The “West” — once wild, now long-tamed — continues to symbolize both the benefits and the risks associated with aiming to achieve the greatest amount of personal freedom.
Even if we can’t go back to a home on the range offering seemingly endless vistas and possibilities, we can still “go west” this weekend, whether witnessing gutsy cowpokes astride bucking broncos, learning cool stuff about the traditional cowboy life or allegorically exposing ourselves to the extraordinary individualism spurred by the notion of a wide-open frontier.
Yep, pardner, those are the reigns. Giddy-up!
There’ll be ridin’ and ropin’ and fallin’ down and gettin’ back up to do it again for cowboys and cowgirls at the American Royal Rodeo. That includes dozens of children 6 and older, whose parents are brave enough to sign ’em up for mutton bustin’ (a.k.a. competitive sheep riding). For a better looksee at the rodeo, there’s also the Behind the Chutes tour, where fans can visit with contestants and share grub in the Cowboy Hospitality area. Happy trails to you.
Pro rodeo: Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Hale Arena, American Royal Complex, 1701 American Royal Court, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15-$40 (Behind the Chutes Tour for two $80). Youth rodeo: Friday, noon; tickets: $5.
A passel of family friendly doings devoted to the culture of the old west will teach and entertain at the Kansas Cowboy Jubilee. Activities include cowboy sing-alongs, barn dancing, trick roping, scholarly lectures and the chance to see an actual covered wagon that conveyed many stout pioneers way out west. Be sure to catch the old-timey medicine show hosted by Professor Farquar and Polecat Annie and the day-ending concert by champion fiddlers and singers the Quebe Sisters.
Saturday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Carlsen Center, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Boulevard, Overland Park, Kan.; admission: free.
The cowboy-loving fun continues Saturday night at Johnson County Community College with a stand-alone concert by the famously western-swinging Asleep at the Wheel, led by longtime singer/guitarist/yarn-spinner Ray Benson. Since forming in 1970 in Austin, Texas, the cowboy-hatted outfit has done its darnedest keeping the tunes of proto western swing purveyor Bob Wills alive, as well as sharing its own corral of tunes, including “Bump Bounce Boogie” and “Texas, Me and You.” Yes, you! Hot Club of Cowtown opens the show.
Saturday, 7 p.m.; Yardley Hall, Carlsen Center, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Boulevard, Overland Park, Kan.; tickets: $28-$44.
Historic Westport – settled by a pioneer family in 1831 and the site of a Civil War battle – goes German this weekend with beers, bands, games and lots of party-hearty people running around in lederhosen. Not exactly the Wild West, but it’ll do. Stein hoisting contests will be held Thursday and Saturday evenings, and there’s a guaranteed to be niedlich (cute) wiener dog race at noon on Saturday. Beyond oodles of polka music, don’t miss acclaimed Kansas City heavy metal kid band Hammerhedd, which typically specializes in Metallica covers – but, who knows, maybe they’ll tackle the “The Happy Wanderer.” That should get everyone’s achtung!
Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 p.m.; Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.
5. Kinky Boots
Calling all western drag queens: If there isn’t a part for you in “Kinky Boots,” the Broadway hit featuring original songs by pop queen Cindi Lauper, there’s absolutely room for you in the audience at Starlight Theatre’s last musical of the season. Heels of all types will be kicking up in this Tony Award-winning show about the importance of being your own (perhaps unusual) self while striving to find common ground with others. And if that ground is a trifle uneven, take care in those stilettos.
Friday-Sunday, 8 p.m.; Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15-$117.
Some take it to the limit. Others prefer to be utterly different. The latter is the aspirational blueprint for the locally based Outer Reaches music fest, featuring regional and national rock bands that don’t want to sound like anyone else. This year’s nonconformist crop of noisemakers – who might have been told to “Get out of Dodge” in another era – will be headlined on Friday by Deerhoof from San Francisco, Lily and Horn Horse from New York and Kansas City’s Various Blonde and Pageant Boys. Saturday’s bill will be topped by El Ten Eleven from Los Angeles, Dead Rider and Matchess from Chicago, the homegrown Mysterious Clouds and a Kansas City reunion of the Hearers. The ultimate goal here may be mind-expansion, but I’d be happy just to get home without a buzzing sound in my ears.
Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 7 p.m.; recordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15, $20.
Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at email@example.com.