Not that this will be an easy task. Tech N9ne and the Get Up Kids pack the place, but both acts have outgrown the local tag. Thrust drew a comfortable crowd of about 400 to its CD-release party earlier this year, a gathering that would have looked much more impressive at a smaller venue. But none of the groups on Friday's bill boasts massive drawing power: Jade Raven, on the strength of an irresistible EP and a few radio spins, headlines; Kingpin, with a Club Wars championship under its belt, hopes to lure followers to a noncompetitive setting; Green Means Go is a recognizable, if not fully established, multifaceted eclectopop outfit; and the Screaming Hots, featuring former members of the Electra Complex, will be playing its first show. It's a solid lineup for, say, El Torreon on a Thursday night, but weekend warriors with a wide range of entertainment options might ask "Where's Moaning Lisa, Season to Risk or Shiner?"
Kingpin kingpin James Watkins poses the same question. "I would feel better if one of those groups was headlining," he admits. "Or they should have a regional or national act headline the show. That way, the owners are less likely to lose money and more likely to have these shows regularly, and the opening local acts will have a chance to be put in front of a bigger crowd that otherwise might not have seen them."
Screaming Hots singer John Doom agrees, to some degree. "I understand why some people feel that way, but I hope people don't look at it as just another concert. It's more like a social event. We'd be comfortable with being background music," he says.
In Doom's mind, the Uptown Friday night could resemble one of the proms the venue sometimes hosts, with people striking up conversations while the Hots rock, moving forward during Green Meets Go, moshing during Kingpin and making overnight arrangements during Jade Raven's curfew-breaking closer. The local music scene could use such a meet-and-greet, he theorizes, because it's currently too contentious.
"Right now, it's just terrible," he says. "So much fighting. But if people step up at events like these, Puddle of Mudd won't be our only claim to fame. Kansas City doesn't have an identity. We need to create celebrities, even local celebrities, people we can point to and say, 'That's Kansas City; that's music.'"
On the one hand, Doom is right -- Puddle's Wes Scantlin is the city's only multiplatinum native son. On the other, KC isn't exactly hurting for recognizable local figures: Dozens of area musicians can expect to be stopped around town and asked about their musical endeavors. Regardless, most observers would agree that nothing but good can come from any event that heightens the music scene's profile. And the Uptown gig, absence of a big-name door-draw notwithstanding, could still achieve this goal.
For one thing, the Uptown's prestige gives the affair a formal feel, which might attract casual fans who enjoy the acts but don't care to check them out regularly at bar shows. Uptown concerts have the atmosphere of major events; bar gigs exude a come-and-go vibe. An Uptown show could lure a selective crowd, the music-scene equivalent of folks who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. (Battles of the bands draw well for similar reasons, but that phenomenon is more analogous to people who attend NASCAR or boxing matches only when they believe a fatal accident is especially probable.)