CoMusic Review: Friday at Kanrocksas

Photo by flickr user Silverzippo
The Flaming Lips perform at Kanrocksas. Photo by flickr user silverzippo
Kanrocksas, the new two day music festival in Kansas City, has come along at a difficult time. On one hand, interest in large multi-day festivals has never been higher. At the same time, there have never been so many festivals for concert-goers to choose from. New festivals seem to pop up every year, with many of them quickly fading away under the shadow of the giants (Bonnarroo, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, which incidentally also occurs this weekend). One day into the festival, it’s still too early to say if Kanrocksas will become an annual event, but the thousands who attended yesterday undoubtedly hope so.

 

From the moment I pulled into the festival grounds at the Kansas Speedway it was obvious who was the most anticipated act of the weekend. I heard no fewer than two dozen cars blasting Eminem just while waiting for friends by the ticket booths. The excitement is understandable. Eminem has been among the world’s most popular artists since bursting onto the scene in 1999 but has rarely performed live since 2005. Following a showing of his Brisk iced tea advertisement (seriously), Eminem rose up from within the stage to a roaring audience. Launching into Won’t Back Down from 2010’s Recovery album, it is obvious his lack of touring has not hindered the delivery of his lyrics. Eminem’s consistency throughout the night was impressive, which is perhaps a testament to his longevity as a popular artist. He performed many of his most successful songs, including a medley of My Name Is, The Real Slim Shady, and Without Me. Other highlights were a pair of songs performed with D12 and another pair with Royce da 5’9″, as well as set closer Lose Yourself.

 

Of course there was plenty of other music to enjoy. The day started out with a powerful pair of female guitarists, with Austin’s UME and the UK’s The Joy Formidable. D12 had a set of their own earlier in the day, which was unfortunately delayed considerably due to technical difficulties. A delayed set is lethal in a festival setting, since the set times are rarely flexible. The Arctic Monkey’s put on an impressive early set on the main stage, despite many choosing to check out Jack’s Mannequin on the far stage instead. It seems The Arctic Monkeys have never completely broken through to USA audiences.

 

Kid Cudi was the most surprising performance of the day for me. He performed with a full band that included a guitarist, drummer, keyboardist, and DJ. Cudi had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, even during a couple short interruptions due to an ear monitor problem. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed with The Flaming Lips performance. After 5 long years of near-misses, I finally managed to see The Flaming Lips for the first time in 2009. Since then, I’ve seen them 3 times in as many years. Singing along to the stripped down version of Yoshimi has become a Flaming Lips ritual, but it leaves me wanting to hear a  fleshed out version more in line with The Flaming Lips most recent material. All the tricks that make The Flaming Lips performances legendary are getting predictable. Set closer Do You Realize was equally predictable. Silver Trembling Hands from 2009’s Embryonic and What Is the Light? from The Soft Bulletin were highlights. Ween was the most fun performance of the day. They were playful on stage, but musically very tight. When a stage manager told them they only had time for one more song, the band lamented “We just got here.” Primus leader Les Claypool echoed the thoughts of many when he lauded festival organizers for putting two of his favorite bands (Ween and The Flaming Lips) on the same bill as his band. He also thanked them for appeasing his teenage daughter (Eminem).
The second day of Kanrocksas goes down today. Unfortunately I cannot attend. You can watch many of the performances at http://kanrocksas.com, however. Hopefully the festival returns next year.

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