For those of you who are not yet privy to the rising music scene in Kansas City, now is the time to do your research. Boulevardia – the midwest beer and music fest that started to call Kemper Arena and the West Bottoms home five years ago – has exploded into a much bigger event, drawing crowds from all over the United States to tap brand new and limited run beers, check out bands in both rustic venues and in front of a very spacey-looking building (Kemper Arena, about to become HyVee Arena), and to ride a ferris wheel in an undoubtedly urban and growing area. This year featured forty bands – including, but certainly not limited to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Radkey, Manchester Orchestra, Sir Sly, Guster, Bleachers, and Kansas City’s own Tech N9ne -, craftspeople and artists from around the metropolitan area, and a silent disco experience. (The best part about that? It was outside, instead of in a tent, so looky-lous could stop and watch for a bit if life called for it.)
2018 featured an array of additional rides – you know, besides that vibrant, beautiful ferris wheel – and a Royals outfield experience. And even though this event seems to happen on the hottest and muggiest weekend of the year every single year, we were too busy watching numerous parades of contortionists and acrobats and clowns and people full of PRIDE and enjoying the midwest’s best in beers that we almost didn’t even notice it.
But that’s the magic of Boulevardia. Enjoy these Day 1 photos, and check back in to see some highlights from Day 2 as well!
On Monday, June 11th – on one of the most miserably hot days of the year so far – we headed out to The Riot Room in Kansas City to pack ourselves from wall to wall like sardines and enjoy the musical stylings of Meg Myers. She admitted while on stage that it was one of her first live performances in years, and the KC crowd was pleased to have been blessed with that honor. From the very first notes of “Done”, through “Sorry”, new single “Take Me to the Disco”, “Monster”, “Make a Shadow”, and more all the way through the last notes of “Numb”, she incited an energy in her fans that is rare to find elsewhere.
Wearing mauve high waisted pants, a black crop top, and two tiny buns on the top of her head, Myers seemed to cool the room off with her robust, long-ranging vocals and the intense heart she puts into every single line she sings. Although personal favorites included “Make a Shadow” and “I’m Not Sorry”, her widest known track – “Desire” – was a riot to witness live, as the entire room was privy to every word.
The crowd that gathered was interesting as well, with no particular demographic in mind. It seems her heart and her talent is wide-reaching, touching young hearts all the way to the Jimmy Buffet-looking crowd. (You understand everything about this, don’t lie.) Her set was a reminder of the pure passion involved in the music listening experience.
Meg Myers’ cohorts on this magical night? None other than Kansas City’s Other Americans. We got what photos we could of the sold out show, between heads and as close as we could get to the madness!
Pop can sometimes feel like an afterthought in the rock and country-saturated musical landscape of Nashville, but Thursday night’s show at the East Room made it clear that Nashville’s pop scene is anything but marginal. POP MONSTER (a dual release party for local artists Whoa Dakota and Athena, hosted by Popsquad) showed that pop in Nashville is as varied and exciting as the people involved can imagine it to be. Four artists with unique takes on the different shapes pop can take proved what the Nashville pop scene is truly capable of: churning out emotionally nuanced and stylistically ambitious bangers.
Meaux opened the evening strong with her sensual electro-pop, a fusion of soulful and experimental sounds that provided an effortlessly changing landscape for her rich voice to traverse. Her powerful pipes and impressive dance moves energized the room as she stalked the stage in a split length red cape. Color-shifting gauzy lights set the tone in the room, a cozy dream cave that looked as if it had been styled by the collective efforts of Prince and the Little Prince. Between sets the alchemy in the room was maintained through a mixture of 90’s throwbacks and electro-pop, the dreamy vibes in the room conducted by the cotton candy stellariums (made by Athena) hovering moodily above the crowd.
Next was Soren Bryce, a Brooklyn local who’s no stranger to the Nashville music scene. Soren’s writing and performance seems to transform to keep up with the rapid pace of her own ever-expanding taste. It’s a testament to how talented Soren is that she can take a left turn away from the fantastic music on her last unreleased EP (largely synth-based) to the more guitar-centric rock we heard on Thursday—and accomplish it so effortlessly. Clearly there’s no genre of music that Soren can’t master, as demonstrated by her fantastic set: a grungy pop punk watercolor that borrowed from Kurt Cobain, Lorde, Joe Jackson, Elliot Smith and Fiona Apple without ever losing its own distinctive style. Soren’s varied influences find her a sound all her own, as well as a gravity at the mike that holds the center of any room she’s playing for. The thread that weaves through her stylistic choices is always her voice, melodic with an expansive range that she wielded precisely like a scalpel to cut through the colorful fog in the venue.
Soren Bryce by Rhea Foote
Athena played third in a powerhouse performance that you’d never know was her debut effort. She was right at home in front of an audience, prowling the stage in silver spandex like a modern day Xenon, an early 2000s fever dream kicking through pink fog clouds in Adidas stripes. Athena approached her performance with a fierce vulnerability, swinging from charm to rage to melancholy in a way that always felt authentic. She brought the crowd into her circle of trust and pulled them along for her journey—and despite (or because of) the emotional depth each song was catchier than the next, equal parts Paramore and Nelly Furtado, Athena bopping around the stage with her heart in her hands. If this was only her first show, I’d recommend showing up for Athena’s second show.
When Jesse Ott aka Whoa Dakota took the stage, she wasn’t afraid to own the space, immediately splaying herself out on the attached runway while the crowd encircled her. The show also served as a release party for the new single “Right Now” off of her upcoming album “Patterns,” but she saved that for the end of the show, satisfying the audience in the lead-up with her electrifying and adventurous performance. Her bold, anthemic sound imbued all of her songs with an epic energy, getting the crowd dancing and hollering along with her as she navigated the room in her floral bodysuit. It had the feel of a good block party—the raucous happiness, variety, community energy. Whoa Dakota delivered with their surprise guests, hauling Alanna Royalle and Jung Youth out of the crowd to sing and rap respectively alongside her, with Robert Gay joining on trumpet and Anthony Jorissen on sax. During “Patterns,” the hit for which a music video recently came out, it seemed like the whole room was bellowing all the words alongside her. The show’s joyful climax was a surprise birthday celebration for Ott’s 28th birthday, including a rendition of the birthday song led by friends from Pet Envy and Molly Rocket, and punctuated by an amazing display of cupcakes this reviewer found to be delicious.
by brandon de la cruz
Whoa Dakota’s ambitious, ecstatic performance was the perfect series of exclamation points on which to end the evening. Each performer showcased a different side of pop music and played to the infinite potential within Nashville’s nuanced pop scene. It was especially heartening to see a fantastic, well-executed show that just happened to be led both in front of and behind the scenes by female talent. Without billing itself as a girl power show, POP MONSTER reminded us that there’s a surplus of talented women with vision leaving their marks on the Nashville music scene—and with shows this collaborative and joyful, we should definitely be supporting that.
On the night of Friday May 7th, Modest Mouse kicked off the summer season at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO with a visually stimulating – and otherwise utterly incredible – performance. Although the crowd was a bit riled up by the time they took the stage, slightly later than was expected – the sound was still being tweaked early in the performance -, which simply built up the excitement for the performance even more. As soon as the band started to assemble on stage, the crowd stood up and lost their minds, and rightfully so.
Bathed in vibrant lighting and smoke, the band was wildly entertaining through a large catalogue of their music, rendering the breezy, warm evening the perfect beginning to summer. A venue that sees a lot of polite, seated crowds was able to experience an energy unlike any I’ve seen in a while, the majority of concert-goers going wild with each new song that played. “King Rat”, “Float On”, “Shit In Your Cut”, “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”, the list goes on. It was a night made for memories, enhanced by the alt rock we’ve come to know and love since Modest Mouse’s conception in 1993.
If you’re looking for a fun upcoming event, check out the band at Sasquatch! Music Festival Memorial Day Weekend in Quincy, WA. Keep up with Modest Mouse here.
