11 Reasons why Kansas City is The Next Music MeccaKansas City is booming for many reasons. Music is just one of them. Here are 11 reasons why our beloved city is the next big music mecca.
For quite some time, the country has been watching Kansas City and what’s happening here. We have a lot of momentum right now, but that momentum has a lot more than just The Royals baseball behind it. From the entreprenurial boom , to the art and music, to the World Series, it seems that KC is ripe for the pickin’.. Don’t get me wrong, Baseball certainly helps and we support the Royals 100%, but we’re hoping that this particular blog might shine a light on all of the other really awesome things happening in KC.
Our music community has been quietly working for years and we’ve built up some great things along the way. Here’s why KCMO is the next big music town. Better get your loft space before it’s too late!
1. Small Venues, Medium Sized Venues, Large Venues
Kansas City has them all. Want to see a killer Folk duo in a small intimate venue, Check out Coda downtown. They’re just one of many Listening Rooms making small capacity venues all the rage. Want to see the the next big thing with hundreds of your hippest friends? The Riot Room is at the top of the long list of places to do just that. Thousands of people sound like a better idea? Crossroads at Grinders, Uptown Theater and The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts are all great spots to catch anything from a symphony to a living legend.
2. Geographical Location
Did you ever learn about Route 66 and the glorious effect it had on the music culture? They wrote a song about it!. I-35 and I-70 are now the modern day equivalent of that historic path. For a band to survive these days, they have to tour. KC just happens to be right at the Crossroads of the two main veins that touring acts travel. Kansas City used to be a town that bands skipped over or would only play on an off night. Now, as a city, we’re gaining the momentum as a town NOT to be missed on tour, no matter what night of the week it is.
3. Open Mics, Open Jams, Early Shows
Venues in Kansas City utilize their time and space well. Many are pairing awesome food and music while utilizing those hard to fill days of the week. Rooms are hosting regular dinner shows and encouraging early attendance without the stigma of the sometimes abrasive nightlife. Whether you’re talking Rex Hobarts’ Honky Tonk Supper Club at The Recordbar, The 15-year-plus running Rural Grit Happy Hour at The Brick or Westport Saloon’s Semi infamous Chicken and Pickin’ with AJ Gaither, KC is a relatively easy town to see or perform live music in, 7 days a week.
4. Community Organizations
Like any good music scene, it comes with support from people who have organized and taken proactive roles in developing and aiding the growth of our town and it’s musicians. Prime examples: The Midwest Music Foundation and their program aiding working musicians with health care, The Folk Alliance International and the validity they bring to our city as a music community, The Kansas City Blues Society and the support they give to the blues in KC with The international Blues Challenge…. And you certainly can’t forget The Foundation and their efforts in preserving Kansas City Jazz as well as the old tradition of Jazz rooms that rock till daylight.
There are several great independent record labels in KC who are all taking their own unique approach at making KC a music town. The Record Machine, Mudstomp Records, Hi Dive Records, Money Wolf Music, Haymaker Records and of course, Strange Music just to name a few.
When you have people like this working for your city’s brand, it’s hard not to believe the boom is coming.
5. Independent/Public Radio Ran By People Who Know Good Music
Kansas City is really fortunate to have public radio ran by people who understand good music. Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than turning on public radio and listening to the un-listenable. Radio stations like 90.1 KKFI and 90.9 The Bridge do a wonderful job of drawing their employees from the music community. Doing so has put the focus almost 100% on quality, local/regional music. People say radio may be dead, but in KC it still has a pulse! If you’re a radio listener with music taste outside of what the pop machine makes, chances are you turn on one of these stations to occupy your earholes while in the car or the office.
We have music in our blood and the heartbeat is strong!
To even try and dive into the rich history of Kansas City Blues and Jazz would be an undertaking too great for this short blog. The list of great songwriters with decades of work under their belt is vast. With careers spanning 30 plus years each, Kansas City living legends such as Howard Iceburg and The Titanics and The Rainmakers continue to write, record and perform while enjoying their elder status in the music community. Blues bad boys, Billy Beale and KC Kelsey are the grandfather guitar slingers who started in the original juke joints and are still in the blues clubs today, introducing their style of KC Blues to music lovers 40 years younger than them.
