At 9:30pm on Friday, June 16th, Jason Isbell took the stage to headline Day 1 of Boulevardia in Kansas City, Missouri. The festival focuses on the vibrant beer-centric culture in the Kansas City metropolitan area. It brings hops from all over, as well as music, vendors of all kinds, and interactive experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Find Boulevardia in Kansas City every Father’s Day weekend. (aka quite often the hottest weekend of the summertime.)
The Grammy award-winning act took the main stage overlooking Crown Center. Here, the bustling center in the heart of the Crossroads District now plays home to the annual fest. Surrounded by smoke – and an incredibly talented band – Jason Isbell entertained the masses who had gathered in the street to get a glimpse of the Americana crooner.
With the lights of the city behind him, Isbell set the tone for the rest of the (sweaty) beautiful event.
Day 2 of Boulevardia was a hot one. Per usual, the annual festival occurs on just about the hottest weekend of the year, Father’s Day in downtown Kansas City. Day 1 featured many favorite local acts, an array of vendors (some of which provided a reprieve from the heat), and a metric ton of photo opportunities. Day 2 brought much of the same, with an earlier start time that easily drained the battery on many of us throughout the day.
But at 5:05 pm, the legendary Big Freedia took the main stage. If ever there were someone to reignite the flame on a fiery – yet sweaty – festival, she is that person. Her catalog of high-energy music brought the whole crowd to their feet, encouraging people of all ages to dance. (In fact, I witnessed many employing her twerking tactics throughout the evening as we got deeper and deeper into our alcohol consumption.) The show was an absolute work of art
Big Freedia brought beauty to the beginning of the evening on stage. She continued to bring good energy in her kindness to those who approached her after her performance as she roamed the festival grounds with her friends.
**Big Freedia was introduced by Kansas City’s current mayor in what many are considering to be a performative move. While he is championing legislation to make our city a safe haven for trans people, he is fighting against affordable housing for tenants and has voted down vital mental health, housing, and arts funding for the city. He has also pumped more money back into policing in Kansas City while defunding public health resources, a controversial and uneven approach.
Dashboard Confessional was slated to headline Boulevardia 2019. Then, a massive summer storm blew threw and everyone ended up hanging out under shelter, many in a parking garage in Kansas City’s West Bottoms region.
Kansas City was ready for a Dashboard Confessional show. Way past due, Carraba started the show by addressing that night, and explaining how much he had been looking forward to hanging out with us over the last three years. We bought it, and sang the night away under the stars–our echoes reverberating off the downtown skyline–during one of the most excruciatingly hot weekends of the summer. Ah, Boulevardia.
This past weekend was absolute insanity at the heat-fueled annual Boulevardia Beer, Food & Music Festival in Kansas City, Missouri. Though the latter part of Day 2 did, unfortunately, get rained out — gotta love that unpredictable midwest weather — what did transpire on the blacktop outside HyVee Arena (Kemper Arena) was absolute magic. Photographer Ashleigh Lee brings us highlights, including sets from Fitz & The Tantrums, Young The Giant, Lovelytheband, and more.
If you can remember back to Boulevardia 2017, you may have been just as bummed out that you missed Guster due to the rain out as most. But — for those of us who didn’t chicken out and bail from heat exhaustion or thunderstorms — Guster regaled an infectiously energetic crowd in a parking garage. As immaculate as it was, it was amazing to have the band back in town for round two at Boulevardia 2018 so they could share their chops on stage with the masses. Thanks to Guster for making it back, and to Boulevardia for one insane weekend.
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!