Bill Sundahl is still tweaking his formula for optimal results when it comes to his Crossroads Music Festival. In its sixth year, the homegrown showcase was heavy on the alt-country and easy listening acts, but pretty light on the rock.
Nicolette Paige played at the Kansas City Cafe bright and early in the night to a mostly female crowd. The venue didn't have an extensive sound system, and employees insisted on seating me at a table when I arrived. Paige plays typical woman-and-her-guitar fare. Originals, I'm guessing, but it was hard to understand her song introductions from where I was sitting. She plays her instrument left-handed. She often plays with a back-up band called the Iries, and calls her music "eclectic, with a mixture of folk, soul, and reggae." It's good music for the campfire but didn't do much to fire up the crowd for the long night of music ahead.
Faster Horses, a Tony Ladesich project, opened up at the Brick. (Programs that were passed out with wristbands listed the band as "Fater Horses.") I don't think Ladesich and co. have set up a website or a myspace page, but in their defense, they are old dudes. The band referred to its style as "Old Man Rock n' Roll"; I like to call it "Songs for the Working Folks." Tony Ladesich is Kansas City's Bruce Springsteen, and he can seriously work a whammy bar. Faster Horses' organ player added the perfect layer of sound to the slightly crunchy, rootsy rock. The olds in the crowd were totally diggin' it, and the band looked like they were in enjoying themselves -- they even prompted the crowd to get their "motherfuckin' hands in the air."
I floated around for a while after that. There were long breaks in between sets at each of the venues, which often prompted people to rush to where there was music going on.
I saw my old co-worker Jason Harper, and we reminisced about last year's CMF. I got the chance to recount the uncomfortable, awkward performance by a band (whose name is two repeating verbs) whose frontman wouldn't start the set until his parents arrived.
I decided to check out Diverse at Czar Bar. I thought I could eat there, too, but alas, they shut the kitchen down with a full house at 9 p.m. (Not cool for a bar with a milkshake statue in front.) The jazz quartet -- made up of Ben Leifer on bass, John Brewer on keys, Hermon Mehari on trumpet and Ryan Lee on drums -- was heavy on solos. The crowd was much more lively than one you might find at the Blue Room. Folks were transfixed by Mehari's improvisational style and Lee's beats. Diverse covered Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic" and Bobby Watson's "Gates BBQ Suite." (Watson's piece sounds exactly like the music you hear in Gates late at night, while thinking about the regret you're going to endure later about your drunken food choice.) It was upbeat, smooth and full of drums. Of course, I'm not doing Watson's KC masterpiece justice: Get the full scoop on this work here.
After about 50 minutes, Diverse was joined by the charismatic Les Izmore, whose vocals picked up the pace of the performance. The crowd was thick -- too thick. It was time for me to bow out.
Critic's Bias: I would have enjoyed the night a little more had the Old Black not canceled.
Seen in the Crowd: At least two older men motorboating their equally as old wives/girlfriends/lovers. (Shudder).