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THE PITCH | July 2021 |



Publisher Stephanie Carey Editor-in-Chief Brock Wilbur Content Strategist Lily Wulfemeyer Associate Digital Editor Savannah Hawley Music Editor Nick Spacek Film Editor Abby Olcese Contributing Writers Emily Cox, Liz Cook, Rachel Potucek, Anne Kniggendorf, Barbara Shelly, April Fleming, Deborah Hirsch, Brooke Tippin, Beth Lipoff, Dan Lybarger, Vivian Kane, Adrian Torres, Aaron Rhodes, Kelcie McKenney, Allison Harris, Lucie Krismas Little Village Creative Services Jordan Sellergren Contributing Photographers Zach Bauman, Joe Carey, Chase Castor, Caleb Condit, Travis Young, Jim Nimmo, Chris Ortiz Contributing Designers and Illustrators Katelyn Betz, Austin Crockett, Jake Edmisten, Lacey Hawkins, Angèle Lafond, Alex Peak, Frank Myles, Jon Tinoco Director of Marketing & Promotions Jason Dockery Account Manager John Phelps Director of Operations Andrew Miller Editorial Interns Aubrey Lawrence, Emily Standlee, Jacob Martin Multimedia Intern Jacob Martin Design Intern Nidhi Shenoy


Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Carey Chief Operating Officer Adam Carey


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The Great Balloon Glow


22 Wax Nostalgic



24 Made to Order


Letter from the Editor Cause & Effects BY BROCK WILBUR

Beat Connection WeYRafael Lorenzo-Hemmer’s Pulse Topography BY EMILY COX

Are you losing your hearing, or is it just earwax? 2020 made this real weird BY ANNE KNIGGENDORF

How custom songwriting brought joy and tears to an empty year BY ANNIE KNIGGENDORF


26 Here I Go, Playing Star Again


28 In the Name of Love

16 Miles Ahead


Eat This/Drink This Now The Crustation Sensation at Blu Hwy and The Guavarita at Buck Tui BY APRIL FLEMING

Liberation Frequency 90.9 The Bridge set 20 years of local bands free to fly BY LUCIE KRISMAN

Jazz Academy students are rising up in double time BY LILY WULFEMEYER

Turning the page on live music’s returning calendar BY NICK SPACEK

Jim Nimmo

For more events, visit calendar BY EMILY STANDLEE

Theatre Community Fund of KC (TCF) BY BROOKE TIPPIN


What’s the line between snowballing jizz and a greeting kiss? BY DAN SAVAGE

Pride went corporate, but queer musicians kept the incendiary spirit alive in June BY ALLISON HARRIS

The Pitch Guide to Concert Films Feeling weird about going back to live shows? Try these movies to get you in the mood BY ABBY OLCESE

“The Pitch Distortion Pedal”

Illustration by Shannon Hemmett | July 2021 | THE PITCH




The clean signal was always just too dry for my taste. If it wasn’t a little messy, why should anyone care? Why would anyone remember? Can anything be truly fun without a basis in chaos? I was a late bloomer for rock music. Just couldn’t care. Loved musical theater and a few oldies groups from the tracks that my dad and his friends covered in their band. In 6th grade, I found Beck and Radiohead and the power of loud nonsense. A childhood of piano lessons I’d never cared about suddenly took new importance, as I so clearly needed to bang out the discordant soundscapes I’d sudden-

What does a Brock Party sound like? Probably a lot. Shannon Hemmett


THE PITCH | July 2021

ly fallen for. But piano wasn’t the instrument. This may have stemmed from my 70+-year-old piano teacher trying to overexplain each Pink Floyd song I brought to class with interpretations that were oddly supportive of the Vietnam War? Hm. To unpack another day! My dad grabbed me my first guitar. Green with black accents, with a white pickguard and mechanics. It had the same color scheme as the middle school I was headed into. And I became obsessed. But I didn’t want to play the guitar the way anyone else wanted to play guitar. I wanted to make outrageous sounds—tones that no one had ever heard before. Songwriting, music theory, and (quite frankly) skill all took a backseat. Pops set me up with a weekly class with the guy

who taught him guitar, Steve. In the late 90s, Steve thought he’d teach me the same way he’d taught decades of young musicians in Salina, Kansas. We’d start with twelve-bar blues. We’d start with scales. Instead, I brought in songs by bands like Rage Against The Machine. Steve simply couldn’t understand why I’d come to him to learn how to rub an Allen wrench on guitar strings while running them through a Whammy pedal. He didn’t understand why I didn’t just want to learn “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” like my father before me. He didn’t understand how a person could live this way.

and my skills evolved. But my pursuit never changed. Moreso than writing the perfect song, I just wanted to make tracks that conveyed a ~vibe~ that you couldn’t deny. And effects pedals were a huge part of that. If you look at this month’s cover (or the featured image on this page), you’ll see an example. In the guitar world, effects pedals are these little devices you stomp on. You tweak dials and align them in various orders, but the end goal is to take the simple sound of a clean guitar signal and turn it into whatever dreamscape you approximated in your head. Oftentimes, this means you’ll encounter a tone so far away

“IF I’D BEEN BORN JUST A FEW YEARS EARLIER, I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH BANDS LIKE KANSAS, WHICH REQUIRED A MASTER’S DEGREE TO PLAY ALONG TO. KURT COBAIN THROWING ON A CHORUS EFFECT AT MAX AND RUBBING HIS GUITAR WITH A PLAID SHIRT UNTIL HIS HANDS BLED AND HE FELL OFF A STAGE—THAT’S THE GUITAR SOLO THAT SPOKE TO ME.” Ope. Sorry Steve. I came up with a generation of musicians that—thanks to the influences of alt and electronica—identified with music that became unhinged but remained accessible to anyone. If I’d been born just a few years earlier, I probably would have fallen in love with bands like Kansas, which required a master’s degree to play along to. Kurt Cobain throwing on a chorus effect at max and rubbing his guitar with a plaid shirt until his hands bled and he fell off a stage—that’s the guitar solo that spoke to me. I understood all that. I got a 4-track tape which let me record four different instruments in a song. In grade school, I wrote and recorded songs on it, and released those on an album I sold to friends. I used that money to upgrade to an 8-track recorder. Then did the same. I followed this pattern throughout my adolescence. I started a record label. I recorded other bands and tried to build a world as my technology evolved

from what you expected… it’s quite simply auditory mad science. A therapist of mine once said that I’m addicted to chaos. [Yeah, Doc. I know. I chose to run an alternative paper in Kansas City. I’m not here to make friends or have a nine-to-five.] But beyond that, I’ve learned to understand just how much I wanted to bring a new sound into the world, at any given opportunity. I’d like to make sure that a new voice thrives. That a call rises. That a burning flaming incinerates all that stands between us and that which lives above. But when it comes to the basics of input, output, and the effects betwixt? I just want to make sure that whatever we do is the kind of thing no one has done before, nor will ever copy. Welcome to our Music Issue. Enjoy the best of what this city has to offer, and just how much those echoes pierce the veil. Thanks for coming here—to the place where the signal will never be dry. Pitch in, and we’ll make it through,

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THE PITCH | July 2021 |



BEAT CONNECTION WE Y RAFAEL LOZANO-HEMMER’S PULSE TOPOLOGY BY EMILY COX The summer solstice has just passed; our days are now getting shorter, with a little less sunlight from now until the darkest days of December. A season for me to be grateful for the light, and appreciate the way it shapes our world. A good season, then, for an art installation composed of over 3,000 light bulbs, suspended from the ceiling in a dark room, in rolling, rollicking waves, an inverted topology in which you may see reflections of the land surrounding us: the soft hills of our neighborhoods, the dramatic curves of the Ozarks, the rise of the Flint Hills to our west. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse Topology opened at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art on June 25. I was invited for a sneak peek as they finished installing the exhibit the week before opening. This immersive sound and light exhibition is grounded in your heartbeat, and the heartbeats of all who visit. Lozano-Hemmer, a Mexican-Canadian artist based in Montreal, has coordinated the planning and installation of this exhibit remotely, as pandemic travel restrictions remain tight. Watching Kemper staff and volunteers follow instructions to install a massive grid of lightbulbs, with thousands of feet of cabling running down the walls, felt reminiscent of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings. Lewitt created a series of large-scale drawings by writing instructions for them, which are followed by others, who draw them on gallery walls to this day. Lewitt believed the idea made the art, rather than the execution. I can’t say whether Lozano-Hemmer is of the same mind, but the art he conceived has been born out here by the hands of many following his instructions. Lozano-Hemmer’s computer model is being made manifest, with each bulb placed to its plot point on a grid, hung from a specific height, ready to be programmed individually. When you enter the gallery—­ with new, dark gray walls for this exhibit—you’ll find yourself under a canopy of bulbs, shimmering with pulses, and surrounded by the sound of gently throbbing bass from | July 2021 | THE PITCH





subwoofers. You may find your way to one of three sensor stations: small black conical devices suspended from the ceiling by their


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

cord. You may scan your hand, and using photoplethysmography (PPG) technology, it will read your heartbeat. Just as you are in

awe of your own heartbeat lighting up the sky above you, it dissipates, and your heartbeat joins the mass of others in the thou-

sands of bulbs in the room. As new visitors come in, your heartbeat will be amongst those pulsing above them. Pulse Topology is the latest, and most ambitious, chapter in Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse series, which began over 15 years ago. The moment of inspiration that began this series came in an obstetrician’s office, as Lozano-Hemmer’s wife received an ultrasound for their twins in utero. He requested a second ultrasound be brought in, so they could hear both heartbeats at once. That profound experience led him to create a dynamic series of interactive exhibitions involving heartbeats, collected and layered together and shared back on a large visual scale. In Pulse Topology, we see our human biological systems through the prism of our ecological systems, as he creates a topology composed of our heartbeats. It illuminates a question: what landscapes do we create together? It also serves as a reminder that we are an integral part of this landscape, not something apart from it. We light up the land we live on: it is up to us exactly how we do that. What impression do you want to leave on this land? Even as the Kemper team was finishing up wiring in the final set of light bulbs, the | July 2021 | THE PITCH




experience of being underneath the canopy of bulbs, and participating in the technological dialogue between the bulbs and my body, was goosebump-raising. As I scanned my hand, I looked up at the bulb above me, waiting in what felt like a sacred, supplicant posture (Are you there, God? It’s me, Emily). Then that single bulb began to beat along with my heart, and that beat expanded to the surrounding bulbs, growing in radius, until the entire sphere in my view above me pulsed with my own heartbeat. I felt alive! Radiant! Quite literally illuminating the room with the light and rhythm of my body. (I am the god I was waiting for.) A brief, almost-mystical experience that left me buzzing with delight as I looked up at the thousands of other heartbeats shaping the sky above me. We shape the world around us. Octavia Butler wrote, in her all-too-prescient speculative novel Parable of the Sower: “All that you touch / You change. All that you change


