MOTM Fest 2014: Editor’s Review

The 2014 edition of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest closed out during the wee hours of Sunday morning. Whether you were in attendance for Why?’s quirky indie hip-hop at the Record Bar or one of the multiple DJ sets at Riot Room or Ernie Biggs that pushed well into the lord’s day, hopefully you felt a sense of closure upon your final act of the fest. Any three day festival is bound to be exhausting, but this year’s MOTM offered up a chance for fans to experience more than the usual collection of new and up-and-coming acts. While everything might seem like a blur in retrospect, it was exhilarating to take part in what is easily KC’s most diverse and interesting gathering of music.

As with earlier editions of MOTM, Thursday was the quietest and least crowded of the three nights. But of course there were still artists to be discovered. One of the earliest sets of the night belonged to KC’s own Various Blonde, a time-tested progressive act which has had some recent lineup changes that took the end of their set into acid-jazz territory. Running counterpoint soon after at Record Bar, was Springfield MO’s Ings, a literate and dramatic take on neo-classicism and indie-folk. Leader Inge Chiles, eyes adorned in circular yellow frames, looked and sounded every bit the contemporary of Joanna Newsom and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden. However, the most talked about performance of the evening belonged to industrial goth-rocker Gary Numan. If you weren’t aware that he’d moved far beyond his quirky 80s synth-pop to become an inspiration to artists like Trent Reznor, you weren’t alone.

Friday afforded the opportunity to see a regional favorite in St Louis’s two-piece garage-pop act Sleepy Kitty. Singer-guitarist Paige Brubeck is always charismatic live and she did not disappoint. One of the best surprises of the fest occurred when I wandered into the Riot Room midway through Canadian Agit-punk group Drop A Grand’s set (pictured right). Their live show is energetic and playful, capped off by several eccentric outfits, a couple luchador-style masks and plenty of odd stage banter. As with the first night though, the most anticipated act of the evening was waiting in the later hours. Local heroes The Get Up Kids (complete with their original lineup) barreled through a set of classic tunes primarily from their first two albums, including tracks like “Better Half” and “Coming Clean” which likely hadn’t been performed live in several years. Sometimes discovering new acts takes a back seat to singing along to material you’ve known by heart since you were a teenager. (#noshame)

Finally, Saturday’s lineup was perhaps the most jam-packed with national artists. The outdoor stage alone boasted !!!, Kate Nash and of Montreal at the close of the evening. Despite that, two local acts stole the show for this blogger. Midway through the night, the Record Bar filled with anticipation as Lawrence’s Your Friend took the stage and captivated everyone in attendance. Over a nearly cinematic soundscape fraught with tension, singer/songwriter Taryn Miller alternated between primal howls and introspective emoting. At the opposite end of the spectrum was local grunge-hardcore outfit Bummer on the indoor stage at Riot. The three-piece tore through a bristling set that was equal parts Melvins, Helmet and even early Metallica. A mosh pit broke out early in the set and continued well past the point when singer-guitarist Matt Perrin moved his mic-stand to the crowd and performed in the center of flying bodies.

More than any other year, MOTM 2014 encompassed a diverse collection of artists from all genres. As KC and specifically Westport continue to experience a cultural and economic renaissance, here’s hoping that the organizers of the fest can continue to tap into that vibe and harness the best of both local and touring acts.

Live photos courtesy of Moe Schultz 

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