight-hour lineup is outstanding, featuring some of the best bands from Kansas City. It opens with Hearts of Darkness and includes Radkey, the Beautiful Bodies, Soft Reeds and the original Roman Numerals lineup; and closes with Futurebirds of Athens, Ga., and the Divine Fits, an indie-rock supergroup that includes Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner.
Westport Coffeehouse, 4010 Pennsylvania: The stage is in the basement of this Westport cafe, which is just north of the former Beaumont Club, and it’s a warm, intimate venue, one with good sight lines and good sound. Capacity is about 100. It’s an all-ages venue. Music recommendation: Both bills feature a diverse array of bands, whether you like pop (Hidden Pictures), hard rock (Fullbloods, Empty Spaces), acoustic rock (the Caves) or roots rock/country (Dollar Fox). And this would be an ideal venue to catch the noirish charms of the Latenight Callers.
The Union of Westport, 428 Westport Road: Longtime music fans in Kansas City will know this as the former Blayney’s, the dungeon-like blues venue. The inside venue, which holds about 400, including the bar area, is where the bands will set up, as they did in Blayney’s. Bands will perform Friday and Saturday nights. Friday and Saturday nights, a DJ will be out on the patio, which holds about 150. Music recommendation: Kitty, which headlines Friday’s four-band bill.