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

/ Changes you.” Being able to actively change this exhibit—contributing the beat of our body’s pulsing blood—gives us the opportunity for us to be changed by it. After you walk away, you are still a part of this. Your heartbeat will live on in those bulbs for other visitors to see. Sharing that part of yourself is a gift, a conversation, a collaboration, it is leaving a mark on the world. It is joining the chorus. You are now in the chorus. Your voice, your body, your rhythm is an essential part of the whole. Let that change you, too. •

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse Topology is on view at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (4420 Warwick Blvd.) from Friday, June 25, 2021 to Sunday, October 24, 2021. Admission is free. Visit their website for information on artist talks, panels, meditations, and other programming for this exhibition. | July 2021 | THE PITCH




The Crustacean Sensation at Blu Hwy 5070 Main St

A dish called the “Crustacean Sensation” seems like something you might find in a stall at Oceans of Fun rather than in a brand new fine-dining space. But if you find yourself either ordering this dish as takeout from the new South Plaza restaurant Blu Hwy (which as of this writing has kept its dining room closed due to the current impossibility with staffing), you’ll quickly move past the slightly awkward name and will start to crave this lobster roll as a perfect, cool-down summer meal. Blu Hwy, broadly speaking, is surprisingly good, even in its current takeout-only form. Named after the novel, Blue Highway, the restaurant was designed to evoke a vintage road trip across America. Chef Dan Swinney (formerly of Lidia’s) has created a menu of stepped-up American classics, including a Hatch chile corn chowder and fluffy buttermilk biscuits served with chile de arbol. While I also can’t recommend the tempura-fried pork tenderloin highly enough, the lobster roll stands out for its near perfection—a difficult feat to achieve in far-as-you-can-get-from-an-ocean Missouri. Swinney flies in fresh Maine lobster and cooks it gently to achieve an ideal, tender texture. The rest is relatively simple—add a little lemon juice, a little mayonnaise (not too much!), scallions, chervil, and a butter-toasted roll. Like you’ll find them in Maine, the roll is served with house-made potato chips, which offer enough salt to balance the creaminess of the lobster roll. It’s as close as a Missourian is going to get to lobster roll heaven. So call it whatever you want—lobster smackdown, sea bug sandwich—we’ll take another.

DRINK THIS NOW If you are wondering, ”What is a Buck Tui?’”, you are forgiven. For now. Very soon though, there will be no confusion among KC’s food lovers. Owned by Pam and Teddy Liberda (Waldo Thai), Buck Tui is the soon-to-open Thai BBQ restaurant that has been selling out every Saturday at the Overland Park Farmer’s Market ahead of the restaurant’s official opening later this summer in South Overland Park. While much of the focus has justifiably been aimed at Buck Tui’s food (hello, brisket marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar), there’s a lot to be impressed with on the drink front as well. Several months back, the Liberdas chose to hire back the highly respected bartender Matsumoto Mori, who helped open Waldo Thai. At Buck Tui, Mori has designed a menu of transportive, vacation-inspired cocktails featuring Northern Thai ingredients and flavors. The Guavarita at Buck Tui 7200 W 121st St


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

Some drinks may seem at least somewhat familiar to guests—like this Guavarita—but Mori knows how to take something special out of the everyday. For the Guavarita, she makes her own cold-pressed guava juice (first of all, just try to find fresh guava), and then she mixes it with palm sugar syrup, fresh lime juice, and tequila blanco. She shakes it furiously with ice before pouring the pink, foamy cocktail into a rocks glass. The results are crisp and fresh, and only enhance the bold Isaan flavors at Buck Tui.

Nominations open July 6 for the Best of KC 2021! The original Best of KC is roaring back, ritzier and spiffier than ever! It's nomination time, so tell us: Who's the bee's knees?


Best of KC 2021 | July 2021 | THE PITCH



Almost 20 years ago at the University of Central Missouri, The Bridge hit the airwaves for the first time. The station made its way out of Warrensburg 12 years later, heading 60 miles down the road and setting up shop in Kansas City. Once it settled into its new digs, 90.9 The Bridge sprung to life, giving the mic to Kansas City’s local music scene both on the air and in person at live shows. The station is still doing it today and they’re loving every second of it. But for station founders Jon Hart and Byron Johnson, the earliest days weren’t always easy. Hart had been working in commercial radio for most of his career when he arrived at The Bridge—which wasn’t The Bridge as we know it. At the time, the Warrensburg-based station KCMW was happily bumping jazz, and it had played classical music before that. He was ready to shake things up. Hart took a look at the station’s history and it became clear to him that it would have more success as a noncommercial Triple-A or “adult album alternative” station. Triple-A radio, a format originating from the 1990s, takes on a broader range of genres than other radio formats and usually includes tracks beyond an album’s singles. He pitched this transition to the university. Hart considered this to be a bold move, he says, and he wasn’t all that sure that it would be given the green light. But it was, and The Bridge still uses that format today. “Noncommercial Triple-As are where a lot of acts that become really big across multiple formats get their start,” Hart says. “I really wanted to have that service element and feel like I was doing things for an audience as opposed to doing things for a corporation.” The station changed formats with rela-


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

tive ease, but the next matter was expanding what the station could play. The Bridge’s repertoire originally consisted almost entirely of music from Hart’s personal library, and it was important that the inventory grew before the audience got bored. Step one was sending the signal out to record companies that the station had—and also needed— something new to offer its audience. “We could not get record companies to acknowledge the fact that the station even existed or had an audience that they needed to serve,” Johnson says. “We clawed and scratched for everything we could get. And it wasn’t until we had really pushed hard that the record companies finally began to filter a little music to our needs.” The station relaunched on the air as The Bridge on Aug. 19, 2001, right as students were returning to campus. In those early days, UCM students played a big part in making The Bridge what it was. At least an hour each day went to student airtime and they were there to learn. When students weren’t on the air, they were out at venues, setting up tables at live shows, and getting the word out about what The Bridge was up to. Despite their excitement to be a part of their school’s new station, Hart says he anticipated some concerns about making the station too student-dependent and taking away from its professionalism. “My belief at the time—and I think it really proved to be true—was that if you want people to respect things, you respect them,” Hart says. “We had literally next to no problems with student employees, which, as heavily as we used them, was kind of surprising.” Sarah Bradshaw was one of those undergraduates. As a broadcast student in Johnson’s audio class at UCM, she became


familiar with The Bridge and started volunteering there in 2004. “I had always been extremely interested in radio,” Bradshaw says. “I actually continued on to get my master’s so that I could keep working at The Bridge.” Students came through for The Bridge in other ways, too. Before recolating to Kansas City, whose listeners became 85% of the station’s financial support through memberships and yearly pledge drives, they primarily received funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When The Bridge faced the early stages of possibly being defunded by the organization, things kicked into high gear. “We as a group just didn’t feel confident that if the Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding [allocated toward the Bridge] went away, that the radio station would survive under that,” Hart says. “We had to get good, and we had to get good fast.” Keeping the station up and running came down to a matter of $60,000 at one point, which the station worked hard to raise through a pledge drive. The Bridge had never raised that much before, Hart says, but the community was motivated to save the station, and kept the momentum going until they were just $10 from their goal. Then one

student reached into his pocket, pulling out the $10 needed to push them over the top. It’s a story that Hart says he can barely tell without crying, but it also signaled a need for change. Although The Bridge kept their CPB funding, Hart knew that they still faced difficulties going forward. The station’s signal could reach Kansas City all the way from its Warrensburg home, and the team became responsible for providing music to listeners from 60 miles away. Yet, they didn’t have the benefits of operating fully as a Kansas City station. As the The Bridge prepared to move to KC, Hart called Bradshaw and asked her if she’d like to apply for the station’s new open position. She said yes, and then suddenly she was back on the team as the music coordinator, doing everything from interviewing artists and speaking with record labels to overseeing The Bridge’s specialty shows. Bradshaw says the move made a huge difference from what she’d known before. The reach of the station and the diversity of its library continued to expand. “We just had a bunch more resources at our disposal than we had when we were in Warrensburg,” Bradshaw says. “Being in the city and only 10 minutes from venues and things of that nature—honestly, location helped a lot.” Following its move, The Bridge con-

Senior director Bryan Truta is joined by Bridge volunteers for a live broadcast at the 2019 Waldo Fall Festival. COURTESY OF THE BRIDGE


Music coordinator Sarah Bradshaw conducts a live show alongside Kansas City musician They Call Me Sauce at 2019’s Boulevardia festival. COURTESY OF THE BRIDGE

tinued to grow as a station that serves an audience interested in music discovery and understanding the artist they’re listening to, Hart says. Rather than keeping a tight rotation of familiar music that works as background noise, The Bridge has made a point to introduce its listeners to music they might not have heard before. “Music is one thing that can reach out and touch just about everybody,” Johnson says. “Not everybody is going to like the kind of music that the station plays, but that’s what we’ve tried to do—get as many people involved that didn’t know that [kind of] music even existed, and grow that audience.” Today, at any given time, 15 to 20% of The Bridge’s playlist highlights Kansas City musicians. For Michelle Bacon, the station’s function as a connection point to local music compelled her to join the team. As a longtime musician herself, she says she appreciates the way The Bridge has illuminated Kansas City through its music and the stories of locals who create it. She began writing for The Bridge as a freelancer in 2015 and became the station’s content manager in 2018. During her time at The Bridge, she’s made a point to spotlight the behind-the-scenes lives of local musicians, including through a web series called “Turning the Tables KC”. The series looked at the lives of local female artists and their experiences that might not typically be brought to light, such as gender disparity in the music industry. The Bridge’s core goal is serving and supporting Kansas City’s musical artists, Bacon says, and she’s enjoyed getting to be a

part of that through her work. “I think that’s something that will never change,” Bacon says. “That drives our mission to the community, wanting to not only be like, ‘Hey, you should check out these artists at this show,’ but also, ‘Here are their stories, here’s what makes them who they are and what drives their creativity.’ I find a lot of value in being able to help tell those stories.” Right as Bacon took on her new role in 2018, Bryan Truta fulfilled a longtime goal of joining The Bridge’s team. He started listening in 2001 when he first found out a radio station that played Ben Harper existed. He was sold. He spends his mornings in what he calls his “hours of Zen,” waking up Kansas City with The Bridge’s morning show. Truta also oversees the station’s wide range of programming, which includes everything from the weekday’s typical rotation to specialty shows like Saturday’s “The Z Show” and recent hip-hop addition “GO DJ!” Between the two hats he wears, no one day of Truta’s job is the same. “That’s the beauty of it,” Truta says. “This is the first station I’ve worked at in my career where my personal music [taste] matches up with what we play.”

