Saturday will go down in history as a proud day for the Kansas City music scene. It will be known as the day legendary musician Daniel Johnston came to Kansas City and played with a local band in front of hundreds of people.

Johnston was there as part of the stellar lineup brought to us by Middle of the Map Fest. Four KC venues played host to dozens of band, including The Life and TImes, Cursive and The Raveonettes. But before we could get all starry eyed over the bigger bands, we dove head first into the local ones.

 

Hospital Ships

 

Hospital Ships at Middle of the Map Fest

When Hospital Ships got up onstage I noticed frontman Jordan Geiger donning a Cowboy Indian Bear shirt. The local force was strong with this show.

The band has a new album coming out this Spring, and many songs off the album were showcased on this night. With just four members onstage instead of the usual five or six, they experimented with more effects pedals than what I’m used to seeing in a Hospital Ships set.

I personally enjoyed the smaller ensemble’s rendition of “Honey Please.” Geiger really got to show off his vocals, ranging from soft and crooning to suddenly belting it out in full glory.

Here’s what they opened with:


 

Cowboy Indian Bear

 

Cowboy Indian Bear at Middle of the Map Fest

It was a huge bummer that Hospital Ships and Cowboy Indian Bear were scheduled so closely together, forcing many Lawrencians to skip out on the end of the Hospital Ships set while they booked it over to the Beaumont.

Luckily the Beaumont was pretty behind on their set times, so by the time we got there, Cowboy Indian Bear was still in the midst of a hilarious soundcheck. The comedic setup included Marty Hillard covering a bit of Sarah McLachlan’s “Adia,” and a snarky comment from the sound guy: “You guys were supposed to go on at 8:00, and it’s now 8:13. You wanna play or hang around for a couple of minutes?”

But when they started in with the sultry first song, I was almost knocked off my feet. They started with a new song and it blew me away.

The band warms your heart when they’re on stage, and every single member has the voice of an angel. They’re always in the best of moods, and you can expect to see hugs and jokes exchanged throughout the set. They were fun to watch, too. Drummer Beau Bruns was bouncing about the drum set, cocking his head to the side in rhythm, and Marty (despite his very tall frame) would occasionally stand up on his tippy toes while he played.

I turned to look at the audience and found a good portion were singing along with the band and bouncing along to anything they could. Cowboy Indian Bear, I think it’s about darn time you came back to Lawrence for a show. You blew us away tonight, and we can’t wait to see you on your home soil.


 

Daniel Johnston and Capybara

 

Daniel Johnston at Middle of the Map Fest

Some festival-goers were lucky enough to spot Daniel Johnston pacing about the Beaumont (or even the streets of Kansas City) prior to his set. The mood was tense as the excitement built up to his performance. So when he finally took the stage with just a single guitar, a massive wave of cheers came up from the crowd. His hands shaky, he trudged through a couple of songs, and then decided to lighten the mood. “Hello, Ohio!” Oh, don’t you just love him?

Fueled by his beloved root beer, he played a few songs wretched with emotion, and made our hearts break before stopping for an intermission.

He returned to the stage joined by local darlings Capybara, who would be accompanying him for the second half of his set. He introduced them as “Campy Barn” and then told a “joke,” which was actually a bizarre dream he had (watch him describe it in the clip below):

If your hearts didn’t swell with emotion from watching the legendary musician, then they should have at least swelled with immense pride for Capybara. This was a beautiful, once in a lifetime moment, and we were all a part of it. One member of the band was so giddy and overcome with joy that he could not stop smiling and giggling throughout the entire set. And they did such a fantastic job of playing, too. Congratulations, Capybara, you now have one of the coolest rock and roll resumes a local band could ask for.

Folks in the audience screamed out a few requests before Johnston popped another joke. “Thank you for coming out, it’s really great to be back in Colorado!” Johnston and Capybara finished up, but happily came out for an encore.

This was a tremendous, emotional and passionate moment for Kansas City, and I couldn’t help but notice people leaving the venue a little weepy eyed.
 

Mansion

 

Mansion at Middle of the Map Fest

We decided to wind down the night with Lawrence natives (and hard rocking metal heads) Mansion. They were set to play in one of the most poorly lit venues Kansas City has to offer (which is why I have no video to offer for you). They played in the basement of The Union. When I got down there, a bug immediately fell on my neck. This place was dirty. And so was the intense music Mansion had to offer.

Fans were air drumming and there was some major head banging going on. Mansion was in full on rock mode. They played what sounded one long 40 minute wall of noise, heavy on the distortion, peppered in with some major screaming.

I saw a lot of beautiful music tonight, but seeing the local boys in Mansion ensured that I left the festival like every concert goer should….with my ears ringing and my heart heavy with pure rock.

I’m going to go ahead and call it. This weekend’s festival was a major success, and I’d like to see it come back next year. The Midwest needs a good, solid music festival, and this undeniably breathtaking and awe-inspiring display of music could very well be just the thing we’re looking for.

-by Fally Afani

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