Foster the People, 9 more bands bring plenty of surprises to Kansas City’s most memorable Buzz Beach Ball
I have to hand it to 96.5 the Buzz this year – they picked out a diverse and killer lineup for this year’s Buzz Beach Ball and with the surprises during Foster the People’s and Sublime with Rome’s performances, Beach Ball really felt like a festival this year and not just a really long concert.
Ten bands came together to entertain Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. Musically, the day had everything: indie pop, stoner rock, Irish punk rock, British accents, adorable outfits, bands with personality, guest performers, remixes and even a marching band. The gorgeous soccer stadium isn’t really the best for concerts. Unless you’re looking dead on at the stage, the sound is terrible; traffic and parking are migraine-inducing; the high cost of water resulted in a busy day for EMT crews; and this year the tiles they placed to protect the stadium’s grass were buckling and creating major walking hazards. Despite these things working against Beach Ball, the bands really made the day worth it.
New York’s The Antlers opened the event with their lovely, almost lullaby-like indie rock. They were the least well known act and many concert goers were still tied up in traffic, but a sizeable crowd had turned out early for this trio. I was among the many tied up in traffic, but I caught a bit of the set and loved the distinct vocals, lovely keys and gentle easing into the long day. From the Antlers, the audience ping ponged over to the main stage for UK group The Kooks. The group has long been favorites of mine since their debut Inside In/Inside Out and it seemed like many in the audience were also very familiar with that record, especially enjoying songs such as “She Moves in Her Own Way” and “Naive.” Their songs are incredibly catchy and endearing. Despite a few pitch problems that were easily missed when buried in their accents, they were a very fun, upbeat set.
Kimbra followed on the small stage and despite being relatively new for the audience who really only knew her as the girl who sings on that ubiquitous Gotye song, Kimbra stole everyone’s hearts. The singer came out wearing a shiny mirror fragment-decorated skirt, gold top and a big smile. At first, all eyes were on the bold, quirky outfit, but once she started singing, the outfit was forgotten and there was simply Kimbra. She’s a blast to watch and her voice is amazing; she can go from deep, throaty “I want to settle down” to a higher-pitched, brighter pop vocal at the turn of a hat. Her songs have an old timey vibe to them, yet are still very modern with her loops and the instrumental additions. Even if her music isn’t your type, I think you would find her show enjoyable – she’s not just a singer, but a really great performer. For such a tiny person, Kimbra’s stage presence is enormous. Following Kimbra was another female-fronted band, Metric. These Canadian indie rockers started big with the hits, performing “Help I’m Alive” and “Gold Guns Girls” early in the set. I’ll admit though that the most fun part of the set was near the middle when singer Emily Haines ventured out from the behind the mic stand and her keyboard to dance and acknowledge the audience. They’re just a band that should be danced to, so when they started dancing themselves, the set just got a lot better.
In a big contrast to the previous artists, The Dirty Heads followed Metric and Kimbra with reggae meets rock tunes. This was a great hold over for the fans at Beach Ball waiting for Sublime with Rome, but for those with the more indie tendencies, you could see a bit of a divide forming in the audience. A Rolling Stones cover was an interesting surprise, though depending on which side of the audience divide you were on, it may or may not have been a pleasant one. Continuing the diverse musical offerings, Flogging Molly followed with their amped up Irish punk rock tunes. With Flogging Molly, every day is St. Patrick’s day. If a band member didn’t have an instrument in hand there was a Guinness in it. They came ready to party. The band played blisteringly fast on fiddle, guitars and accordion; chanted out their pumped up lyrics and jumped all over the stage. This was another one of those bands where even if their music wasn’t your thing, they were fun to watch.