When they aren’t reaching listeners through the airwaves, The Bridge’s staff and its volunteers are out supporting Kansas City’s local music community at concerts and events. Elevating that community isn’t something The Bridge can do alone, Hart says—it’s a team effort involving everyone, from promoters and club owners to artists themselves. The Bridge’s ability to build up the city’s music scene up-close diminished for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, there were no concerts on the calendar, and the disappearance of live music took a toll on The Bridge’s revenue. But listeners understood, Hart says, and they stepped up by becoming members and upping donations to The Bridge’s pledge drives. For The Bridge’s hosts, closets and basements became recording studios. They traded studio interviews and sessions with artists for Zoom ones. Hart says they were met with increased availability because musicians were all of a sudden at home, not on tour. They no longer had to wait for a particular artist to come to town either—all of a sudden, the station’s reach was nationwide—sometimes even further. This year, Truta reached Amsterdam-based art-

ist Nana Adjoa from the Netherlands, and also interviewed The Avalanches from their apartment in Australia. Through these interviews, Bacon says she connected with artists in a new way while discussing how it felt to not be on tour. She saw parallels between these conversations and what The Bridge staff was feeling. Just as musicians were forced to take a pause in doing what they did best, Bacon says this year forced their team to stop and consider their higher goals, and how they could best serve the city. For example, they found ways to support political movements from a distance, such as implementing programming about relevant social issues. The team also provided free underwriting to Asian-owned businesses in May for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Black-owned businesses in February for Black History Month. It’s been a challenging year, but The Bridge persevered. In fact, the station is up for Station of the Year from the Missouri Broadcasters Association. Throughout all of it, Bacon says The Bridge’s membership and community support has kept a steady incline. “There’s so much happening in the world and so many people that need relief,” Bacon says. “It was really heartening to see that people still found the value in what we were trying to do.” They made the best of their time at home, but The Bridge is ready to get back out into the world. The station’s calendar has already begun to fill up with concerts, and getting in front of people again, Truta says, is the final puzzle piece in completing an evolution that The Bridge started undergoing during a time of social unrest last year. “The thing that we’ve all tried to hold onto is just the heart that we brought into it,” Hart says. “Radio can be a fairly ego-based business. It doesn’t take much to imagine that. This is the type of radio that I think is at its best when you put your ego aside and understand that it’s not about you, it’s about the listener. It’s not about ‘Do I like the record,’ it’s about, ‘Do we think the community wants to hear this record?’” If you listened back to The Bridge’s first ever show on the airwaves and compared it to what The Bridge is playing today, the difference would be stark, as the station has worked to stay current and inclusive. But the passion that The Bridge staff has for the music is the same. Like a car’s motor relies on fuel, without that music, radio wouldn’t be there in the first place, Hart says. “I think the important thing for me about The Bridge is approaching it with a servant’s heart,” he says. “It’s a small staff trying to do big things. We all have to multitask and we all have to have motors. And we all have to really care.” | July 2021 | THE PITCH




“My name is Aubrie. I’m 13 years old. And I love to sing,” says one of the Kansas City Jazz Academy’s talented vocalists. Aubrie is dead-set on being an R&B singer when she grows up. She’s taken the vocal jazz class at the school four times since her dad introduced her to the genre at home. For this summer’s end-of-session concert, she plans on singing an Ariana Grande song and doing a duet with her best friend, Keon. KCJA is housed at the American Jazz Museum and The Gem Theater on 18th and Vine, rooted in an internationally significant music community. The Academy is the descendant of Kansas City Youth Jazz founded by Leon Brady, the first such group in the area. In the program, young artists are trained in style, history, theory, ear training, song forms, repertoire, and musicianship. Three classes are offered each session: piano lessons for experienced and beginning students, vocal jazz with middle and high school students, and combos for performers of varying technical levels. “I’m all about self-sufficient artists,” Lisa Henry tells her class on day one. Miss Lisa, as teachers and students alike refer to her, is an award-winning singer and director of vocal jazz at the Academy. She burst into the rehearsal space with a mile-wide smile, a bag full of everything a good music teacher should carry, and the intention of challenging her singers. After introductions, she wasted no time. First off was a worksheet testing students’ knowledge of musical notation. Then, the budding singers were tasked with brainstorming their goals for both the summer and their careers. The singing class rehearses in the Blue

Stan Kessler plays trumpet with the 18th Street Combo.

tops are the names of famous performers and venues. Clarence Smith, the manager of the Jazz Academy, notes the importance of “the Kansas City sound” to the learning experience. “All of our teachers at some point focus on what makes the Kansas City sound. [They] talk about the legendary, international jazz musicians that hail from Kansas City: Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Jay McShann, and younger guys like Logan Richardson and Harold O’Neal.” Defined by the Kansas City Public Library’s online exhibition series, “The Penderghast Years: Kansas City in the Jazz Age and the Great Depression”, the region’s trademark sound was forged at the height of the ’20s and ’30s. “[It] was African American musicians, many associated with Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra and inspired by blues and ragtime traditions, that developed the Kansas City style—featuring complex rhythms, carefully restrained drum beats, and riffs.” The geography works out for the stu-


Lisa Henry, award-winning singer and vocal jazz instructor.

Miss Lisa keeps students apprised of their legacy. She splits classes between rehearsals for the final concert and lectures covering history and performance skills. She details how to tell


Armed with Miss Lisa’s rhyming dictionary, they were given 10 minutes to write raps about themselves and prepare to perform. As they wrote, Miss Lisa talked to them about the

“THROUGH EXPERIMENTAL IMPROVISATION, TWO PAGES OF SHEET MUSIC BECAME TEN MINUTES OF PERFORMANCE. OCCASIONALLY, THE GROUP WOULD RISK FALLING APART, AND KESSLER WOULD GET OUT HIS OWN TRUMPET AND PLAY ALONG UNTIL EVERYONE WAS BACK IN THE GROOVE.” Room, the museum’s club which plays host to KC’s thriving jazz scene. On stage, they perform beneath a neon sign that reads, “Believe in: AJM.” Decorating the club’s acrylic table-


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

dents, who get to take classes with living legends including O’Neal, “jazz messenger” Bobby Watson, and the current artist in residence, guitarist Will Matthews.

the crowd stories in between songs, prepare for interviews with the press, and maintain good breath support through it all. And vocalists are not only learning jazz.

entwined histories of jazz, scat, rap, and R&B. But with intense learning comes pure fun. The room was filled with giggles as often as it was chagrined groans—the true mark of

Top: 18th Street Combo in action. Bottom left: Lucy, Tatum, Adriana, and Keon of the vocal jazz class. ZACH BAUMAN

students learning difficult music and life lessons on a June Saturday. For many young players, it’s the musical community that makes those rehearsal times extra worthwhile. “I’ve only been doing this for a little over half a year,” says Andreas. He’s a rising senior who plays tenor saxophone in the advanced group, dubbed the “18th Street Combo”. He also performs on alto sax in classical groups and is learning the flute. In addition to John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and Sonny Rollins, Andreas lists his peers as his motivation. “Just being up on stage with my friends, playing with them, there’s a huge level of respect and inspiration we all have for each other.” Attending the Academy in the pandemic meant signing waivers and battling masks around instruments. But for Andreas, the difficulty was well worth the experience. “I think one of my favorite lessons that I’ve learned is how to play in a group the size [of the 18th Street Combo]. It’s not that I don’t | July 2021 | THE PITCH






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THE PITCH | July 2021 |

enjoy playing in big bands. But this is a much smaller group, like nine or ten people, and you’ve got to learn how to balance each other, which is not something you think about when you’re just playing in a massive band.” Andreas is straightforward about his immense passion for his art. “I take jazz and music very seriously. I plan to go to college and do jazz studies. The idea is to get a master’s degree, maybe teach in the future. But obviously, I want to go places and I want to play music.” Ultimately, jazz affords Andreas something unique: the fluidity of improvisation. “There’s an incredible amount of freedom. And there’s so much personal interpretation you can use. That’s why everybody sounds different. It’s because they’re their own person. And it doesn’t matter what [you’re] playing. It could be the drums, it could be the bass, sax, trumpet. They’re all different.” Andreas and the 18th Street Combo, taught by trumpet and flugelhorn player-songwriter Stan Kessler, sounded truly astonishing. Sitting in the audience at The Gem Theater, it was hard not to toe tap, hip swing, and head nod—and it was only their first rehearsal. Through experimental improvisation, two pages of sheet music became ten minutes of performance. Occasionally, the group would risk falling apart, and Kessler would get out his own trumpet and play along until everyone was back in the groove. There’s no hiding Smith’s pride in the students. I interviewed Andreas while sitting on the floor in the hallway by the bathrooms— one of the few quiet places in the epicenter of musical chaos. Like an excited parent, Smith snapped pictures of us talking and giving the camera peace signs. “I’m pleased with a lot of different things about the Academy,” Smith says. “One of the neat things is hearing students progress—no matter what level—but particularly young kids when that light bulb goes on and they finally figure out a concept. And for the older kids, it’s [special] seeing them play on a high level beyond the average high school student.” Smith and the entire staff are attentive to each student’s needs, and ensure that they receive a hands-on education. “I try to get [teachers] that I can learn from,” says Smith. “That can demonstrate what they do by standing up and playing, who can relay whatever [information] needs to go to the kids. We have a great staff.” Smith himself is an active drummer and opened up the Blue Room on the eve before the first day of the summer session. At the Academy, beginners might learn how to poise their hands over the piano keys and push down three notes at once. More advanced musicians are drilled on the nitty-gritty of music theory and their knowledge of scales and chords. They also take an extended tour through different styles of jazz, from swing to Latin, rock, and funk. “The selection of appropriate literature so the kids can learn [is so important]. They learn what we’ve referred to as jazz stan-

dards—thousands of songs that all jazz musicians should know if they’re going to be considered good,” says Smith. “You just have to know these songs.” The KCJA program is not only fostering the next generation of musicians but is building a wide community of folks who care deeply about jazz. “I have created relationships with parents that, in some cases, go beyond the Academy,” says Smith. “I have parents that donate money for scholarships. It’s one of those things that tug at your heart, and that motivates me to do the job better in whatever way possible, so we can continue the work that we’re doing.” Many of the students have maintained long relationships with the staff and their mentors. Abbey, a drummer and vibraphonist in the 18th Street Combo, has been with the Academy since she was in seventh grade. She started in the beginner’s combo, working her way up to the “hard music” now as a rising senior. Like Andreas, Abbey has a set trajectory for herself. She’s currently putting together a combo outside of the Academy that plays jazz with a little bit of Latin influence. They’ve had their first few rehearsals in the past weeks. “Right now, my plan is to go to UMKC and do business, but also play in the combos there,” she says. “After I graduate, I’d like to open a record store, and also have concerts. So [the store will be] big enough that people can hear what’s going on around the city.” The Jazz Academy works hard to uplift outstanding female musicians such as Abbey, who was interviewed in a video celebrating 2019’s Women in Jazz month. It’s easy to see the exuberant joy born from 18th and Vine’s artistic community when talking to Aubrie, Andreas, and Abbey, or when watching Miss Lisa is on stage with the teenage singers. For one exercise, Miss Lisa played music through the speakers and told them to dance with attention to the rhythm. The kids were awash in euphoria. Some snapped their fingers, some wiggled their arms in the air, and one was doing the Carlton. “Tito Puente is just rolling over in his grave!” Miss Lisa called out. There was something deeply special about seeing these students dancing side-by-side after a tough year of learning at home. The kids are young but they’re sticking with it. Abbey will keep jamming as a small business owner creating platforms for the local music community. Andreas is, without a doubt, going to tour the world, make beautiful melodies with his friends, and teach the next generation how he does it. And Aubrie, while younger, isn’t so young that she doesn’t know exactly where she’s going. The day that she drops her first R&B album will be a good one. Be sure to check out the summer session’s final showcase concert on July 24 at The Gem Theatre, which will be held either online or in person. Best friends Aubrie and Keon will be doing a duet that you shouldn’t miss for the world.

