10 Kansas City concerts you just have to see this June
As the summer music season kicks off in Kansas City, live music options abound — but how to choose? KCUR’s list of the month’s most creative acts will help clarify the decision.
Luke Combs headlines the first of the season’s musical blowouts at the Truman Sports Complex on June 10. But the country star’s concert at Arrowhead Stadium isn’t among our top recommendations this month. While hits like “Beer Never Broke My Heart” are undeniable, a few less obvious offerings are among our selections.
The stirring gospel of rising star Jonathan McReynolds often resembles the classic stylings of the iconic Sam Cooke. Olivia Jean is a sure bet for everyone who has shouted along with a White Stripes anthem. And Hailey Whitters’ breakout hit is often mistaken for an oldie by the beloved country band the Chicks.
The belated homecoming of Lee’s Summit native Pat Metheny, an artful concert at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art by Bach Aria Soloists, and the return of the booze-based Boulevardia and Tacos and Tequila festivals are among our additional selections.
The thrilling sounds represented in June’s concert calendar can be relied upon to deliver happy memories. The only heartbreak would be if you didn’t experience the music.
Julia Bullock with the Kansas City Symphony: June 2-4
- When: 8 p.m. on Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 4
- Where: Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64108
- Tickets: Starting at $35.50 in advance
Julia Bullock is among a handful of go-to vocalists for left-of-center composers of new music. The daredevil soprano will perform Jessie Montgomery’s “Five Freedom Songs” with the Kansas City Symphony on the weekend of June 2.
Montgomery says the work, co-commissioned by the Symphony, is “a song cycle that honors our shared African American heritage and the tradition of the Negro spiritual, while also experimenting with nontraditional stylistic contexts.”
Conductor Michael Stern will also lead the Symphony in readings of Frederick Delius’ “The Walk to Paradise Garden” and Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 4” at the concerts.
Illenium: June 8
- When: 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 8
- Where: Azura Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012
- Tickets: Starting at $39.50 in advance
Illenium, the stage name of Nicholas Daniel Miller, is less an electronic artist who flirts with pop than a pop artist who is rooted in electronica.
His ability to glean transcendent profundities from formulaic pop makes Illenium more than just another electronic dance music act. The bombastic drops associated with the form are tempered by sugary sweeteners in his songs.
The presence of pop-punk veteran Avril Lavigne and contemporary pop phenomenon Teddy Swims on Illenium’s new self-titled album reflects Miller’s inclusive sound. Said the Sky and Imanu will prime the audience for Illenium.
Bach Aria Soloists: June 9
- When: 6 p.m. on Friday, June 9
- Where: Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak St., Kansas City, Missouri 64111
- Tickets: $40
Bach Aria Soloists’ new album, “La dolce sirene,” is a work of art. It’s only fitting, consequently, that the chamber music ensemble is featured in an art-themed concert at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
A performance by soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson, harpsichordist Elisa Williams Bickers, and violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane will be supplemented by the observations of Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, the museum’s senior curator of European Arts.
Billed as “An Evening of Fierce Women,” the repertoire by the Kansas City group will include works by composers Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Barbara Strozzi, and Hildegard of Bingen.
Pat Metheny: June 15
- When: 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15
- Where: Muriel Kauffman Theatre at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64108
- Tickets: Starting at $56.50 in advance
Pat Metheny last performed in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2012. In spite of a seemingly ceaseless tour schedule, the New York-based crossover jazz star from Lee’s Summit hasn’t enjoyed a strong base of support here.
For jazz fans, that means plenty of tickets are still available for the 1,800-seat venue. The guitarist will perform with keyboardist Chris Fishman and drummer Joe Dyson under the banner of Metheny’s Side-Eye project.
The trio is expected to perform new material as well as classic Metheny compositions such as “Phase Dance” and “Are You Going With Me?” Metheny is also likely to debut material from “Dream Box,” a solo electric guitar album that will be released on June 16.