Glam rockers The Darkness brought their Tour de Prance to Brooklyn Steel on April 20th. Beloved since they first burst onto the scene in 2003 with their mega-hit “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” The Darkness has amassed a fanbase of epic proportions over their decades-long career, one whose enthusiasm hasn’t waned.
Made up of frontman Justin Hawkins, guitarist Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain, and drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor, The Darkness is theatrical and over-the-top. They’re a band of superlatives, vibrant and entertaining, animated and hilariously embellished. They’re absolutely, purposely ridiculous, bordering on the absurd. With infectious hooks that sink their claws permanently into your ears and an undaunted, almost impossible falsetto, The Darkness stands alone. They are the absolute best at everything, and they let you know it (in fact, sometimes they’ll outright say it). Their energy is unmatched and incomparable. They’ve carved out a special place for themselves in the music industry, unique enough to have bested even the most remote of rivals; they simply, spectacularly, don’t have any.
Most musicians are afraid to be seen as anything but serious artists. The Darkness proves you can have both talent and fun at the same time without one detracting from the other.
As the band first made their entrance, Justin Hawkins, in his trademark leopard-print, skintight bodysuit, walked the length of the stage, pausing inch by inch and blowing kisses in response to the deafening cheers of the crowd. Each member presented one another to the audience, grandly gesturing as if car salesmen showcasing a brand new vehicle. In response, the fans raised their drinks, toasting to the band as Hawkins dramatically threw his hands in the air, striking a pose. Ripping into “Open Fire,” off 2015’s Last of Our Kind, The Darkness filled the room with joyous, driving, hard-hitting noise as the night kicked off.
Hawkins hammed it up throughout the set, cracking jokes, running, leaping, doing handstands, unzipping the top of his bodysuit to reveal his chiseled, tattooed chest, donning accessories from fans in the audience (such as a pair of glasses, a fedora, and, best of all, a Darth Vader mask for drummer Taylor), and making his way, towards the end, down to a t-shirt and boxer shorts. Hawkins proved himself to be a true performer, both entertaining and powerful.
The setlist consisted of their greatest hits, with songs going all the way back to Permission to Land. There was, of course, one song in particular that the audience held their breath all night for. When the encore arrived, Hawkins became dictatorial, commanding the entire crowd to jump. He wasn’t easily satisfied; it took more than a few tries until he finally relented, playing as everyone sang.
The Darkness could have left it at that; it was an excellent finish to an incredible show. But, being who they are, they took it to one last, even higher level: during “Love on the Rocks with No Ice,” Hawkins sat on the shoulders of a reluctant security guard, triumphantly playing guitar as he was walked through the crowd.
The Darkness will be releasing a live album, Live at Hammersmith, on June 15th.
As openers for Animal Years, they single-handedly managed to grab the attention of the entire audience at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. Not only are they talented musicians, but they’re hilarious, as well. Based on their experiences working on Wall Street, Mobile Steam Unit has crafted lyrics that hit home for anyone who’s worked in business. For those in New York City, this was an extremely relatable topic that resonated with crowd, who immediately broke into cheers when frontman Sam Huntington asked if anyone in attendance had ever worked on Wall Street.
Solemnly filing out in requisite business attire, the band began their set. Interestingly, Mobile Steam Unit has the uncanny ability to deftly span genres; they can do anything from rock to country to soul and beyond. With lyrical topics ranging from everything such as texting, Microsoft Office, and commuting, to name a few, they document the daily minutia of American life while keeping the crowd in hysterics. And during the last song of the set, Mobile Steam Unit surprised the audience by bringing out yoga dancers who tried, as best they could, to keep straight faces while striking poses throughout the song. It was an epic finish to their performance, rivaling that of Animal Years. Mobile Steam Unit is undoubtedly a tough act to follow.
Work takes up a good portion of our lives. By giving focus to this specific, and usually lamented, chore, Mobile Steam Unit has set themselves apart from other bands. By examining the workday through the lens of humor, Mobile Steam Unit is able to give rise to daily frustrations while enjoyably expelling them at the same time.