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Whether yours is wet, dry, or sticky, earwax is a good and necessary bodily secretion—got to plug those holes in your head somehow, right? But many people’s relationship with their earwax has changed during the pandemic—and they may not know it. An initial signal of that changed relationship is hearing loss. Dr. Kate Aberle, a Kansas City ear, nose, and throat surgeon, says that over the past year her specialty clinic has seen both new and run-of-the-mill medical issues—like earwax impaction—in higher numbers. “One of those would, of course, be earwax issues related to wearing earbuds or AirPods—those types of earphones that people are using for online school or Zoom meetings. So [they’re] causing a lot more problems that, in the past, we’d only see in elderly patients with hearing aids, for example.” Aberle works at Ascentist Ear, Nose and Throat in Merriam. She says she’s now seeing young adults, teenagers, and even school-aged children for impacted earwax. Patients say their ears feel full, they can’t hear well, sometimes they feel a sharp pain, and, if it’s gotten really bad, they have drain-


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

age or swelling. Earwax’s more technical name is cerumen. According to a clinical practice guideline document from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the substance is “a water-soluble mixture of secretions (produced in the outer third of the ear canal), plus hair and dead skin, that serves a protective function for the ear.” The Academy’s article explains that, in a typical year, 12 million people seek help for impacted earwax symptoms. The number is likely far higher this year, but the Academy doesn’t have an exact figure yet, only anecdotal evidence like Aberle’s. Those anecdotes keep coming, because earwax is making itself known. What should be a silent partner to all humans, doing its job then quietly making its exit, is no longer silent or self-sufficient. When people jam earbuds, hearing aids, earplugs, or anything else in their ear canals, “that natural process essentially gets blocked,” Aberle says. “You get this wax that just gets stuck and accumulates and it becomes a snowballing problem.” She says whatever you do, don’t try to dig

it out with a Q-tip or anything else. Doctors in her specialty like to say: Don’t put anything in your ear that’s smaller than your elbow. Aberle means it. Her voice was very serious. So, yes, skip the Q-tips, but also toothpicks, pinky fingers, and those ear-candling cones. Instead, she says, try an over-the-counter earwax softener like Debrox. It’s a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and oil. The oil softens the wax, and the hydrogen peroxide helps it bubble up and out. Someone who’s having a problem can use three to five drops per ear once a week, and someone in maintenance mode can use that same amount once or twice a month. An additional issue that’s arisen from virtual meetings and classes is an increase in neck tension, muscle tightness, and migraines. Patients with these issues also see ENTs like Aberle. In those cases, she says, “It’s not the earbuds themselves, but because the muscles around the ears and the jaw and the face are already tight and irritated because of being on the computer more. They’re going to have more pain with placing those earbuds in the

ear canal, and that can be completely separate and not at all related to wax being present or not.” It’s hard not to imagine that all the extra earbud use might also cause non-wax hearing loss, but she says that’ll take decades to develop, unless someone is keeping their volume above 50% for months at a time—then real hearing loss will present a little sooner, but still not immediately. [Note, whether you’re using earbuds or non-wax-impacting headphones, keep your volume below the 50% mark or risk suffering the above-mentioned hearing loss down the road.] And, as all medical articles conclude, so must this one: What you’ve read here doesn’t take the place of seeing a medical professional. “People can have more serious things causing hearing loss,” Aberle says, “and because it’s a part of your body that you really can’t see [by yourself], the best way is for someone to look and say, ‘Oh yeah, that is earwax,’ or, if the ears are clear and there’s nothing there, then get a hearing test to see what’s going on.”

olden K G e e h





“Our agents do special things every day.

We help families. It’s real estate done right.” –MIKE FRAZIER, CEO REECENICHOLS

to bringing

Families Together THEY’RE THE DEFINING MOMENTS IN LIFE. “Will you marry me?” “Move your tassels to the left.” “Congrats! It’s a boy!” “Here are the keys to your new home.” Our stories are unique. Yet, they’re all the same, too, because we’re human. Some moments are planned. Some are not. Some moments lift you off the ground in a euphoria. And some come crashing down and the world stops moving. “Excuse me while I get the doctor.” And it’s in one of those defining moments when we say, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” For the past four years, Darnell Blacklock has been a real estate agent for ReeceNichols in Kansas City, but for the past 14 years she’s Liam’s mom. “Liam holds a positive energy; he makes people feel good. He collects aluminum pop tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald Houses of Kansas City. He’s filled the back of our minivan full of donated tabs! He’s incredible,” Blacklock says. The tender-hearted young man hasn’t had an easy life. He was born with a cleft lip palate, a birth defect

that occurs when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. With two children at home and five months pregnant, Blacklock’s world turned upside down when she learned Liam would be born with cleft and would need surgery after his birth. It was seven surgeries, to be exact, including lip repair, palate repair, several ear tube surgeries, dental work, and a bone graft moving hip bone into his gum line and roof of his mouth. And at 14 years old, he’s not quite done with surgeries. Every surgery is at Shriners Hospital for Children Chicago. Ronald McDonald House Charities in Chicago takes the Blacklock family in during Liam’s surgeries. It becomes their home in a city they don’t call home. They have a place to sleep and food to eat, but the most comforting thing is that they’re close to Liam. Ronald McDonald House Charities are all around the country, and that includes Kansas City, too. “The families that stay with us are families going through some of the most terrifying experiences a parent can have,” Tami Greenburg, CEO of Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City, explains. “Families don’t [have time to] think about where they’ll stay for the night or what

they’re having for dinner, or how laundry will get done. Our job is to support them. We give them meals. Do their laundry. We give them a place to stay, and they are able to stay close to their sick child at Children’s Mercy.” The families at Ronald McDonald Houses don’t pay for their stays. Organizationally, the cost for a family to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City is $100 per night, per family. That cost is largely covered by donations. It’s not uncommon to see a corporation give money to a philanthropic organization. But when the Gold Key Project, a collaboration between ReeceNichols Real Estate and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City, began its pilot program in 2020, it became something special. The Gold Key Project pilot program gave 38 ReeceNichols agents the opportunity to give a night’s stay at Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City to families of sick children. The agents pledged $100 to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City for every home bought or sold during a four-month span in 2020. The Gold Key Project beat everyone’s expectations by over 500%. The 38 agents raised $31,000 in four months, making 310 nights available to families who were going through one of the most

devastating times in their life. Mike Frazier, President and CEO of ReeceNichols, knew great things would happen with The Gold Key Project, which also works with agents throughout Wichita, Joplin, and southern Missouri. “This is not a company we are talking about. It’s individuals. We hire great people that take what they do to heart,” Frazier says. “When you buy a home, it’s one of the most stressful times in your life and our agents are there. Our agents do special things every day. We help families. Now we’re giving families a space to live near Children’s Mercy so they can focus on their child. It’s real estate done right.” ReeceNichols opened The Gold Key Project to all agents in 2021 with a $100,000 goal. Now, when you see a ReeceNichols home for sale with a Gold Key Project sign in the yard, you’ll know: When someone buys that home with ReeceNichols, they’re also providing a home for the night for a family of a sick child.

It’s a defining moment in life.


Songwriters Jake and Jordan Wells, over chess on Jake’s front porch. CHASE CASTOR


By January of 2021, Jake Wells Thompson was cash-strapped. The musician, who performs under the name Jake Wells, worked construction and tried selling solar panels to make ends meet while he was unable to perform in the initial throws of the pandemic. With his birthday near, his parents asked if he could join them in Florida. No money. A trip was impossible. Then his sister had an idea: She’d create a social media graphic advertising he’d write and record custom songs for Valentine’s Day. He shrugged, let her do it, and to his amazement, the ad worked. In fact, it worked well enough that since January he and his brother, Jordan Thompson, have done little more than create songs on demand. The requests weren’t—and still aren’t— what Wells had expected. “I thought it was going to be like, ‘Hey, me and Steve have known each other for five years, and one time—it was so special—we were stuck in a car, and he had to change a tire…’ I thought it was going to be shit like that, and I’m going to write some sort of cute love song,” Wells recalls. But no. The people who contacted him wanted catharsis—they wanted assists with life’s heavy lifting. The first person who reached out had been seriously dumped on. After her parents died, she’d been left in charge of her misfit siblings, and she wanted a song dedicated to herself. Another had a disastrous relationship with her now-terminally ill mother. “This woman is basically asking me to write a song


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

that says, ‘Fuck you. I’m angry, and I’m trying to forgive you and love you before you die,’” Wells says. And he doesn’t mean to sound weird, but he thinks he’s got a special je ne sais quoi that lends itself to this work. “I want to know what it is they want for themselves and what it is they are hiding from themselves. I want to know what they

and asked if he’d like to audition for season 15 of NBC’s The Voice. The year before, Spotify had added his first single, “Roll Like Thunder,” to its Fresh Finds playlist, and he instantly racked up 75,000 hits. On the heels of the sudden momentum his adult music career had gained, he formed an eponymous band and started working toward an EP.

