As any true-blue fan knows, Split Lip Rayfield has always been about much more than Split Lip Rayfield. The speedier-than-thou Kansas punkgrass boogans united blissed-out hippies, grizzled hillbilly cats and plain-Jane music fans at their epic hootenannies, spawning a dedicated following that made last February's loss of singer and guitarist Kirk Rundstrom to cancer particularly poignant. A makeshift memorial at this summer's Wakarusa Festival helped the healing process begin, but the biggest news arrived in July when the remaining trio of Eric Mardis, Wayne Gottstine and Jeff Eaton announced that they would soldier forward. A couple of pickup jam sessions cemented the band's conviction to continue playing — minus a guitar player. "I think fans will experience the same phenomenon I've been having, where you can still hear Kirk," Mardis says. "It's something we all built together, and I know he would have wanted us to keep going." The Split Lip tribe unveiled a DVD of an emotionally charged December performance (one of Kirk's last) and returned to the stage in August with shows in Emporia, Manhattan and Wichita. "It was pretty emotional — in a good way," Mardis says. "A lot of the painful aspects of Kirk's departure were soothed by the music."