Organizers of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest have announced 60 of the 100-plus bands that will perform April 4-6 at venues in and near Westport.
This year’s lineup of established national acts includes Grizzly Bear, Deerhoof, the Joy Formidable, Tennis and Wovenhand. It will also include dozens of emerging national and regional bands, as well as dozens of bands from Kansas City, Lawrence and the surrounding region.
The festival, entering its third year, is sponsored by Ink magazine, a sister publication of the Kansas City Star, and the Record Machine, a recording label run by local music veteran Nathan Reusch. The lineup is being booked and curated by Terry Taylor of Mammoth Productions, Steve Tulipana, co-owner of the RecordBar, and Neill Smith of the Riot Room.
“I am really excited to have Grizzly Bear on the lineup,” Reusch said. “They are one of my favorite bands over the last five years, and its an honor to have a band of their caliber on the festival. They have never played this market; the closest they have come is Columbia.”
Last year’s Middle of the Map drew thousands of fans and attracted attention from outside Kansas City. Its lineup featured the band Fun just as the band’s single, “We Are Young,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 chart. The band has since become a major headlining act. Fun will perform at Sunday’s Grammy Awards show, where it is nominated in six categories.
“It’s exciting to see the profile of the festival rise and head towards being a spring tradition in Kansas City,” Reusch said. “I think this is our strongest lineup at launch. Last year it was really interesting to watch a band like Fun grow, but we really had no idea how big they were going to get that fast.”
In addition to the music festival, this year’s Middle of the Map will feature two other components: the Art, Culture and Tech Forum (April 18-19) and the Middle of the Map Film Fest (May 1-5). Details on those events are forthcoming.
A three-day pass to the music festival is available for $45. Passes to the technology/culture forum are $50, and a pass to the film festival costs $25. A pass to all three components is available for $100. Tickets are on sale now at middleofthemapfest.com. OfficePort in the Crossroads District will host the technology forum. The Alamo Draftouse in the Power and Light District will host the film festival.
The music festival had to adjust to the closing of the Beaumont Club, which was its hub for the first two years.
“To accommodate the loss of Beaumont Club, we’ve added the Uptown Theater,” Reusch said. “It will allow us to grow a little bit and have larger bands. We will be taking advantage of some of their different rooms.”
In addition to the Uptown, the other venues are the Riot Room, the RecordBar, Gusto Lounge, the Union and Westport Coffeehouse. The festival expects to add another music site.
The lineup so far
Grizzly Bear, the Joy Formidable, Tennis, Deerhoof, Jeff the Brotherhood, Kids These Days, Iceage, the Whigs, Wovenhand, the Appleseed Cast, the Casket Lottery, White Lung, People Get Ready, Denison Witmer, Kitten, Guards, Cowboy Indian Bear, Soft Reeds, Palace, Making Movies, Détective, Owen Pallet, Mister Lies, Last Bison, Pujol, Joe Pug, La Guerre, Spirit is the Spirit, Sleepy Kitty, My Gold Mask, Dots Not Feathers, Smoker, the Soil & the Sun, Trouper, Little Legend, Maps For Travelers, She’s A Keeper, Bloodbirds, Quiet Corral, Akkilles, Radkey, Steddy P & DJ Mahf, Thee Water Moccasins, Doris Henson, the ACBs, Shy Boys, Fourth of July, Ghosty, Shadow Paint, the Slowdown, Cherokee Rock Rifle, Clairaudients, White Girl, Antennas Up, Heartfelt Anarchy, Six Percent, the Regrets, the Belles, the Noise FM.
Middle of the Map headliners
Many indie rock bands find success by lashing out at past conventions as they forge revolutionary sounds. Grizzly Bear, one of the most critically celebrated acts of the past five years, is different. The audacious ambition of the band’s lauded albums resembles the most complex recordings of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac. As with those groundbreaking acts, the deceptively smooth veneer of the Brooklyn-based quartet’s music belies emotional epiphanies and insidious sonic inventiveness.
The Joy Formidable
Fans of the Joy Formidable fall into one of two camps. The first set of listeners admire the Welsh trio’s ingratiating craft and memorable melodies. The latter group consists of fans who have experienced one or more of the Joy Formidable’s live performances. These giddy people testify that the Joy Formidable is one of the best rock bands in the world. The band swings for the fences on its new album “Wolf’s Law,” where a handful of songs sound like Bjork fronting “Joshua Tree”-era U2. The deeper album tracks showcase the band rattling the earth like Led Zeppelin and performing pretty pop nuggets in the vein of the Cranberries.
Tennis may be from Denver, but its sound evokes the warm sunshine and cool breezes of the California coast. The husband-and-wife team of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore produce delectable pop that’s ideally suited for sand, suntan lotion and beach balls. Along with collaborator and drummer James Barone, the couple is renowned for producing hazy indie rock with ingratiating melodies. Moore sounds as if she’s about to break into the chorus of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” during many of Tennis’ frolicsome selections.
Deerhoof may be the world’s oddest funk band. While the foundation of the collective is American dance music, its sound is filtered through a global perspective. Deerhoof applies lounge music, Tropicália from Brazil, Japanese avant-garde, European pop and grating indie rock to funk rhythms. The band from California describes its music as “noise jingles for parties.” And much like brief advertisements, Deerhoof’s songs contain sudden shifts in direction and disposition. No band at this year’s Middle of the Map festival holds the promise of a better time than Deerhoof.
