Meet the Middlers: Spoon brings its powerhouse grooves to fest

Britt Daniel , vocalist for Spoon, will get crowds dancing on June 29 at Ink magazine’s  Middle of the Map festival.
Britt Daniel , vocalist for Spoon, will get crowds dancing on June 29 at Ink magazine’s Middle of the Map festival. AP

The most propulsive dance music at Ink magazine’s Middle of the Map festival likely will be played by an indie-rock band. Spoon will demonstrate its faculty for powerhouse grooves at the Lead Bank Stage at Crossroads KC on Friday, June 29.

While internationally renowned soul and hip-hop artists, including Charles Bradley and De La Soul, were among the notables who starred in previous editions of Middle of the Map, the biggest attractions of the 2018 lineup are rock bands.

Dance-happy festival-goers needn’t feel left out. Spoon is a dance ensemble masquerading as an indie-rock group.

The members of Spoon didn’t set out to fill dance floors. The band’s evolution is an immensely rewarding surprise. Spoon formed in Austin in 1993 as an abrasive post-punk band.

While the twitchy guitar riffs, nervous vocals and tortured lyrics of the band’s early recordings like the frantic "Not Turning Off" were enthusiastically received, they bear little resemblance to Spoon’s current sound.

"The Way We Get By", one of the most striking tracks on the 2002 album "Kill the Moonlight," signaled a new phase in the band’s development. The sophisticated application of keyboards and the maturation of front man Britt Daniel’s voice indicated that Spoon was capable of sustaining a long, productive career.

Spoon’s "Gimme Fiction" validated that assessment. The 2005 album’s dreamy "Inside Out" features a wrenching vocal by Daniel that’s a milestone in his gradual transformation from a rock shouter to a classic blue-eyed soul singer.

"I Turn My Camera On" is among the compositions that are as sturdily constructed as the 1980s hits of the Cars. Only the marginalization of rock in popular culture prevented Spoon from achieving similarly massive commercial success.

Spoon’s undeserved status as a dark horse lent additional meaning to "The Underdog", a stellar 2007 horn-laden song on the 2007 album "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" that eviscerates an overly comfortable antagonist. The project also includes “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”, a throwback soul song that sounds like the blueprint for future hit-makers such as Fitz and the Tantrums.

"Hot Thoughts", the title track of Spoon’s most recent album, doubles down on the beat-oriented approach. The name of the song and the hard-hitting rhythms serve as an homage to the disco queen Donna Summer’s 1979 hit “Hot Stuff.”

The song may not sound like old Spoon favorites, but a rendition of “Hot Thoughts” is certain to provide some of the funkiest moments of this year’s Middle of the Map festival.

Main-stage events will take place at Crossroads KC. Bands will also perform each night at the RecordBar, the Brick and the Black Dolphin. Friday, June 29 and Saturday, June 30. Tickets range from $45 for Friday to $200 for a 2-day, VIP pass.