Welcome to Farewell, a DIY punk club in the middle of Kansas City's industrial sprawl
Founder Max Popoff discovered the building on Stadium Drive in disrepair in 2018, and spent years repairing it. Now it hosts a charmingly grungy music venue, bar and coffee shop, with live concerts most weekends.
Embedded haphazardly into miles of partially-abandoned warehouses, Farewell is a DIY music venue, bar and coffee shop on Stadium Drive, just east of the Blue River. On any given night, cars line the street adjacent and pounding music tumbles out the door.
Travel inside, past the headline event, and down the hall (bathrooms on the right) to discover a large gravel backyard, complete with a fire pit, broken chairs, casual (but hardy) garden beds springing out of troughs, and clusters of people smoking cigarettes like they’re going out of style.
“It's like, trying to find some legitimacy while maintaining the thing that all of us are and have been for a decade,” says Max Popoff, “which is a bunch of kids drinking beers in the yard and booking bands from far off places and hanging out with those people and trying to make them money so they can keep touring and keep playing music.”
Popoff runs the venue, coffee shop, and newly licensed bar with Shayne Carpathia and Deano Erickson. Everyone does a little bit of everything, but Popoff discovered the building and has been here the longest.
His experience as a private contractor allowed him to spearhead a number of necessary repairs over the years, from rebuilding the collapsed roof to bringing the bathrooms up to code.
Popoff can often be found towering behind a bar to the left, offsetting his formidable 6-foot-4-inch stature with an eager grin beaming out between red-framed glasses and a ginger beard.
His giant all-black mastiff-mix dog named Mouse looks around sleepily, sniffing the air as the door swings shut before resuming his stretched-out napping posture on the floor.
The bands that play at Farewell occupy a swath of genres from punk to electronic to hip hop to indie rock. There are shows every weekend (and many weekdays) and the venue has featured local bands like Vice Grip and Silicone Prairie, as well as national touring acts like Show Me the Body and Sweeping Promises.
Tickets are available at the door, usually on a $5-10 sliding scale, but Popoff says no one is ever turned away for lack of funds.
Farewell gives nearly all the door profit over to the bands, even smaller ones — a break from the normal industry practice of not paying local openers and only giving the headliner a fraction of the cut.
The idea to open a bar was born out of necessity, Popoff explains, in order to maintain this vision but still make enough money to run the space.
“I think there's some backlash sometimes, and people are like, ‘Why is this a bar now?’” Popoff says. “And we're like, we can't pay for it if we don't sell a couple beers.”
A front corner of the venue holds the stage, immediately to the left of the entrance and comfortably visible from any part of the rectangular interior. Blue and pink lighting softens the rough brick walls and concrete floor, where listeners mull in the standing room between performance area and bar.
Most of the crowd spends the time between sets socializing in the backyard, maintaining a constant buzz of chatter.
Originally known as Farewell Transmission (after the Jason Molina song), the dim, cavernous interior during daytime hours is reminiscent of an elongated garage where one might sit around drinking beers on 10 year old couches. A slew of angry Google reviews bemoaning the lack of a car transmission shop prompted the name adjustment.
After moving to Kansas City seven years ago from his hometown of Denver, Popoff spearheaded a DIY music venue called Roller Dog on Troost Avenue with the intention of establishing a space that could nurture the arts scene in an accessible, low-budget fashion.
However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that his presence there was an intrusion.
“That could have been and is now again a Black business, and I felt like I was imposing,” he says. “I didn't want to take away from someone else having a business there, so that a bunch of young punk kids could get drunk and then, like, graffiti a building.”
The building that now houses Farewell was discovered by Popoff in 2018 on his way to the dump one day, charming him despite its general disrepair.
A few years and many licensing hurdles later, Popoff, Carpathia and Erickson are still eking out a space for current and future weirdos that’s safe, accessible and authentic.
“I think that's like our mission statement," Popoff says. "If there was one to be had through all of it and all the iterations of Farewell: is that it's just meant to be a cozy place where you can go see your friends and you can imbibe or not, and support other people around us that are trying to create things."
Farewell is open from noon-1a.m., Tuesday-Saturday, at 6515 Stadium Drive, Kansas City, Missouri.