Boulevardia will bring the best of local music, food and wares to the Stockyards District this weekend. But the festival isn’t just one-time fun. We’re embracing Boulevardia’s sunny vibes and hometown flair as a guide to our most Kansas City summer ever. Stick with us to catch the most entertaining performers, drool-worthy bites and staycation souvenirs, at Boulevardia and all summer long.
Sex + Ice Cream
Crossroads boutique Sex + Ice Cream explodes with designer and 24-year-old owner Nicole Leth’s vibrant style. Sheer, pastel dresses float on their hangers, hats inscribed with GRL POWER peek out from the shelves, and tote bags printed with hand-drawn bare breasts promise to raise eyebrows.
Leth has been surprising people since she began selling her designs at age 19. Driven by a devastating breakup, Leth — at the time a student at Kansas City Art Institute — treated her designs as a diary, emerging with a highly personal brand.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“I make art about things that happen to me,” Leth says, “and Kansas City’s a part of all of it.”
Last month, Leth threw what she dubbed a “syck keger” with a DJ and free cotton candy to celebrate her flagship store’s one-year anniversary. But she didn’t slow down to celebrate success.
The very next day, she opened a new store in her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.
“I’m just always open to what’s next,” the CEO shares.
So are Sex + Ice Cream’s fans. The brand boasts over 3,000 Facebook likes and nearly 20,000 Instagram followers. With each social media update, commenters gush, “love,” “need” and “OMG!”
Both online and in-store, Leth has created a distinct and bright environment for these customers. She wants shopping at Sex + Ice Cream to feel like “relaxing in the pool with some cucumbers on your eyes.”
The Sex + Ice Cream pop-up at Boulevardia will take summertime inspiration even further.
“Tropical oasis is our Boulevardia theme,” Leth says. “We may or may not be dressed like lifeguards. There may or may not be a slug bug there.”
As usual, Leth isn’t giving all the answers — she’s preparing more surprises.
At Boulevardia: Sex + Ice Cream will be part of the Makers Market, giving you the opportunity to take home the boutique’s fun wares.
All summer long: Sex + Ice Cream’s original Kansas City location is at 1515 Walnut St. Stop by from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
— Kara Lewis
Kansas City musician Crystal Rose describes her songs as simple. When she’s not working as a banquet server, the 25-year-old strives to emulate the classic powerhouses — Whitney Houston and Beyoncé — who inspired her to start singing.
In a music scene she perceives as too often dominated by overpowering beats and rambling riffs, she is building a career by focusing on the basics.
“A listener can get pulled in without distractions,” she explains. “I’m about lyrics and vocals.”
Rose is also about hustle. In the past year, she has sung at Middle of the Map festival, posted YouTube videos that spotlight both her original songs and acoustic covers of popular artists, and joined DJs as a guest on local music station 90.9 the Bridge. And above all, she made a conscious decision to pursue her passion.
“I’ve been working on music for a while, but it was only this past fall that I started to go hard,” she says. “I did some research and was like, ‘This is what I have to do to get there’ and just made it start happening.”
Rose’s music reflects her ability to jump in and unabashedly chase her desires. In her recent single, “Come Alive,” the expressive lines and soulful notes narrate plunging into a new relationship. The pop single proves an anthem for brazen summer love.
Rose’s driven and relatable vibe carries through in her devotion to Kansas City.
“I can’t imagine leaving Kansas City,” Rose says. “It inspires me to keep writing, to keep playing, to get better, to go support other artists and to learn from them. We have tons of talented people at home.”
Rose has earned a spot on this accomplished list. She documents her flourishing music journey on Instagram, where she showcases concert announcements, song snippets and in-studio shots. Her performances have lit up some of the city’s most colorful venues, such as the Tank Room and Prohibition Hall.
However, this summer’s Boulevardia performance is likely to be her biggest venture yet. Rose expects a larger crowd than at any of her previous shows, and she geared up by writing a new song.
At Boulevardia: Crystal Rose and her band perform at 7 p.m. Friday on the Vineborough Acoustic Stage.
All summer long: See Crystal Rose on July 8 at Lenexa’s Electric Park, July 13 at Replay Lounge in Lawrence and July 27 at Grandview Amphitheater.