HE ENDS UP CRYING ON EACH ZOOM CALL. “IT’S JUST LIKE, ‘FUCK THIS IS HARD.’ I HAD NO IDEA THAT EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS WALKING AROUND WITH SO MUCH PAIN AND TRAUMA. IT’S BEEN EYE-OPENING.” fear. I want to know what they love,” Wells says. “I want to know the things that make them special. I have a unique ability to see people.” His curriculum vitae is certainly unusual. When he was seven years old, his parents and four siblings packed their bags and hit the road in a tour bus to perform gospel music in churches across the nation as the “Thompson Family.” They travelled for six years. In 2017, McNulty Casting emailed him

But he also got a spot on The Voice on Team Adam Levine and a vast accompaniment of social media followers, which was a great boon when he later advertised his custom songs. Wells spent eight months away from Kansas City filming the show. When he returned, he was determined to make something of his band. They scheduled three tours for 2020, and on March 14, 2020 played a sold-out record release show at the RecordBar. And, of course, that was the end of the

band’s momentum. “It was quite a series of events, and the timing was particularly poignant. It couldn’t have been more perfect in a sense,” Wells says. “We’d worked so hard to execute this plan; we had everything in place.” However, he feels really good about the custom songs now that that enterprise has gained momentum of its own. As of this writing, Wells and his brother have completed four songs, which are posted on his Instagram account @_jake_wells_. Nikki Maxwell is among them. She lives in McGaheysville, VA, and has followed Wells since his stint on The Voice. She ran across one of his first custom songs at a moment when she was wondering what song to use for the father-daughter dance at her August wedding. The song that had come closest to being appropriate was Willie Nelson’s version of “Always on My Mind.” “I would love to use that song, but I also don’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings on the day of my wedding. So, I was looking for something that made me feel the same way that ‘Always on My Mind’ makes me feel,” Maxwell explains. As Wells has with all his clients, he spent about 90 minutes on Zoom with Maxwell getting to know her, her life, her musical tastes, and what she wants to feel when she hears the song. He says that Maxwell told her about her dad’s drug addiction and resultant terrifying behavior throughout her childhood, before he “found Jesus in an AA sort of way,” according to Wells. He ends up crying on each Zoom call. “It’s just like, ‘Fuck this is hard.’ I had no idea that every single person is walking around with so much pain and trauma. It’s been eye-opening.” In this case, Wells also spoke to Maxwell’s father, and the song is partly from his perspective. It’s velvety sweet and catchy. Wells’ vocals over his own keyboard playing and Thompson’s guitar, are a little reminiscent of John Mayer’s stylings in “Daughters”. Maxwell says she waited to listen to it for the first time with her father. “The song is wonderful. My dad cried; he thought it was amazing,” she says. “He did exactly what each of us could have hoped for in order to capture our relationship.” Wells is toying with the idea of releasing an LP when he’s completed several more of the songs that are on deck. But even if he doesn’t do that, he says he knows he’s onto something meaningful, not just for him, but for all those he works with. “All of a sudden I found this avenue,” he says. “I can connect to people, I can write meaningful music and also make a living, and it feels like something that is way bigger than what it currently exists as.”

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When Covid-19 restrictions began loosening back at the end of April, the first thing I started looking for was concerts. Be they small patio shows with socially-distanced precautions or parking lot performances with dozens of folks, I wanted back in front of speaker stacks with a beer in my hand, posthaste. Initially, I assumed that the outdoors was going to be the standard setting through the end of the year. But as April turned into May, my inbox began filling up with concert and tour announcements for the fall, and many of those performances were at indoor venues. When I began writing this in mid-June, The Pitch’s shared spreadsheet of potential concerts to cover numbered around six dozen, and those are just the big ones for which we need to contact publicists. That’s not even counting the random Sunday pop-in at a Replay matinee or a last-minute roots


band playing on a bar’s back deck. Be it an arena such as the newly-renamed T-Mobile Center or a small-capacity venue like the Riot Room, touring acts were gearing up for shows and crowds in a big way. With the announcements of new shows flooding in, there’s an incredible burden being foist upon everyone behind the scenes. When I spoke by phone with Josh Hunt of Mammoth, an event production company based out of Lawrence, he helped put it in perspective. “About the time it became clear that the vaccine was going to be readily available, everybody wanted to start planning again,” Hunt says. “You do the work and the show is supposed to happen.”


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THE PITCH | July 2021 |

As Hunt explains, many of these recently-announced shows were originally intended to be held in 2020, when there was a slim glimmer of hope that we might return to normal before year’s end. However, as fans are only too aware, many of those dates were moved, moved again, and sometimes moved a third time. Whether you’re an agent, a manager, a promoter, a venue, whatever—we keep having to redo the work, so everyone was a little reticent about it.” Re-booking these shows became an ongoing process for most promoters over the last year and a half, but going to the next steps of confirming shows, preparing onsales and announcements, and getting ready for them to actually happen started early

this spring. I ponder with Hunt: dealing with all of the moving parts required to put on a show must be doubly, if not triply, difficult this goaround because so many reopening venues have to find folks to fill positions from stagehands to bartenders, from security folks to sound people. “I think everyone’s been a little bit apprehensive the whole time,” Hunt agrees. “Some of the venues are still concerned about their staffing levels. It’s very challenging. It’s going to come down to who can be competitive and pay people the rate that’s going to work.” The same point comes up a few days later when I speak with Shani Tate, vice


president of sales and marketing for the T-Mobile Center. As she puts it, a multi-layered and multi-faceted approach is needed for every bit of their operation. “It has to be examined both from a shuttering standpoint in terms of when we were on lockdown, but then on the reactivation side,” Tate explains. “When we walked away on March 12 [of 2020], we were fully locked and loaded for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship. There’s food, there’s beverages, there’s all these things that need to be taken care of in terms of disposal, but then there’s the next phase, which is reopening.” Tate continues on, sharing that the T-Mobile Center had guidance not only from the KCMO Health Department, but also from across the country as football opened up and began navigating large gatherings. When the vaccine was announced in early December and then the rollout began, that was when Tate and her team began to ask themselves, “What’s our road to reopening?” “There are all these levels—whether it’s operations security or event services—because on a pre-pandemic basis, we booked six to eight months out in terms of shows,” Tate says. “Technically for right now, if a show goes on sale, we can put a show up— and certainly do it—in 10 days, but our normal production cycle is six to eight months.” That calendar continues to roll with every day that ticks by, and the employees in the music industry are learning to balance safety and security with a good concert experience. “Not only front of house, but also back of house,” Tate says of the upcoming changes. “Because of the pandemic, everyone—all consumers—now have a new lens and a heightened sense of awareness as it relates to spacing and social distancing.” Hunt agrees. It’s even more difficult for Mammoth, as the company books and promotes shows not just in the Kansas City metro, but throughout the region in Nebraska and Iowa, as well as Kansas and Missouri. “Some people have concerns about mask policies and how that’s going to work and that’s a tricky one because it’s different in every county,” Hunt says. “There’s many different policies: one county will be like, ‘Hey, there are no rules.’ The other county’s like, ‘Hey, it’s 30% capacity up to 200, and you have to wear masks.’ You could be working with the same artists in three or four markets with different sets of rules. You have to just map it out and make sure you’re communicating well.” For Mammoth, that’s an easier proposition than it might be for most companies. As Hunt says, they’ve been very fortunate in that their entire pre-pandemic team is still with them. “We have a long-term staff and it’s kind of a family atmosphere,” Hunt says. “We’re

fortunate we’ve got a pretty consistent team and we try to take care of our people.” That said, these new layers of mask mandates and social distancing requirements, along with other factors, have definitely affected the workload of both Mammoth and the T-Mobile Center. “Frankly, during the last 14-15 months, I pivoted from concert promoter to lobbyist, in an effort to support our industry,” explains Hunt. “We’re still at the tail end of trying to get all proper funding for venues and promoters from the grant programs that are out there.” Hunt describes his job as “150% more time-consuming.” “It’s nonstop,” he continues. “I have never worked this many hours in my life. I’m not afraid of hard work, but you know, sleep is good. I haven’t really had the scope to reflect back yet, but I think when I do, it’s going to be very apparent that we’re just all in a very different place now and I think we’re going to view things differently now. Like, what happens if the virus comes back again, and what are the different variables for how it could be transmitted, and how could it be different? You just start digging [for information] and I think we’ve all done that as a society, but we’re in the business of gathering people, so we have a responsibility to be informed.” For Shani Tate and the T-Mobile Center, their return to production comes with not only all the extra issues of a post-pandemic world, but also thanks to some extra eyes looking on: T-Mobile’s first full-capacity show will be a television broadcast of WWE’s Monday Night Raw on July 26. Not only will there be thousands of people in attendance, but there will be potentially millions of people viewing the program as it airs on USA Network in the States and with other broadcasters around the world. I ask Tate if the intersection between sporting event and live performance offers up any particular challenges or possibilities. “We are so excited for the opportunity to have our first full-capacity event be an international broadcast with our friends from WWE,” answers Tate. “When you think about that excellence in production and showmanship and athleticism, no one does it better. It’s the perfect intersection of both sports and entertainment. Until you see your first one live, I can’t explain it to you.” As we wrap up our call, Tate makes the point that she sees the return of the T-Mobile Center’s live events as something to really take advantage of the pent-up energy and demand for sports and live entertainment after a year-plus of living online. “There is no replacement,” Tate says. “We love Zoom meetings and certainly some of the conveniences that the internet has provided us over the past 15 months, but there is no substitute for that energy and that rush that you get in live entertainment.” | July 2021 | THE PITCH




As Kansas City has opened back up for in-person events and gatherings, LGBTQ+ Pride Month was a joyous occasion. After a year of dismal virtual functions and danceparty-shaped holes in our hearts, queer musicians of the metro are looking forward to celebrating their identities once again through live shows and their unique artistic expression. But for KC’s queer artists and supporters, Pride lasts all year long. The Pitch sat down with prolific queer artists like genre-bending super duo The Black Creatures, evocative chanteur Calvin Arsenia, hyperpop ingénue RILEY THE MUSICIAN, and the multitalented Sloane Wednesday, a.k.a. MOOD INDICATOR, to hear their thoughts on the true meaning of Pride and the season’s increasing corporate presence. Each artist also gave a number of tracks for an all-encompassing Kansas City Musician Pride Playlist, available to stream below. “‘Pride’ to me is: in the face of the fact that there are, I believe, 13 countries in which it is legal to kill me, my lover, my friends, we as people continue to create and contribute to the fabric of the world, and have contributed for the entire existence of humanity,” says Arsenia, locally revered harpist and vocalist, about the true meaning of Pride. “Yet, [we] don’t receive, and haven’t historically received, the same benefits of those contributions as straight white males. The fact that we continue to contribute and to create and make the world a better place to live for all people is where my Pride comes from.” This June will be the first Pride as an openly nonbinary person for Kansas City’s wave-making hyperpop star RILEY THE MUSICIAN. “It’s my first one,” they say. “So I don’t have a clear understanding of it quite yet, but I want to say for me, [Pride is] doing whatever I want and not caring about what other people say. And that’s it. There’s nothing stopping me, and I can only be myself for as long as I’m alive.” For electronic musician and producer


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

Calvin Arsenia at The Mint in LA.


Sloane Wednesday, Pride is personal. “Pride means showing people, not just straight people, but people in the closet and questioning themselves, that I’m proud to be who I am, and they should be too. I think that’s what it really comes down to. Just being that person that I needed when I was [younger].” “Even though it may not be entirely intentional, I think it’s a product of who I am, and I am a very queer individual. So that’s reflected in my music, regardless of my intent or not,” Wednesday says, of how her identity shapes her music. For all musicians interviewed, the concept of identity being a part of their creative process is essential, and a sense of personal pride can be detected in all of their work. “I definitely feel that my music is about vulnerability and self-expression, self-acceptance. A lot of my journey as a human on this planet has been navigating being a person and understanding of the nuance and the struggle and the beauty of that,” says Arsenia about his music’s deeply personal connection between identity and expression. “So they are forever linked together. Although, I would say that I don’t think of myself as somebody who’s trying to promote any particular lifestyle. I’m just trying to learn about myself and my own experience.” “I think that queerness shapes our music,” says Jade Green of illustrious dark-pop and hip hop duo The Black Creatures. “We construct stories that are pretty unique. And yet at the same time, they’re sort of threaded together with strands of humanity, to which everyone can relate.” The Black Creatures’ Xavier, chimes in



and offers: “From my perspective, the way that queerness has shaped and will shape our music is: we go in knowing full well [that what we’re doing] adds to the collective pool, or stew, or whatever analogy you want to use here, of queerness as a whole, which adds to the even bigger stew of cultural and societal experiences.” Community is essential for surviving and, more importantly, thriving, and it’s clear The Black Creatures have a focus on bringing people together through music. Over the years, Pride season has become an essential marketing point for a laundry list of corporations, with queer musicians being used as a tool to create a sense of authenticity. But opinions on this pandering from queer folk and LGBTQ+ artists are mixed.

