More music, a forum and films grow Ink’s Map Fest

Plans for this year's edition of Ink's Middle of the Map Fest started falling into place a few days after last year’s inaugural festival had ended. The organizers of the festival had one thing in mind: Make it bigger.

Mission accomplished. And then some.

The second annual Middle of the Map festival has grown from two days to three, from 70 bands to 115, from four venues and six stages to eight venues and 10 stages — 11 if you count the Red Bull mobile stage — and from strictly a music festival to a mix of music, technology and cross-cultural innovation. It also features a young band with the hottest single on the Billboard charts.

“We wanted it to grow,” Nathan Reusch said. “We wanted it to feel bigger and even more special than last year.”

Reusch owns the Record Machine, a record label comprising a dozen bands, most of them from Kansas City. The label is the festival’s official curator; Reusch is one of its three main organizers. The other two: Chris Haghirian of Ink magazine (a sister publication of The Kansas City Star) and the festival’s presenter; and artist John Raux.

Getting bigger meant getting more space in Westport without compromising comfort or sound. Last year’s festival enlisted venues that do live music year-round. Organizers wanted to make everyone happy but they had to find rooms with proper stages.

So they added venues that fill that bill: Westport Coffeehouse, McCoy’s Public House, Firefly Lounge and Gusto Lounge. Together, those venues will showcase more than 36 bands or performers.

“Gusto doesn’t have a proper stage, but it’s doing a hip-hop showcase on Saturday, and it’ll work for that,” Reusch said. “It will be a total party. People will be on top of each other.”

Last year, the festival generated a buzz by bringing in Two Door Cinema Club, a band from Northern Ireland, just as the group was breaking in the United States. This year, it generated a bigger buzz by landing the New York band Fun before its single “We Are Young” blew up the charts. The band’s touring bassist is Nate Harold of Lawrence.

“Nathan and I were talking about bands quite awhile ago and Fun came up,” said Terry Taylor of Mammoth Productions, which promotes shows at the Beaumont Club. “We both agreed they would be a strong act for Middle of the Map this year. So I went after them early on and was lucky enough to get them before the huge buzz and radio single set in.”

Taylor said he started reaching out to Fun in September. As the deal was being worked, the band and its single started showing up in high-profile places: It was covered on “Glee”; it showed up in an episode of the spy dramady “Chuck”; then it was part of a Super Bowl commercial. In March, “We Are Young” hit No. 1 on the Billboard 100 charts; two weeks later the band was added to this year’s Bonnaroo music festival.

“We hope we can become known as a stepping-stone festival that gets bands right before they break or right as they break,” Reusch said, “like South by Southwest used to be.”

On Saturday, Fun will perform at 10:30 p.m. at the Beaumont Club in Westport, a venue with a capacity of 1,400. It is also the festival’s only all-ages venue, except for the Saturday afternoon bill at the RecordBar. An overflow crowd is expected, raising the distinct possibility that patrons younger than 18 won’t get in and will have no other show to see.

“Not everyone is going to get to see Fun,” Haghirian said. “Doors will open at 6 (p.m.). Making Movies will go on at 6:30. The line will start outside the Beaumont and go back (north) toward Westport Coffeehouse. The will-call line will open at 11 (a.m.). I imagine kids will start getting in line before noon. If you really want to see Fun, you really need to get there early. Don’t show up at 10 and expect to get in. And stay in the room; don’t leave and try to get back in.”

This year’s Middle of the Map added more than just rooms and bands. It has added another component: the Forum at Middle of the Map, a two-day symposium in the Crossroads district.

It starts Thursday: registration is at 8 a.m.; orientation is at 9:15 a.m.; the keynote, by Bob Berkebile of the architectural firm BNIM, starts at 9:30 a.m. The forum has two venues: StagePort/OfficePort, 208 W. 19th St., and Screenland Crossroads, 1615 Washington St.

Reusch enlisted John Raux, an artist steeped in Kansas City’s arts and underground cultures. Raux said the forum will convene some of the brightest and most creative and innovative minds in Kansas City from entities large and small, with some film and music tossed in.

“The forum is a natural extension of my world, which is largely in collaborative arts,” he said. “We wanted to bring together people to explore new things, some of which touch on the music side. It’s a lot like how the festival has booked bands that will create an overlap of scenes that aren’t necessarily connected to one another.

“I’ve been in residence at BNIM this past year. They host my space and studio. The conversations that have been occurring there got me thinking about development and the pockets of Kansas City that don’t overlap and bringing people together to talk about creating something new as opposed to doing the same old thing, like repeating the same old conference format or festival format.”

