Someday in the distant future, pop culture historians will look back – in momentary lapses of trivial pursuits – and wonder at what was to have become Kansas City’s Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza. Alas, it was not to be as the ambitious music fest imploded a month before showtime, leaving 70 or so bands to fend for themselves.
Enter promoter Live Nation, which stitched together a stellar lineup of Kanrocksas bound bands that came thisclose to selling out Starlight Theatre Friday with a kick ass five band bill, headlined by rapidly rising star, Imagine Dragons.
As luck would have it – and unfortunately – I missed out on Churchill, Family of the Year and 21 Pilots. Although the middle-age-crazy, dancing, black usher lady in my seating area assured me all were excellent and all put on a great show – albeit for like 30 minutes each.
Let me tell you though, Kanrocksas promoter Bill Brandmeyer knew what he was talking about when he told me earlier this spring that one of the bands he was most looking forward to was the pop duo Capital Cities.
The CC’s burned down the house with a high energy, alt-dance groove punctuated by catchy power pop originals, kick ass covers and an ultra vibrant stage show. Mostly from the band’s EP and new album, with audience pleasers like Safe And Sound and I Sold My Bed But Not My Stereo and covers of Sinead O’Connor‘s Nothing Compares to You and Madonna’s Holiday.
One highlight: scene stealer, trumpeter Spencer Ludwig. So excellent was Ludwig’s trumpet work – the CalArts student caught on with the band after a jam session two years back – he was given trumpet solos on almost every song on the band’s set list. Including during a long and winding romp through the audience at Starlight.
These guys are the real deal and word has it they’re slated for a not-to-be-missed headline gig at the Granada in Lawrence this fall.
Imagine Dragons was more than up to the task, as mutual fund dude Adam Bold assured just prior to the band’s set. Bold jetted in from LA – where he now resides – to catch the Dragons having caught their act out there two weeks earlier.
“Kansas City, Kansas City, Kansas!” shouted Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds. “I love this state. I lived here for six months. You don’t even know.”
Having been booked to appear on the Kansas side, it was an easy mistake, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? Sorry, Missouri.
The Dragons are a band on a rapid rise after years of playing club gigs. So dramatic has the band’s rise been that Reynolds and company could scarcely believe their eyes as they gazed out at the packed house from Starlight’s gigantic stage.
“This has been really life changing for us,” he told the crowd. “We’ve been sleeping on your couches and playing to empty rooms the past four years and playing for our moms. I never thought we could play a venue like this.”
Translation: the Dragons couldn’t have cared less about losing the Kanrocksas gig.
“You know that festival, Kansas Rock or something like that,” Reynolds said. “It got cancelled and we’d been wanting to do a show here. And you guys came out and we only had two to three weeks, but you guys came out.”
Look, I’m no music writer, but I spent years promoting some of the top, up-and-coming alt rock bands in the biz and these guys totally have what it takes. To go from nightclub stages to the big stage at Starlight with the ease and power they displayed Friday night was no small feat. The Dragons were ready.
Matt Donnelly passed on this show because he thought it was too pop.
Pop-schmop, Matt, you missed a barn burner. These guys would have melted your earwax with their power slamming, high intensity, arena calibre performance that had the crowd on its feet from start to end.
This band is going places and fast and Friday night at Starlight nearly 7,000 Kansas Citians were able to get in on the ground floor.
“I can’t believe we’re here,” Reynolds marveled towards the end of the band’s encore song.