Middle of the Map ends in all-day showcase of music styles, performances

04/06/2014 6:53 PM

04/06/2014 6:53 PM

The final day of Ink’s three-day Middle of the Map Fest was the longest. By 2:15 p.m., bands were performing in five of the festival’s six venues; the music would continue for more than 12 hours.

Most of the rooms were full all Saturday, some to capacity. For the third day in a row, fans saw a wide variety of styles and performers. Highlights included a hip-hop showcase at the Riot Room and an impressive inaugural performance by a 15-year-old from Leawood who appears poised for stardom.

Of Montreal headlined the outdoor stage Saturday night, drawing a crowd of about 1,000 or so, it appeared. The six-piece band from Athens, Ga., draws its sound from a technicolor palette: glam, rock, funk, electronica.

Lead singer Kevin Barnes is a theatrical sort. Dressed in a white unitard, he pranced and danced about the stage throughout the set, often lasciviously. During “St. Exquisite’s Confessions,” he dropped the front of his unitard well below his waist as if he were thinking about dancing completely nude. Several times he was joined on stage by spectral figures garbed in white from head to toe, carrying or wearing various props: wings, umbrellas, pods with screens beaming images.

They opened with “Triumph of Disintegration,” a track of the album “Lousy with Sylvianbriar,” which was released in 2013. But the setlist visited several of their 12 studio albums, especially “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?”: “Suffer for Fashion,” “Faberge Falls for Shuggie” and “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse.” On that one, a blizzard of confetti rained on the crowd up front. Also on the setlist: “Fugitive Air,” “For Our Elegant Caste,” “Gronlandic” and “You Do Mutilate?”

Other performances

The Kansas City band Not a Planet opened Saturday’s bill at the outdoor stage. This trio mixes several influences — classic rock, pop, indie rock and the blues — in songs filled with unique twists and interesting turns.

Mime Game’s outing on the patio of the Riot Room indicated that the fully-realized songs of its 2013 EP “Do Your Work” aren’t the product studio trickery. Powered by the proficient drummer Duncan Burnett, the Kansas City-based quartet played an angular form of dance-rock akin to the output of bands like Franz Ferdinand. The only thing Mime Game lacked Saturday was a belt for its charismatic vocalist Dillon DeVoe. His exertions repeatedly resulted in awkward wardrobe malfunctions.

Palace, a peppy dance-rock band from St. Louis, occasionally sounded as if it was covering the soundtrack of the musical “Hairspray” as it played on the outdoor stage. The cheerful sextet included jokes and visual gags in its genial presentation.

The only significant fault of Josh Berwanger’s noteworthy 2013 album “Strange Stains” is its low fidelity. The power pop songs in the tradition of Dwight Twilley and Cheap Trick sound a bit gauzy in the recorded versions. While they were sped up by a sharp backing band that included rhythm guitar and vocals from Heidi Gluck, renditions of “Strange Stain”’s memorable songs like “Time Traveler” were impeccably crisp at the Riot Room.

The Lawrence-based quartet Psychic Heat sounds as if it practices in a dingy garage owned by psychedelic rock legend Roky Erickson. The young band’s unfiltered set at the Riot Room was satisfyingly menacing.

A large afternoon crowd gathered in the RecordBar to listen to Ruddy Swain, a duo comprising Lauren Krum of Grisly Hand and David Regnier of Dead Voices. They delivered a wonderful set of country and folk tunes, accompanied only by Regnier on acoustic guitar. Their harmonies were transcendent, up there with duos like Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary in their Whiskeytown days or Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Their cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine” was spine-tingling. So was their cover of Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song.”

Gracie Schram followed Ruddy Swain, and the 15-year-old singer-songwriter from Leawood impressed a room filled with seasoned music fans with her talent and stage presence. I first saw Taylor Swift perform when she was 16, and she didn’t show nearly the poise or nascent talent Schram showed during her set. She writes pop songs with teen-themes, like “What If I Like You, Too” and “Wallflower,” but with messages applicable to adults, too. And sings them in a voice that recalls Colbie Callait.

Back at the outdoor stage, the Kansas City quartet Outsides started a happy hour dance party. The band, led by the effervescent Tim Ellis, has an infectious electronic/pop vibe that at times blends the sounds of Phoenix and the Killers. Ellis had his audience clapping and singing along to the chorus of his final song: “It’s gonna be allright.”

Inside the Westport Saloon, two Kansas City rock bands performed to a nearly full room during the dinner hour: Rev Gusto, a five-piece that forges 60s pop and garage rock into bursts of rhythm and melody (the Kinks are a big influence); and the PedalJets, who delivered their usual perfect blend of melody, heft and crunch.