“We wanted it to be more than just our version of South by Southwest Interactive,” Reusch said. “We wanted it to create something that hasn’t been done yet.”

Raux said he has invited as participants people “already in the midst of envisioning the future: the cultural leaders and technological ambassadors, people changing the face of Kansas City.”

That list includes four keynoters: Berkebile; Peter Witte of the University of Missouri’s music and dance conservatory; Bill Zahner of Zahner, an engineering and fabrication firm; and Porter Arneill of the KC Municipal Arts Commission.

The two dozen speakers are from an array of businesses and disciplines, including Sly James and Joe Reardon, the mayors of Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan. A complete schedule is available at



“It’s a mix of people I’ve been connected with in the arts world over the past decade,” Raux said. “Some are big names, others are lesser-known, but they’re like the really cool band that no one goes out to hear yet but everyone needs to hear.”

The format, Raux said, will be open-ended and will stimulate conversation among the presenters and speakers.

“The idea was to invite good people and cultivate a space where they can let the barriers down and not worry about content,” he said. “It was to promote an improvised, two-way conversation with no agendas.”

The forum also has a film component. Six films will be screened at the Screenland Crossroads. Two have screened at the Sundance Film Festival; one won a student Oscar. One of those Sundance films is “Save the Date,” directed by Mike Mohan of Kansas City. The film has premiered at Sundance; it has been shown only twice in the U.S.

About the time the forum ends each day, the music starts at Westport. Ticket sales are about double last year’s number, Reusch said, another sign that it will be a much bigger event. The festival has enlisted a trolley service to ferry people from Pennsylvania Avenue to the RecordBar, which is in a shopping center at the intersection of Southwest Trafficway and Westport Road. Other new features: On Saturday night, Red Bull is rolling in a Hummer equipped with a soundstage/DJ booth.

It will only add to the aura of a festival that has grown in size and quality since its successful inaugural year. Still, the primary objective remains the same: Get a bunch of bands in front of enthusiastic audiences.

Festival details

The second annual Middle of the Map Fest runs Thursday through Saturday in Westport and the Crossroads district.

The Forum at the Middle of the Map is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at OfficePort, 208 W. 19th St., and Screenland Crossroads, 1656 Washington St. A two-day forum pass is $50. A complete schedule is available at



The music schedule is 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Thursday; 6:30 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. Friday; and 12:15 to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 2:3O a.m. Saturday. Venues include the Beaumont Club, Firefly Lounge, Gusto Lounge, McCoy’s Public House, Riot Room, the Riot Room Patio, RecordBar, Union, the Union patio and the Westport Coffeehouse downstairs stage.

Online sales of passes ends Wednesday. On Thursday night at RecordBar, a $20 single-day ticket is available for Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Also available is a $35 weekend pass good for Friday and Saturday.

More information at


. Single-day passes are $20; a three-day pass is $35. A $75 “everything” pass gets patrons into all days of the forum and the music festival.

My top five bands to see at Middle of the Map Fest Timothy Finn, Kansas City Star music writer

• Mission of Burma

• White Denim

• Acid Mothers Temple

• Olympic Size

• F’d Up

Nathan Reusch, Record Machine owner and co-founder of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest

• Beacon

• Hooray for Earth

• Jonquil

• Friends

• Altos

Steve Tulipana, co-owner of RecordBar and MiniBar, member of Thee Water Moccasins, Season to Risk, Roman Numerals, Drop a Grand

• Mission of Burma

• Molly Mcguire

• El Ten Eleven

• F’d Up

• Olympic Size

Marty Hillard, member of Cowboy Indian Bear and Ebony Tusks

• Stik Figa

• Neon Indian

• Minus Story

• Hooray for Earth

• Believers

Lazlo Geiger, 96.5 the Buzz

• Fun

• Neon Indian

• Mission of Burma

• Sleeper Agent

• Coalesce

RL Brooks, member of Maps for Travelers, owner of Seen|merch screen print shop

• Mission of Burma

• F’d Up

• Molly Mcguire

• The Esoteric

• Old Canes

Neill Smith, talent buyer at Riot Room

• F’d Up

• Hooray for Earth

• Mr. Gnome

• A Lull

• Acid Mothers Temple

Chris Haghirian, Ink magazine and co-founder of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest

• Hooray for Earth

• Quiet Corral

• Keep Shelly in Athens

• We Are Voices

• Murder by Death

Alicia Solombrino, member of Beautiful Bodies

• Hooray for Earth

• The Esoteric

• F’d Up

• Fun

• Broncho

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