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Dancefestopia was held earlier this summer in the Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park, a location more advantageous for local businesses and more likely to expose tourists to the restaurants, districts, parks and other civic treasures of which we're most proud. But like Kanrocksas, it lacks a community element. The organizers of these fests can bring in all the local food trucks they want, but it doesn't change the fact that the events were created basically out of thin air by a couple of rich guys. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But festivals are like babies: A city likes to watch them grow, to root for them, to feel connected to them.
I know, I know — Middle of the Map. We're all rooting for Middle of the Map to become a thing, a reason for people from other cities to come to KC and experience the cool things we have going on here. And even though it's organized by a weekly publication attempting to lowest-common-denominator my weekly publication out of business, I am also rooting for Middle of the Map. I live here, after all.
But in the same way Dancefestopia catered too much to a hip-hop and pop demographic (Wiz Khalifa, 3OH!3), Middle of the Map — I can already hear the clacking keyboards of outraged Web commenters — has thus far skewed far too indie. Mission of Burma, Fucked Up, and Acid Mothers Temple are all cool national acts, but they don't draw hordes of casual music fans from surrounding states. Yes, Fun played MOTM, and it's popular. But Fun is a terrible band. (I'm sorry, Fun.) To convince casual music fans to come to KC — and those are exactly the people you need for a large, successful fest — you need a Bassnectar or a Black Keys or a Wilco or a Jack White.
These are tough acts to book, and MOTM is only two years in. But facts are facts: Many major cities that we claim to compete with host superior music festivals. Girl Talk, Flaming Lips, Dr. Dog and Dinosaur Jr. will play LouFest in St. Louis' Forest Park this August. Denver's Mile High lineup includes My Morning Jacket, Weezer, Phoenix and Bassnectar.
KC keeps pumping millions into entertainment districts, stadiums, arts centers. Now we're talking about dropping $100 million on an idiotic, two-mile, just-for-looks streetcar line downtown. The idea seems to be that if we build enough shit, people will come and visit. That's the wrong way of thinking about it. We've got enough cool stuff already. We need to give people a reason to come here and experience it. Here's a suggestion: Maybe next year, instead of spending $1.8 million bulldozing abandoned houses that officials were afraid All-Star Game tourists would spot from the highway, perhaps the city could instead budget some money for a music and arts festival. Partner with local businesses; hire an experienced company like AC Entertainment (which produces Bonnaroo and Forecastle) to attract talent and organize the thing; appoint a small board of local, in-the-know folks to ensure that the fest highlights what is special about this city. It'd be more complicated than that, of course — but not much.