A Recollection Of Rockansas

Rockansas 2011 was a hot mess — a beautiful hot mess of music and art and humanity.

The heat and humidity was excruciating at times — especially if you couldn’t find a place in the shade. But the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City proved to be an ideal place to hold a festival. Its huge outer grounds provided ample space for parking and camping, while inside the speedway had plenty of room for three massive stages and, I believe, room to grow in the future.

I know there was a lot of skepticism in the Kansas City area as to whether the facility and the festival idea would succeed, but I firmly believe the Kanrocksas organizers decimated the naysayers with the extreme professionalism with which they executed the event — and the crazy amount of fun concertgoers from around the country were having.

So what was my favorite performance at Kanrocksas?

Well, I have to go with my heart. Ween didn’t have the biggest light show or the most theatrics, but they brought the songs that still resonate with me. My bond with Ween is deep, so I admit that I’m biased.

Plus, they do a mean cover of a David Bowie classic.

As for putting on a MF’n arena rock show, I’ve never seen anything on the scale of Muse. My brother and I were probably within 20 rows of the stage among some of the band’s craziest fans, so this video provides a very different perspective of the laser show than what we saw.

I’ve always contended that “Absolution” has been the pinnacle of their career so far. I stand by that opinion after seeing them live. Those songs from that 2003 album are still the ones that resonate most.

Flaming Lips was a close second in showmanship. They pull out every stop: Confetti, amazing lights, characters from the “Wizard of Oz,” smoke … the list goes on. My only complaint is that I thought there were some long, meandering songs that really took away the thunder of the show. And Wayne Coyne’s voice seemed a bit thin. Not sure if he was losing it or if that’s how it always sounds.

“She Don’t Use Jelly” was my favorite song of the set.

I was really glad to get to see Best Coast live after missing them on their visit to Omaha earlier this year. I love Bethany Consentino’s longing vocals mixed with a kind of updated early rock sound.

OK Go put on a very energetic performance, but I found this quiet interlude where they played “Return” with bells to be the highlight.

We caught the end of Kerli’s set. I don’t think she’s really my thing, but I was impressed by her platform shoes. She was really gracious after the performance and spent a lot of time talking with her fans. I couldn’t help but notice those platforms were almost a foot tall. I have no idea how she danced in them.

I was bummed that I had to miss Girl Talk. But I will probably see him in a few months, so I opted to watch A Perfect Circle instead (of which no really good videos have been posted yet). They rocked it pretty hard. However, I think that was probably the most pot-heavy crowd I experienced during the festival, so I was grateful that the fans were fairly chilled out while the massive guitar riffs were being delivered from the stage.

Here’s that missed Girl Talk performance. It is NSFW due to some lyrical content.

Oh yeah, a little-known performer called Eminem also performed. It is one of the few shows he has played and there were obviously a lot of people on hand just to see him.

Me? I am not a fan. When I saw him open the show with a commercial for Brisk Tea, something I’ve never witnessed a musical artist do in all my years of attending shows, it just convinced me even more that he is not for me. I lasted about five songs before calling it a day.

When I left, the crowd was still going crazy. You can get a taste of it (including the commercial) here:

Other highlights of the weekend included Primus, Craft Spells, The Black Angels, Gardens and Villa, and Bag Raiders. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Major Lazer, the Joy Formidable or Fitz and the Tantrums. That’s the dilemma of a festival. So many bands and only one of you. Bummer.

Let me close with this lovely Bag Raiders video that made me fall in love with them a couple years ago. It was the closing song during their Kanrocksas set. I’ve never experienced bass that made my throat and nose vibrate so much that it was difficult to breathe. If the bass was any heavier, I’m pretty sure I would have lost my s**t! Ha ha. Thank you, Bag Raiders, for a great dance show!

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