“Please consider my chariot, the shotgun seat is free
The radio reads kilohertz, but girl that’s all we’ll need
The taillight’s busted, the fender’s rusted, the gears they number three
But though this carriage is old it’s built to last just wait and see”
~ Christopher Porterfield, Field Report
Ahhh Kansas City. You really burrowed your way into our hearts this year. Back in May, we made our KC debut at the Brookside Art Fair, but with the late festival hours and our hotel location, we barely dabbled in the copious amounts of touristy options.
Not so this time. But first, these past few weeks lead to a bit of a pinnacle for us. We changed over from Fading Nostalgia to the Flash Nites, we reconstructed some sections of our booth to class it up a bit, and we prepared for what we knew would be our most bombastic show in 7 years: the illustrious Plaza Art Fair.
Even despite our high hopes, expectations, and temperatures, the weekend did not disappoint. The good people of KC braved the 90+ degrees all three days of the show and the ‘crazy-good’ Plaza show artists’ rumors materialized into reality. Our tent was always jam-packed, we met all kinds of cool people, some even shared their off-the-beaten-path rural locations, so now we’ve got our sights set on a return visit to the KS/MO countryside.
But we poured our love right back into the city every night and even stayed long into Monday before hopping the interstate for the [very] long 8+ hour journey home. Here’s a list of the awesome places we checked out, so for those of you who are familiar, you’ve got yourself some excellent local digs. To those of you considering a visit Kansas City, well this barely scratches the surface, but definitely a great start!
We rolled into town late on Thursday night, but really, is it ever too late for a pre-season Hawks vs Wings hockey game and some beers at The Blue Line bar?? Nope. Definitely a hockey fan’s dream in there! We even navigated the hockey foosball that was down a defenseman.
Friday after the show closed up past 10pm, we met up with friend, fellow artist, and genuine mentor in this crazy world of art, Kreg Yingst. We wanted to stick around the area, but almost everything had already shuttered up. Everywhere except Tomfooleries, land of the shotski. But the AC and cold beers did the trick and we toasted our long-awaited meeting at Plaza.
Saturday was long…real long. 14 hours-ish in 90 degrees. So around 11pm, late night tots, grilled cheese, and a malt at Winstead’s Drive In was like manna from the heavens.
Throughout the ultra swealtery weekend, we cooled off with some of our local favorite beers, (thanks to Plaza food and bev stands Jack’s Stack and Rye) namely Martin City Brewing’s Hard Way IPA and Boulevard Brewing’s Cranberry Orange Radler. Boulevard has officially infiltrated Milwaukee, and we’re not mad about it. Our local liquor store, Bert’s, is pretty good about carrying the popular Boulevard selections.
Seth Smith is a local KC painter renowned for his dreamy, drifty, Cali-flavored midcentury-scapes…motels and pools and diners and VW buses and the like, but he paints himself a mean abstract too. Seth’s pretty rad, so it was about time we snagged ourselves an original. I personally have a special place in my heart for the abstracts…
Breakfast Sunday was a little continental spread courtesy of BRIO and the Plaza Art Fair. We got to catch up a bit with a long-time artist friend and all-around kind human, Thomas Spake, glassblower-extraordinaire from Chattanooga, TN. After wrapping up and packing up the show that evening, we dove right into the heart of KC. We got a recommendation to check out the Crossroads art district—which is kinda reminiscent of very early Milwaukee’s Third Ward or Walker’s Point before mega-gentrification took over. First we grabbed pizza at the good ‘n gritty Grinders. We even bought their delicious, just-on-the-shelves, ho’made BBQ sauce.
Next up, beers and all of the arcade games at Tapcade, after which we just walked around for awhile, snooping in and around empty buildings, closed gallery spaces, and Josey’s record shop.