We’re not even going to try and come up with a complete list of Kansas City friends who have made a name for themselves on a national, and sometimes international level. But here’s a short list from the past 30 years off the top of our heads.
Season to Risk, Frogpond, The Get Up Kids, The Gadjits, The Architects, Tenderloin, Rex Hobart and The Misery Boys, Reggie and The Full Effect, Samantha Fish, Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear, Tech N9ne, Mac Lethal… the list could go on and on.
7. Our Music Festivals. We have them and they’re good. Here are our favorites!
8. Is There Something in The Water?
Since our focus here at LCR is “Roots” music as a general term, culture must be addressed. Why is it there is an influx of honest, good traditional music makers in this area? Did someone poison the watering hole?
We’ve thought a lot about it and decided you that can pretty much thank your Grandfather and 61 Country AM (a KC area country radio station so old it’s not even link-able). In casual conversations over the years, we’ve talked with lots of musicians and reminisced about where the love for old music comes from. It seems that most of the dreamers and twang lovers who are pursuing music all have one thing in common. They all have early recollections of their grandfather or great uncle who adored country music. They were farmers, truckers, factory workers and country music fans.. and that AM radio was always on in the background. I remember my grandfather talking about how he cried when Hank Williams died. I remember how my dad would sing along to Merle Haggard as we navigated the gravel roads late at night. As young folks, we run from the norms of our cultural standards. As we age, we find ourselves embracing those memories and attempting to recreate them.. If it weren’t for the Blue Collar and Agricultural nature of our upbringing, our collective exposure to hard living would not produce such admiration for the authentic sounds of yesterday. Without Grandpa and that AM radio, we would have no memories to dust off and make new again.
9. Multiple Genre’d City
Kansas City is truly a musical melting pot. What’s your flavor? The Blues at Knuckleheads or BB’s’s? The incredible Jazz of Mark Lowrey at The Majestic? Rock n’ Roll? Indie? Folk? Bluegrass? Singer/Songwriter? We have all of that. Catch a punk/hardcore show at The Blind Tiger or one of the many pop up house/loft spaces if you’re looking for teenage angst and counter-culture. Kansas City has a decent underground metal scene, and with Strange Music and Mac Lethal leading the way for smart, well packaged hip hop… I say we have about all of the genres covered. There’s even places to go for world music if that’s what you’re seeking out.
10. Developments in Current Music Meccas
As awesome as Nashville and Austin have been to developing amazing talents over the decades, both towns are over ran with industry, making the musical culture somewhat cutthroat. Gigs are hard to find and some areas got so hip that the musicians can’t afford to live near the neighborhoods they play in! It’s the cycle of gentrification. Artsy poor people populate an area because it’s affordable, they create culture and culture becomes cool. Next thing you know, the area is booming! Well, then the city allows developers to move in. 10 to 20 years later, the artists that built the area are displaced. So what do they do? The ambitious ones move to Kansas City.
11. Cost of Living
The cost of living in KC is incredibly low. You can find studio apartments for around 4 to 5 hundred a month and sometimes room rentals in old houses cheaper than that. All within a cheap Uber ride from your favorite place to watch (or play) live music. The cheap living in the 816 allows artists to pursue their dreams while being able to live meagerly and work Joe jobs between gigs.
We’re not saying that Kansas City is the only place with this awesome stuff happening all at once, but we’re in league with the best of them, at worst.
If you already live in KC, good job. Go enjoy what has been built for you! Soak up the unwritten history happening! If you don’t live here, better hurry up and make the move. If history is any indicator, you have a good 10 years or so before we run the risk of KC being too hip to afford. Hopefully our local government can avoid making the same mistakes in gentrification that others cities have made.
Now go listen to some music!