One successful music festival inspired plans for another, and that’s how Vandals Summer Kamp Fest was born.
“We saw what the Center of the City did, and we thought if they could turn a good idea into a festival, we could do the same,” said Britt Adair, who has co-organized this weekend’s inaugural festival with Michelle Wyssmann.
Center of the City, a three-day punk festival featuring local bands, has become a rite of April over the past three years. Organized by Smash the State, a Kansas City band, it has been held at the Black and Gold Tavern, just north of Westport. In March, the tavern turned one of its rooms into a music venue, Vandals. Since then, Wyssmann has been managing the room; Adair has helped book much of its music calendar.
In late April, they started planning Summer Kamp. Their goal with the festival specifically and with Vandals in general is to promote a punk scene that needs some nourishing and to bring punk bands in from out of town.
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“Kansas City gets passed over so much,” Adair said. “But punk bands have few options here. House shows are few and far between. There are probably three or four active houses right now and that can change from month to month. We want to make (Kansas City) a destination.”
The three-day Summer Kamp festival will feature 33 bands performing on Vandals’ indoor stage, an area with space for about 50 people in the audience, and on an outdoor stage, which can handle an audience of a couple hundred, Adair said. Bands will play 45-minute sets.
Twelve bands are coming from beyond Kansas and Missouri, including California, Texas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Adair encountered some of those groups this summer when her band, the Bad Ideas, was on a three-week tour. Others she found through online research.
The festival begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 per night. All of the proceeds will go to the bands.
“Punk is so small in Kansas City, a lot of bands play for free,” Wyssmann said. “So we’re adamant that all the door money go to them. That doesn’t happen often.”
There is plenty of diversity on the bill, which is another goal of Summer Kamp.
“There are riffs in the scene,” Wyssmann said. “The different genres tend to stick together, but it’s starting to change. We’re hoping this (festival) will bring some of them together.”
“A lot of bands (on the bill) are garage rock,” Adair said, “but there’s also some rock ’n’ roll, some street punk and some weird experimental noise.
“I’m really looking forward to Dish Pit from Minneapolis. They’re real high energy and superfun. Their songs are real quick. Blink and they’re over. They should catch some people off-guard. And Thelma & the Sleaze, an all-female three-piece from Nashville. They’re badass and tough as nails. They play gritty rock with (Black) Sabbath influences.
“And then Idiot Box. They’re local but they haven’t done a show in years, so this is kind of a reunion show. They’re kind of punk rock heroes here.”
The hope is that by giving bands a chance to play for pay at a legitimate venue, Summer Kamp will draw them back to Kansas City and boost the local scene, as well.
“A lot of places these bands play don’t have sufficient sound equipment,” Wyssmann said. “We put money back into our sound equipment. It’s not makeshift. We are trying to make a space for bands so they can make some money and tour and help turn Kansas City into a punk mecca.”
The three-day Vandals Summer Kamp Fest begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Vandals Room in Black and Gold Tavern, 3740 Broadway. Admission is $10 per night at the door. More than 30 bands will perform, including 21 from Kansas and Missouri and 12 from 10 other states. This is a 21-and-older event.