Here's a look at this year's Crossroads Music Festival, which is Saturday at four music venues downtown. Feel welcome to let us know what's on your weekend agenda. / T.F.
This year’s eighth annual Crossroads Music Festival was affected by two significant circumstances and events.
The festival’s largest and premier venue, Crosstown Station, closed a month after last year’s festival, which forced the event’s founder and organizer, Bill Sundahl, to come up with another large venue. And about four months ago Sundhal’s wife gave birth to their second child.
So he settled for a compromise, one that enlists the festival’s new large venue, Crossroads KC. Friday night, three bands will perform at a prefestival show at Crossroads KC. Saturday, 15 bands will perform at Crossroads KC and three other venues: The Brick, Czar Bar and Midwest Musical Co.
The move to Crossroads changed the entire festival.
“Initially, I bought a tent thinking I’d find a place to put it,” Sundahl said. “But there was more to putting it under a tent than I thought, once I started pulling together all the permits I’d need. So I started talking to Crossroads and we put together a deal.”
That venue can hold from 1,800 to nearly 3,000 people so it will be more than an adequate replacement for Crosstown Station. But it also meant fewer venues were needed.
So this year’s will comprise four venues, down from the six or seven of previous years. One of the venues eliminated was the alley behind the Mercy Seat tattoo parlor on 16th Street.
“I like having an outdoor venue and hearing music pumping in the city,” he said. “And I liked having a stage at Mercy Seat. But now that we have Crossroads, we have a live venue, which is a real music venue. It also means we’ve increased our capacity by a lot, so we don’t need as many venues.”
The festival continues to showcase local bands, veteran and new. The lineup at this year’s festival and its preparty include stalwarts such as Hearts of Darkness, Good Foot and Rural Grit All-Stars. It also includes Supernauts, reunited for one show.
“We always want to have a balance between booking bands that people love and will draw well and showcasing new blood,” Sundahl said. “It was a little more difficult this year because I couldn’t get out as much to see a lot of new bands so I had to rely on the word of other people.”
One of the new bands he has booked is My Brothers and Sisters, founded by Jamie Searle, a former bandmate of Sundahl’s in the pop trio It’s Over. Searle studied composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s conservatory. He teaches guitar full time and is a member of two church bands.
“He’s turning into a music-writing machine,” Sundahl said. “It’s all on sheet music. He says, ‘Here. This is what you play.’ When he started this band I told him he could always call me if he needed a bass player. He said, ‘Yeah. I know.’ But I don’t read music with any efficiency, not enough to be in that band.”
My Brothers and Sisters is an orchestra that blends pop, rhythm & blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop and samba, according to Searle. The size of the ensemble varies according to how big the stage is and who’s available. The full ensemble comprises a three-piece horn section, a drummer, percussionists, a string quartet, a bassist, four backup singers, a keyboardist and Searle on guitar and vocals.
“I’ve done so many rearrangements and edits to my scores to whittle them down to a three-piece or five-piece and so on,” he said. “Rhythm comes first so it can be nice to strip everything down and get really raw. But I like it more with the ladies adding vocals because they sell it better. And having horns is great because there is so much power in them.”
He has worked with more than 40 musicians over the past year, he said. Several are with him consistently, he said, such as Julian Goff (drums), Dylan McGonagle (bass), Angel Gibson (vocals), Ben Eisiminger (keyboards).
“I pay everyone, which may be the worst financial decision of my life,” he said. “But I pay them because they’re all working musicians and they’re all super-talented.”
As of Monday, he was still filling out his roster for Saturday’s show at Crossroads KC. His band will open the stage at 7 p.m. He had enlisted 13 musicians, but was still looking for a cellist and a keyboardist — players who can step in with minimal rehearsal.
“It’s always fun,” Searle said “We’ve got nothing but positive responses.”
That’s what Sundahl is expecting: positive responses from fans connecting with some of their favorite local bands and fans discovering bands, old and new, that they’ve not heard before. He doesn’t expect the move to a much larger venue to affect the vibe.
“We’ve booked bands that draw a crowd and can fill that stage,” he said. “To play on that stage, you really have to bring it.”
There’s also a circle-of-life element to the festival’s move back to the area behind Grinders: the festival was launched in that space, when it was not much more than an empty lot.
“It’s where the festival was born,” said new dad Sundahl. “So it’s a homecoming and the venue is a far cry better now than it was back then.”
Fifteen bands will perform Saturday at four Crossroads Music Festival venues, all within walking distance of one another: Crossroads KC, 417 E. 18th St.; Midwestern Musical Co., 1830 Locust St.; the Brick, 1727 McGee St.; and Czar Bar, 1531 Grand Blvd. A preparty/show is at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Crossroads KC. That lineup features the Good Foot, the Grisly Hand and a reunion show by the Supernauts. Tickets are $10 in advance, $13 at the gate.
A ticket to all four venues for Saturday’s festival is $15 in advance, $18 at the gate. A two-day pass to Friday and Saturday events is $20. Advance tickets are available at CMFKC.com.
The Saturday schedules, in reverse order of appearance (starting times are 7 p.m.):
- Crossroads KC: Hearts of Darkness, Makuza and My Brothers and Sisters
- The Brick: Starhaven Rounders, Dead Voices, Victor & Penny and the Rural Grit All-Stars
- Czar Bar: Cherokee Rock Rifle, the Atlantic, John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons, and Mikal Shapiro, Kasey Rauch and Shane Ogren
- Midwestern Musical Co.: Appropriate Grammar, Dim Peppers, the Hillary Watts Riot and Thom Haskins.