So what’s my takeaway from the inaugural Kanrocksas festival at the Kansas Speedway?
First, I have a question:
What was the actual attendance? No, wait, even better:
How many tickets were really sold?
I’d like to know.
If you can answer that you win half of a happy hour cocktail and 30 minutes of meaningful conversation with none other than KCC godfather Hearne Christopher, Jr.
On to the observations…
For starters, the sound engineering and stage set up was excellent. At every stage, the sound was loud and clear, sometimes too much so, as at times there was a bit of bleed- through to other stages. That was probably more a product of the angles all the stages were set at than anything the techs could correct. Next time it’ll be a non-issue.
The physical plant was huge, much bigger than I envisioned, though I have never been on the infield of a racetrack before. And though everyone has complained about the long walks, once you were inside the venue, the walks were really nothing. The hike was from the parking lot to the venue. Maybe next year they could do something about that – it definitely seemed like they had plenty of open space nearer the venue that even we elitist media guys weren’t allowed to take advantage of.
Twenty-something, new KCC photographer, Katie Grogan, was feeling it as we hiked back to the parking lot Saturday night. She spent basically all day both days out in the sweaty mess. And she’s born and bred in KCK, so you know she’s legit. Katie spent the weekend schmoozing clueless security dudes and working her way onstage after the Brit-rock Arctic Monkeys took a liking to her.
She gave me the real real lowdown on the seedy underbelly of Kanrocksas. But be careful, it’s super seedy. Here’s what she said:
"Having this new festival at the Speedway was a fantastic idea, it’s a massive area and the overall atmosphere was awesome. It almost felt like I wasn’t at home because it’s something that never happens in Kansas but I’m super proud of KCK and I hope they continue to put on Kanrocksas every summer.
The worst thing was because it was the first year, it was very unorganized. The entrances and ticket pick-ups were confusing and asking for help was pointless because it seemed like no one knew where anything was. So hopefully if we have another one next year, it’ll be more organized.
My favorite act of the weekend was probably The Flaming Lips. Their set was so wacky and fun. The giant bubble, tons of confetti, giant hands and awesome lighting. It was very exciting."
If I had never seen the Lips before, I would probably feel the same way. They’re memorable, different, and kind of getting a little played out. Maybe they’re relying on this new wave of festivals and festival goers that still sees their act as a novelty.
And who can blame the Lips if the checks keep coming. Certainly not me.
Katie continues, "The vibe of the crowd was the usual for most shows – lots of drunk people. And despite the hot weather people were still dancing and rocking out like it was nothing. I love that vibe at concerts; it’s like everyone’s happy for the few hours that they last and no one has a care in the world.
I can’t say much on the food vendors because it was too expensive. No way I was buying 1 slice of pizza for $6 and a soda for $4. I actually gave in and bought a pretzel on Saturday night and it was cold and gross. Worst $4 I’ve ever spent.
I’ll agree with everyone else and say that the walk between stages was pretty far, but it wasn’t TOO bad. It was actually kind of confusing getting to the two stages that were on the other side of the Speedway. The sound was really good for the most part. Some of the acts had too much bass but maybe that’s because I was right next to the speakers.
Like I said before, I really hope that this becomes an annual thing because this is a huge deal for Kansas."
But despite some of the other issues, the biggest deal to me at live music shows is always the live music. For my taste, the Kanrocksas lineup was simply uninteresting. Not that that means anything. My taste is my taste, and I very likely could be WRONG.
I was most excited to see Muse, a band that is renowned for their live performances. And they put on a hell of a show musically and visually. But, here’s the thing: during the middle of their set, I could easily walk to the front of the stage. Know what I mean? I shouldn’t be able to do that. Not for one of the headliners. But I could, and the same for the Eminem set Friday night.
At other big festivals I’ve been to you can’t get close to the stage unless you stake it out an hour or two early. Normally, if you show up just before the headliner goes on, you’re talking 200 yards back. But that wasn’t the case at all this past weekend at the Speedway. No, you couldn’t get front and center, but pretty close – as close as you wanted on the edges.
I also was pumped to see Eminem, Ween, the Black Keys, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Girl Talk, and Kid Cudi. Other than that, nothing jumped out at me, especially considering the cost of the festival – $100 for one day, and $179, I believe, for the two.
That’s just too much.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me they might have been interested if the price was more in the $50 per day range, but for that lineup $100 per day was just too much.
Now, throw in Radiohead and maybe we have a different ballgame. And the Foo Fighters.
Then we can talk.