The music calendar for 2015 is already stocked with big shows: the Who, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters, Maroon 5 and Nickelback will visit the Sprint Center this year. And Arrowhead Stadium will host two shows this summer: country titans Kenny Chesney with Jason Aldean, and boy-band wonders One Direction.
National tours are a vital part of a city’s music culture, and Kansas City gets a hefty share of those tours, thanks to the Sprint Center, large places like the Independence Events Center, the Midland and Uptown theaters, and Lawrence venues like the Bottleneck, the Granada and Liberty Hall.
But the bedrock of a music community includes the local bands and the clubs that host them.
Kansas City’s music scene has flourished over the past few years. Within the past 18 months or so, the Tank Room, the Buffalo Room, the Green Lady Lounge, the Westport Saloon, Vandals and the Ship have opened, joining a long roster of music venues that includes stalwarts like the RecordBar, the Riot Room, Knuckleheads, the Brick, Coda, Harling’s, the VooDoo, B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, the Levee, Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club, the Scene … the list goes on.
Some of those venues bring in national and international touring acts, but the majority of their bookings are local bands.
The year 2014 was big for the local music community. Several bands and performers broke into the national limelight. The Beautiful Bodies, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Making Movies, Radkey, John Velghe, Samantha Fish, Katy Guillen and the Girls, and rapper Mac Lethal all received attention in the national media.
And then there was Tech N9ne, who was named one of hip-hop’s top earners in 2014 by Forbes magazine.
It typically takes years for a band to break out of its local scene and into a bigger spotlight. There are scores of bands and solo artists in this town aiming for that. Others just play for the fun of it — because music is innate to them, as elemental and essential as food and oxygen.
The diehard musician’s lifestyle is one of hard work and sacrifice. It can be a costly lifestyle, both personally and financially, taxing health and relationships as much as income. For most it’s a calling, not necessarily a profession that pays the bills.
A robust music culture needs a growing community of music fans to sustain its best performers. It needs people to invest in those performers, to attend shows, pay the cover charges, and buy music and merchandise so they can buy equipment, rent rehearsal space and make more records.
This community has a strong network of fans and supporters who regularly attend shows and fundraisers for organizations such as the Midwest Music Fund, which financially assists musicians going through health care crises. But as more bands join the culture and as more venues open to showcase those performers, more support is needed: an influx of more fans, more sales of tickets, music and merch.
More than ever, it’s easy to discover which local bands suit your music tastes, whether it’s hard rock, jazz or something else. Most stream music online. And there are more arbiters of local music, from print media to radio, which is giving area performers more attention than ever.
The Buzz (96.5 FM) plays local music from 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays on “Homegrown Buzz.” Robert Moore also includes local music in his eclectic playlists on “Sonic Spectrum,” broadcast at 8 p.m. Saturdays on the Buzz.
The Bridge (90.9 FM) regularly drops local music into its daily playlists. And on Tuesday it launches “Eight One Sixty,” a weekly one-hour show dedicated to local music. (Air time is 6 p.m.)
And several programmers at KKFI (90.1 FM) feature local music, including the Wednesday MidDay Medley, hosted by Mark Manning at 10 a.m. each Wednesday.
Technology has made it possible for local independent bands to make records that sound as good as major labels’ — and this town is also stacked with superior sound engineers who make that possible.
So here’s to making an effort (if not a resolution) in 2015 to explore and indulge in our city’s music culture. Read about local music. Listen to local music. Go to a show. Admissions are paltry compared to the big touring acts. Plus you can mingle with the musicians and befriend people with similar music tastes.
And maybe someday you’ll see a Kansas City band on a late-night TV show and remember hearing it among 50 or 60 other fans in a local club as it was breaking out and heading for brighter lights.