pom pom squad is, indeed, not hanson at boulevardia

pom pom squad is, indeed, not hanson at boulevardia

Every Father’s Day weekend – for years now – Boulevardia has taken over a crucial area of Kansas City, bringing the best taps, tastes, and tunes to the metropolitan area. (And region, if we are being honest.) The relocation to Crown Center a handful of years ago made the festival a little more central — though no less sweltering hot.

I arrived later on Friday, making it a point to get there in time to see Pom Pom Squad. Frontwoman Mia Berrin introduced the band as Hanson – who was coming up next on the Visit Missouri main stage – and then proceeded to rip our faces off. Berrin’s dynamic vocals serenaded us through a breezy, hot Midwest sunset. A few fun photos below.

Keep up with Pom Pom Squad here.

goose jams kansas city’s faces off at the midland

goose jams kansas city’s faces off at the midland

If you didn’t know who Goose was already, then you could have gotten the full run-down from any man found within a 4 block radius of The Midland on Tuesday evening. “Do you know who Goose is?” a man in a gray tie dyed shirt excitedly asked me as I walked up to the box office to nab my photo pass. “Yes, I’m photographing them.” (And I do know their music. And they’re fantastic.) “Oh.”

But I didn’t have to worry about taking this man’s shine for too long. Almost immediately, he turned to a woman walking from the other direction and excitedly asked, “Do you know who Goose is?” She didn’t, and he was aghast. Immediately he launched into a tale about a young jam band that he and his friends championed from the beginning. I laughed at her expression, got my pass, and went inside.

But that’s what Goose does – they fire up the crowd. They are, in essence, a feel good band with an open, excitable fan base. Walking in, it felt like I was headed to camp. Everyone was complimenting each other’s shirts and looks, asking about strangers’ favorite songs, taking photos with signs and posters.

And that’s another thing… I’ve never seen so many banners and posters in this venue before. I’ve never felt the nostalgia of summer camp inside a venue in Kansas City. In my life. And I’m a native.

That was the vibe they brought. With an enchanting stage set, some quirky accessories (hello stuffed Luigi on a keyboard), and a crowd that was ready to be best friends, Goose brought everyone together on a perfect 70 something degree evening in the midwest.

maddie zahm’s irving plaza show was an intricate, inspired, emotional event

maddie zahm’s irving plaza show was an intricate, inspired, emotional event

Fans had no problem waiting in the heavy, pouring rain for Maddie Zahm. Before doors even opened, the lengthy line to Irving Plaza wrapped around the venue, stretching for blocks upward. This isn’t completely odd for certain shows at Irving Plaza, but I only had one question: who was Maddie Zahm?

I hadn’t heard of Zahm before, and was quite curious. It was clear she had cultivated a very large fanbase. To figure this out, I began questioning them. I wanted to know everything about her, and was quickly given the story:

Zahm’s fanbase developed from an EP, You Might Not Like Her. With singles such as “Fat Funny Friend,” “If It’s Not God,” and the title track, “You Might Not Like Her,” Zahm went viral. She went viral on Reddit, she went viral on TikTok, she went viral pretty much everywhere. And it’s easy to see why. Zahm writes confessional lyrics about some of her most painful experiences, creating mini-memoirs. She also shares these stories on TikTok, providing a safe place where fans can experience not just her music, but who she is as a person. 

Chronicling her youth and young adulthood growing up in the church in Boise, Idaho, Zahm discusses religious trauma and how it can play out in the mental, emotional, and physical self. She also notes her bisexuality, and how the church made her feel alien unto herself as she sought to understand who she really was, entering the stage of unlearning. (In fact, in the video for You Might Not Like Her, Zahm and her parents act in a scene depicting her coming out story. The scene ends with a group hug.) Zahm has also struggled with weight gain due to her diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and describes how she was treated by her peers, with multiple scenes in the You Might Not Like Her video. 

