Middle of the Map Fest 2015

The Sluts performing during their set at the Riot Room.
The Sluts performing during their set at the Riot Room.

There aren’t many places in Manhattan where you can find men in their 60s wearing Beatles t-shirts, high school kids with gel-slicked hairdos and denim jackets, and everyone in between, all trying to be cool in the same place at the same time. But in Kansas City’s very own Westport community, a hodgepodge of cool kids/elderly people take to the streets for a very special weekend known as Middle of the Map Fest. This once a year event draws a diverse crowd of Kansas City dwellers and all sorts of strange and interesting folks from the surrounding area to a plethora of venues sprinkled throughout Westport, including Record Bar, Riot Room, the Uptown Theatre, and more. Over 100 bands come from various parts of the midwest and beyond to perform over four days during this festival.

Many of whom were local bands that are played on KSDB’s local music show, The Garage. Our Production Director and fellow Garage host, Willy Evans, and I marched up and down Westport Road on Friday and Saturday of this festival to bring you some of the highlights from our favorite bands, local and beyond.On Friday night, Bass Drum of Death played a ferocious set at Ernie Biggs, while Atmosphere dug up some classics from previous albums for a special show at the Uptown. Saturday was the biggest day for local musicians. Arc Flash from Lawrence, Kansas got things rolling at Riot Room with an intense show. The lead singer was dressed in what looked to be a cross between a dress and a turtleneck made out of blue wool, while the bassist wore a pair of overalls, sans shirt, and a ski mask. Despite these wardrobe oddities, they had no problem shredding through a pretty fun set. Up next, we saw Spirit is the Spirit, another Lawrence band, playing at the outdoor stage. After power-walking up to Record Bar to catch La Guerre play a few tracks, we hurried back to the outdoor stage to catch our friends and Classroom Series participants, Westerners, who had just played a show at Aggie Central Station the night before.

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Fans dance to Arc Flash’s set at the Riot Room.

Willy and I both agreed, however, that Lawrence garage-punk duo, The Sluts, was our favorite performance of the day. If you want to experience something eardrum splitting, bone rattling, and overall fantastic punk-rock, then The Sluts are highly recommended. All they were was a guitar and trap set, but you could hardly tell. The guitar was hammering out a mixture of low notes that pounded home like a strong bass line, while the drummer went berserk on the kit. It was the perfect excuse to cause a little ringing in your ears and numbness in your entire body. Absolutely wonderful, really.

After having lost about half of our hearing from the Sluts’ set in Riot Room, we trekked back up the road to Record Bar to catch Your Friend play a beautiful 180° change of pace with her broody, shoegazey rock. Then it was back down the road again to see Scruffy and The Janitors, William Elliot Whitmore, and my personal non-local favorite, SALES.

Riot Room was filled to the brim with people waiting to see the Florida duo, SALES take the stage. I had just heard one of their EP’s the day before and fell in love immediately. Listening to their EP, I figured they were a full sized band with guitars, bass, and drums, but no drummer was needed. The bassist ran a series of drum-tracks for their songs, and in the weirdest way it didn’t seem fake or unnatural, but perfectly fitting. It added a certain electronic feel that jived well with their style without taking away from their overall sound. The dreamy, surfy, pop duo played a phenomenal set, while constantly cracking jokes with the crowd and making fun of themselves. I hadn’t had that much fun at a show in a long time. We finished the evening at Ernie Biggs with, Maps For Travelers, who played a pretty heavy set involving loud guitar riffs and the occasional trumpet solo.

Thanks to all those who helped curate this important event. Willy and I were able to connect with a variety of local musicians and witness some pretty great local talent. Needless to say, there will be plenty to talk about on The Garage this Friday.

By: Nick Fief

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