We require morning mega-jolts, which our Comfort Inn just didn’t provide, but luckily there’s a really cozy coffee shop right across from the art festival area, Kaldi’s Coffee, which we diligently hit up every day. On Monday AM, it was still 80-some degrees outside, but the Baked [made with real] Pumpkin Maple Latte just had to happen anyway. Fall in a mug…just delicious!
Sadly the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art—an institution not to be missed—was closed on Monday, but that didn’t stop us from galavanting all over the trademark lawn covered in Claes Oldenburg’s Shuttlecocks and other notable sculptures.
The best part about the N-A is that it’s free and we particularly love their website’s explanation why, with a subtle side of snark.
While the weather cooled off to a balmy 80 degrees, we quickly ventured back inside and did a little record shopping at Mills Record Company in the ultra hip Westport part of town. At Mills, You can peruse all of the new and old vinyl alongside the shop dog, Loretta. And while we didn’t catch the name of the guy who was working that morning, he was super cool, and agreed with us that KC is a hell of a town. We purchased some fine 45s and a couple buttons to add to the collection.
Our final stop simply had to be Boulevard’s brewery to pick up some beers to tide us over for the next time, especially because we totally missed out on the #BLVDRoadTrip stop in Milwaukee over the weekend. What a seriously sweet place!! Just the right mix of spacious and cozy, complete with a Shasta photo booth. The gift shop is practically overwhelming in a really good way. And the indie selection of music they had playing was perfect for a Monday. Inside the beer hall, we had to try a taste of the Collaboration No. 7, which is a beer created with partner breweries, Arizona Wilderness and Creature Comforts. Despite the fact that Boulevard went from a small brewery to a nearly-nationwide phenomenon, they’ve retained the local charm. The staff is chatty and ready with recommendations, from their beers to the best local haunts.
It goes without saying that we ensconced ourselves in Kansas City as best we could considering 30+ hours were spent working the art fair. Hopefully someday we can head back as real tourists and check out some of the deep cuts. If you’re a resident, please shout back some must-do’s to add to our list!
This week’s Adventure Soundtrack is full of KC-roots, from the jazz and blues greats Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and Big Joe Turner, to the new flavors of Janelle Monáe, Joon Moon, Soft Reeds, and Olympic Size. Sure Jelly Roll Morton was a New Orleans man, and his “Kansas City Stomp” was inspired by and named after a friend’s bar in Tijuana, but it’s one of my own all-time favorite early jazz songs. And although he hails from Broken Arrow, OK, JD McPherson has a lot of KC-style R&B pulsing through his veins. Plus, you can’t drive through without humming “Kansas City” by either Wilbert Harrison’s and/or The New Basement Tapes/Bob Dylan. And when you discover that Burt Bacharach was born in KC, there’s no going back.
Take a little time and settle into the sounds of KC (volume up and scroll down to Spotify player below). Our playlist is named after a beloved local musician and friend. We light-painted a car a year ago outside the small Wiscy town of Crivitz. It was our most popular photo of the Plaza weekend and we even met a guy who was determined to figure out what kind of car it is, simply by honing in on various clues, like the taillights which you can see in our video from that night. Verdict is in! She’s a 1953 Ford V8 Customline. Thanks Tom for your excellent sleuth skills!
And boatloads of thanks to all of you who stopped in our booth at Plaza this weekend, bought a piece (or several!), or just chatted awhile about your own photo adventures. We felt blessed and honored to be part of such an amazing show. In fact, one more little highlight of the weekend for you: on Friday, a woman stopped in our tent and pulled out a little drawstring satchel from her bag, and handed it to us. She explained: “every year I bring one of my painted eggs to this art fair and give it to my favorite artist. This year, I’m giving my egg to you.” If that’s not enough southern charm to melt your hardened northern heart, well then, you need another beer.
Until next time, KC…
“Gypsy woman, you know every place I go
Even a thousand miles away from home
You don’t care if I’m asleep or I’m awake
This fickle heart just turn to stone
I’m going back to Kansas City.”