Although the name Kansas City has been synonymous with jazz since the early 1900s, the breadth of its harmonious landscape has continued to flourish, today encompassing almost as many diverse genres as the increasing numbers of multicultural communities that call the metropolitan area home.
From hard rock to classical, blues, gospel, heavy metal, Latin jazz, funk, country, reggae, and everything in between, you can find it here.
The R&B music scene here is alive and kicking as well, primarily enjoyed in the city’s famed Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District where local, regional, national and world-renown entertainers alike make regular appearances.
A newcomer to the Kansas City music festival scene is the first annual Grub & Groove Festival.
Presented by Platform Promotions, a nationwide premiere concert promoter based in Kansas City, the festival is one of the company’s specialty, outdoor events that not only brings world-class entertainers to town, but also serves as an economic development driver for small businesses located in the host cities.
This year’s Grub & Groove Festival (note that this is different than the annual free concert event in St. Louis by the same name, where any proceeds are used to benefit ongoing maintenance needs at the city’s Francis Park), held August 15, featured Billboard topping and/or Grammy award-winning and nominated recording artists One Way with Al Hudson, KeKe Wyatt, Rose Royce, Tony, Toni, Toné and headliners, The Whispers.
The hot sun still high in the sky at 5pm at Parade Park behind the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, with the uppermost façades of the downtown skyline buildings to the west in the distance, didn’t deter the excited fans who grooved to some of One Way’s classic 1980s jams including their greatest hit, “Cutie Pie.”
And it was a complete sing-along fest when KeKe Wyatt took the stage, belting out sultry hits like “Nothing in This World” (which she recorded with singer Avant), “If Only You Knew,” and one from her upcoming album, just to name a few.
Memories of the complete package, energetic, multi-piece bands from back-in-the-day came flooding in when R&B, funk and classic ballads by Rose Royce moved the crowd to sing and dance to “Ooh Boy,” “I’m Going Down,” “Love Don't Live Here Anymore” (later remade by Beyonce), “Wishing On A Star,” and of course, “Car Wash.” And it was all about the ladies with Tony, Toni, Toné crooning “Whatever You Want,” “Anniversary,” “It Never Rains (in Southern California),” and “Lay Your Head on My Pillow,” among others.
But the majority of the thousands of attendees (some holding up their favorite early artist album covers) were here for the Old School, waiting with bated breath for what some consider to be one of R&B music's longest lasting, most endearing vocal groups - The Whispers.
Celebrating 50 years since they came onto the R&B scene, The Whispers have not lost a step, bringing almost the entire Parade Park audience to their feet for their late night set, with their back-in-the-day smash hits including “Rock Steady,” “Love is Where you Find it,” “And the Beat Goes On, and “It’s a Love Thing.”
The “Grub” portion of the Grub & Groove Festival featured a handful of the Kansas City area’s popular food trucks—fried fish, barbecue, Italian, and soul food—and a few beverage tents, with participation anticipated to grow as the event gains in popularity.
The festival was M.C.’d by radio station Magic 103.7’s Sean Tyler (plus a DJ delighting the crowd between performances with other great old school jams and a bevy of up-close-and-personal, hip gyrating-worthy two-step grooves), who will also be the MC on Saturday, August 29, at the first inaugural Grub & Groove Festival in Wichita at Jabara Airport, with performances by Brick, Con Funk Shun, Lakeside, the Dazz Band, and the Bar-Kays.
For more information, check out the Grub & Groove Festival website at grubandgroovefestival.com.