It’s Zahm’s candor, authenticity, and unwavering kindness that have most endeared her to her fans. Now touring for her new LP, the appropriately titled Now That I’ve Been Honest, the response to Zahm has exploded. For the EP, she played at smaller New York City venues such as the Mercury Lounge. For her LP, Zahm graduated to Irving Plaza.

I began asking fans if this was their first Zahm show, the answer usually being a resounding “no.” There were, however, newer fans Zahm gained with the success of her LP, most of whom were eagerly waiting for this show since it was announced. The majority of fans revealed that they had experienced one or more of the issues Zahm addresses, offering them solace and representation. It wasn’t just the music they loved, it was Zahm herself.Her shows are safe spaces, they told me, where everyone is welcome and included. Fans also detailed how they met at Zahm concerts, from making new acquaintances to forging close friendships. 

I asked for more specifics on Zahm’s live show, which was summed up for me by one fan: “You just have to see her. It’s hard to explain. But when you see her perform, you’ll just get it.” And this fan was right, far more right than I even knew. 

When Zahm walked out onstage, she was beaming from ear to ear. In fact, the first photo I snapped was of her infectious smile. Her fans cheered and gazed at her longingly, reverently. She opted for her first song to be a slower one, the achingly beautiful “Blind Spot.” Maddie sang so close to the edge of the stage that I thought she might fall off, but I quickly understood why: Zahm wants to be as close to her fans as possible.

In between lyrics, Zahm went around to the first row, saying a quiet hi, sometimes with a wave, to each fan up front. In addition, Zahm often holds the mic to the crowd, inviting them to sing with her. It’s this collective chorus and communal space that causes fans to refer to Zahm shows as “church.”

Zahm is witty and sharp, often cracking jokes between songs. Prefacing the second track on her LP, “Eightball Girl,” she noted that her mother, upon hearing the song, asked her if she was doing cocaine. (For the record, it’s about a magic eightball.) Loud laughter echoed throughout the venue, bouncing off the walls. The balance between pain and its collective intimacy, laughter and joy, is what a Zahm show brings. It’s clear her star will keep rising—and we’ll follow with it. 

The second leg of Zahm’s tour is happening now! Dates are below:
May 20 Wooly’s – Des Moines, IA 
May 21 The Waiting Room – Omaha, NE
May 23 Center for the Arts – Jackson, WY 
May 24 Knitting Factory – Boise, ID

Zahm on the Kelly Clarkson show can be seen here.

ajr leaves jaws on the floor after energetic takeover of t-mobile center

ajr leaves jaws on the floor after energetic takeover of t-mobile center

It hasn’t been historically easy for me to figure out what to do for my birthday. Usually, I use the fact that I am an identical twin to find ways to celebrate. Plus, both my brother and brother-in-law have birthdays during the same week as us. April is a crazy time in our household!

But when I heard AJR was planning to be in my hometown on my birthday this year, it was a no-brainer that I would be there. Not because I’m a superfan. (Admittedly, I’m not.) Not because I know their catalog extensively. (Oops, I am a very casual listener.) Actually, it was because the band’s energy felt like the right one for my birthday. Well-paced songs, often dark honesty blended with pop hooks, quirky entertainment value. I had caught a glimpse of their live set at Bonnaroo in 2019, and had wanted to see their full creative capabilities. So, my mom and I got tickets together. (Because she has wildly good taste in music and is a phenomenal show buddy.)

AJR is another three-brother band comprised of Adam, Jack, and Ryan Metz. They are more than just your average “We tried choreographed dancing and it’s still stiff,” “We dress alike for our image,” or “We play instruments but we don’t use the space to entertain” groups. They have approached their work very differently than many others, to maintain their individuality and spark as a group the whole time. As their music catches fire with even more people, they acknowledge and appreciate their successes as it happens.

