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10 Kansas City concerts that are not to be missed this May

A muscular man with big, square sunglasses poses in front of a white background. The man, wearing a black polo shirt with three red roses on it, holds one forearm with his other hand.
Darryl Woods
Kansas City Symphony
Tech N9ne gained attention in the 1990s as a member of the Kansas City rap group 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains.

Taylor Swift isn’t in town, but her connections will make a local impact at Travis Kelce’s music festival and Jack Antonoff’s show at Grinders. Kansas City legend Tech N9ne, revenge song expert Ashley McBryde, and blues slinger Gary Clark Jr. round out the concert calendar.

Worlds collide in a summit of disparate Kansas City institutions at the Midland Theater this month. The collaboration between Tech N9ne and the Kansas City Symphony is the event of the year for “Technicians,” as rabid fans of the local rap legend are known. Observers advocating progressive evolution in the Symphony also cheer the partnership.

A pair of high-profile concerts tangentially related to global pop icon Taylor Swift will attract even bigger audiences. Kelce Jam, a hip-hop and electronic dance music concert curated by Swift’s paramour, Travis Kelce, is headlined by Lil Wayne. And Bleachers, the rock band overseen by Swift’s trusted collaborator Jack Antonoff, returns to Kansas City.

Also in May, the country-rocker Ashley McBryde will crank up the volume on her drinking and cheating songs at the Uptown Theater. Admirers of Gary Clark Jr. might consider bringing earplugs to the sonic maximalist’s concert at the Midland Theater. And Humbird will showcase its aggressive variation of folk at miniBar.

Music lovers who prefer serenity aren’t left out. The instrumental music of Hermanos Gutiérrez will fill The Truman with tranquil sounds, Jacob Collier will imbue the Music Hall with cerebral sophistication, and Tenille Townes’ show at the Bottleneck promises to provide a few tender moments.

Tech N9ne with the Kansas City Symphony: May 4

  • When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 4
  • Where: The Midland Theatre, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri 64105
  • Tickets: Starting at $45

The people expressing surprise at Tech N9ne’s collaboration with the Kansas City Symphony clearly aren’t committed fans of the rapper known as “The Kansas City King.”

Tech N9ne’s genre-bending sound borrows freely from classical music. “I'm a Playa,” a staple of Tech N9ne performances, is constructed on Falco’s 1985 homage to Mozart, “Rock Me Amadeus.”

The Industry Is Punks” is another Tech N9ne classic that owes as much to classical-leaning rock bands like Queen as to conventional rap. That’s why this May’s concert at The Midland Theater isn’t unexpected — it was inevitable.

Ashley McBryde: May 9

A woman in a black dress sits in an auditorium filled with empty red chairs. Her black hair has a streak of blonde in it, and tattoos peak out from her dress' shear sleaves.
Katie Kauss
Ashley McBryde
Ashley McBryde was born in Waldron, Arkansas.

  • When: 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 9
  • Where: Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64111
  • Tickets: Starting at $35

Revenge songs don’t get much sweeter than “Girl Goin' Nowhere.” The composition, written and performed by country star Ashley McBryde, revels in the satisfaction of proving doubters wrong.

There’s more where that came from. The Grand Ole Opry inductee also wrote contemporary Nashville classics, including the defiant “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” and the hilarious “Brenda Put Your Bra On.”

Honky tonk traditionalist Will Jones is the opening act on McBryde’s “The Devil I Know” tour.

Hermanos Gutiérrez: May 9

Two men with mustaches stand under palm trees and a blue sky. One man wears a brimmed hat and jean jacket. The other wears several pieces of silver jewlery and a black T-shirt.
Shore Fire Media
Brothers Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez were raised in Switzerland.

  • When: 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 9
  • Where: The Truman, 601 E. Truman Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64106
  • Tickets: $32 in advance

The title of “Sonido Cósmico,” the forthcoming album by Hermanos Gutiérrez, translates to “cosmic sound.” The phrase only begins to capture the music made by the sibling guitar duo of Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez.

The brothers’ evocative instrumentals recall the dusty soundtracks Ennio Morricone composed for westerns, including “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Produced by Easy Eye Sound record label owner and Black Keys mastermind Dan Auerbach, the brothers’ latest material is making Hermanos Gutiérrez a crossover sensation.

Humbird: May 10

A woman with braided blonde hair stands in front of a dense wood. Lens flare and blur effects from the camera surround the woman, who is wearing a long-sleeved black shirt.
Mammoth Live
The songs of Humbird’s Siri Undlin often address environmental concerns.

  • When: 8 p.m. on Friday, May 10
  • Where: miniBar, 3810 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64111
  • Tickets: $19

Like an inappropriate partycrasher, Humbird brought loud rock to the Folk Alliance International 2024 Conference held in Kansas City in February.

Backed by a powerhouse tandem of electric bass and rock-oriented drums, the Minnesota band led by Siri Undlin surprised folk purists at its official showcase.

Much of Humbird’s catalog consists of refined folk. A new direction in the vein of electric Neil Young, instead of the delicate folk of Joan Baez, will help Humbird fit in at the rock-oriented miniBar. Adelyn Strei opens the show.

Gary Clark Jr.: May 15

A man in a button down shirt holds a set of stylish sunglasses in front of his eyes.
Mike Miller
Courtesy photo
Gary Clark Jr. is the most prominent artist to emerge from Texas’ blues scene since Stevie Ray Vaughan.

