Middle of the Map Fest Doesn't Disappoint in its Fourth Year

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Day Three:

STL's Palace opened for Kishi Bashi. Playing its second-to-last-show, emotions ran high as the mix ran low. Yet the crew of ragtag former thespians and ragamuffins tore around the stage like Peter Pan's Lost Boys. A poor mix will never rain on Palace's parade of rocket-fueled trumpet solos.

Kishi Bashi is extraterrestrial. On the outdoor stage, the sound ascended to a disorienting atmosphere that made the electric violin and three-part looped beats sound sublime. "Atticus, in the Desert" was particularly beautiful to hear in the twilight hours. Just when we thought the show was over, the band launched into a riotous cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Sans electric guitar, Ishibashi's touring bassist played Jimmy Page's signature guitar licks, using a digitech whammy pedal. He also sang note-for-note with the same slick perversion as Robert Plant. Meanwhile, Ishibashi crowd surfed with a Go Pro strapped to a turquoise pole, filming the entire event.

Caroline Smith at recordBar in Kansas City, MO - Photo by Blair Stiles
Photo by Blair Stiles
Caroline Smith at recordBar in Kansas City, MO

At the recordBar, Caroline Smith made every girl feel like a woman with a set spiced with sass. Smith and her two backup singers bopped and hissed tales of nascent womanhood with plucky come-hither coos of '60s doo-wop ingénues. "Magazine," and "Half About Being a Woman" were all too human. The boys who attended stared at Smith like school boys hot for teacher.

Why? was so packed at recordBar that the door was shut. Those inside were privy to a long-delayed set that saw Yoni Wolf and company shorten its act to a fan-favorite oeuvre. Wolf lurked about the stage and made penetrative eye contact with the front rows. He poured himself over us with his acrid spoken word. His monotonous timbre vibed over the band's live beats for "Strawberries," "These Few Presidents," and "The Vowels Part 2." The majority of the audience appreciated Why?'s groove, To view a packed established rock back and forth in unison as my glow necklace grabbed and pulled close to another's face bolstered the visceral nonchalance of the group's peculiar multi-cultural aesthetic.

Yoni Wolf of Why? at Kansas City's recordBar - Photo courtesy of Jim Vondruska
Photo courtesy of Jim Vondruska
Yoni Wolf of Why? at Kansas City's recordBar

Swaddled in the air of mischief and joined in a ferocious dance with desire and youth culture, Middle of the Map's fourth year running will live forever in my memory. I woke up the next morning and thought the same thingI did last year when I realized the show was over: "Damn. That was the fastest three days of my life."

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