Dean Lewis opened the show for them, bringing his brand of Australian power ballad to the people of Kansas City. While he may have unbuttoned a few too many buttons on his shirt, his rendition of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” was really well done, and his vulnerability on stage allowed him to connect with the early crowd.

As is the case when you head to a comedy show, be prepared for AJR to exist outside of the box a little bit. Crowd interaction, scripted stage moments, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into their creative process… So many more examples of dynamic storytelling aside from the incredible musicianship are in store for you. The show’s eco-impact – supported by Adam Met’s efforts as a climate activist – is notable alone, as they sell sustainably packaged water and donate a percentage of each ticket sold to Planet Reimagined. Their VIP experiences are almost as dynamic as the show itself. During an AJR show, they drive cars, dine in restaurants, skydive, do shadow puppets, and perform from unexpected heights. And that’s just some of it.

There is a performed breakdown of the song “Way Less Sad” during their set. This was one of the most fascinating elements of their show. It allowed AJR to play with prepared prose and do a little set work. Seeing this – and hearing them talk about having a theatrical musical style – was a super relatable moment as a child of the 90s raised on musicals and art. It seems these brothers had nurturing upbringings embracing the arts and they work really well together. I see myself in that, and want to lead a more collaborative existence like that.

If you are heading out to see The Maybe Man Tour and don’t have context, there is a sad piece to their set. They talk about the inspiring advice their dad gave them before he passed last year. It is fresh in their minds, their lyrics, and their hearts as they approach the topic. I warn you because waterworks are almost unavoidable. Even surrounded by confetti and giddy, happy hearts of almost every age. (It was kind of like a daycare in there at times.)

Check out the remaining AJR tour dates here.

liz miele’s standup special murder sheets is necessary entertainment

liz miele’s standup special murder sheets is necessary entertainment

If you’ve stumbled upon Liz Miele‘s latest comedy masterpiece on Netflix and are expecting a horror podcast to come to life, you might be reaching from – or into – the wrong genre. As horrific as some of her personal anecdotes are to people, I’m sure, Miele finds so much humor in her everyday life that she is able to make even a laundry mishap sound edgy and crucial to a set.

In a 2012 interview with Miele, I asked her what up-and-coming comedians she was most excited about. She rattled off a list of people she worked with. This list included Carmen Lynch, Nate BargatzeDan SoderRory ScovelRyan ConnerJordan Carlos, Jermaine Fowler, Kelly MacFarland, and Myq Kaplan. Before many of them hit their true stride, she was cheering them on. I’m ready to watch each of them, in turn, champion her new special, as she has stayed so true to herself in her brand of comedy, yet exponentially elevated with each new comedy routine and standup taping.

What I love about a comedian so well-versed in their craft is how they can easily weave their inspiration into their work. Liz has effortlessly given space to her parents and their shared profession, her siblings and their mutual impact on each other’s lives, and all of the people and beings that are meaningful to her at this stage in her life.

Just when you think there is an established rhythm of jokes about her family dynamic interwoven with insightful commentary and the occasional birth order trope, Miele returns to cat-heavy storytelling. While this could otherwise drastically affect the momentum of a standup comedian’s set, it actually just re-confirms her status as a cat person. (Which I did note in my 2012 interview with: “Fair warning: She has a thing for cats.”) It’s a reminder – hilariously placed – of the single-mindedness most animal “parents” suffer from at times, and pulls in a demographic (animal lovers, cat people) that can relate to this stage work.

But the genius in the “cat work” is that she uses stories about her cats to propel her singledom (and willingness to date, change, etc.) into the forefront of the conversation. This expertly ties back to her modern dating jokes earlier in the set.

If you hang on through the credits – well earned, as they are – you will see the results of Miele’s intricate storytelling, a true testament to her authenticity. “I wrote an 11-minute joke about this whole process.”

Invested, talented, and deeply funny. Those are my takeaways on Miele’s character at this stage, with the release of Murder Sheets. Check it out now on Youtube.