Speaking of fun to watch bands, The Joy Formidable was a blast. Like Kimbra, they are fronted by a spunky lead singer, Ritzy Bryan. Unlike Kimbra though, this Welsh band is all about the rock – you don’t get synth, vocal loops or ‘oompahs.’ Ritzy and her band are in your face, flipping you off but with a genuine, non malicious smile. Big drums, big guitar riffs and Ritzy’s edgy, yet cute energy make them a fun band to watch. I’d even go as far to say that they’re better to listen to live than they are on recording because you get to actually see the energy that goes into their music. That being said, after seven high energy sets bouncing back and forth after 30 minute sets, the extended, mellow set of the Shins was a bit of a shock. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove the Shins and I love the distinct high pitched vocals of James Mercer as he sings those smart lyrics about the challenges of rough life and even rougher romance. I just don’t think this was the best atmosphere for them. Their set was too much of a lull in a day where we couldn’t allow energies to wane. I hope they return to KC for a club show where things are a bit more intimate. Unfortunately, in this large venue where half of the audience was unfamiliar with them, it felt a bit too much like naptime for some than listen to bands time.
After the Shins, the audience kept their eyes on the main stage for another full set, this time from the evening’s unofficial headliners (sorry, Sublime with Rome) Foster the People. Now I don’t know what KC did to win the love of this band, but Foster the People really spoil us whenever they come to town. Last time they were here, they played a free acoustic set before their evening concert. This time, they delivered an incredible set made all that more incredible by the surprise performances and twists to their more popular tunes. Remember how I said this time Buzz Beach Ball actually felt like a festival and not just a looooong concert? Foster the People’s insanely awesome performance is the main reason for that. From the songs, the lights to the adorable dance moves (Mark Foster has moves that would make a boy band envious!), everything about them was entertaining. The band only has one album currently available, so much of their set was simply Torches, but they did play some new songs such as “Love” and the recently released “Warrior.” “Warrior” also features earlier Beach Ball artist, Kimbra. The hypnotizing singer came out in a crazy rainbow hoodie outfit and joined Foster the People for the song, which made the crowd go nuts. As if the one surprise wasn’t enough, when it came time for my personal favorite track, “Houdini,” a brass band joined the band on stage. Seconds later – surprise! It’s not just a brass band but the entire KU Pep Band! The whole band poured out in front of the stage and the crowd just exploded. When Foster the People shouted out a thank you, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” though, half the audience cheered while the other half booed (Mizzou fans). The border rivalry goes deep, and with a bit of a half smile, Mark Foster then said, “Rough crowd.” “Houdini” would have been a great finale, but the band wasn’t done. They still had their well-known “Pumped Up Kicks” left to play. So for this number, they played it business as usual, but then dropped into a remixed version (The Highweights version) that had crazy strobe lights and Mark Foster jumping into the crowd. They brought new life to their tired tune. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from their set. So fantastic!
Foster the People’s Set List: “Miss You,” “Nickel,” “Helena Beat,” “Broken Jaw,” “I Would,” “Waste,” “Warrior,” “Love,” “What You Want,” “Don’t Stop,” “Warrant,” “Houdini,” “Ruby,” and “Pumped Up Kicks” with remix.
Sublime with Rome had a tough act to follow and honestly, a lot of the audience cleared out after Foster the People’s set. On the one hand, that looked disappointing to lose half the crowd for the last band, but on the other hand it (1) made traffic a lot nicer and (2) meant that those watching Sublime with Rome were true fans that really wanted to be there. These were the people that would really appreciate this set. Sublime with Rome surprised me as a casual listener with how many songs of theirs that I knew (these guys get a lot of radio play). It was a chiller set (as is to be expected with a ‘stoner’ band) and they still had surprises of their own. Matisyahu (who was playing another KC venue this weekend) came out to join for a few numbers. It might not have been a marching band, but it was still a fun treat.
While I would love to never have to attend Livestrong for another concert, I would love to see the Buzz keep on booking lineups like this. It was a long day, but a fun one where I even discovered new bands to love. The Foster the People set with KU’s Pep Band is something that I’m sure no one will be forgetting any time soon. This was definitely the most memorable Buzz Beach Ball.