An aural and visual feast for the 30,000-plus fans who made it out to KCK on Friday and Saturday, Kanrocksas was a well-executed affair. For $99 for one-day passes and $179 for two-day passes, festivalgoers got what they paid for and more. Because there was just so much going on, I decided to do my breakdown acronym-style.
is for Kansas Speedway, an awesome location for this event. It was fully and properly wired. Thanks to Samsung, there was an outdoor section of the festival infield loaded up with electrical outlets and bleacher seating with misters and flatscreens to watch bands on the Main Stage — a good place to decompress and cool down. This service was completely free and super convenient. I give a hat tip to Samsung, makers of one of the best cell phones I've ever owned, the Samsung Blackjack.
A is for ample space, a godsend in that horrible heat. Yes, there was a breeze, but temps reached 92 on Friday and 95 on Saturday. There wasn’t any shoulder-to-shoulder action unless you wanted it. This also meant that there was enough space for the abundance of hula-hoopers. Seating was also available in the lower bleachers normally used by those who come to the Speedway for races.
is for nice people. Kanrocksas was generally full of good-looking, friendly, courteous people. I saw hardly any jail ink, stretchmarks, muffin tops or pervy old dudes. The festivalgoers were young, healthy and seemed to have enough money for multiple $7 beers. Definitely not the same crowd that one would find at Rockfest or Warped Tour. My friend and I even got a genuine apology from a dancing woman whose hula hoop hit us in the face during the Muse set.
R is for rock-and-roll supergroup A Perfect Circle, whose performance on the Ad Astra Stage on the other side of Stageasaurus Rex had far fewer people than I expected. The fans who did show up got too close to the stage and prompted security to get on the mic and back them up. As per usual, vocalist Maynard James Keenan stood out of the aim of the cameras and spotlight. Girl Talk, which was playing/spinning on the Main Stage at the same time, could still be heard on the south end of the venue, but the pounding guitar and drum performances by Billy Howerdel and former Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, respectively, kept the crowd engaged. A girl in front of me (who I'm assuming must have been high) was decked out in multiple glowsticks and made dirt angels while A Perfect Circle did its version of John Lennon's “Imagine.” It made me feel more comfortable in my hot, dirty, sweaty body at that point. Small lanterns floated above the crowd into the night sky as Maynard wailed and hid. It was both poignant and fucking awesome at the same time.
is for the over-the-top performance by Muse, the Saturday-night headliner. I knew going in that the laser light show would be a must-see. Muse sells out crowds in Southeast Asia, Australia and the United States. And it was only about six days off from opening for Rage Against the Machine at the L.A. Rising Festival. Muse didn't play my favorite song, “Sing for Absolution.” I suppose it didn't fit with the rest of the set, but it would have made for a badass encore. Matthew Bellamy sounded crystal-clear, and the sound coming from the stage was incredibly loud. Call me dense, but I don't get the prog-rock references when it comes to Muse. Yes, the group plays a few guitar solos, and it is theatrical and innovative, but proggy? No. Don't get it. The set was a cornucopia of selections from all of its past albums, but many came from 2006's Black Holes and Revelations, a work noted for its political and science-fiction leanings. Its second track is “Starlight,” a song that Bellamy told us to “clap along to.” Between the lasers, the gigantic confetti balloons, and the aural attack of “Uprising,” it was one of my favorite performances of the year.
is for camping. I am embarrassed to admit that this was my first time spending the night in a tent at a music festival. It really wasn't that bad at all. Of course, people were up all night, and the lights stayed on until the sun came up, but festival organizers made it fairly hassle-free. There was a “convenience store” located close to the front gate where beer was being sold, and porta-johns were plentiful. There was more than enough room for everyone to spread out. Campsites were closer to the front gate than the parking-only lots, which made going back and forth between the inside of the speedway and your tent easy. There was unlimited access inside and outside until 11 p.m., at which time re-entry wasn't allowed.
K is for Konsept, as in the Lawrence-KC staple DJ Konsept who split for Chicago a few years ago. It's not that I don't like the Black Keys, but I needed something more energetic around 10 p.m. I made it over to the Critical Mass stage for John Digweed, only to find out that his flight had been canceled or delayed and he would be on the campground stage from 1:45 to 3 a.m. In his place was Konsept, a former KJHK DJ who goes from '80s pop to '90s hip-hip to new-millennium trip-hop in the space of minutes. The crowd seemed a little confused that a Puerto Rican, “don't-call-it-a mash-up” dude was onstage instead of the trippy, white, English Digweed, but they eventually got into it anyway.
S is for shorter lines at the food trucks than there were at the Westport Food Truck Festival. The food-truck phenomenon has traveled west, and though it appeared that the trucks still turned out good numbers, many people opted for the non-truck selections. This meant that with a short wait, I could get a $5 Good You grass-fed burger on seeded brioche instead of a $6 piece of greasy-ass pepperoni pizza. Among those spotted were the Magical Meatball Tour, Mad Jack's on Wheels, Indios Carbonsitos and CoffeeCakeKC. It was a good local showing.
is for an abundance of activities inside the festival. A ferris wheel, waterslide, an Eminem beanbag toss, and an air-conditioned Marlboro smoking trailer made for good times when standing around listening to the music got stale.
S is for satisfied, which is what I was after the Muse set. My friend and I went back to our tent to recap. Digweed was playing loud enough to provide the soundtrack for our vodka-fueled conversation. I never had one crack about the name of this festival, and I always believed that it would kick ass. I was right.
Muse set list
Map of the Problematique
Supermassive Black Hole
United States of Eurasia
Time is Running Out
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia