If bus lines ran regularly among the crawl's sixteen geographically spread-out clubs (see www.kcbluessociety.com for the full list), the city would see a serious spike in nightly crowds -- not to mention a decrease in drunken drivers.
For downtown residents, it's a daunting drive to B.B.'s Lawnside Bar-B-Que on 85th Street, especially when they have to make the return trip at midnight after a few beers. Similarly, even premium touring acts at the Grand Emporium might not be enough to lure work-weary suburbanites to 39th and Main. But on Tuesday, March 4, between 8 p.m. and midnight, blues fans can hop between bars and leave the driving to Kincaid's Big Coach lines.
Notably, these aren't Metro vehicles -- it's impossible to attend most concerts using standard-issue public transportation. The truth is, ATA riders can't roll down Third Street in Kansas City, Kansas -- home of Bellamy's crawl space Club Paradox -- after 6 p.m. The River Market venues (Winslow's, which hosts Big John Amaro, and River Market Brewery, with Dan Bliss and Bluetonium) are entirely inaccessible by Metro. The Red Bridge route could drop riders within a cross-country course of B.B.'s (where they'd hear San Francisco-based standout Frankie Lee) and the Creekside Pub & Grill at 99th and Holmes for Carson's gig, but clubgoers would have to camp out overnight to catch the 5 a.m. bus back.
The regular Country Club bus route does draw a line between the Grand Emporium (offering authentic N'awlins flavor with Donna Angelle and the Zydeco Posse) and the 75th Street Brewery (fellow Louisiana imports John Lisi and Delta Funk), with stops at noncrawling club clusters such as the Plaza jazz spots and the Brookside bars. The Ward Parkway line loosely parallels this downtown-Westport-Plaza leg. Both run regularly between 9 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., with a new bus arriving every 30-60 minutes.
Such service should be lauded, but it should also be expanded. Instead, with massive ATA budget cuts on the way, music fans can expect canceled routes rather than encore-friendly hours.
Kansas City's sprawling layout makes its transportation shortcomings even more glaring. Westport comes closest to approximating music-saturated strips such as Sixth Street in Austin, Texas, and Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, but four live-music forums within a two-block radius does not constitute one-stop shopping for the nightlife set. Besides, many midtown residents reject the area's dance-club offerings. They'd appreciate a ride to hipper stops such as the Brick or El Torreon, much as the Johnson County imports who flock to Have a Nice Day and America's Pub would probably love not having to fill their SUV gas tanks on the way to Westport and then again on the way back home.
Imagine shuttles to shows at Kemper Arena and Verizon Amphitheater, similar to the Royals and Chiefs expresses. Concertgoers deserve an alternative to double-digit parking fees and after-show traffic bottlenecks, both of which make a bus ride to Bonner Springs seem inviting by comparison.
Realists no longer look to downtown for amplified sounds and non-nudity-related neon; they know better than to expect power and light in this area. But the loft livers who still buy into the area's future should at least have escape vehicles waiting for them when they decide to venture elsewhere in search of a beat, or at least a pulse. Imagine nightly shuttles delivering them to shows at 18th and Vine's Blue Room and Gem Theater.
Instead, as home of both the jazz district and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority complex, 18th Street is officially Kansas City's boulevard of broken dreams.
So all that's left is to hope that whoever wins the impending mayoral race decides that the Mardi Gras Club Crawl's sterling annual example should be repeated regularly. Granted, the crawl costs beaucoup beads -- the Blues Society will spend more than $10,000 on its buses.
But consider the purchase of every Mardi Gras Club Crawl ticket an endorsement of all the issues for which it stands: blazing blues, bountiful buses, girls gone wild. Or consider it a vote of confidence for Blues Society President Stan Koron, whom the next mayor might want to appoint transportation commissioner.