KCK Street Blues Festival
Date: June 27 & 28, 2008
Venue: Koran Temple parking lot
Better Than: A drunken evening at B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ
By LORNA PERRY
Click to view slideshow.
The 8th Almost Annual KCK Street Blues Festival got underway this weekend at the corner of 13th and State, in Kansas City, Kansas. Friday night featured Cadillac Flambé, Koolaide & Exact Change, Dan Bliss, Blue River Ordonnance with special guests Phil Sanders and Ernie Johnson and Millage Gilbert plus Tommy Soul. Friday’s attendance was hearty, but Saturday was the biggest draw – a sizeable crowd had settled in by the time the first event, a 12:30 panel discussion titled “KC Blues – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” with Jim O’Neal, Lindsay Shannon, Chuck Haddix, Groovy Grant and White Hat Mike Ross got underway. Throughout the large parking lot in front of the very tall stage, people had laid claim to asphalt, throwing down blankets, lawnchairs and coolers. Venders and their wares – be it BBQ, T-shirts, African Juices or the African American Democrat Caucus booth – were everywhere.
When the brothers-and-sister team of Trampled Under Foot took the stage, things got bluesy. Winners of the 2008 International Blues Challenge, T.U.F. is well deserving of the title. Kicking out number after number, sister Danielle sang the majority, and her voice is right up there with her bass playing – confident, and with plenty of gusto.
After T.U.F., it was time for the queen of the festival, Myra Taylor, to receive her newest accolade and title – Queen of the Festival. Taylor, now in her 76th year of show business, was born in Bonner Springs, Kansas in 1917 and continues to perform today. She’s a much loved, internationally-known jazz singer that honed her chops in KC’s most notorious jazz districts back in the day. We’re talking 12th Street and 18th and Vine – back when things were really swinging. She’s played with Charlie Parker, Jay McShann and Benny Moten, to name a few. She is very, very worthy of several, several awards.
Wearing queenly robes, Myra was wheeled through the audience and greeted every few seconds by friends and fans. Following her procession to the front of the stage, a local marching band called the Gateway Highsteppers Drill Team got up and did what marching bands do: Lots of synchronized steps, stops and starts and badass drum work.
The Leon Brady Youth Allstars, part of the “Living Heritage Tribute Show”, took the stage after the marching band marched off in tight formation; to back Myra up for a live rendition of the most famous song she ever recorded “The Spider and the Fly.”
Myra, apologizing that she “Woke up this morning with a little frog in my throat,” defied said frog and sang just fine, although her concern for band conductor Leon Brady – perched somewhat precariously on the ledge of the stage and at the edge of a fifteen-foot drop – was initially quite evident. (The nimble Leon eventually moved onto a wider part of the ledge.)
After the Allstars performance, Myra was joined by the rest of the Living Heritage performers, Luqman Hamza, Al Pearson and Lester “Duck” Warner, for a rousing set of original Myra Taylor numbers. Myra was then presented with numerous awards and a key to the city – KCK, that is.
A 17-year old St. Louis kid named Marquis Knox took the stage after that, and proceeded to seriously tear it up with amazing guitar work and the voice of a man wizened years beyond his actual age.
Chatting with spectator Laura Watson while Marquis played, I learned that this is the first year that the blues fest has taken place at the Koran Temple location – a vast improvement over its last home at 3rd and Parallel. “You just kind of baked on the asphalt there,” Laura explained. “This is a much better set-up.”
And there’s a Chinese place across the street that serves ice cream. It doesn’t get much better – or more KCK – than that.
Personal Bias: Myra Taylor is the bomb.
Random Detail: The Tao Tao Chinese restaurant in KCK is now serving ice cream.
By The Way: Chugging cold African Ginger Juice in the heat will give you brainfreeze.