Who to See: The First Day of Middle of The Map

As I wrote yesterday, Middle of the Map is quickly approaching. And while its headliners include some of the best performers around, I think the most fun thing about the fest is catching local bands showing off what Kansas City music is. Ink Magazine and The Record Machine make sure each day is packed with such a brilliant line up that it is hard to chose where you should go. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight some local (and national acts) that should be on everyone’s must see list. On the local side, Via Luna, Fullbloods, and The Ovaries-eez definitely offer live performances not to be missed.

Via Luna is an instrumental quartet that takes the dramatic builds of Explosions in The Sky and infuses them with the shimmering jazz of Go-Go Penguin. The result is an aesthetic that can shift from ethereal leads and crunched and visceral chords at a drop of a hat. Via Luna shortcuts their progressions to create tension even in their most beautiful lines. And their stage show does not miss a beat. As complex on stage as in their recordings, the quartet proves their sounds are not the result of post-production but their own instrumental mastery.

Fullbloods moves away from the dramatic structures Via Luna uses, preferring laid back vibes instead. Their latest release, Mild West, dances through its tracks with the perfect mixture of melancholy and wonder. Rather than riffing on a single sound, Fullbloods’ music is in constant conversation with each nugget of pop gold from the past 50 years. Throughout Mild West, you can hear several influences collaged together to create something new. The quartet backs up their recordings with a stage show that is clean and precise without losing their mellow feel.

Aside from having the best band name ever, The Ovaries-Eez make some pretty fantastic music. The three-piece’s ability to layer pitch perfect melodies over haunting guitar lines is rooted in folk traditions. That said, the band takes these traditions and adapts them to a more modern aesthetic. Even when their songs speak to older landscapes, The Ovaries-Eez collage images to create something unique and fresh. This juxtaposition between tradition and innovation gives the trio’s music a draw that is undeniable. And live, their harmonies certainly can arrest even the numbest listener.

While Via Luna, Fullbloods, and The Ovaries-Eez vary aesthetically, they all bring a certain mastery to the stage. And because they play on Middle of the Map‘s first day (with a slew of others), it will be hard to choose which mastery to choose. There are worse things, I suppose. Middle of the Map’s first day is a good indication of the rest of the fest–full of great music, local and otherwise.

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