On a crisp, clear, late-summer evening, the 12th annual Crossroads Music Fest went off without any major hitches. Over the course of nearly eight hours, more than three dozen bands showcased a wide variety of music styles at nine venues on Grand Boulevard and McGee Street, drawing nearly 1,400 fans, musicians, staff and volunteers into the Crossroads District. Here are some snapshots of more than half the performances.
Rural Grit at Collection
It has become something of a tradition: the Rural Grit troupe opening the Crossroads Music Fest, which they did at 6 p.m. Saturday. The loose affiliation of songwriters and musicians that hosts a weekly Monday happy hour at the Brick moved a few blocks north to Collection, where an early-bird crowd of several dozen listened to mainstays like Dave Reigner, Mark Smeltzer, Jason Beers and Caleb Gardner gather around one microphone and roll through a series of old-time country and country-blues songs, like “Banks of the Ohio.”
Emmaline Twist at the Tank Room
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They’re a new band, but one with plenty of miles on its odometer. This ensemble of Kansas City music veterans writes songs that indulge in the better traits of post-punk and shoegaze rock. The Cure is an obvious influence. The influence of bands like New Order and Interpol is more insinuated. The savory twist is the shoegaze element, which recalls bands like Luna. It’s all poured into top-notch songcraft that highlights the vocals of Meredith McGrade, who will remind you now and then of heyday Chrissie Hynde.
Alex Abramovitz at the Brick
Abramovitz is a dapper trumpeter with an uptown stage presence. He and his drum/bass/guitar trio entertained a few dozen dinner-hour patrons with a keen set of swinging jazz tunes, some of it New Orleans style, like “Tin Roof Blues.”
Spirit is the Spirit at the Living Room
They’re a true-blood indie band but their style is progressive, residing somewhere along the spectrum between bands like Granddaddy and the Flaming Lips but with some “Revolver”-era Beatlishness tossed in. Songs typically contain melodic riffs within a larger melodic riff, stretching, wending and veering song structures into unexpected. Extra attention is required to appreciate the architecture, but the rewards are worth it.
Brody Buster with the Matchsellers at Good Golly
This was the VIP venue, and the music entertainment comprised three sets of two artists or bands collaborating. The first set was from Buster, the former blues-harp whiz kid turned into guitar slinger, and the Matchsellers, a fiddle/guitar duo that applies its own twists to the Gillian Welch/David Rawlings show. This was a match that sounded destined to be. Their takes on roadhouse blues and country blues was vibrant and spirited.
Kelley Hunt at RecordBar
She has been a mainstay of the Kansas City/Lawrence music community for decades, and she showed why during a 75-minute set that showcased her many talents: as a singer, a songwriter and a musician. Her refined blend of blues, soul, R&B and roots music aroused a crowd of a couple hundred, especially the new song, “Stand Up,” a feel-good anthem that lit up the room.
Amado Espinoza at Collection
A native of Bolivia and a resident of Kansas City, Espinoza plays Andean music on the pan flute and charango, a sibling of the lute. His covers of “Eleanor Rigby” and “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” were highlights of a stellar set.
Not a Planet at RecordBar
The set from this dynamic Kansas City quartet was the official release party for “Smoke Bombs & Cigarettes: The History of Now,” their new recording, which showcased their panoramic, genre- and era-crossing style. Their music arouses a wealth of resemblances and comparisons, from Queen to Muse, Led Zeppelin and the wide-ranging sounds of ’70s FM radio. It’s all well-crafted and — arranged and performed with lots of charisma and flair, especially from frontman Nathan Corsi, who nails the rock-star role accordingly.
Radkey at RecordBar
More than four years have passed since this trio of brothers burst into the local music community with their loud, fast and melodic take on old-school punk, which pays homage to several bands, especially the Misfits. Years of touring have honed their live performances, stripping away the novelty and turning them into a taught, muscular and confident band that can easily command a venue large or small. Longevity appears to be written in the stars for them.