— Kara Lewis
Emily Bordner wanted a well-made leather bag, but nothing in stores appealed to her. So what else was there to do but take a leatherworking course and stitch up her own?
One satchel led to another, and now, in addition to being a designer at Hallmark, she runs EB Leatherworks, which sells bags and wallets at about a dozen retailers in the Kansas City area.
This will be her second year at Boulevardia; last year her products sold out, so hit her up early.
In addition to her leather bags, she also has a line of items such as T-shirts, mugs and key rings that declare: “KC as Fuck.”
“We’re totally over the kitsch Charlie Hustle KC, like, obvious Kansas City. This isn’t Johnson County,” Bordner explains. “No, you live in midtown, you live in Crossroads. … We’re not in the burbs.
“Not to be super sassy, but, like, we’re KC as Fuck. We’re in rush hour. We’re in diversity. We’re trying to make it work. We love the environment, we love the community.”
The artist, who’s from Lee’s Summit, has lived in Kansas City since her days as a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She says she loves collaborating with other makers, who are predominantly women, all hustling to “make it happen” the same as she is.
“I love that, and I love working with so many women that are like, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s get the job done and get a massage afterwards.’ ”
At Boulevardia: Find EB Leatherworks in the Makers Market.
All summer long: Look for EB Leatherworks at Urban Provisions, Made in KC, the Jeweled Gypsy, Mid Coast Modern, Unbakery and Juicery, Post/Edit, Craft Collective, Dear Society, Hand and Land, Souvenear, HMK and Raygun.
— Anne Kniggendorf
According to their website, the nine members of the band identify as “ambassadors of phunk, rap, rock, and soul, creating intelligent dance music.”
“We are a very cohesive mosaic, and that’s kind of what Kansas City is,” says lead vocalist Kemet Coleman, who solos as Kemet the Phantom. “In a lot of ways we borrow from all over the world to create a gumbo of culture.”
The band includes two vocalists, guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and keyboard — the horn section joined eight months ago. Its sound is electrifying and energizing, and its lyrics include frequent shout-outs to Kansas City.
In the song “Phire” — which has a definite Parliament/Funkadelic vibe, though with more judicious use of the wa-wa pedal — Coleman sings, “This is the town of Kansas City/ this is the Show-Me State.”
The track “Bananas” declares, “KC! … Now it’s time for you to go bananas.”
The group regularly plays at Rye Zone, The Brick and Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club, and this is its third appearance at Boulevardia — Coleman says the band has a great post-sunset time slot this year.
“We are a diverse collective of random items and random people and random sounds,” Coleman explains, adding that it’s fitting they’re based here in Kansas City. “It’s the crossroads of America, right?”
At Boulevardia: The Phantastics will perform 9:20 p.m. Friday on the Chipotle Homegrown Stage.
All summer long: See the Phantastics on July 14 at Lawrence Field Day Fest; Aug. 11 at RecordBar; Aug. 17 at Hawk Week, Lawrence; and Aug. 23 at Kauffman Stadium.
— Anne Kniggendorf
Betty Rae’s Ice Cream
Usually, when something is supposed to taste like s’mores, it just doesn’t.
David Friesen was done playing footsie with s’mores-flavored ice cream. He and his wife, Mary, own Betty Rae’s Ice Cream Parlor in Waldo.
He was determined to make s’mores ice cream that really tasted like s’mores. First, they make marshmallow fluff from scratch — corn syrup, sugar, water and whipped-in egg whites — “and then we torch it with a huge torch,” he says.
The burnt fluff goes into the cream mix. Then the homemade fudge sauce. Once he’s swirled in the graham cracker crumbs?
“What you have is ice cream that tastes like burnt marshmallows with the melty chocolate and the graham cracker pieces,” Friesen says.
Friesen and his wife not only make the ice cream but also create all the illustrations, graphic design and packaging.
If you’ve ever seen the Betty Rae’s food truck, you know about the extraordinary painting on the back, which Friesen says is a selfie spot.
The large graphic, which he did himself, shows numerous Kansas City landmarks replaced or ameliorated by ice cream.
For instance, rather than shuttlecocks adorning the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, he shows upside-down ice cream cones. And the Scout statue is taking a break from looking out, enjoying a cone.