Jade offers their point of view, saying: “The ongoing trend is like, ‘okay, what’s something that we can continue to capitalize on?’ And more often than not, it looks like Black and queer lives.” “As a function of businesses and capitalism, the best and most efficient way to make money is to make sure that you can accept everybody’s dollar,” continues Xavier. “This is obviously framed as inclusivity, but that’s just exploitation of more and more people, which is less than ideal.” “It’s a mixed bag,” says RILEY THE MUSICIAN. “I’m happy that there’s coverage of it, that’s really cool. And it’s nice to see people like my mom be [excited for] Pride Month. But at the same time, you can tell a lot of it is shallow. And a lot of it is pre-planned, and is it really celebrating? I think for the most part it’s a positive thing to get the word out there. I


The Black Creatures.



The music of all artists mentioned in this article is available for streaming on Bandcamp and Spotify. It is the official opinion of The Pitch that you should purchase these artists’ music on Bandcamp. All artists interviewed generously listed their favorite Pride anthems, which are collected on this Spotify playlist.

just hope people mean it.” As corporations come up with new marketing techniques each year to present themselves as allies, they increasingly use musicians and artists to present a false sense of authenticity to audiences. While visibility is important and can be essential for smaller artists to make money, this should make us uneasy, Jade explains. It echoes the efforts of many to strip Pride from its specifically anti-police and often violent roots. “Exposure and elevating LGBTQ voices is a good thing,” Jade says. “But what seems to be happening is there’s this depoliticization of what was originally a very political movement, by organizations that for the other 11 months out of the year don’t acknowledge any minority voices. I think that’s harmful.” “The only LGBTQ people in positions

of power at these companies are undoubtedly non-Black and cisgender, and that’s a problem,” Jade says. “One of the things that I think about is the cop cars that have gay Pride flags all over them and things like that. The reason that we even have Pride is because police were harassing the people who were spending time at the Stonewall Inn, and they responded in kind with a riot.” While corporate influence is an extremely contentious topic during Pride Month with many perspectives, it’s clear that Kansas City’s queer musicians were ready to express themselves this June (and beyond) in the way they know best. Artists professing their personal connections to Pride makes it all the more special to hear their music and see them lighting up our stages once again in 2021. With Pride back in full swing, we’re ready to celebrate all year long. | July 2021 | THE PITCH




Now that COVID restrictions are lifting, you may have noticed Kansas City’s live event calendar has come back with a vengeance. There are loads of good shows coming up between now and the end of the year, both at outdoor and indoor venues, and even more on the way. However, having spent most of the last 18 months in limited company and highly sanitized settings, it’s understandable if you’re not yet ready to mix with throngs of sweaty strangers standing closer to you than you’d like. Even if you’re fully vaccinated and ready to jump back into your active social life, knowing what we all now know about the spread of germs makes a night of nonexistent personal space and a miasma of bodily fluid feel less than appealing right now. What’s a live music lover to do? If you’d like to ease your way back into the scene, checking out a good concert film may be just the thing to get you hyped up and ready to get back out there. Remembering the collective energy of a great live show, and the many unique characters you encounter at a venue might just help you feel excited to rejoin enthusiastic crowds, brave the concert claustrophobia and feel like you’re part of something again. This month Hulu released Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s outstanding concert documentary Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Fes-


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

tival, a concert series that showcased a wide array of POC musical talent. We reviewed the movie as part of our True/False film festival coverage in June, and it’s an awesome place to get started on your cinematic concert journey. If you’re hankering for more concert docs after watching Summer of Soul, here are a few others to check out. Amazing Grace Amazing Grace is a long-lost concert film that made it to completion seemingly through sheer force of will. The companion to Aretha Franklin’s live album of the same name was originally shot by Sydney Pollack, who didn’t use clapper boards when filming Franklin’s two shows at L.A.’s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, making the audio and the footage difficult to sync up. Filmmaker Alan Elliott used his own money to buy the film back from Warner Brothers in 2007 to finish the job. Franklin takes us to church (literally) in a small, unassuming sanctuary that’s full of everyday folks and famous faces alike. Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts show up for a bit. The pews feature a lone awkward white guy, a woman with her hair in curlers, and a lady in a majestic floppy hat who comes in late, but clearly doesn’t care. At one point, an older lady filled with the spirit makes her way up to the stage. Pollack, directing from the crowd, looks vaguely concerned, unsure what’s going to happen next. Aretha—the

reason we’re all here—has the stamina and energy of an athlete, belting and sweating on stage while guests and backup musicians rotate through like relay racers. Jazz on a Summer’s Day Maybe you’d like your concert movie experience to be a little less sweaty and more genteel. Perhaps you’d like to pretend you’re a wealthy cultured person for 86 minutes and enjoy the experience of great music and midcentury east coast elite activities like sipping cocktails and boating. If that’s what you’re feeling, 1959’s Jazz on a Summer’s Day is your ticket. Bert Stern and Aram Avakian’s filmed record of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival set the template for many concert films to follow (see Monterey Pop, below), interspersing performances, crowd shots, and adjacent activities, including the America’s Cup yacht races. Jazz on a Summer’s Day is something of a product of its time in that it only captures a small sliver of the festival’s actual performers (many of whom were Black), and doesn’t do a great job of keeping the camera focused on the performers of color it does show. However, as shot by Stern, a fashion photographer, it still presents a singular vibe of Mad Men-era style. Everyone looks gorgeous, and some performers, like Mahalia Jackson and Anita O’Day, seem like they’re lit from within. Extra points go to O’Day’s outfit, a gorgeously tailored black dress and wide-brimmed hat trimmed with white feathers. This is a concert movie you dress up for. Monterey Pop Legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker enlisted a murderer’s row of filmmaking talent, including fellow genre giants Rich-

ard Leacock and Albert Maysles, to film the Monterey Pop festival in 1967. Monterey Pop, released the following year, captures the feeling of being present at the event more so than pretty much any other concert doc on this list. Pennebaker flits between sets by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and others, and sometimes just meanders among the crowd of dirty, exhausted, exhilarated festival-goers. It has the same mix of sensory overload, short attention span, and social curiosity that you’d experience at an actual festival. The performances Pennebaker and his talented team capture are, of course, incredible. Is your experience of Janis Joplin limited to photos and video clips? Monterey Pop gives you a face-melting performance of “Ball and Chain”. Ever wanted to see Jimi Hendrix dry-hump an amplifier and set his guitar ablaze? You’ve come to the right place. The Who show up in conspicuously sharp outfits, as does Otis Redding, mere months before he died in a plane crash that December. The best “you are there”-by-proxy moment is the film’s closing performance by Ravi Shankar, which is almost three times the length of any of the other segments. Pennebaker and his crew build up to Shankar shredding his sitar by first floating through the rapt audience. Some of them are having a religious experience. A little boy sitting on the fence looks on in wonder. Hendrix sits in cross-legged fascination on the grass. Finally, we get a look at the man himself, displaying trancelike concentration as his band members joyfully accompany him. The last note hits, and every single person simultaneously jumps to their feet in applause. It’s almost impossible not to get caught up in it yourself.


A Poem is a Naked Person Les Blank’s A Poem is a Naked Person isn’t a concert film in the strictest sense. However, it does provide a slice of perspective on the artist in question, singer-songwriter Leon Russell. It also gives us the level of cultural and historical context he was operating in that the best kinds of concert films capture. After becoming a breakout star in the Joe Cocker concert film Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Russell and his producing partner hired Blank to film Russell on tour and recording in Northeast Oklahoma between 1972-74. Russell wasn’t a fan of the resulting film, and, like Amazing Grace, it existed mostly as an urban legend for years, popping up at secret screenings until The Criterion Collection finally released it on blu-ray in 2016. Watching A Poem is a Naked Person feels like opening a time capsule. Blank shows us a diverse cross-section of early 70s Oklahoma and the crowd Russell ran with, seemingly interested just as much with random folks on the sidelines as with the guy he’s been hired to film. Blank gives us long-haired hippies dancing at Russell’s shows intercut with Black church congregants overtaken by the holy spirit. There’s a guy on a bad acid trip in a hotel room, an artist who feeds a chick to his pet snake while he paints a mural, and a dude in a field chomping on a beer glass like it’s rock candy. Uniting it all is Russell’s music; warm and lyrical, by turns folksy, funky, and raucous. U2: Rattle and Hum Perhaps your relationship with U2, like mine, is a little complicated. Maybe years of radio overexposure and stories like Bono chartering a private jet to retrieve his favorite hat turned you off. 1988’s Rattle and Hum may serve as a pleasant reminder that before the

band did stuff like send you an album on iTunes that you didn’t ask for, they were scrappy and earnest and interesting. Rattle and Hum follows U2’s 1987 Joshua Tree tour, concurrent with their explosion into international superstardom. The band is packing big venues, but it’s still early enough that they haven’t been media coached into oblivion. The raw emotion that powered songs like “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is still present, as is the band’s relative naivete and sense of wonder at their current status. Director Phil Joanou follows them around the U.S. as they play shows and engage with the American roots rock they love, playing a song with B.B. King onstage, visiting Sun Studios, and stopping by a church in Harlem to sing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with a gospel choir. The film was initially dinged, even by Joanou, for being pretentious. The critical backlash against the movie and the band’s accompanying double album eventually led to U2 changing creative direction. It’s unfortunate, even if some parts of the movie do feel a little self-important (there’s a visit to Graceland that, three years post-Spinal Tap, borders on self-parody). Primarily, Rattle and Hum reminds us how much of U2’s popularity came from not just their arena-friendly sound, but the fact that, at that point, they still offered a vital perspective. Nowhere is this more apparent than the end of the film. Bono’s voice breaks as the band plays “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” in Denver on the day of the Enniskillen bombing in Northern Ireland, followed up with “Pride (In the Name of Love)” as a closer. Whatever your current feelings on U2 may be, that moment is an undeniable one-two gut punch.





