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6 Musical Things To Do In Kansas City This Memorial Day Weekend

Andrew Birgensmith
Kansas City Symphony

Music does so much. But, perhaps most importantly, it accommodates.

Take this weekend’s cooperative passel of concerts encompassing multi-day celebrations of world-class jazz and roots music, the first gig of an English rock icon’s new international tour, cutting-edge DJs creating throbbing dreamscapes for the dance crowd and Kansas City’s own musical salute to Memorial Day.

Something for everyone? That’s the idea. Now if you could only be everywhere at once.

1. Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival

Inclusion and variety were obviously the bywords when it came to booking acts for the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival at 18th and Vine. The inaugural three-day fest’s jazz, soul and R&B lineup notably makes room for pop music/TV star Brandy and rapper Yazz, who co-stars on Fox TV’s hit series, “Empire.” There’s also heavy-duty soul singer Lalah Hathaway, longtime jazz piano explorer Chick Corea, wide-ranging jazz guitarist John Scofield and such local or formerly local stalwarts as jazz saxophonist Bobby Watson, soul singer Oleta Adams and jazz singers Kevin Mahogany, Ida McBeth, Queen Bey and Angela Hagenbach.

Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Sunday, 2:30-10 p.m.; outdoor stage, Gem Theatre, Blue Room at Kansas City 18th and Vine Jazz District; tickets: $25-$125.

2. Westport Roots Festival

Ninety variously rootsy acts on six stages run the gamut from old-school country to skip-school psychobilly at this fourth annual appreciation of “traditional and neo-traditional American music stylings.” Holding up the retro end of things will be such country loyalists as Moe Bandy, Dale Watson and the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. Among those sticking their necks out on the anything-goes frontier of the roots music scene will be metal-country purveyors Stump Tail Dolly and the totally hell-bent Elvis Hitler. Can you dig it? Well, you just might.

Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m., Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $40 (three-day passes only).

3. Roger Waters

Still cautionary after all these years, Roger Waters, the primary creative force behind classic English rock band Pink Floyd, continues to carry the fire on his new solo album, “Is This the Life We Really Want?” While Waters is certain to perform selected tracks from his first long-player in almost 25 years, it’s a lock that most of his show at the Sprint Center – which kicks off Waters’ “Us + Them” North American summer tour – will be a trip down memory lane for Pink Floyd fans. The question is, what can they still remember? Just dust off those vintage vinyl copies of “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall,” and it should all come flooding back. Hopefully.

Friday, 8 p.m.; Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $53-$197.50.

4. Flux Pavilion

English DJ, producer and singer/songwriter Flux Pavilion (Joshua Steele) brings his “Around the World in 80 Raves Tour” to KC. If there’s one electronic dance number he’s sure to play, it’s “I Can’t Stop,” which hip-hop giants Jay-Z and Kanye West were kind enough to heavily sample for their song, “Who Gon Stop Me,” on that duo’s 2010 album, “Watch the Throne.” It’s good to make friends!

Friday, 8 p.m.; Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $10

​5. Zebbler Encanti Experience

The transcontinental audio-visual collaboration between Boston video artist Zebbler and Spanish electro-music producer Encanti is dubbed the Zebbler Encanti Experience, or “ZEE” for short. But that brief description is a long way from experiencing the euphoria that can result from the twosome’s far-out projections and psychedelic dance music. Consider it a chance to dream with your eyes open.

Saturday, 8 p.m.; Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15-$30.

6. Celebration at the Station

The Kansas City Symphony’s annual Memorial Day weekend concert features singer Patti Austin and a 100th birthday tribute to jazz great Ella Fitzgerald, whose songs helped to keep the home fires burning during World War II. As always, the alfresco event will culminate with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” (punctuated by live cannons, natch) and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Blankets, lawn chairs and patriotism welcome.

Sunday, 8 p.m. (site opens at 3 p.m.); Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at brianmctavish@gmail.com

Brian McTavish follows popular culture in the belief that the search for significance can lead anywhere. Brian explains, "I've written articles and reviews ... reviewed hundreds of concerts, films and plays. And the thing is, these high arts all sprang from the pop culture of their day. Don't forget: Shakespeare was once Spielberg."
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