Celebrating 5 Years of Music, Culture and Film
by Steven Ervay
Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest, curated by the Record Machine, returns to Kansas City in April with an extensive lineup that extends three weeks and includes the Film Fest, Forum and Music Fest. When it started 2011, Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest was a simple, two-night music festival held across four venues in Westport. The next year, the Forum was added, followed by the Film Fest in 2013. Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest has grown to be a yearly celebration of culture, music and creativity in America’s heartland.
Although it is traditionally the last segment of the Fest, the Film Fest opens this year’s Middle of the Map Fest on April 8-12. “In years past it felt more like the victory lap as the last event of the festival, and this year it feels like a great way to kick it all off,” said Nathan Reusch with The Record Machine.
The four-day lineup features more than 25 movies at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet, most of which would never have found a home in Kansas City otherwise. Ashley Dowgwillo, promotions and events coordinator for Ink Magazine, said, “In addition to the great indie films, documentaries and feature films you expect from a film festival, we do a series of music-related films that feature an in-theater performance from local musicians performing songs from the movie. It’s a really great connection between the Music Fest and Film Fest.”
Next on the Fest schedule is the Forum on April 16-17. A conference covering art, technology and culture, The Forum showcases Kansas City innovators alongside regional and national talent. “Nathan Reusch and I said the same thing for about two years: the forum was a love letter for Kansas City. We wanted it to show off all of the amazing things happening in KC that you otherwise might not know about,” said Chris Haghirian, Ink’s music promotions director. This year’s topics include panels such as Home Grown Tech for Social Good, The Happiness Factor: The Science behind Our Joy at Work, and Putting Kansas City on the Global Art Stage.
To kick off The Forum, author Malcolm Gladwell will be speaking April 15 at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, which is presented by Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest and Rainy Day Books. Gladwell has written five books, all of which have made the New York Times’ best seller list. Additionally, he has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1996. His books cover many topics, including sociology, psychology, personal success, probability of improbable events and his own history.
The last segment of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest 2015 is the Music Fest, which includes more than 120 acts April 22-25 and opens with two nights at the Uptown Theater before moving to Westport for the weekend. And though it is nearly impossible to narrow it down to just a few bands to see, here are five acts that should absolutely not be missed.
First and foremost, see Iron and Wine. Frontman Sam Beam has been active for more than 10 years and has released numerous acoustic-driven indie folk albums. While you’re waiting for Iron and Wine to take the stage, catch local duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear opening for Beam. Ward and his mother, Ruth Ward, have stirred up a considerable amount of buzz in Kansas City – and across the nation – being recently signed to Glassnote Records and performing on The Late Show with David Letterman.
My Friday pick is Ghastly Menace, a Chicago sextet, who will be playing in Kansas City for a second time on the Outdoor Stage. The band has had a swell of interest after premiering a single on music blogs Consequence of Sound and Stereogum.
Saturday’s must see is the “punk band from Planet Peelander,” or more specifically, “the Z area of Planet Peelander” which will be closing out Ernie Biggs. Peelander Z, a self-proclaimed Japanese Action Comic Punk Band, does what can only be called performance art and is a must-see.
Finally, don’t miss Peter Hook and the Light. Peter Hook, a notable member of New Order and Joy Division, will be performing both “Closer” and “Unknown Pleasures” during his set Saturday night on the Outdoor Stage.
More than just a film, forum and music fest, Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest is a way to experience our city. “Come with an open mind. There may be bands, speakers and films you may not have heard of before that will end up being your favorite. Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest is truly about discovery and showcasing great emerging talent,” Dowgwillo advises. The bottom line is: Kansas City is exploding with culture – bursting at the seams, leaking from the pores – and Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest is the exact catalyst this city needs.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to middleofthemapfest.com.