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Monday, 01 April 2013 09:08

Festival preview: Middle of the Map returns to Kansas City for a third year

Palace Palace Caroline Philippone
Written by Blair Stiles
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An expedient introduction: Middle of the Map Festival's genesis began post-the Record Machine, a record label owned and operated by Missouri native Nathan Reusch.

After almost a decade of work, Reusch desired to promote a Midwestern scene further: "It felt like a lot of great bands were hitting a ceiling and I wanted to do something different." Reusch brought his idea to Ink, a Kansas City newspaper, who partnered with Reusch and brought Middle of the Map to fruition.

On its third incarnation, fully alive April 4-6, 2013, Middle of the Map will snake around Westport, an area of Kansas City akin to Delmar's Loop. Lined with shops, restaurants and venues, it's Kansas City's chief entertainment hub. The proximity of musical outlets begets a spirited venture for anyone with a ticket to Middle of the Map. "You can run around from venue to venue and always see a great act or stand in the same room all night too," Reusch says. "We wanted to be sure that everyone had the same access to see great shows. We also do our best to make sure that you find something new and unexpected to love. That's why bands like Cowboy Indian Bear are opening for Grizzly Bear and why Palace is playing with Tennis."

Back in "Dolphin World," the shared moniker for Dots Not Feathers, Brother Nature (an experimental DNF/Palace amalgam) and Palace practice space, the latter seat themselves for an interview. Palace, a troupe of bombastic, indie-pop alchemists is fresh out of practice. Now surfeit on pizza they encircle a table adjacent to their practice space. Palace signed with Record Machine two and a half months ago (as an aside and a testament to my generations' new-age time-telling mechanism, this was confirmed via bassist Josh Eaker's social media back catalogue: "Twelve weeks ago. I just looked on my Instagram today"). The band played a Middle of the Map showcase and St. Louis showcase at Austin's notorious SXSW with Katlyn Conroy of Cowboy Indian Bear subbing for Sydney Scott who left Palace last month and Crystal Owens joined.

Singer/guitarist Matthew Kavanaugh's SXSW experience was marred by a medicine/fever-induced delirium. In Palace's first practice with Conroy prior to the show, Kavanaugh was too ill to leave a seated position. "Her in the street, me in the van," he explains. "I'm sick and delirious. It was pretty crazy." In order to play shows Kavanaugh showered to cool his fever. "He was Michael Jordan whenever we played shows. You would have never known," says Eaker. Kavanaugh replies, "I hit the jumpshot." Eaker corroborates, "I had a kid walk up to me after the show who said our music and the sunshine was the perfect combination. That was really cool."

For Palace, SXSW was a warm-up. Middle of the Map presents another opportunity to hone their festival chops. "Now we kind of have more of an idea what to expect," Eaker says. Trumpeter/fellow bassist and tall man Phil Grooms appreciates the homegrown aspect of Middle of the Map: "We're going to be in a Missouri city, seeing a lot of amazing bands, a lot of them who were at SXSW. Someone in Missouri put this together. It's not some national company coming in and doing all that stuff. Nathan Reusch decided to do something and it got huge."

Palace drummer Danny Hill likewise praises Reusch for his inclusion of upstart acts: "He gives local bands and somewhat local bands an opportunity to open up for really great bands. We appreciate that."

Palace recorded two videos to promote Middle of the Map, "Treetop Lover" and "I'm Still Learning." Both songs are off Palace's debut that will be remixed by Joel Nanos of Kansas City's Element Recording Studios. The remix album will include two new tracks and be out this summer. Palace plays Middle of the Map Saturday, April 6 at 10 p.m. at the Record Bar. In addition to Palace, St. Louis acts Dots Not Feathers, Sleepy Kitty, Brett Gretzky, Steddy P and DJ Mahf will also travel to Kansas City to play the festival.

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