The fourth and final day of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest was its best, a showcase of a wide variety of genres and performers showing off their talents and skills in small to large spaces, from Collection and the Tank Room to the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland and Crossroads KC.
More than 40 bands performed in six venues for more than 12 hours, from early Saturday afternoon into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Here’s a snapshot of Day Four.
Hipshot Killer at RecordBar
They’re a hardcore punk trio from Kansas City led by Mike Alexander, and with equal parts precision and ferocity, they unleashed 45 minutes of high-speed but melodic punk anthems upon a happy-hour crowd at RecordBar that seemed to relish and revel in each song’s thunder and fury. — T.F.
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Bassh at Crossroads KC
Bassh, a new Nashville group that’s released only one tantalizing song, had a lot to prove at Crossroads KC. Bolstered by a drummer, the duo of CJ Hardy and Jimmy Brown convinced a few hundred curious listeners that their dreamy debut single “Body” isn’t their best song. Bassh showcased a superior passel of solidly constructed material that seems destined for radio play. — B.B.
Group of the Altos at the Brick
The obscure Milwaukee collective Group of the Altos delivered one of the most bracing sets of the festival. The communal mayhem created by the eleven musicians on the small stage of the Brick occasionally sounded as if a marching band, an R&B group and an ensemble dedicated to the music of the indie-rock band Arcade Fire were sharing a rehearsal space. Group of the Altos’ audaciously messy approach was confounding yet rewarding. — B.B.
The Roseline at the Tank Room
The Roseline isn’t a country band, but they’d fit in comfortably among the acts on Bloodshot Records or the cover of No Depression magazine. Colin Halliburton is the band’s songwriter and lead vocalist. In a style that deserves comparison to Ryan Adams or the Jayhawks, he writes songs in the key of Americana that brim and sway with melody and groove. His band included a pedal steel player, who added the perfect amount of embroidery, and bassist Heidi Gluck, who added plenty of sweet harmonies. — T.F.
John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons at the Midland
More than just a songwriter, Velghe is a composer, arranger and leader of a small orchestra. His songs are ornate pop tunes rife with melody, rhythm and, thanks to the Waldo Horns, brassy soul. His own well-crafted songs are truly original, but the cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” was a highlight of the entire evening. — T.F.
Second Hand King at the Tank Room
“I have one dream in life — it’s to join a doo-wop group.” Joe Stanziola’s confession during his performance as the rapper Second Hand King at the Tank Room provided context for his unusual aesthetic. A Kansas City rapper who looks and sounds more like the late crooner Dean Martin than contemporary hip-hop stars like Drake, Stanziola is an ingratiating, albeit somewhat eccentric, entertainer. — B.B.
Fake Drugs at the RecordBar
The pop-up version of the RecordBar hosted a sinister synth-pop duo from Portland on Saturday. The venue’s sound system provided precisely the right amount of punch for Fake Drugs’ invigorating update of the forlorn electronic rock associated with 1980s bands like New Order. — B.B.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at the Midland
With much fanfare, he took the stage in a regal cape and then, before a crowd of about 800, delivered an hour of taproot, old-school soul. His set list included “Love Bug Blues,” a track from his “Victim of Love” album released in 2013, “How Long,” from his 2011 debut, “No Time for Dreaming,” and several from his most recent release, the stellar “Changes,” including “Nobody But You.”
The seven-piece Extraordinaires included a two-man horn section that embellished several songs with solos and fills. Bradley was once a James Brown impersonator, and it comes out in his own shows.
After regally doffing his cape, he stormed into “Why Is It So Hard.” He disappeared backstage during an instrumental interlude and returned in what looked like a silver suit. During one song, he danced like a robot. During another, he drew some sounds from a theremin.
The title track to his new album — a Black Sabbath song — was a highlight. So was “Ain’t It A Sin,” one of a few church moments. Unlike church, however, this service went by too quickly. — T.F.
Aimee Mann at the Midland
She had the unenviable task of following Bradley, no enviable feat. About half of the crowd remained in the theater for her set, which would showcase her glowing personality, evocative voice and extraordinary songwriting skills.
Backed by a keyboardist and a bass player, Mann strummed a guitar and sang songs from all over her catalog, like “The Moth,” “You Could Make a Killing,” “Labrador” and “Going Through the Motions.” And she chatted with the crowd, which showered her with applause and appreciation.
She closed with “The Other End (of the Telescope)” and a cover of Three Dog Night’s “One” – two songs about departure or heartache.
Mann made light of her penchant for writing “sad, depressing” songs, but that’s a mild slight to what she really does: capture raw emotions and sentiments lyrically and swathe them in luscious melodies. — T.F.
Manchester Orchestra at Crossroads KC
More than 1,000 devotees of Manchester Orchestra attended the Georgia band’s headlining appearance at Crossroads KC. The group has earned a devoted following by combining the painfully introspective musings of bandleader Andy Hull with burly slabs of post-punk guitar riffing.
Hull introduced a bruising rendition of “I Can Barely Breathe” as “a song about the apocalypse and how it’s all gonna come down.” Fans shouted the discontented lyrics of “Pensacola” back to Hull and cheered during the anxiety-laden “I’ve Got Friends.” Hull lightened the mood of his band’s 90-minute set with a whimsical song about coveting the wealth of rapper 50 Cent.
Manchester Orchestra has lost a bit of its cachet in recent years, but Saturday’s convincing outing indicated that it’s lost none of its potency. — B.B.
Illphonics at the Tank Room
A few dozen revelers basked in the jubilant party music of Illphonics at the Tank Room after midnight. The Kansas City-based label the Record Machine released the St. Louis ensemble’s “Gone With the Trends” album in April. A hip-hop group boasting live instrumentation, Illphonics is a smile-inducing powerhouse.— B.B.