Jeff the Brotherhood
As Jeff the Brotherhood, siblings Jake and Jamin Orrall are a road-tested garage-rock duo. The Nashville-based brothers sound like a like a psychedelic version of the White Stripes or a meaner version of the Black Keys. Jeff the Brotherhood’s undiluted version of rock ’n’ roll is more than just a perfect soundtrack for beer drinking. Some songs are pogo-worthy punk anthems, while others recall the roots-based pop of the Avett Brothers. While the road-tested duo has been recording for more than a decade, the former members of Be Your Own Pet have only recently become critical darlings. The duo has recently racked up positive coverage from NPR, Rolling Stone and Spin.
Kids These Days
Most music lovers listen to a variety of sounds. It seems odd, consequently, that so many bands limit themselves to a single style. Kids These Days, a youthful collective from Chicago, combine Dave Matthews-style jams with hip-hop, jazz and funk. They characterize the eclectic blend as Traphouse Rock, a term that serves as the title of their Jeff Tweedy-produced 2012 debut album. During their powerhouse live appearances, the accomplished musicians in the band evoke Nirvana and Radiohead as rapper Vic Mensa spits clever rhymes. That approach causes Kids These Days to resemble a refreshingly diverse iPod playlist.
Iceage has found new ways to make noise. The Danish band redeploy the best ideas of heavy metal, punk and hardcore acts in brilliantly brutal configurations. Its ruthlessly heavy attack has made the quartet one of the most respected acts in extreme rock. Iceage combines the desolation of Joy Division, the rage of the Sex Pistols and the odd meters of Gang of Four with the vital sounds of contemporary acts like Mogwai. “You’re Nothing,” the young band’s second album and its first for the prestigious Matador Records, will be released in February.
The Whigs are touring the Eastern Seaboard with fellow Southern-rock traditionalists the Drive-By Truckers in March. It’s a perfect pairing. Much like Lucero, Kings of Leon and the Drive-By Truckers, the Whigs make savvy rock that embraces its roots in the South. The Georgia-based band has made multiple late-night television appearances and honed its rough-and-tumble approach for the past 10 years. Not only are the Whigs prone to extended guitar jams, the trio is one of the few bands at this year’s Middle of the Map to incorporate twang into its attack. Anyone with a propensity to yell “Free Bird!” at concerts may find a receptive band in the Whigs.
Years before steampunk had a name, David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand was playing music that exemplified the concept. His obscure but brilliant band 16 Horsepower fused a gothic sensibility to macabre, folk-based rock in the mid-1990s. As the visionary behind Wovenhand, Edwards offers a slightly different spin on the funereal approach. Both his band’s name and his timeless, trance-inducing work are inspired by faith-based concepts. Edward’s righteously powerful lyrics and otherworldly music make Wovenhand one of the most distinctive bands of the new millennium.
Although many observers consider the Appleseed Cast to be one of the most important bands of the past 15 years, most people have never even heard of the Lawrence-based collective. While the unhurried approach that characterizes much of the Appleseed Cast’s music is beloved by the band’s cultish fans, it doesn’t translate well to short attention spans. Expansive post-rock simply can’t be digested in small segments. The band’s music demands intent listening. The Appleseed Cast’s next album is slated for release April 9, heightening the significance of its appearance at Middle of the Map.
Headliner previews by Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star
The folks are alright
Sometimes the solution to a mission is looking right at you. Or sitting right next to you. That’s what a group of parents of students at Académie Lafayette figured out.
“Several of us were sitting around at a scouting event last year and realized that there were a lot of parents at the school who played in bands, and figured this would be a really cool way to raise money for the school,” said Gregg Todt, whose son attends the public charter/French immersion school. Todt is a member of the rock band Federation of Horsepower.
“It gives us, as parents and musicians, a way to support our kids’ educations while doing something we’re good at, and it gives the other parents an excuse to get out, see some great live music and have a good time, too,” he said. “And, for me, it’s great playing with bands that we don’t normally get to share the stage with.”
Friday night, four bands featuring at least one parent of an Académie Lafayette student will perform at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road: Federation of Horsepower, the Hillary Watts Riot, the Sexy Accident and the Quivers.
The event is being billed as Vive the Rock. Commemorative T-shirts will be sold, as well as raffle tickets for prizes. All proceeds go to the Académie Lafayette general fund, which pays for music and arts education and other academic programs. Advance tickets are $25 and are available at vivetherock.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets will be $35 at the door. Showtime is 9:30 p.m. for the 21-and-older show.
“All of the bands involved are really excited about this show, and we’re all ready to give the people who show up a hell of a show,” Todt said. “You don’t have to be a parent to come. It’s a great lineup, plus you’ll be helping out some really amazing kids and an amazing school.
“I don’t know about anyone else’s school growing up, but I know my school wasn’t cool enough to do something like this.”
Timothy Finn, The Star
There’s a country music show going on in Lawrence on Friday night, and it’s recommended for anyone who likes their country served in more traditional ways.
The headliner is Jason Boland and his band the Stragglers. Boland is a native Oklahoman, and his music comes from the Red Dirt tradition, a mix of honky-tonk country, rock, bluegrass, country blues and a few other flavors. It has roots in Texas and Oklahoma, outlaw country, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Boland and his band are among the genre’s best writers and performers.
Boland and his band headline a show at the Granada, 1020 Massachusetts. The opening band is the Starhaven Rounders, an ensemble from Kansas City that covers pure country classics — the sounds of George Jones, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, Lefty Frizzell, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, Ray Price, Tammy Wynette … and so on.
Friday’s all-ages show starts at 9 p.m. Admission is $15.
Timothy Finn, The Star