Right from the beginning you could feel that day two of Kanrocksas was a bigger animal, the heat wasn’t keeping the thousands of people in attendance away from Kansas City’s biggest concerts. Day one was impressive, but nothing compared to day two. The line up was solid boasting band after band with must see potential. Running from stage to stage was a must as missing any of the bands would leave you with that “I wish I was there feeling,” but the show really didn’t start to heat up until Austin’s The Black Angels took the stage.
The psychedelic rock band was at the top of it’s game and by 2:50 p.m. the band had by far the largest crowd so far. Their vintage sound was taking me back to the point where I almost expected someone to announce “Don’t take the brown acid.” You could tell the crowd was feeling the same way as they swayed back and forth to the intrinsic sounds of The Black Angels. You could see the people slip away as the band rolled through their set. Nothing could stop them now as The Angels had control now it was just up to them to deliver.
Deliver they did as singer Alex Maas belted through songs like “You On The Run” you could see he was in control. Rather that spending much time talking to the crowd Maas went for the more subtle approach and let the music speak for itself. With the solid catalog that The Angels have under their belt no one could argue with why the band would take this path. If you weren’t at the festival or just happened to miss The Black Angels I highly suggest you check them out. For me there was no better way to fully kick my second day into gear.
Next on my list of must see bands was OK GO, and as I walked to their set at the Ad Astra stage I began to wonder if the walk would be worth it. Having never seen the band live fears that they were just another hype machine went though my head. These thoughts couldn’t have proved to be more wrong as OK GO set the bar for the rest of the bands for the day. It was almost as is if singer Damian Kulash was screaming to the other bands saying “top this!” The band did it all, everything from a hand bell performance, an acoustic moment from within the crowd, and even pulling a lucky fan on stage to finish out a song on Kulash’s guitar. Not only was the show filled with memorable moments, the band’s performance was living up to those little extras. Songs like “Here It Goes Again” had never sounded so good and left me with nothing but an impressed feeling. The band felt more together live, going with the old story that you can’t capture that live feeling on a record. OK GO is definitely a band you should make the effort to see live. I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
After the jaw-dropping performance of OK GO it was time for a mellow experience with Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. This is when I soon came to realize that there would be no rest period on day two because if you chose to take a brake you were risking missing that unforgettable moment. A venture to the five dollar water slide ride could mean that you were missing out on moments that you will never forget. The only problem with this is that you have to eat or risk reaching the point of total collapse. Luckily, the food trucks were in full swing and my favorite mobile establishment had dropped their prices. At Kanrocksas the Good You food truck had become my mid day savior and their statement of “Kansas City’s best burger” is hard to argue, specifically when it saves you from moments of total collapse.
After my quick resuscitation it was time for the band I had been waiting to see since the line up for Kanrocksas was announced: Cage The Elephant. Images of what Matt Shultz would do with the Kanrocksas crowd had been filling my head for days that anticipation was so high it was almost too much to live up to; well maybe for any other band to live up to. The thing was that these expectations were for Cage The Elephant and every time I see them I come away feeling like it was the first time. I had been a fan of the band’s self titled first album but it was with their album Thank You, Happy Birthday that they had really pulled me in. On that record they had let go and seemingly become on record what they were live, an hour long lecture on pure insanity.
Matt proclaimed that he had this dream where he could crowd surf for the entire show until his body went limp and the crowd just passed his lifeless body around forever. This immediately peeked my excitement as I knew then that we were in for something special. The flailing singer ran to each side of the stage to see more of the amped up crowd and send their excitement through the roof. This was the first time that I had seen the majority of the Kanrocksas patrons singing along with a band. Songs like “Shake Me Down” seemed to just flow out of the crowd to the point when the band had to play softly just to listen. Songs like “Indy Kidz” had never sounded better, there is just something about the lyrics, “while the whole world goes down the drain I eat the popcorn from the bag” that fits so perfectly with the performance of Cage The Elephant.
While most would think that hearing “Shake Me Down”,”Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, or “In One Ear” would be the highlights of the show, real fans of the band know that we have not reached the peak until Cage The Elephant has released “Sabertooth Tiger.” This song is what every set builds to, an explosion of guitar and screams topped off with Matt crawling into the crowd and standing on a sea of hands only to fall screaming “He’s a sabertooth tiger!” Rolling on top of the crowd Matt screamed every lyric of the song until his body went limp and he was passed to the stage where he was placed in the grass in a euphoric coma. A quick blaring of reverb and the set was over, leaving everyone wanting more. In that moment Cage The Elephant grabbed the title of Kanrocksas’ best performance like it was theirs all along.
Being hard pressed to do something with the adrenaline that was pumping though my veins I made my way over to see Flogging Molly. The Guinness-fueled Irish band sent the crowd into a frenzy. By this point you could see the crowd numbers start to rise and the people were ready for a good show. As the sun began to set you could almost feel an accumulative sigh of relief. The sun had been taking it’s toll on all of us sending many to their knees. At this point I noticed that the overall drink of choice had gone from beer to Mike’s Hard Lemonade. This was due to the fact that the venue had run out of beer. The numbers for day two had swelled way over anyone’s expectations and after Flogging Molly’s performance they were forced to make a decision, see Maynard and A Perfect Circle or dance to the beat of Girl Talk.
