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Tuesday, 09 April 2013 22:00

Festival review: Middle of the Map folds up with Palace, Making Movies and Tennis, Saturday, April 6

Festival review: Middle of the Map folds up with Palace, Making Movies and Tennis, Saturday, April 6
Written by Blair Stiles

Sun shines fierce on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. The business district bustles with affluent types and prom-goers.

It is warm enough that shorts and a t-shirt are permissible attire. My skin, turned a barren version of pearl, recoils under the sun's gaze. Spring calls, and is heard. What brings Dots Not Feathers and company to the Plaza prior to a night of Palace, Making Movies and the joyous Tennis is the promise of "Jurassic Park 3-D." Middle of the Map Fest may have brought us to Kansas City, but the T-Rex beckons.

We watch Dr. Alan Grant gallantly acquire paternal instincts while he evades velociraptors and Dr. Ian Malcolm's immaculate cackle on a three-dimensional plane. It's a wholly visceral experience. When a naughty raptor breaks through to attack Dr. Ellie Sattler my bum was aloft over the seat. I was terrified; "JP 3-D" transports an viewers back to the first time they saw the film. There I was, four years old.

We return to Westport to eat and figure out the night's agenda. Gyros from Jerusalem Café fill empty stomachs. At Record Bar, Palace is seconds into "Calling it Quits." Matthew Kavanaugh, the band's lead singer and guitarist, vaults off an amp, spins contagiously and knocks over his mic before the song is out. Palace seems like the undying nucleus of kinetic energy. Whether that's scientifically possible is irrelevant. To see Palace live is a reminder to take Vitamin B and exercise. The band catapults vocals over intricate guitar patches and trumpet flares. All the while, Crystal Owens and guest keyboardist Katyln Conroy vault sky-high melodies over Kavanaugh's impressive register. The set plays out like a death-defying trapeze act. Whose voice will break first? How will they keep up this pace? Palace never falters and Kansas City residents scream, "We love you, St. Louis!" Natch.

Record Bar is at capacity and Eric Peters, half of St. Louis' Volcanoes, threatens to salsa dance during Making Movies' set. It would not be inappropriate. Much like Panama, the native country of lead singer and guitarist Enrique and bassist Diego Chi, Making Movies' music is a permutation of Spanish influences and Central American musical cues. Reggaeton patches blend into archetypical indie-rock compositions during most songs. The band creates a dancehall atmosphere; Record Bar patrons respond in force.

Sadly, Ryan Myers of DNF and I miss part of Making Movies set. We escape Record Bar as the heat becomes intolerable. Once outside we realize there is a 45-minute wait to get back inside. For fear of missing Tennis, Myers and I climb over the railing that demarcates the outdoor smoker's section. No one, save for the amused smokers notice, and we arrive inside, all the more rebellious. We claim badassery, not tomfoolery as our guide. Later Myers steals abandoned drink tickets and becomes the coolest cat I know.

Tennis begins their set with "It All Feels the Same," the first track off its second album, "Young & Old." Singer and keyboardist Alaina Moore sings with a heart-melting coo and turns Bear Hive's Joel Burton to goo. Two verses in and he wails, "Sing to ME! Just sing to ME!" It is love. I do not have the heart to tell him she is married to guitarist Patrick Riley.

The crowd is caught in amorous approval too. During "Petition" they sing word-for-word. Moore is visibly elated and pauses to say, "This must be how Taylor Swift feels!" She allows herself some singer niceties. When "Petition" finishes she admits, "That is the first time I have ever held a mic to a crowd!" Their enthusiasm makes Moore a braver vocalist. During "Origins" she belts with the integrity of an R&B diva. The unexpected strength of her voice thrills the audience, but it can't hold a "whoa-ohhh" as long as Moore. She repeatedly tests her range and launches her upper register into space.

Middle of the Map comes to a close with Tennis. It is the end of a three-day submergence into a myriad of musical cultures inside a city teaming with spontaneity and free spirit. When I wake up in the morning, I do not want to come home.

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