  • When: 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15
  • Where: The Midland Theatre, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri 64105
  • Tickets: Starting at $39.50

Gary Clark Jr. rose to fame as a blues guitar slinger in the fabled Texas tradition of Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. As with those men, Clark dares to follow an unconventional muse.

Blues remains the foundation of Clark’s sound, but his startling new album, “JPEG RAW,” includes elements of African desert blues as well as American jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop and pop.

Clark’s embrace of a multiplicity of styles seems entirely natural. The Midland Theater will be filled with a corresponding variety of blues fans, rock-and-rollers and connoisseurs of experimental sounds.

Tenille Townes: May 16

Tenille Townes has received 17 awards from the Canadian Country Music Association.
Matthew Berinato
Courtesy photo
Tenille Townes has received 17 awards from the Canadian Country Music Association.

  • When: 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 16
  • Where: The Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire St., Lawrence, Kansas 66044
  • Tickets: $22 in advance

Why is Tenille Townes performing in nightclubs rather than in arenas? Fortunate fans at the Bottleneck who sing along with Townes on May 16 are bound to wonder why she isn’t headlining the T-Mobile Center.

The disparity is one of country music’s biggest mysteries. Towne’s pop-country anthems like “Where You Are” and “As You Are” are ideally suited for big halls.

True to her Canadian heritage, Townes was invited to the stage by pop-country icon Shania Twain when she was 9, and she released a duet with rock star Bryan Adams last year.

Kelce Jam: May 18

A smiling man with dreadlocked hair sit on a bench in front of a dark green background. He wears a big watch, bracelet, rings, and necklace over a white turtleneck and black pants.
Cécile Boko
Courtesy photo
Lil Wayne’s five “Tha Carter” albums are widely hailed as rap classics.

  • When: 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 18
  • Where: Azura Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012
  • Tickets: Starting at $50

Travis Kelce adds new meaning to the concept of jock jams. The celebrity tight end of the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs “personally recruited his favorite artists” for the second edition of Kelce Jam in Bonner Springs, according to the event’s website.

Lil Wayne is Kelce’s headliner. He may now be best known as a sports commentator, but hits like “A Milli” made the New Orleans man known as Weezy one of the world’s most popular rappers for much of the new millennium.

Music impresario Diplo and rapper 2 Chainz (who is even taller than the 6-foot-5 host) are among the additional stars celebrating with Kelce in Kansas.

Jeffrey Osborne: May 18

A man in a black fedora, suit jacket, and polka-dotted scarf holds a microphone off to his right side.
Courtesy photo
Jeffrey Osborne joined the R&B band L.T.D. in 1970.

  • When: 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 18
  • Where: Ameristar Casino, 3200 N. Ameristar Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64161
  • Tickets: Starting at $60

Thousands of fans of exuberant 1970s funk and frothy ‘80s pop are looking forward to Lionel Richie’s June 6 concert at T-Mobile Center.

Jeffrey Osborne’s May 18 appearance at Ameristar Casino is an ideal warmup for the big event. While Richie rose to fame as a member of the Commodores, Osborne sang on timeless L.T.D. hits like “Love Ballad” during the same era.

Osborne became a successful solo artist in the 1980s with hits like “Stay With Me Tonight” and “On the Wings of Love.” Richie may be more famous than Osborne, but the men are artistic equals.

Bleachers: May 23

A bespectacled man wearing a brown jacket on his head sits at a diner booth reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee.
Alex Lockett
Courtesy photo
Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff topped global pop charts in 2012 with the fun. hit “We Are Young.”

  • When: 7:25 p.m. on Thursday, May 23
  • Where: Grinders KC, 1826 Locust St., Kansas City, Missouri 64108
  • Tickets: Sold out, but tickets are available on the secondary market

Just as the celebrity of Travis Kelce took on new dimensions when he was romantically linked to Taylor Swift, the public profile of Jack Antonoff was elevated by his association with the pop superstar.

In addition to helping Swift make a successful transition from country music, Antonoff’s work with additional artists including Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Olivia Rodrigo shaped the sound of popular music.

Antonoff evokes the melodramatic side of Bruce Springsteen with Bleachers. Not coincidentally, both stars are New Jersey natives. Samia, yet another artist who has worked with Antonoff, opens the sold-out show.

Jacob Collier: May 31

A man in a plower print jacket and shirt runs his fingers through his spikey, dark hair. He stands in front of a wall of thin bamboo rods.
Tom Bender
Courtesy photo
Jacob Collier has won six Grammy Awards, including four for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals.

  • When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 31
  • Where: Kansas City Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St., Kansas City, Missouri 64105
  • Tickets: Starting at $39.50

Jacob Collier is as much a musicologist as he is a pop star. The 29-year-old Brit leveraged the popularity of his instructional videos and expert analysis to become a celebrity.

As an avatar of good taste and elite craftsmanship, Collier fashions himself as an heir to the legacy of Quincy Jones. Pop music’s establishment concurs.

Collier’s latest release includes features by Brandi Carlile, John Legend, John Mayer and Michael McDonald. The comparably-cultured Emily King opens Collier’s concert.

KCUR contributor Bill Brownlee blogs about Kansas City's jazz scene at plasticsax.com.
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