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Gametime rolls with Warped Tour for nine dates after its Kansas City stop, but several area groups will be part of the circus for one day only. Three local bands won spots on the bill through Ernie Ball's online Battle of the Bands; one of them, hardcore heavyweight Salt the Earth, was exiled to the St. Louis show on Friday, June 28. The other KC delegates are Jade Raven, providing the only estrogen of the entire event save female-fronted Tsunami Bomb, and Kingpin, which seems to have a way with battles of the band, having topped Jim Kilroy's inaugural Club Wars.
"I don't know what made us stand out to the judges," admits guitarist James Watkins, who compares his group's sound to the funk/punk/reggae hybrid favored by 2001 Warped attractions 311. "All we try to do is make music that we would listen to in the car or at home, and hopefully someone else will enjoy it too."
Currently working on a demo with free studio time that it received as part of its Club Wars prize package, Kingpin is hoping to score some gigs at large (albeit not Verizon-size) venues such as the Uptown Theater later this summer. It's also planning to play some more multiband affairs, such as a Club Wars "preseason" gig with Bent and Trip Hazzard on July 13 at Just Another Dive. "Festivals and battles are great because they put you in front of a lot of people that would normally not be at your show," Watkins says. "Battles create a lot of tension between bands, but I think that's because some people can't handle losing. Believe me, I hate losing as much as anybody, but you can't win every time, and even if you could, would you really want to? It would just take away from the whole point of the thing."
King for Two Days
While some major local blues events are facing dark days (see this week's cover story), the Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival has experienced an impressive growth spurt. A stellar showcase for homegrown talent, the Street Blues Fest has featured memorable sets from the late Sonny Kenner as well as D.C. Bellamy, Ida McBeth, Millage Gilbert, Myra Taylor, Duck Warner and at least a dozen other local standouts in its first two years. For 2002, the free two-day event maintains its regional flavor -- Taylor and Bellamy return, along with Little Hatch, who celebrates his eightieth birthday with a "living heritage" tribute show -- but adds an amazing out-of-town talent, Willie King. King and his group The Liberators play an exceptionally smooth-grooving soulful brand of blues, but it's his lyrics that really separate him from his peers. Whereas bemoaning bleak conditions is standard blues practice, holding an oppressive state responsible for poverty-caused misery is an unusual political statement. On "Terrorized," a track from his latest album, Living in a New World, he sings, They wouldn't let me got to school/You know I didn't know how to read and write/... And they called me a fool/You know they laughed at me and I didn't even make a sound/You know they drug me around and hung me from the tallest oak tree/Talk about terror, I've been terrorized all my days/You know I wish it would change.
King hosts his own annual event, the Freedom Creek Festival, in Aliceville, Alabama, at which he presents unheralded blues elders and humbly displays his own wide-ranging talents: carpentry (he builds the stage), making preserves, quilting and other "survival skills" passed down through his family. This year's Freedom Creek celebration took place on June 15, so King should have plenty of freshly made goods to display on Friday, June 28, and Saturday, June 29, in front of Club Paradox at the corner of Garfield and Parallel.