Happy In Bag

Saturday, May 31, 2008

'Til I Gain Control Again

It's bittersweet seeing one of your favorite artists perform to a largely indifferent audience.

Many of the 800 or so in attendance last night at the season's first event in Olathe's free concert series smoked, drank and guffawed as if a generic blues band was providing background music for their private party. They didn't know or care that Rodney Crowell is one of our greatest songwriters. And why should they? Crowell's reign as a hitmaker with songs like "'Til I Gain Control Again" and "After All This Time" ended fifteen years ago.

The vibe was much different than Crowell's show at Knuckleheads last August. Now with Australian Jedd Hughes on guitar, the band quickly figured out they should focus on loud and fast songs. Near the end of the Texan's ninety-minute show, hardcore fans and dozens of kids pressed against the stage to defiantly sing along with "Like a Rolling Stone."

You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Both Power and Light

While I'd been to McFadden's and Raglan Road, last night marked my first complete immersion in the Power & Light District experience. For better or worse, I liked it. A lot. I can't see myself selecting Angels Rock Bar, Gordon Biersch Brewery or PBR Big Sky as my primary destination for an evening out, but it was fun to spend a little time inside each tavern during Dierks Bentley's free concert. Although the country heartthrob was good, the incredible people-watching was even more entertaining.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Friend the Fairy

While I was displaying my jaw-dropping three-inch vertical leap on a basketball court last week, an odd flash of motion caught my eye. It wasn't one of the white fuzzy seeds that fill Kansas City's air this time of year. The translucent object was clearly alive; it propelled itself like an airborne jellyfish. While it was probably some kind of weird freshly-hatched flying grasshopper, I prefer to think it was a rare glimpse of my special fairy friend.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Black Light

As I scrutinized a Willem de Kooning painting last weekend, a stranger inside the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art couldn't resist trotting out that inevitable line. "I could do that!" she whispered conspiratorially. An installation in the next gallery had me murmuring an entirely different refrain. "I want to do that," I told myself. Where Else, by Julia Oschatz, is just plain cool. Although this crass confession will horrify the artist and museum curator, the dark, shadowy and creepy exhibit looks like the world's freakiest dorm room. The installation runs through July 6.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Real Action At Celebration At the Station

With all due respect to the Kansas City Symphony, I don't attend the annual "Celebration At the Station" to study the brass section's interpretation of Tchaikovsky. Instead, it's about seeing old friends, enjoying the city's skyline from a prime vantage point and tossing around baseballs, footballs and Frisbees.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Fifty-eight dollars and twenty-five cents! The damage incurred by filling up yesterday represents music I won't purchase, Boulevard I won't consume and a new book I can't afford. I was so stunned that I drove off without replacing my sedan's gas cap. A good Samaritan notified me of my error a few blocks from the filling station. When I turned on to a side street, the cap slid off the trunk, rolled along a gutter and dropped into a sewer well. Too fat burly to squeeze inside the revolting chamber, I was forced to recruit an associate to retrieve the cap.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pleasant Valley Sunday

While the word "idyllic" doesn't quite characterize my childhood, my early years contained many elements that perfectly conformed to the American ideal. Chief among them were Colony Park station wagons. My heart still leaps when I spot one of these relics from a different era. The countless hours spent back in "the pit," the aromatic combination of dog urine and human vomit and memories of epic road trips will always be with me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Turn the Page

I conducted a brief walk-through of the Kansas City Literary Festival on the Plaza Saturday afternoon. Here's what I spotted- dejected authors without buyers at signing tables; a potentially interesting panel spoiled by a windy academic; a breathless author recounting Kansas City's unsavory past; this lovely woman in period costume promoting a children's book.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sachar Succor

The campiness of the Coterie Theater's adaption of Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories From Wayside School delighted me. Ostensibly a production for children, it was loaded with adult humor. Popular Kansas City actor Ron Megee was hysterical in his five roles. I'm so relieved that I didn't view this promotional video for the show until after I attended. It captures none of the production's Pee-wee's Playhouse-style chaos. You'll have to take my word for it; the final performance was yesterday.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Happy In Bag Muxtape

I chose M.I.A. over Wilco last night. If I drove a car with a CD player I might have listened to a mix like this on my way to the concert in Lawrence. It contains of a few of my favorite relatively recent songs from Kansas City and Lawrence-based artists.

