Boulevardia, the ambitious annual festival backed by Boulevard Brewing Company, is billed as a “country within a country.”
Tech N9ne acted as the nation’s slightly sinister leader Friday night.
The rapper hailed as the King of Kansas City headlined the main stage in the Stockyards District on the opening night of the two-day event. Tech N9ne proclaimed, “You are now in the realm of the King.”
His boast wasn’t mere hyperbole. Aside from the plethora of craft beers available throughout the festival grounds and diversions including food trucks, carnival rides, a silent disco, street entertainers and 13 additional sets by an astoundingly diverse array of musicians, Tech N9ne’s powerful performance was the main attraction.
But the audience that appeared to be well in excess of 5,000 had mixed reactions to Tech N9ne’s effort.
Some weren’t pleased by the regular bursts of machine gun sound effects, Tech N9ne’s attempt to incite mosh pits and a set list that included lascivious songs such as “My Wife, My B****, My Girl.” The MeToo movement is just a rumor in Tech N9ne’s kingdom.
The presence of people who don’t identify as Technicians — what rabid Tech N9ne fans call themselves — made the show feel particularly transgressive.
The culture clash caused Tech N9ne’s true believers to respond more enthusiastically than usual to selections including “Hood Go Crazy” and “Einstein,” the anthem of hometown pride that served as Boulevardia’s de facto national anthem.
Many fans were fueled by Bou Lou, the latest Boulevard brew inspired by Tech N9ne’s hit “Caribou Lou” that debuted Friday. He proudly reported that “I heard we sold out of Bou Lou.”
Though alcoholic beverages like Bou Lou and oppressive heat can be a hazardous combination, most revelers handled Friday’s torrid conditions responsibly. Some hid from the sun at an indoor stage that featured locally based talent, including the pensive indie-pop songwriter Heidi Lynne Gluck.
A third stage hosted notable appearances by the venerable soul shouter Lee Fields, the metallic punk trio Radkey and Tech N9ne’s label mate Mackenzie Nicole.
Tech N9ne’s outing on the main stage was preceded by a riveting set by Manchester Orchestra, a rock band that is as emotionally raw as it is ferociously loud, and by Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, the charming folk-based mother-and-son tandem of Madisen and Ruth Ward.
Yet no one topped Tech N9ne, the man who was king of Boulevardia for a day and the reigning musical ruler of Kansas City for more than a decade.
The beer, food and music festival continues Saturday. Stockyards District. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. $30. boulevardia.com