The Middle of the Map music festival closed with a bang on Saturday. Just as two legacy indie-rock acts headlined the main stage of the annual event on Friday, a pair of legendary left-of-center rock bands were the primary attractions on Saturday.
Social Distortion and Built To Spill drew about 1,500 people to the main stage at CrossroadsKC.
The merchandise booth of the Southern California institution Social Distortion sold T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “old school rock ’n’ roll,” an apt summation of the band’s meat-and-potatoes attack. Front man Mike Ness’ fearsome snarl remained ferocious on old favorites like the 1983 classic “Mommy’s Little Monster.”
Where Social Distortion is taut, Built To Spill is unbound.
Founded in Idaho in 1993 by Doug Martsch, Built To Spill emphasized Martsch’s mind-bending guitar explorations on Saturday. Rather than faithfully recreating the college rock staple “I Would Hurt a Fly,” Martsch used the song as a springboard to solo like a punk-informed version of Jimi Hendrix.
With more than 50 bands appearing on 10 stages for 11 hours on Saturday, Middle of the Map represented an embarrassment of riches for adventurous listeners.
Some of the most interesting music was performed at Temple Sounds, a small recording studio at 1529 Grand Blvd. dimly illuminated by a lamp and an exit sign.
Mx.Mrs Btrfly, a Kansas City duo that’s part of a self-described queer/trans electronic collective, combined sound samples that seemed to be drawn from home movies, transfixing beats, heartfelt singing and insistent raps about topics including body image and inclusion.
The duo’s appearance at Temple was likely the festival’s most compellingly urgent set. More conventional fare by Kansas City artists was also on tap.
Crystal Rose played lilting chamber-pop on the rooftop patio of Messenger Coffee. Vitamin C, a group led by trumpeter Chalis O’Neal, collaborated on au currant jazz at Black Dolphin. Olivia Fox, a folk-pop trio, captivated a few dozen people at the secondary stage at Crossroads KC.
Chase the Horseman, a project with enormous potential, produced impressive mainstream rock at the Brick. Keaton Conrad, another promising locally based artist, played pop in the vein of Shawn Mendes in a space operated by the Church of the Resurrection.
Jade Jackson, Becca Mancari and Nikki Lane, three touring country-oriented artists, turned in equally persuasive sets. Jackson said that “the first concert I ever went to was a Social Distortion concert.”
Just as Jackson was fortunate to have a memorable start to a life filled with live music, the organizers of Middle of the Map selected an ideal act in Social Distortion to provide a fitting ending to this year’s festival.