The Abracadabras, Tech N9ne, Fourth of July, OK Jones, Olympic Size, Mac Lethal, Reach, Approach, The Architects, Kristie Stremel, The New Tragedies and Deep Thinkers aren't necessarily the trendiest acts. They are, however, among the area's best.

What about jazz? Go here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Over Easy

I usually don't like getting yelled at. But yesterday was gloriously different. In the checkout line at my least favorite grocery store, the cashier and I discovered that I'd tossed an incorrect item into my shopping cart. As the helpful store manager sorted it out, the haughty matron in line behind me became apoplectic. She rapped her designer pen on the counter like a Talbots-clad Keith Moon. Instead of becoming annoyed or embarrassed as she screeched about the two-minute delay, I felt giddy as the weariness and frustration I'd accumulated over the course of the day evaporated. The louder she complained, the more refreshed I became. Thanks, cranky lady!

Monday, May 12, 2008

In Bloom

Lotus blossom. Black orchid. Blossom Dearie. Plastic bouquet.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Cure For Pain

Hey, sad sacks! Get down to Crown Center immediately to catch the remainder of Fiesta Kansas City. I had a ridiculous amount of fun Friday night at shows by Son Venezuela and Grupo Control. My heckling of the pitcher at the baseball batting cage didn't go over very well, but maybe the grito I've prepared for tonight's contest will redeem me.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Safety Clown Says

Ice cream trucks are subversive. One moment a seven-year-old is passively shooting hoops in a driveway. Then a distant distinctive din is registered. It's getting closer! The frenzy commences. "Money! Where's money? Need money!" Momentary bliss or temporary heartbreak ensues. It's one of my earliest memories. And nothing's changed.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rapping Your Knuckles

It happened again last night. Several people told me that it was their first visit to the roadhouse about a mile southeast of the Isle of Capri casino. Even though Knuckleheads has been presenting live music for a few years, it's still an undiscovered gem. Take it from a guy who loved the old Grand Emporium as much as anyone- Knuckleheads is every bit as welcoming as the Main Street institution. While it's difficult to get excited about many Knuckleheads bookings, highlights in May include Paul Thorn, the Asylum Street Spankers and James McMurtry. That's Kathleen Edwards in action yesterday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Trade Sanctions

Equal parts Whole Foods, Costco and Berbiglia, Trader Joe's is one of my favorite retailers. I love its lively selection of fresh produce, international food and cheap wine. Alas, it's not an option in Kansas City. My guess is that the California-based chain won't be here anytime soon. Trader Joe's likes to saturate markets- St. Louis has four locations and Chicago has 15- but Kansas' antiquated liquor laws disallow the combination of groceries and alcohol.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Big Shoulders

I toiled as a traveling salesman in a previous life. These days packing a suitcase is a novel experience. Although I reside in Kansas City by choice, getting out of town every so often is very refreshing. Here are thoughts and images from my visit last week to Wrigley Field and Millennium Park.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I'm Stalkerific!

You can have Scarlett Johansson, Kate Moss and Kate Hudson. My celebrity crush list is limited to Beyonce, Maria Bartiromo and Erin Andrews. I was thrilled three days ago when I received a text from an associate informing me that not only was my favorite sports reporter live on ESPN, she was standing ninety feet from my seat at Wrigley Field. After the game I joined a scrum of pathetic losers ardent admirers hoping to get a closer glimpse of the star. I failed to have my picture taken with her; I was just one false move from getting tased by the security guy in the background. For her part, Andrews was very nice to her scary stalkers fans.