A local-band-heavy lineup makes for a Memorial Day weekend to remember.

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A local-band-heavy lineup makes for a Memorial Day weekend to remember.

Ah, Memorial Day weekend -- a time for travel, canoe trips and tentative testing of still-too-cold public pools. Once known as the unofficial opening of Hollywood's summer movie season (that date has crept into early spring), this weekend now signals the beginning of the equally important all-day music-festival season.

The traveling behemoths, such as OZZfest and Warped Tour, wait until June to really get untracked, and the lineup of national acts is actually fairly light on Friday and Saturday, which means that local acts dominate the first round of multiband, multihour bills. A few options for those who want to stay close to home instead of braving the highways:

· Westport's Irish Fest revives the festive feel of spring's other major holiday, St. Patrick's Day, without subjecting revelers to the cold, murky weather that characterizes Kansas City in March. Many of the area's finest Irish and Celtic musicians (Connie Dover and Roger Landes, Eddie Delahunt, Tullamore, Gabriel's Gate, Shenanigans, The Elders) have signed up to perform, as has Seven Nations, an Orlando-based band known, for better or worse, as the Celtic scene's equivalent to the Dave Matthews Band. Running Saturday, May 26, and Sunday, May 27, from noon to 9 p.m., the Irish Fest gives visitors the rare luxury of schedule flexibility. For instance, Seven Nations plays both days at 3 p.m., and it closes each evening with an 8 o'clock set. Organizers expect 6,000 to 8,000 people to attend over the two-day span, and with the assurance that they'll be able to catch their favorite act sooner or later, the area's many fans of all things Irish can feel free to indulge in such activities as making leprechaun hats and taking part in the ambiguously titled "Celtic rubbings." Proceeds from the fest benefit the Irish Community Center, a proposed cultural center that would host musical and dance performances.

· Another event donating its cover charge to a worthy cause, the Musicians for Link concert, boasts an eclectic roster that includes performance-oriented psychedelic freakout masters Be/Non, brainy alt-rockers Sturgeon Mill, the funk-infused Soulmatic and Mustard Couch, the rough-edged garage-pop trio Mountjoy and The Cats (a jazzy offshoot of The Band That Saved the World). The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday at Abe and Jake's Landing in Lawrence and benefits the town's soup kitchen.

· Contrary to popular belief, local working-class heroes The Main Street Saints will not be reuniting for a one-off at this year's StreetPunk festival. Neither, just to clear up any other lingering rumors, will Kelly's Heroes nor any other past titans currently on indefinite hiatus. However, Kansas City-based upstarts The Ugly Truth (Saturday) and Tanka Ray (Sunday) have been enlisted to represent the region in front of the impressive number of out-of-towners this event consistently draws. National headliners include The Tossers, GC5, Hudson Falcons, The Staggers and Beerzone. For the second year in a row, El Torreon is the all-ages club lucky enough to host what likely will be one of the weekend's biggest beer bashes.

· The Hooligan Holiday Scooter Rally precedes StreetPunk on Friday night at El Torreon, with the Gadjits, Hi-Fidelity and Deals Gone Bad revving up the visitor-heavy crowd at another cash-bar show. The Gadjits cap a busy Memorial Day stand on Saturday with a headlining gig at Pyro Room, while two more of Kansas City's biggest rock draws, Shiner and onwardcrispinglover, team up at Davey's Uptown.

· While many musicians choose to rest or travel over Memorial Day weekend, Kelley Hunt instead is playing her last local show before a five-week working vacation (i.e., tour) that will take her up and down the West Coast before curling into Canada. Hunt, in the process of gathering material for several interested Nashville-based producers, will give the Grand Emporium audience the first glimpse at her new creations on Saturday night before giving the songs a thorough road-test.

Pleasure Cruse
In the past few weeks, local bands have encountered some ecstatic crowds, from the packed in-the-know assembly that caught Kill Creek and special surprise guests The Get Up Kids at The Bottleneck on Friday, May 11, to the devoted throngs that flocked to see Danger Bob's return shows at The Hurricane on Friday, May 18, and at The Bottleneck on Saturday, May 19. However, Cruse entertained arguably the most excitable audience, opening for porn star Ron Jeremy's touring S&M show at The Granada.

It seemed to be the impossible assignment: fore-playing to a crowd that was in a hurry to get to the money shot. But Cruse -- which flanked its singer, ReGina, with two "raven-tressed beauties" -- actually might have outshone the headliner.

"My dancers got a little out of hand," ReGina admits. "One of the girls loves to be onstage and get naked ... but it was all good. It was in the proper context." Other contextually appropriate behavior in which the Cruse dancers indulged included whipping, crawling across the floor and fiercely competitive oil wrestling that left one of the participants with a bloody knee. Cruse's usual fans stood in front, absorbing the racy theatrics while continuing to dance. As for the adult-film crowd, devotees of an industry that doesn't have much use for opening acts, well, they were polite if not responsive. "They stood still, and their mouths dropped," Cruse reports. "But at least they were watching."

Jeremy's fans then eagerly devoured his set, some literally. "The banana-swallowing contest was hilarious," Cruse says. "These were real ladies from the audience, not plants. And the fake-an-orgasm contest far surpassed the whole Meg Ryan thing."

While Cruse won't be incorporating such risqué antics into its stage show, it has developed a new lust for spectacle. ReGina suggests that the days of Cruse's appearing as a duo, with her standing on impossibly high platform shoes in the middle of the stage while bandmate Brad handles the keyboards and programming, might be over. "I think things are taking a turn for us," she teases. And just in time -- Cruse plays Fetish Night at Davey's Uptown on Monday, May 28. "We'll grab some more dancers for that one," she promises.


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