The angular funk and sultry pop of Spoon matched the blazing conditions at Crossroads KC on opening night of Middle of the Map fest on June 29. Dave Bean | Special to The Star

Middle of the Map opening night: a few setbacks, a sultry show from Spoon

Spoon played to about 2,000 people at Crossroads KC at the 2018 Middle of the Map Fest on June 29. Dave Bean | Special to The Star
Grizzly Bear, who first headlined Middle of the Map fest in 2013, was a headliner again in 2018. Dave Bean | Special to The Star

The 2018 edition of the Middle of the Map music festival hit its stride on Friday following a couple awkward stumbles during the initial hours of the event.

The stalwart indie-rock bands Grizzly Bear and Spoon lived up to their billing as the main stage headliners, but a couple of cancellations muddled the schedule and incited disappointment in a large contingent of attendees.

Greta Van Fleet, a young Michigan band riding a groundswell of support for its uncannily accurate approximation of Led Zeppelin, dropped off the bill on Thursday after its drummer injured his wrist. Unable to obtain refunds on their tickets, many dejected Greta Van Fleet fans wearing classic rock T-shirts made it clear that they didn’t care for the festival’s indie-rock orientation.

Suggesting that the high temperature might damage her equipment, the electronic musician Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith canceled her appearance hours before her showcase.

The mishaps were a minor inconvenience for the more than 2,000 indie-rock enthusiasts on hand for the primary headliners at Crossroads KC.

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The New York-based Grizzly Bear has been crafting highly refined art-rock for more than 15 years. Fans rightfully gave intricate selections like “Fine For Now” effusive receptions. Yet with songs as delicate as the shrouds that decorated the stage, Grizzly Bear’s cultivated approach was ill-suited to the setting.

The beat-oriented attack of Spoon worked much better. The angular funk and sultry pop of the veteran Austin, Texas, band matched the blazing conditions.

The spacious grooves of Spoon’s “Knock Knock Knock” swung with an intensity that might have impressed the New York-based pianist Paul Shinn and the Kansas City tandem of bassist Joey Panella and drummer Doug Auwarter that entertained a few dozen people at the nearby jazz club Black Dolphin. Shinn’s astonishing rendition of Bud Powell’s “Bud on Bach” exemplified his sophisticated style.

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Similarly gratifying music was played under the auspices of Middle of the Map on stages throughout the Crossroads District.

The polished Nashville roots-rock band the Brummies exhibited persuasive charm at RecordBar. Kansas City’s the Beholders produced sepia-toned psychedelic rock at the Brick.

Earlier at the Brick, Belle & The Vertigo Waves scratched the itch of Greta Van Fleet fans with a cursory cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” While the Kansas City band’s interpretation didn’t make up for the absence of Greta Van Fleet, the reference provided a thrilling moment on a night full of surprises.

The Middle of the Map festival continues on Saturday, June 30.

Middle of the Map Fest

Main-stage events will take place at Crossroads KC. Bands will also perform at the RecordBar, the Brick and the Black Dolphin. 1 p.m. Saturday, June 30. $45. middleofthemapfest.com


Middle of the Map opening night: a few setbacks, a sultry show from Spoon