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Crossroads Music Fest 2015

Back in 2005, Crossroads Music Fest took root in the grassy area near 18th and Locust—an area that eventually became Grinders Sculpture Park and now houses CrossroadsKC behind Grinders. One of the festival’s co-founders, Bill Sundahl, originally launched CMF to help get exposure for his band It’s Over. “I wanted to get more people to hear our music, but now [CMF] has become a way to give people the chance to come to one place to see a cross section of the great musicianship this town has to offer.” Ten years later, Crossroads Music Fest has overtaken a healthy portion of the arts district, allowing Kansas City audiences a chance to sample music from their own back yard.

From jazz to country to psych to electronic and everything in between, CMF has been and continues to be known for bringing in a diverse artist pool each year. Sundahl says, “There is an incredible spirit of collaboration in KC these days that has been spawning a vast array of musical styles at a very high level.” The fest includes touring headliners Mountain Sprout, as well as Light Music (Milwaukee) and The Free Years (St. Louis)—both featured on The Record Machine’s showcase—but remainder of the lineup hails from the KC/Lawrence area. Sundahl cites KC’s premier drill team The Marching Cobras and old-timey/bluegrass musician Julian Davis as must-see acts. He also points out the young talent represented on each of the 7 stages, including Duncan Burnett & the Ministry, Jessica Paige, Instant Karma and Connor Leimer along with veteran acts like Not A Planet, She’s A Keeper, My Brothers & Sisters, The Philistines, Katy Guillen & the Girls and Sara Morgan.

In CMF’s 11 years, Sundahl has learned a great deal about running a music festival, crediting its continued success to his co-founders (Jauqui Craig and Sundahl’s wife, Wende Williamson), along with Midwest Music Foundation and the volunteers that make it happen each year. But Sundahl has also had the fortune of seeing the fest expand with the growth of Kansas City’s music scene. He mentions that out of this year’s 35 acts, only 5 of them have played CMF in the past. “It’s so much easier to find great bands to show off to the public, but extremely difficult to choose which bands to show off to the public,” he says. “This year we have 30 bands that have never played before. I would put any of them up against the other 50 bands I would’ve loved to book.”

Year after year, CMF gives hometown artists a prime stage to play on: an opportunity to make new fans and connect with other musicians. Because of this, Sundahl’s goals have changed. “It’s not about me; it’s about building something for the future of my city,” he explains. “I know so many artists and musicians in Kansas City who have the passion and drive it takes to make a living playing music. It will always be a struggle, but if CMF can help get their music heard and enjoyed, then I will call it a success and start getting ready for next year.”

Crossroads Music Fest is a fundraiser for 90.1 KKFI Kansas City community radio station. It starts at 6:00 pm this Saturday in the Crossroads Arts District, across 7 stages on 3 city blocks. Purchase tickets and find out more info about the fest. Download a copy of the schedule (along with a map of venues) to your phone.

Michelle Bacon is a musician and writer dedicated to the Kansas City music community. As editor of The Deli Magazine-Kansas City and staff member at Midwest Music Foundation, she advocates for and helps spotlight music in the area. She is also a freelance writer for The Kansas City Star and plays bass with The Philistines and Dolls on Fire, and drums in Chris Meck & the Guilty Birds. Her grandma is 101 years old and by far the coolest person she knows.

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