Boulevardia: June 16-17
- When: 4 p.m. on Friday, June 16, and 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 17
- Where: Grand Boulevard at Crown Center
- Tickets: Starting at $50 per day in advance
In addition to serving as an eminent showcase for the products made by Boulevard Brewing Company, Boulevardia is Kansas City’s biggest multigenre music festival. Several dozen acts will appear on four stages and at a silent disco in the 2023 edition of the event.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (9:30 p.m. Friday) is the biggest name among the admirable array of sounds. Even before the documentary “Running With Our Eyes Closed” was released this year, the roots music icon was renowned for his emotional transparency.
Additional offerings range from New Orleans bounce innovator Big Freedia (5:05 p.m. Saturday) to Peter Shlamb’s Electric Tinks (1:45 p.m. Saturday). The creative vibraphonist will represent Kansas City’s jazz scene at the two-day festival.
Olivia Jean: June 16
- When: 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16
- Where: Encore at Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64111
- Tickets: $15 in advance
The raconteur and rock star Jack White produced an album by the Black Belles a dozen years ago. He released the Nashville garage-rock band’s album on his Third Man Records in 2011.
Olivia Jean, the vocalist and primary songwriter of the Black Belles, discovered her compatibility with White wasn't limited to music. They married last year. “Raving Ghost,” Olivia Jean’s latest album as a solo artist, further refines her robust sound.
Newcomers might begin exploring Olivia Jean with her cover of “Orinoco Flow.” She transforms Enya’s celestial new age hit into a grimy romp. The Kansas City band The Black Mariah Theater opens the show.
Tacos and Tequila Festival: June 17
- When: 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17
- Where: Legends Field, 1800 Village West Pkwy., Kansas City, Kansas 66111
- Tickets: Starting at $69 in advance
The name of the Tacos and Tequila franchise is misleading. The namesake food and beverage are already ubiquitous — it’s the astounding musical talent assembled for the festival that makes Tacos and Tequila special.
Revelers at the minor league baseball stadium will be treated to a slugfest of classic hits. The proven party-starters include the crossover star Flo Rida’s “Low,” and “Turn Down for What” by the crunk phenomenon Lil Jon.
Santa Fe Klan: June 21
- When: 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21
- Where: T-Mobile Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64106
- Tickets: Starting at $35.50 in advance
Ángel Quezada chose Santa Fe Klan as his stage name to represent the Santa Fe barrio where he was raised, near Mexico City. The songs Quezada writes about his experiences have made one of his country’s biggest stars.
Intent on also conquering the United States, Quezada is performing in more than three dozen stateside arenas on his “Todo y Nada” tour. Fans at the T-Mobile Center will hear more than dexterous rapping.
Quezada’s music incorporates a wide range of styles. An array of regional Mexican forms mix freely with throwback rap and up-to-date hip-hop. Snow Tha Product and Tornillo are Santa Fe Klan’s tourmates.
Jonathan McReynolds: June 23
- When: 8 p.m. on Friday, June 23
- Where: Madrid Theatre, 3810 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri 64111
- Tickets: Starting at $30 in advance
Gospel artists tend to stay in their own lane. Attempts to win over mainstream listeners are usually opposed by the faithful and ignored by secular audiences.
Jonathan McReynolds is different. Not only does he possess the voice of an angel, McReynolds possesses the charisma of the legendary crossover gospel star Sam Cooke.
Consequently, McReynolds’ appearance at the Madrid Theatre is bound to blur the lines dividing the sacred and the secular during renditions of songs like "My Truth."
Hailey Whitters: June 29
- When: 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 29
- Where: KC Live! in the Power & Light District, 13 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64106
- Tickets: Free
The hundreds of thousands of people who have attended a Hot Country Nights concert in the Power & Light District know that they’ve been a part of one of the most representative Kansas City experiences.
Participating in the summer concert series is a rite of passage for young, single, country-loving Midwesterners. Hailey Whitters’ appearance this month promises to be especially memorable. Her 2022 breakout hit, “Everything She Ain’t,” is an infectious recasting of classic hits like “There’s Your Trouble” by the Chicks.
Whitters is unlikely to be a one-hit wonder. Her ingratiating voice and winning personality give the Iowa native a strong chance to become the next Miranda Lambert. Lauren Watkins opens the show.