Irieplaceables Ska Orchestra, The Brick
An invigorating set by the horn-driven sextet the Irieplaceables Ska Orchestra at the Brick acted as a fitting tribute to Prince Buster, the Jamaican music legend who died on Wednesday. The young group played ska classics, original material and a danceable rendition of Charles Mingus’ jazz composition “Haitian Fight Song.”
The Molly Hammer Quartet, Green Lady Lounge
Molly Hammer, a jazz vocalist who has recently faced serious health difficulties, radiated good cheer at the Green Lady Lounge. Her brisk scat at the conclusion of “No More Blues” seemed intended to obliterate melancholy. Organist Ken Lovern added tasteful gospel flourishes to a sultry version of “A Sunday Kind of Love.”
Caleb Martin Ryan, the Living Room
Caleb Martin Ryan, a singer-songwriter from Fayetteville, graduated from high school in May. “Gypsy Livin’,” his first full-length album, was released by the locally based Mudstomp Records on Friday. Accompanied by the fine fiddler Nathanael Josiah Stone, Ryan sang rustic folk songs while standing barefoot on the downstairs stage at the Living Room.
Heidi Lynne Gluck, the Tank Room
Heidi Lynne Gluck’s superb recordings tend to be placid and delicate. She and a three-piece backing band overhauled her sound at the Tank Room. Gluck’s limber voice and accordionist Kass Lien battled to carry the melodies over Gluck’s wrenching guitar outbursts and the brute force of a powerful rhythm section on striking material like “The Only Girl In the Room” and “Pony Show.”
Julian Davis & the Hayburners, Collection
Julian Davis told the audience at Collection that “my tent blew away and my phone got ruined” in the storms that wreaked havoc at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan., the day prior to the Crossroads Music Fest. The burgeoning old-timey and bluegrass luminary seemed no worse for wear. He and his two-piece band played with a rowdy enthusiasm that made chestnuts like “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” sound as essential as the latest Beyoncé hit.
Michaela Ann, Mod Gallery
The Nashville based Michaela Ann and the group that bears her name has attended two Folk Alliance International conferences in Kansas City, but Saturday’s show at the Mod Gallery was its first public performance in the area. The quartet played a few songs that evoked the overly familiar sound of “Harvest”-era Neil Young. The best selection was a sleek cover of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
Under the Big Oak Tree, the Living Room
Unlike a lot of contemporary folk musicians, the three members of Under the Big Oak Tree are entirely free of irony and condescension. The guilelessness of the trio from St. Joseph as they performed agrarian reveries like “Local Honey” was refreshing.
Ivory Black, the Tank Room
Most of the attention that Ivory Black has received in recent months focuses on her status as a person with a non-binary gender identity. She made a case for herself as musician worth watching on Saturday. Backed by a sturdy three-piece band, she performed mainstream melodic rock, dance-pop and “Family Table,” a new song that sounded like an incipient hit.
Mitch Towne Trio, the Orion Room at the Green Lady Lounge
Patrons at the Green Lady Lounge occasionally treat live jazz like inconsequential background music. The Mitch Towne Trio wasn’t having it on Saturday. Organist Towne, saxophonist Stephen Martin and drummer John Kizilarmut tore into a John Coltrane composition with a fervor that caused even the loudest revelers to applaud in appreciation for the trio’s hard-charging attack.
Various Blonde, the Living Room
Various Blonde, one of Kansas City’s most consistently interesting indie-rock bands, previewed material from “All Bases Covered,” an album slated for Sept. 17 release on the Record Machine label. A rendition of the title track was among the sexy, insinuating songs that showcased the group’s new dance-oriented approach on the upstairs stage of the Living Room.
Stephonne Singleton, Tank Room
The premier neo-soul band in Kansas City, if not the best ensemble in the area regardless of genre, performed for 20 people at the Tank Room in the early hours of Sunday morning. Stephonne Singleton may lack promotional acumen, but he knows how to assemble a remarkable band. Nine musicians backed the vocalist in a ravishing set of impressive original material and covers of songs associated with the Beatles, Aretha Franklin and Radiohead.