JULY 1-MARCH 2022 Testimony: African American Artists Collective, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

JULY 1-SEPTEMBER 11 The Regional, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art



Mission Market, 5635 Johnson Drive, Mission, KS 66202

SATURDAYS THROUGH SEPTEMBER 25 Merriam Farmers’ Market, Merriam Marketplace

SATURDAYS THROUGH OCTOBER 30 Lenexa Farmers’ Market, Lenexa Civic Campus

J Fowler, Parlor, multiple dates

JULY 3-4

Free Sunday Open Jam, Knuckleheads, multiple dates

True Crime Podcast Festival, Loews Kansas City Hotel

Dagorhir Boffer LARP, Meadowmere Park

JULY 5 Karaoke Monday with Vanessa Davis, The Black Box Theater

KC Air Show feat. US Navy Blue Angels, New Century Air Center, Celebrate the 4th of July with a spectacular view at this year’s KC Air Show, headlined by the United States Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. General admission tickets are $35 for adults in advance and $45 at the gate. At an additional cost, tickets from the event’s premium packages can gain access to perks like boxed seats, food and beverages, and shuttle and golf cart access. Got tickets to the 2020 show? You’re in luck, those tickets will be honored at the 2021 show.

JULY 3-25

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September 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 2021

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♫ 8 Instrument Contests ♫ Over 200 Hours of Professional Acoustic Music


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Walnut Valley Association, Inc. (620) 221-3250 THE PITCH | July 2021 |

Guided Docent Tour, 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City Mobile Food Pantry, Clay County Public Health Center

JULY 8 Grinch-mas in July, KC Wine Co. Vineyard and Winery The Black Creatures with Adeta Marie and Bad Alaskan, The Black Box Theater Drawing at the Museum with Sharon Hunter-Putsch, Kansas City Art Institute Kitchen Kids Go to the Farm, Gladstone Community Center

JULY 9-11

History Geek Camp, Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center

JULY 6 The Suicide Squad, Theatrical film release Nature Walk at Baker Wetlands Discovery Center, Lawrence, KS Anastasia, Starlight Theater

JULY 7 Blues Traveller, Knuckleheads

Annie, Jewish Community Center, Overland Park, KS



Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market, Downtown Lawrence



P.O. Box 254 Winfield, KS 67156

KCAC June Exhibitions: Margo Kren, Jim Needham, and Brian Spies, Kansas City Arts Coalition

Ryan Lynch, KC Wine Co.

Auschwitz, Union Station Kansas City

♫ 4 Stages in Operation ♫ Round the clock jamming ♫ Workshops ♫ Arts & Crafts Fair

JULY 4-25



Visit the Museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, multiple dates

Kansas City's oldest locally owned brewery

O GO T S E G TL ERIN •BOT D R INE O •ONL CH •MER rds a c t •Gif

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Q Kansas City BBQ Festival, Arrowhead Stadium, Show your favorite KC BBQ spot some love

while also giving, say, San Antonio’s 2M Smokehouse a try. Local pitmasters include Deborah “Shorty” and Mary “Little” Jones (Jones Bar-B-Q), Jeff Stehney (Joe’s Kansas City), and Todd Johns (Plowboys BBQ). Keep an eye out for Operation BBQ Relief, whose set-up features Stan Hays and John David Wheeler. OBR is a nonprofit organization that brings hot meals to communities and first responders in the wake of disasters like


the 2011 EF5 tornado in Joplin. Entry is free, and festival-goers can choose to buy BBQ and drinks inside or go the all-you-can-eat route with a $79 Pit Pass.

JULY 9-11 KCMPT New Playwright Festival, Just Off Broadway Theater

FRIDAYS FROM JULY 9 TO AUGUST 6 Camp Wornall / Majors, Alexander Majors House Museum

JULY 9 Idaho / The String and Return / Slights, Lemonade Park Billy Ebeling, KC Wine Co. Weekender, Crown Center Square Your Ultimate Outdoor Experience, Southmoreland Park Backyard Movies: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Screenland Armour Arnold Young, 1747 Summit St. The Instamatics, Aztec Shawnee Theater

JULY 10-MARCH 2022 Castles, Cottages, and Crime, NelsonAtkins Museum of Art

JULY 10 Water Lantern Festival, Frank A. Theis Park Ryan Grace Memorial Hambino, Hamburger Mary’s Calvin Arsenia, Lemonade Park Par 3 One Club Challenge, Hy-Vee Arena Adam Stuber, KC Wine Co. Raj Mall Open Studio and Concert Series: Fritz Hutchison and Jametatone, 2829 E. 7 St. Knock Kneed Sally, Aztec Shawnee Theater Backyard Movies: Ghostbusters, Screenland Armour The SmartAlecs, Aztec Shawnee Theater Beginners Photography Class, National WWI Museum and Memorial

Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7, The Ship

Saturdays with the Swing, Alexander Majors Historic Museum

On the Lawn: Summer Concert with Crystal Rose, Kansas City Museum

Book Sale, Lawrence Public Library, multiple dates

Murder Mystery Dinner, Belvoir Winery and Inn

Brunch and Day Party, Soirée Steakhouse and Oyster Bar

Art That Blows, The Abbott,


Band of Angels is a local nonprofit that provides KC-area students with musical instruments and scholarship opportunities, and they’re throwing a party in the Crossroads this summer. The sixth annual Art That Blows will be held at 1901 Cherry St., where guests can bid on donated, nonfunctional musical instruments that have been turned into art. Ticket holders will enjoy live music, as well as drinks, apps, deserts, and skyline views. Best of all, proceeds from the event go to students in need: Band of Angels has collected 2,000+ instruments to give to students in over 60 school districts. General admission tickets are $35 and VIP tickets are $75.

Cameron Russel, KC Wine Co. Dagorhir Boffer LARP, Meadowmere Park Matt Carillo, 1747 Summit St.

JULY 12 St. Joseph Patee House and Glore Museum Tours, High Blue Wellness Center KidScape Summer Adventures: Retro Week, Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center | July 2021 | THE PITCH



JULY 12-15

Voted Best Mom & Pop restaurant in The Pitch’s Best Of KC.

MCHE Summer Institute: The Path to Genocide, Union Station

JULY 13 Sunflower Writers Workshop, Online

JULY 14 Charity Drag Bingo, Hamburger Mary’s


while full weekend passes are $60 each. VIP weekend tickets are available for $75 each or $120 for two. Remember: never feed the gremlins after midnight.

JULY 17 for King and Country, Azura Amphitheater Ukuleles: Beginner Workshop for Children 10 and Under, Shawnee Town 1929 Museum Matt Snook, KC Wine Co. Raj Mall Open Studio and Concert Series: Fritz Hutchison and Jametatone, 2829 E. 7 St.

Kansas City Nutrition and Wellness Festival, Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery The Great Car Show, National WWI Museum and Memorial

JULY 19 Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard with Poison, Kauffman Stadium

JULY 20-25 The Illusionists, Starlight Theater


Celebrating Our 20th Year!! Thank You KC!

Gallery Guided Meditation, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art


Pints on the Patio: Jessica Page, Kansas City Irish Center

Eat Drink Play: An Evening of Fun for Grownups, Wonderscope Children’s Museum


Backyard Moves: Twister, Screenland Armour

Nathan Corsi, KC Wine Co.

Kadesh Flow / NuBlvckCity / Mensa Deathsquad / DJ Skeme, Lemonade Park

Better Off Dead, Aztec Shawnee Theater

Weekender, Crown Center Square

Soul Jazz with KC Green, The Ship

Nick Nave, KC Wine Co. Weekender, Crown Center Square

Moonlight Bike Ride, Old Town Lenexa Maria the Mexican / the MGDs, Lemonade Park

Moose with a Scarf: Neon Kingdom Debut Concert and Album Launch Party, Shawnee City Hall

Backyard Movies: Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Screenland Armour

Pop-Up Yoga, Kansas City Museum, multiple dates

EMS: Extemporaneous Music Society, 1747 Summit St.

Christmas in July, Wyandotte County Lake

Meghan the Band, Aztec Shawnee Theater


The Cubanisms, The Ship

Erica McKenzie, KC Wine Co.

The Night House, Theatrical

Dagorhir Boffer LARP, Meadowmere Park

JULY 16-18

Leah Sproul, 1747 Summit St.

enjoy Beer and Wine with your meal or to go! 1667 Summit Welcome outKCMO of town visitors! 816-471-0450

TUES - SAT 6AM-5PM SUN 6AM-3PM 1667 Summit , KCMO 816-471- 0450

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Tube of fake blood leftover from last Halloween? Now’s your time to shine. MidJuly, the tenth annual everything-hauntedand-spooky Crypticon convention takes over KCI Expo Center. The event promises steampunk, goth, cosplay, and anime vibes, plus live music, magic, and comedy. Scream queen Dee Wallace of E.T. and The Hills Have Eyes fame will be there to answer questions and take photos, as will Titanic’s villainous Billy Zane, among others. Some panel topics include The Walking Dead and Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Single day tickets range in price from $20 for Sunday to $35 for Saturday, KUHLPICS


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

Everclear / Living Colour / Hoobastank / Wheatus, Grinders

Pre-War European Jewry, MCHE via Zoom


Backyard Movies: Labyrinth, Screenland Armour Matt Carillo, 1747 Summit St. Old, Theatrical film release Summer Chill Art and Craft Expo, The Pavilion at John Knox Village 4-H on the Farm: Outdoor Art Adventure, Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum Friday Afternoon Camp: Native People of Missouri, Alexander Majors Historic Museum Friday in the Park, William E. Macken City Park, multiple dates

JULY 24-28 Grand Carnivale, Worlds of Fun,

Worlds of Fun amusement park is back with another season of vibrant sensory magnificence. For a week in July, the park gets lit with the Spectacle of Color Parade, a “joyous procession of cultural traditions from around the globe.” As day turns to night, the parade becomes a Carnivale street party, where guests can witness


high-energy entertainment, dancing, and international cuisine. Expect street performances, floats, games, and crafts, too—maybe a glimpse of the King of Carnivale himself. Season passes for the park range in price from $75 to $202, and daily admission tickets start at $35.

JULY 24 Paseo’s ALL Alumni BBQ, Oak Park Bryton Stoll, KC Wine Co. Route 66, Aztec Theater Josh Abbott Band, PBR Big Sky Backyard Movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Screenland Armour The Grisly Hand, The Ship North KC YMCA Youth Triathlon, North KC YMCA Dagorhir Boffer LARP, Meadowmere Park Chris Stewert, KC Wine Co.

