Review: Middle of the Map Fest 2016 – Thursday Recap
Middle of the Map is back again for 2016 and the lineup is better than ever. Featuring a huge roster of top-quality local bands and multiple fantastic national (and international) acts make this year’s edition maybe the best one yet? Here’s some of what happened on Thursday, day number two of the festival:
Psychic Heat (6:00 – Mills Record Company)
What a way to kick off the night. Psychic Heat brought their brand of noisy, lo-fi rock to the most intimate of venues and proceeded to set the bar high for the rest of the evening. Easily blurring the line between head-noddingly catchy and head-bangingly heavy, Psychic Heat have mastered a very specific sound and are easily one of the best local bands playing the style. A must-see band from now on!
The Conquerors (7:00 – Mills Record Company)
Kansas City’s own throwback Beatles band, The Conquerors are anything but a lifeless clone of anyone. The Conquerors effortlessly blend surf rock, rock and roll and a hint of garage rock into their sound and the end result is some of the most cheerful and upbeat music anyone in Kansas City is making right now. Apparently, the lead vocalist/guitarist had a cold but everything sounded perfect – as perfect as playing an awesome record store can sound at least.
Golden Groves (7:45 – Californos)
While making their way all over Westport, the space-y sounds of Golden Groves attracted a sizeable crowd inside Californos early in the evening. Golden Groves are a band that’s hard to nail down to one specific sound, but a close approximation would be Pink Floyd performing alternative/indie rock with a soulful crooner on vocals. Interested? You should check them out.
My Oh My (Californos Patio – 8:00)
With enough passion and soul to make even the most stoic grump shed a tear, My Oh My performed a superb set full of emotion and decidedly old-school soul/gospel-ish/country music for the sizeable crowd on the Californos patio and it was easily one of the best sets of the week so far. Their performance of “Marianne” and “Your Heart Not Mine” were especially chill-inducing. One band that definitely needs to get more exposure from the local scene.
The Sluts (Californos Patio – 8:45)
It’s not a proper show without a healthy dose of punk rock, right? Local mainstays The Sluts blasted out a raucous set with their trademark distorted, dirty, sleazy punk n’ roll that went over amazingly with those in attendance. For a two-piece comprised of just drums and a guitar, The Sluts can make a lot of noise. With a sound not too unlike a stripped-down version of early Nirvana, the Sluts never fail to produce amazing results with their music, be it in a live setting or on album.
The Philistines (9:45 – Ernie Biggs)
Time for a bold statement: The Philistines are the best live local band the Kansas City area has to offer. Another bold statement: The Philistines are the best live local band the Kansas City area has to offer – and it’s not even close. With enough enough energy and musical prowess to bring Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Joey Ramone back to life – simultaneously – the Philistines jammed through a near-perfect set at Ernie Biggs that seemed to gather one of the biggest crowds of the night, and for good reason! They have a new album out on The Record Machine very soon – keep your eyes peeled for it!
La Sera (10:45 – Ernie Biggs)
La Sera is the band of former Vivian Girls bassist Katy Goodman and they perform a style of dream pop fused with almost a country-like sound that somehow works together. A very throwback style done in a modern way, La Sera have mastered the perfect 2:30-minute song – some are fast ones with a driving drumbeat and bass riffing, some are slower and more melodic with a heavier focus on guitar and Goodman’s vocals. Whichever way they’re performing, La Sera is infectiously good at what they do.
Various Blonde (11:00 – Californos Patio)
I overheard someone say, “Seeing Various Blonde is the closest I’ll ever get to dropping acid,” and in a way that’s the absolute perfect way of describing Various Blonde. Like an insane mixture of The Mars Volta with even more drugs, Various Blonde’s madman leader Joshua Allen will be wailing on his guitar one song, playing synths on the next and then finally standing on top of amps performing solo, with almost a hip-hop vibe to the sound. Don’t like the style Various Blonde performs? Don’t worry, they’ll probably switch it up on the next track. One of Kansas City’s most uniquely awesome bands!
Be sure to stay tuned for a recap of the Midland’s Friday MOTM lineup, and be sure to check out all the bands listed! Special thanks to everyone who made Middle of the Map possible, and for Zach Bauman for his amazing photos!