The food truck is new, but the two have used it a lot already at events around town and at private parties at businesses and houses.
Taking the food truck on the road is a great way to see every part of the metro area, Friesen says.
“You’re handing people ice cream cones, but one day you’ll be at somebody’s house out in Liberty, just parked in their driveway on a beautiful evening, and you’re practically out in the country,” Friesen explains. “Then the next day you might be in the Bottoms, and it’s, like, the oldest part of the city, and you’ve got the brick buildings and the asphalt, and it’s great. Driving all over is really fun.”
At Boulevardia: Betty Rae’s is among a dozen food trucks at Boulevardia.
All summer long: Find them at First Friday in front of Reactor or at their permanent location in Waldo, 7140 Wornall Road.
— Anne Kniggendorf
Electric pop band Jaenki is all about supporting Kansas City businesses. Ryan Wallace, who sings and plays synthesizer and guitar, says they’re huge Kansas City sports fans, too.
But the longtime area musicians don’t limit their love of local to Royals games. “We’re always going to local restaurants — always eating out at great places and supporting the local market,” Wallace says.
The band formed in 2013 out of Kenn Jankowski’s solo run; now it’s a four-person endeavor that snags a lot of airtime on 90.9 the Bridge and 96.5 the Buzz. Wallace says their most popular songs are “Miracle Maze,” “Wrangler” and “The Timing and the Spaces.”
Wallace says the band’s sound is wide-ranging — mostly “weird pop music. Throw in some funky beats and strange timing.” Fans sometimes compare the vibe of “Miracle Maze” to Death Cab for Cutie.
Though all four members of Jaenki have regular jobs, mostly in Westport, their recording and touring schedule is packed. They perform locally at the Riot Room, RecordBar and the Brick when they’re not in the studio working on a set planned for release on vinyl in 2018.
After their gig at Boulevardia they’ll hit the road for a few months, playing farther away from home base each time: Lawrence, Wichita, Chicago and Nashville are among the many stops on their tour.
If you’re not cut out to be a roadie, Wallace says to find them online on every digital music platform.
At Boulevardia: Find Jaenki at 5 p.m. Friday on the Chipotle Homegrown Stage.
All summer long: Jaenki will be playing June 21 at Replay Lounge in Lawrence; June 22 at Barleycorn’s in Wichita; June 23 at Chelsea’s in Eureka Springs, Ark.; and June 24 at Outland Front of House Lounge in Springfield, Mo.
— Anne Kniggendorf
Ocean and Sea
Brendan O’Shaughnessy knows Kansas City is not oceanfront property. He gets it.
But he and his wife/business partner, Amanda, are really into the nautical aesthetic as far as clothing design goes. They started Ocean & Sea three years ago and have been riding the rising tide ever since.
“The story of Ocean & Sea is integrally tied to Kansas — we lean on the irony of the fact that we’re nautical and in the Midwest, which we call the midcoast,” O’Shaughnessy says.
They lean on it so much that the two have a special boat they tow from their headquarters in Mission when they work events, including their upcoming appearance at Boulevardia. The boat, inspired by ancient prairie wind wagons, usually functions as a pop-up shop.
Many of O’Shaughnessy’s childhood summers were spent fishing and sailing on Lake Michigan, which is where he developed his love of the nautical look. But it was Amanda who hit on the name “Ocean & Sea,” which is very nearly a homonym for their last name.
Their best-selling products all include the heart graphic with “LA – KC – NY” in the center.
O’Shaughnessy says that design has sold well from coast to coast to midcoast, and their customers often are excited to tell them stories of how they have personal ties to each of the three cities.
In fact, the design resonated so much with customers that the O’Shaughnessys created a “customize your heart” option so that just about any three cities can share space within the heart.
The designers say they are honored to be included in Boulevardia this year. They have a special release just for the event: a heart with MO – KC – KS in the center.
“That’s really taking in the pride of we’re local,” O’Shaughnessy explains. “Living in Kansas City like everyone else — the borders of Kansas City and Missouri — it’s very loose. We’re all in there together.”
At Boulevardia: Find Brendan and Amanda in the Makers Market.
— Anne Kniggendorf