Songwriting Workshop with Holly Arrowsmith, National Airline History Museum Dillingham-Lewis Museum Ghost Hunt, Blue Springs Historical Society

JULY 26 WWE RAW, T-Mobile Center

JULY 27 Educational Series: Plan for Tomorrow, Today, Alexander Majors House Museum

Backyard Movies: Pitch Perfect, Screenland Armour



Oddities and Curiosities

Heartland Chamber Music Festival, Midwest Trust Center

JULY 30 The Green Knight, Theatrical film release Sunset Goat Yoga, The Barn on Hickory, Stewartsville, MO

The Lone Bellow, Knuckleheads

Friday Afternoon Camp: Underground Railroad, Alexander Majors Historic Museum


Newsies, The Theater in the Park, Shawnee, KS

Jammin’ on the Green with the Vine Street Rumble Jazz Orchestra, Shawnee Town 1929 Museum

Everybody’s Favorite BBQ and Hot Sauce Festival, E.H. Young Riverfront Park


Douglas County Fair Demolition Derby, Douglas County Fairgrounds

Expo, KC Convention Center, If you’ve ever found yourself desperate to take a jackalope taxidermy class, you’re in luck: the traveling convention for lovers of the peculiar comes to KC at July’s end. The Oddities and Curiosities Expo hand selects vendors and artists who deal in bizarre arts including taxidermy, horror-inspired artwork, antiques, artisanal oddities, torture-y medical devices, bones and skulls, dark jewels and clothing, and, according to the site, “funeral collectables.” We’re not scared, but we’re not not scared. General admission tickets can be purchased for $10 in advance or $15 day-of. The jackalope class is $120 per person.

The Cadillac Three, Knuckleheads

JULY 31 Missouri Wine and Jazz/Blues Festival, Kansas City WWI Museum and Memorial

Miguel Antonio, KC Wine Co. | July 2021 | THE PITCH




Jake Walker was one of more than 50,000 union workers who lost thousands of dollars of expected income due to gigs lost in 2020—so he reached out to his friends on Facebook to ask for help. Walker shared that “Within a day, my friends stepped up and because of their generosity, I was able to survive till my unemployment kicked in. Then I had a lighthouse moment: there’s a lot of people who didn’t have access to the help I received and I was compelled to pay it forward.” Walker reached out to his friend, John Moore, who had started the Denver Actors Fund several years ago. Jake had floated the idea of starting a Kansas City Actors Fund several years ago, and now the pandemic made the need even more urgent. After gathering a group of like-minded industry mem-

Unicorn Theatre, which currently houses their food bank. You can also volunteer to deliver food bank packages or request to host a drive in TCF’s name at your business. As theatre begins to come back and the Jerome stage reopens, TCF is looking for a long-term home for their needs with cold storage, room for a few desks, and an area for a conference room. If you know of a good place, definitely let them know! And if you’d like to donate directly, TCF’s stock needs vary from week to week depending on deliveries. Most days, they are looking for toiletries, specifically products for textured hair with no sulfates. As one of their several missions, TCF is investing in the visions of BIPOC artists. The organization is now taking submissions for their generative arts grant, The Theatre Arts

Above: Cynthia Hardman at the Black Box on Troost with donations from their students. Lower Left: Amanda Arany, TCF Board Vice President. Lower Right: Jan Kohl, after delivering a care package and receiving a gift bag as thanks from the recipient. COURTESY OF TCF

“THE MOST COMMON PHRASE TCF HEARS FROM THE FOOD BANK’S BENEFICIARIES IS “WHEN I’M BACK ON MY FEET, I’LL BE BACK TO DONATE.” AND THAT HAPPENS A LOT, CREATING A CIRCUIT OF GIVING AND RECEIVING THAT IS NOW THIS BEAUTIFUL LITTLE LOOP OF PAYING IT FORWARD.” bers, Jake brought his idea to life. In October of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Theatre Community Fund of KC (TCF) was born. The TCF supports all theatre artists, technicians, and supporting staff in times of financial distress or hardship with volunteer support, food bank donations, and direct financial relief. But even as theatres reopen, arts funding will fluctuate, and the work of TCF will continue to be necessary. So, you want to volunteer? Awesome! One way to pitch in is by stocking donations and putting together care packages at The


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

Crescendo Award, which aims to empower local BIPOC theatre creators and increase visibility of their work. The board is particularly excited to read original scripts, adapted/ reimagined classics, and concept proposals for devised work, all to be blind submitted. Kansas City is a theatre town and many gifted designers, crew members, stage managers, directors, playwrights, and actors choose to make this their artistic home. Many of them forego opportunities in other cities because of a deep connection and hometown love for KC. TCF is a lightning rod for the generosity that runs through our

town. Giving to TCF means an artist can eliminate grocery bills for a month, avoid eviction, or receive assistance with their medical bills. The most common phrase TCF hears from the food bank’s beneficiaries is “When I’m back on my feet, I’ll be back to donate.” And that happens a lot, creating a circuit of giving and receiving that is now this beautiful little loop of paying it forward. Walker has been overwhelmed with the community response. “The support from the community has been incredible; people were so ready to help. They just needed an organization to

guide that help, and once we came along, patrons and community members alike stepped up so fast.” Want to support our amazing artist friends and be a part of something beautiful in Kansas City? To sign up to volunteer or check their donations needs, swing by their website at and give them a follow on Facebook. You can find more information about the Theatre Arts Crescendo Award through their website, as well as dates for free grant application workshops. And please consider donating through their PayPal at

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Dear Dan: I’m a 40-year-old gay male. I live in a big city, in a dense neighborhood. While I’ve been working from home during COVID, I’ve been sitting at my kitchen table facing a big window. Across the alley is an apartment with a deck. At one point, I noticed a cute, young, muscular guy outside. I ran into this guy a few weeks later at a neighborhood liquor store. While I was looking at porn one night I was stunned to find his nudes and a link to his OnlyFans. I instantly subscribed, went through everything, including his gay sex vids, and, yeah, I came. I tipped him and put in a few comments about what kind of content he should put up next. He took my suggestions and I tipped him again. About a week ago he knocked on my door and asked if I had jumper cables. That night, I found a six pack of beer by my door and a note from him thanking me for my help. I got back on his page and came so hard as I drank his beer. I don’t want to have sex with this guy—he’s not really my type and he’s too young. I do get off on knowing that I can pull up his dick pics whenever I want and that he will do anything for a few bucks. But I question if I’m crossing a line. He obviously doesn’t know his neighbor is jerking off to him and probably wants to keep his porn life separate from his private life. Should I feel gross about this? Rear Window Dear Rear Window: You know something about your neighbor that your neighbor doesn’t know you know about himself, RW, and knowledge is power, and having power over someone can be sexy. Power imbalances are such a turn-on that people will manufacture them in their absence. For some people, having less power (or giving up the power they have) is a turn-on; for others having more power (or being granted more power) is a turn-on. So long as everything is consensual and no one is being exploited or exploitative, RW, no one has to feel gross about it. (Please note: making sure no one is being exploited during consensual power play or during consensual sex in the presence of a significant power imbalance requires thoughtful self-scrutiny, solid communication skills, and a willingness to negotiate and renegotiate.)


THE PITCH | July 2021 |

What you’re doing is consensual and no one is being exploited. Your hot neighbor is putting his content out there for gay and bi men to enjoy—and straight and bi women too—and being recognized by someone at the liquor store or on the street is always a risk. Jacking off to your neighbor’s videos, enjoying the very slight power imbalance, and helping him pay his bills in the process isn’t gross. It’s the modern porn business working as intended. But even if your hot neighbor feels no shame about the work he does—and here’s hoping he doesn’t because there’s nothing shameful about it—your hot neighbor may not care to be reminded that his neighbors could be jerking off to him. (Or have it confirmed that at least one is.) If you were to get to know him better—surely you’ll say hello the next time you see him at the liquor store—and you became acquaintances and he brought up what he does for a living, RW, then you should tell him you’re a subscriber. But until that point, err on the side of keeping your mouth shut and your wallet open. You’re not endorsing or reinforcing shame about making porn by being discreet; instead you’re making a reasonable assumption about a boundary someone in his position is very likely to have, and respecting that assumed boundary. And finally, RW, I’m not sure I believe you when you say this guy isn’t your type considering the number of loads you’ve blown while watching his porn. And while he may be too young for you—and you can absolutely set a floor—whether men in their forties are too old for him is his call to make. Dear Dan: My girlfriend gave me an impromptu blowjob on our way to a party. When we arrived she kissed our host—a mutual (and vaccinated) friend—on the lips. This friend gave my girlfriend a strange look. I practice good personal hygiene but we’re pretty sure our host could smell my dick on my girlfriend. Should she have refrained from kissing the host? Excused herself to wash her face first? What’s the protocol here? Where That Mouth Has Been Dear Where That Mouth Has Been: Kissing someone after they’ve given a blowjob to someone else: it’s a risk we all take when we kiss people we aren’t dating. Hell, it’s a risk some of us take when we kiss the people we are dating. But as a courtesy to others, someone who’s just given a blowjob should go for the cheek instead. Unless they’re kissing the person they just blew, of course. In which case, wide open mouth with tongue. Dear Dan: I am a newly polyamorous woman in my late 30s. I am part of a triad, which is so fun and amazing, and I also have a boyfriend. The boyfriend is why I am writing. We have some serious NRE and have been spending a lot of time together. I recently met his girlfriend of 1.5 years and it derailed things for me. He has been sharing every detail of our relationship with her. She knew everything about me, every private joke we shared, and so much about our

intimacy that it made me incredibly uncomfortable. And I knew next to nothing about her and it was quite awkward for me. It turns out this was a boundary that I didn’t know I had. I feel betrayed and like there was a secret voyeur in our relationship. I am really into this guy but I don’t know how to move forward. How can I feel like we are sharing something special when he goes back to his other partner and tells her everything? He said he could adjust his behavior, but I don’t want to make someone change and then have to trust that he’s not reporting everything back to her. Is this something I just have to deal with in polyamorous relationships? Newly Poly Problems Dear New Poly Problems: You don’t want your boyfriend to do anything differently— you don’t want him to change—but you also don’t want him to keep doing what he’s doing. Sorry, NPP, but you’re gonna have to pick one: he’s gonna change for you, i.e. he’s going to “adjust his behavior” and stop telling his other girlfriend everything, or he’s not gonna change and you’re gonna have to get over his other girlfriend knowing everything. Or, if the issue was his other girlfriend knowing everything about you while you knew next to nothing about her, NPP, your boyfriend could “adjust his behavior,” aka “change” by telling you everything about her from here on out. Or third option (or is this the fourth option? I’ve lost track): you could dump him. If you don’t want him to change and you also don’t want him to keep doing what he’s been doing to you, NPP, then let him to do it to someone else. Is there a way forward if you want to stay together? There could be. It would help to know why he was treating you differently. Have you asked? It could be that his other girlfriend wants to hear the details about the other people he dates—maybe hearing the details turns her on, maybe hearing the details makes her feel more secure, maybe it’s a little bit of both—and he is too thoughtless or too scared or too inexperienced to ask what you wanted. If he’s apologized to you and explained the differing treatment—and if the apology seemed sincere and the explanation was satisfactory—you could let him adjust his behavior to make you feel more comfortable and then give him enough time to prove that he has changed…if you’ll allow him to change. And finally, NPP, this is something you’re gonna have to get used to as you continue to explore polyamory. Most polyamorous couples err on the side of sharing too much rather than too little. Some poly people only want a rough outline about their partners’ other partners, NPP, but some want to hear every last detail. If you don’t want someone you’re dating to share intimate details with their other partner(s), you’ll have to ask them not to share. Question for Dan? Email him at mail@ On Twitter at @fakedansavage.


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