KC Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide
Looking for holiday gift ideas for your No. 1 music lover and want to keep it KC-centric? Check out a few picks for the season from The Bridge’s resident musician and content manager, Michelle Bacon.
Go To A Show
What’s a better gift than an unforgettable experience? Coming up this Saturday is The Bridge’s Christmas Show at the Uptown Theater with country legends Wynonna and the Big Noise and Tanya Tucker. A little birdie told us there were a few tickets left, so get on that while you can. And listen to Mornings With Bryan Truta on Friday for a chance to win a pair!
If you want something beyond the typical concert experience, there are a couple weekends left for Quixotic Fusion’s awe-inspiring cabaret, Sensatia. It’s a feast for the senses, merging the worlds of circus, dance, classical music and burlesque, and has featured local musicians like Calvin Arsenia and Kadesh Flow. Read Zoey Shopmaker’s piece about the show and get tickets before they sell out.
Peep The Bridge’s events calendar for big 2020 concerts, like the fiery blues/soul of Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Music Hall on Jan. 21 or the trippy waves of Tame Impala at the Sprint Center on July 20. If you’re more adventurous, think about taking a road trip to Camdenton to see The Avett Brothers at Ozarks Amphitheater on July 3. Or, keep it local. Coming up on Saturday, Jan. 11, take your choice of two KC favorites — The Greeting Committee with Samia at the Uptown Theater, or Katy Guillen & the Drive with Jenny Wood at Knuckleheads.
And if you're a frequent connoisseur or creator of live music, you've gotta protect your ears. AudioGirl Consulting is based in Overland Park, with licensed audiologists who serve the music industry, taking ear impressions for custom earplugs (and in-ear monitors for musicians).
Better Shop Around
Lucky for us, record stores have made a big resurgence in the past decade. You can grab new or used LPs at about 10 to 15 different locally-owned shops around the area.
Take a deep dive into the off-center gems at Records With Merritt, a cozy shop on Westport Road founded by music mavens Marion Merritt and Ann Stewart. Spend an entire afternoon digging through the massive selection at the Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven. Stop by Sister Anne’s for a warm cup of joe and a side of wax. Mills Record Company is one of the city’s vinyl mainstays, and some extra food for thought — owner Judy Mills just opened a bookstore around the corner, Wise Blood. The shop is celebrating its grand opening this Friday through Sunday.
A few local makers also sell their wares online and at music stores around the city. String Theory KC fashions recycled guitar string jewelry made from strings donated by KC musicians, and can be found at FM Music Vintage Sounds in North Kansas City. Lost & Found Design specializes in wood laser cut products. Check out their Etsy shop for a host of jewelry, and a David Bowie-inspired moon wall hanging.
If there’s a musician in your circle, they’re probably talking about gear about 75 percent of the time, so here’s a chance to indulge their deepest of desires (and maybe get them to stop talking about it).
Found Sound KC is the newest music store in Kansas City, now open in the Crossroads District from Thursdays through Saturdays. Owned by Kathi and Darren Welch — who formerly operated Holy Cow Market and Music and the Cowtown Mallroom before it — the retail and consignment shop boasts some of the hippest vintage guitars, amps and pedals around. They also sell a variety of the locally handmade Jaykco Guitar Straps, and as a bassist who owns three, I’ll tell you that there’s nothing finer on the market for the comfort, aesthetic and price point.
A fresh pair of sticks or moongels are ideal stocking stuffers for the drummer in your life. Thriving for more than 35 years, Explorers Percussion is the one-stop shop for percussion accessories and the occasional clinic or workshop, having hosted renowned players like Tool’s Danny Carey and Frank Zappa’s drummer Terry Bozzio. Bonus: you might get to meet the store’s beloved mascot, Paddington the dog.
Feeling extra generous? Consider a custom-made instrument for your loved one. For electric axes, there’s Seüf Guitars, which operates out of Fountain City Guitarworks in Midtown, and Swope Guitars, because if it’s good enough for Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones, it’s good enough for you. Most of your favorite drummers likely sport a drum set from C&C Drum Co. — vintage-inspired kits created by father/son team Bill and Jake Cardwell in Gladstone. For more recommendations, check out Sounds of the Soul — a docuseries from our friends at Flatland KC, featuring several area instrument makers.
Whether you’re shopping for an aspiring artist or a bonafide rock star, they might appreciate these suggestions.
You might be surprised to know that a few of the city’s best musicians supplement their income by teaching vocal and instrument lessons at music stores (Big Dudes, Explorers and Guitar Center to name a few), in their own studios and at music schools like School Of Rock, Music House or Young Artists Music Academy. If you need lessons, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org for some personalized recommendations!
The next time you ask a band why they haven’t put out a new album yet, keep in mind that this isn’t a cheap endeavor. An eight-hour block of studio time will run a few hundred dollars at best, and this may or may not be enough time to complete just one track. It’s the perfect gift from a music lover, because you’ll be directly investing in their creative process. Some of my favorite engineers operate professional studios in Kansas City — just to list a few I’ve worked with, there’s Duane Trower at Weights & Measures Soundlab, Joel Nanos at Element Recording, Paul Malinowski at Massive Sound Studios, and Justin Mantooth at Westend Recording.
It’s All About the Merch
Let’s be real: working musicians aren’t often raking in the dough. And especially with touring bands, a big cut of their income is from merchandise sales. So next time you’re at a show, be sure to support them directly by purchasing an album, a t-shirt, button, poster or koozie. You’ll be happy you did.
Invest in the Community
Today’s The Bridge’s last day of our Winter Funding Drive, and we want you to be a part of what we stand for. By supporting this one-of-a-kind NPR Music station, you’ll get to discover a variety of local and national artists hand-picked by our staff; read articles like this on local music events, acts and businesses; and listen to specialty shows like Chris Haghirian’s Eight One Sixty, Thursdays with Timothy Finn, Revival with Michael Atchison and The Z Show with Skylar Rochelle. We’ll say thank you with some swag, like our Listen Local soccer scarf or three-in-one coffee tumbler. Become a member today!
A number of nonprofit music organizations are also based in KC, and more than worthy of a holiday donation. Midwest Music Foundation provides emergency health care resources to working musicians and music personnel. A few music education/mentorship programs are geared toward underserved youth communities — there’s Art As Mentorship from Making Movies’ Enrique Chi; Base Academy of Music, which targets youth in the urban core; and Harmony Project KC, the flagship program of the Northeast Community Center.
—Michelle Bacon is 90.9 The Bridge's Content Manager, and she plays drums and bass in a number of bands around Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @michelleobacon.