An afternoon showcase at the Riot Room patio featured several regional hip-hop acts. Stik Figa, the stalwart rapper from Topeka, performed old and new material. “Smoke Rings” from the stunning 2013 album “The City Under the City,” longtime favorite “Absitively” and a silly freestyle were the highlights of his set. “The Pookey Tape,” a collaboration with D/Will, will be released on April 15.

Kansas City’s Steddy P is usually surrounded by the members of his large Indyground crew. It was odd to see him perform a solo set Saturday. Steddy P.’s usual vitality only emerged when rapper Dom Chronicles sat in on a rendition of “Vacay.”

The contrast between emcee Les Izmore’s heated ranting and the icy pulses crafted by DJ and producer D/Will make Heartfelt Anarchy one of the most essential Kansas City-based ensembles. Izmore seemed to be channeling the late poet Amiri Baraka as D/Will created futuristic soundscapes on Saturday. While he didn’t bring it up, Izmore touted the “middle of the map” slogan years before the festival adopted the phrase as its name.

Conchance of Omaha’s M34n Str33t announced that the first vocal track performed by the trio was “about death.” M34n Str33t’s reality raps aren’t typical party music, but wasn’t Conchance’s impressive flow and his cohorts’ expertly constructed tracks on material including “Scottie Pippen’s Right Knee” were engaging.

Three women in the quartet Upset could be selected for a police lineup in a criminal case involving Courtney Love. Patty Schemel, the only member of Upset who doesn’t bear a passing resemblance to Love, logged extensive time as the drummer in Love’s band Hole. The robust playing of the rock and roll survivor was the most impressive element of Upset’s appearance at the Riot Room. The effervescent punk band from Los Angeles closed its set with a cover of 7 Second’s “Not Just Boys’ Fun.”

Believe the hype. Bummer has been the talk of Kansas City’s rock community in recent months. The young Olathe-based trio proved it’s worthy of the breathless attention during a convincing appearance at the Riot Room. “Let’s have some fun,” vocalist and guitarist Matt Perrin said. “Hit your friend’s face.”

Bummer managed to incite a smidgeon of violence. A halfhearted mosh pit simmered as Bummer played grungy songs of post-punk rage. Most potential dancers were too mesmerized to bother with pummeling one another.

A big large crowd was in place at the outdoor stage by the time the band !!! (Chk Chk Chk) took the stage. The Sacremento, Calif., band draws its sound heavily from bands that fuse funk and dance music with rock, going back to Talking Heads and INXS, as was evident in songs like “Even When the Water’s Cold.” Lead singer Nic Offer quickly aroused much of the crowd into a dance frenzy as he bounded and bopped about the stage and into the crowd.

British singer-songwriter Kate Nash followed !!! on the outdoor stage. She and her all-girl band delivered a guitar-centric set of songs bristling with a punk/riot-grrrl attitude. Songs like “You Don’t Own Me,” “Sister,” “Kiss that Grrrl” and “Mariella” stirred up lots of energy. So did Nash’s personae, which is refreshingly confident, defiant and friendly.

Shabazz Palaces plays interstellar hip-hop, like the product of a fevered dream of funk pioneer George Clinton,. The Seattle-based duo of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire sent many members of the capacity audience on the outdoor patio of the Riot Room into euphoric trances with repetitive beats and references to concepts like time travel. Live percussion and vocals were twined with backing tracks during Saturday’s spectral performance. While songs like “An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum” provided completely immersive experiences, the duo didn’t perform “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” Butler’s 1993 hit as a member of Digable Planets.

One of the festival’s final acts was the Hooten Hallers, a Columbia band that uses tuba, baritone sax, guitar and percussion to muster a deranged ramshackle sound that feels like AC/DC via the Ozarks.

James Dewees of Reggie and the Full Effect was covered in fake blood at 2 a.m. Sunday at the Riot Room when he declared his devotion to Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest. After suggesting that he hoped to be a part of the annual event when he was 50, Dewees, 38, said that “I am so proud to be from Kansas City, Missouri.”

Dewees is the clown prince of indie-rock. His absurdist sense of humor and considerable musical talent led to affiliations with the Kansas City hardcore band Coalesce, emo stalwarts the Get Up Kids and indie-rock hit-makers My Chemical Romance.

The topics of songs in the tumultuous set ranged from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to “drinking and wrestling.” After a false ending, the band returned in costumes and makeup as blood-splattered nuns and monks. With assistance from Hammerlord’s Stevie Cruz, Reggie and the Full Effect incited a sloppy mosh pit with two hardcore selections.


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