Those that chose to attend a party walked to main stage for Girl Talk. Obviously the majority of the crowd was down to party rather than relax with A Perfect Circle as Girl Talk had the much bigger crowd. Gregg Gillis came out to the stage and standing on his table took a moment to introduce himself and prepare the crowd for the awesomeness that was about to be thrust upon them. Once he jumped off the table and started his first beats, approximately thirty to fifty people pulled from the crowd came swarming out on stage and remained there with Gregg throughout the entire set. Their job was merely to have a good time and show the crowd a few new dance moves. Gregg had also come equipped with a couple of guys arming leaf blowers with toilet paper rolls attached to the end. They spent the first half of the set coating the entire crowd, stage, ground and anything else with toilet paper. For those not familiar with Girl Talk, he is a DJ known for digital mashups like Adele’s new song, “Rolling in the Deep” over the beats of a Metallica song, or mixing Weezer and Lil John seamlessly. The crowd loved every moment of it too. As soon as they recognized a song they loved they all started to sing along and just like that, Gregg would throw another beat over it of another well-loved song in a completely different genre, ensuring that no one in the crowd was left standing there wondering when they would be included. This was my first time seeing Girl Talk, but without a doubt I would attend his show again and again if for nothing else but to watch the crowd freak out. It was a mind-blowing good time and it won’t soon be forgotten.
A Prefect Circle was more of a religious experience for some, with the stage covered with large crates and Maynard positioned in the far back the band seemed ripe with mystery. They quickly flew into songs from their three album catalog taking only brief moments to tell the crowd to calm down and stop pushing. The set flowed nicely though songs like “Judith”, “Passive”, and “Imagine” originally by John Lennon. The set was extremely passive and moving. The crowd themselves added to the overall mood of the show by lighting lanterns with hopes that they would float closer and closer to the stage. This was a much needed lull in between the high energy sets of Cage the Elephant, Girl Talk, and Flogging Molly. It was also a rare occurrence where the fans at A Perfect Circle show were allowed to take pictures. Usually fans will be ejected from the show if even a glow from a cell phone is seen. Though pictures were allowed it didn’t make it any easier to catch a glimpse of the band front man Maynard Keenan. Covered in shadows at the back of the stage not even a light illuminated the singer. Even without a strong visual presence the crowd was hard pressed to take their eyes from his portion of the stage as if his hypnotic voice was calling them in. After what seemed like only a few moments the show was over and the crowd began to move to the next stage to see The Black Keys.
The two piece band from Ohio was on key to give Muse a run for their money in terms of crowd size. On a stage decorated like a Hawaiian hotel lounge The Black Keys brought back that solid rock n roll feeling that Kanrocksas was in need off. The power of Dan Auerbach’s guitar ripped through the crowd and sent arms into the air. The Black Keys weren’t going to let anyone show them up they didn’t need lasers to get their point across that they knew how to rock. The driving drums of Patrick Carney gave the crowd no other choice but to move to the beat. Songs like “Tighten Up”, “Next Girl”, and “Ten Cent Pistol” sounded better that ever and showed off the band’s talent live. If you’ve ever heard about how good the Black Keys are live and shook your head in disbelief, I’m can tell you all the rumors are true and they may be a little modest with how good the band really is live. There just isn’t anything like hearing “Howling For You” with the backing vocals of thousands.
After The Black Keys said goodnight the mob of people now armed with glow sticks made their way to the main stage for the final band of Kanrocksas, Muse. The five clusters of LED screens shined through the night begging people to come closer. Before Muse could take the stage the crowd was becoming restless and chanting their name into the night’s sky. Eventually the lights went dark and the band took the stage bursting into their fist song “Uprising.” Everything on the stage was lit up including vocalist/guitarist Matthew Bellamy’s glasses. The flashing blue neon glasses were only a small part of the mind-blowing light show that Muse had brought with them. It may have taken all day to set up but by the end of the night it was worth it.The whole thing had a real Pink Floyd type feel to it complete with giant inflated eye balls filled with confetti.
In between songs Bellamy would treat the crowd to covers including a little Hendrix, “The House of The Rising Sun,” and fellow Kanrocksas artist Primus.Though cover songs were on hand the full Muse catalog was covered, bloated with songs from Showbiz to Resistance. Not one Muse fan could leave disappointed. Songs like “Super Massive Black Hole” seemed to blast from out of nowhere erupting the crowed into a mix of frantic screams and sing alongs. There was no stopping Muse, and impressive enough they even apologised for missing the show they had to cancel in Kansas City a year ago. All was forgiven as Muse held back nothing and gave their all to the eager crowd, but good things can’t last forever and soon Muse was leaving the stage and waving goodbye. Just like that it was over, Kanrocksas 2011 had come to a satisfying end.
Through out the two day festival I couldn’t help but be impressed, it seemed to run flawlessly with only minor hiccups here and there, but nothing even worth mentioning. Seeing the crowd grow within one day proved that Kanrocksas had proven it’s legitimacy and will be hopefully returning next year. Even if it doesn’t the memories will last forever for all that attended and hopefully they will provide more beer next time.
By Ryan Davis
Photos By Angela Davis and Kelly Powell