Organizers of the fourth annual Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest have announced this year’s lineup of more than 120 bands, and most will be playing the festival for the first time.
“We’ve booked almost 125 bands, and only 25 have played Middle before,” said Nathan Reusch, owner of the Record Machine, a Kansas City record label, and one of the festival’s founding curators. “So we’ll have nearly 100 new bands.”
The festival will be April 3-5 at six venues in Westport: the Westport Saloon, the Riot Room, the Riot Room’s patio, the RecordBar, Ernie Biggs and an outdoor stage in the parking lot outside Ernie Biggs and Buzzard’s Beach. A three-day pass is $55. Passes are available at middleofthemapfest.com.
Headliners include the Get Up Kids, Of Montreal, Gary Numan, Del the Funky Homosapien, J. Roddy Walston & the Business and Wayne “the Train” Hancock.
“The Get Up Kids and Of Montreal are huge for me,” Reusch said. “The Get Up Kids haven’t toured the States for almost three years. We wanted to get Of Montreal last year, but it didn’t work out.”
More than five dozen local bands are part of the lineup. “We tried to include local bands who hadn’t been included before,” Reusch said. “So we’ve kind of imposed a limit to make it so no band plays more than two years in a row.”
This year, there will be a strong hip-hop element, led by Del the Funky Homosapien and Shabazz Palaces. Jody Hendrix at Westport Saloon helped book its four diverse sets of shows (including a day party). Friday’s is a mix of roots, country, Western swing and honky-tonk, led by Hancock and the Rollfast Ramblers and including local acts like Howard Iceberg & the Titanics and the Naughty Pines.
“They curated the shows at Open Fire Pizza and did a nice job,” Reusch said. “It’s one way to get more people involved so it’s not just us picking the same bands every year.”
Reusch said the festival has developed a solid reputation and thus interest from bands is high.
“We don’t have to sell it as much as we did at first,” he said. “People are aware of it. But there’s probably more curating involved. A ton of people want to play it, so there are more bands to sift through so we can see who will fit and what we can afford.”
Last year, the festival lost the Beaumont Club, its big anchor venue for the first two years, which closed in January 2013. So it enlisted the Uptown Theater to host one of its marquee bands, Grizzly Bear. This year, the big indoor venue will be Ernie Biggs, which has a capacity of about 450. The marquee bands will play at the outdoor stage, where the capacity is more than 2,500. Its headliners: the Get Up Kids and J. Roddy Walston & the Business on Friday, Kate Nash and Of Montreal on Saturday.
Two years ago, the festival stepped into some unexpected fortune when it booked the band Fun months before its single “We Are Young” went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 10 chart. Subsequently, Fun drew a sold-out and overflow crowd to its set at the Beaumont. Reusch said trolling for bands on the rise and getting them before they get big is one mission of Middle of the Map.
“We do a lot of research to see who the new and up-and-coming bands are or who might be about to get big,” he said. “This year, we got the Tontons, a band from Houston that is getting a lot of good press. They were one of the top bands at CMJ last year.”
Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest
More than 50 national acts have been booked for this year’s Middle of the Map Fest. Here are 15 of the better-known acts. For a complete list, go to MiddleOfTheMapFest.com
• The Get Up Kids
• Of Montreal
• Gary Numan
• Del the Funky Homosapien
• Kate Nash
• J. Roddy Walston & the Business
• Shabazz Palaces
• The Colourist
• The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
• Wayne “the Train” Hancock
• William Elliott Whitmore
• Har Mar Superstar
• !!! (Chk Chk Chk)