With Kanrocksas and Lollapalooza running on the same weekend, we decided to drive the extra few hours for Kansas City rather than Chicago to see similar artists in a more intimate setting. We think we made the right choice as the first year event was in its infancy in terms of fan turnout but the logistics and infrastructure of the event were nothing short of a masterpiece.
Kansas Speedway boasts a 1.5 mile triangular oval with enough space that it could comfortably host a professional baseball stadium and football stadium within its interior infield. Chris Fritz has been managing and producing concerts since he was a teenager and foresaw the scale that could be achieved in a venue such as this. One of the most redeeming qualities of the Speedway was its pre-existing framework that was already in place to host a large number of fans: plumbing and permanent toilets; physical, air-conditioned, structures within the infield that could house site management, media, and emergency personnel; grass surfaces for the fans and paved surfaces for temporary services; and a very large grandstand with permanent seating that not only gave a respite from standing but also provided necessary shade in the afternoon. For those who didn’t mind sitting on a paved surface, the track itself has a natural incline and many fans chose this location during the headline sets of Eminem (Friday) and Muse (Saturday) to absorb the sights and sounds; and whatever else they might have gotten into the venue.
Three stages and a tented dance area shared the infield with a series of activities designed by Art Director John Bukaty. Individual risers (think large crates) dotted the area for animated dancers and a large wall was constructed for master artists to create paintings inspired by the live music. Tents of varied shapes provided shade and misting stations. For those who wanted more than just mist, or an in-promptu shower for the campers, there was a designated rain tent. Water filling stations flowed non-stop and could be found within the main grandstand and at the center of the infield. Our personal favorite addition to the venue were the roughly one dozen local food trucks which provided tried-and-true food specialties that ranged from gourmet meatball sandwiches (Italian with shaved Parmesan and basil oil or spicy Thai with an Asian slaw) to vegetarian gyros (curried chickpeas and roasted vegetables with feta and tzatziki sauce on a pita) to fresh bakery food and gourmet coffee; and all at prices that were a reasonable $3-7. The food trucks were in addition to the typical, and numerous, beer and food kiosks that one would expect. Liquid refreshment was never more than a few feet away as individuals with coolers stocked with beer and water were everywhere.
Josh Hunt of Mammoth Entertainment put together a stellar first year lineup, that went well beyond Eminem and Muse, with a diverse spread of talent. The Black Keys impressed with their Akron-based, garage-produced, blues inspired rock. Les Claypool of Primus gave yet another mind blowing display of bass-centric funk metal. Cage the Elephant, A Perfect Circle, and Flogging Molly got the overheated crowd moving despite the temperatures and humidity. Regardless of your musical preference, The Flaming Lips always entertain with their carnival-on-crack atmosphere. Much of the lineup were also on the 2011 Lollapalooza bill–it was marketing genius to tag along with a firmly established festival to siphon talent on the same weekend. If there is a 2012 Kanrocksas (we hope to see it announced next year), we would bet that it runs the first weekend weekend of August.
Kid Cudi, coming off a great set at Dave Matthews Band Caravan, is an up-and-coming star and not to be missed. Ween’s quirky, albeit short compared to their typical 3-hour performance, was fun and the most diverse on the weekend as they shifted between jam band, psychedelic, and classic rock. We weren’t able to see Bassnectar but didn’t need to, he was impressive from across the venue.
The Arctic Monkeys had the most unenviable slot on the weekend as they played the main stage under the brutal sunlight on Friday. It was a task that they pulled off without falter. Fitz and the Tantrums had to work under similar conditions, with much less energy, and were not above complaining about the heat.
We did not get to catch every act, and barely had any time to spend in the Critical Mass dance tent, but we did walk away impressed by all that we covered. D12 had the weakest performance that we saw (marred by a 20-minute delay).
Speedways have been successfully hosting concerts for years, Altamont’s 1969 tragedy not included. Altamont had roughly ten times the crowd as Kanrocksas did this past weekend at Kansas Speedway (300,000 versus around 30,000); however, Altamont did not have nearly the infrastructure that made the first ever Kanrocksas a success for the fans even though it might not have been a profitable event. It was rumored that the head of Michigan Speedway flew in to sneak a glimpse at what could be the future of festival shows. After spending the weekend in Kansas City, we cannot wait to see what Kanrocksas has in store for 2012.
Head over to The Dead Hub for in depth concert reviews and more photos.
Gear Used for this Shoot
- Canon EOS 5D Mark II body
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS USM Lens
- Black Rapid Double Strap
- Think Tank Speed Freak V2.0 Waist Pack
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