The FOKL Center is really a wonderful little thing. Art space, community center, old building, cool kid gathering place, call it what you want – but last weekend, it was the focal point for the psychedelic/chill/weird genre defying bands that take up residence in the Kansas City area. KC Psychfest came about in large part due to the hard work of a of a few go-getters, and they really did pull it off magnificently.
When I arrived in scenic downtown KCK, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’d driven by the FOKL center a million times, but never really knew what it was, or why it was there, or why they misspelled focal. I knew there would be two stages – Id and Ego (so clever), and I knew the lineup, but that was about it. I was familiar with one or two acts, but the vast majority were completely foreign to me, which can easily become a recipe for disaster.
But there was no disaster here. There was a painstakingly constructed stage upstairs, with abstract white shapes and blocks, bathed in complex projection, mapping and visuals. There was a dank, dirty, gross, and perfect basement, the type of space that adds grit and authenticity to any performance. There was a courtyard with looping videos of Ren and Stimpy, Gumby, and other readily available YouTube favorites, in addition to DJ Memo dropping vinyl outside throughout each of the three nights. The organizers pretty much nailed the venue. It had everything an attendee could want. And we haven’t even mentioned the acts yet.
Night one brought a plethora of terrific moments. Thee Devotion opened up the fest with a healthy dose of psychedelic funk wrapped up in matching outfits and seasoned with some wonderful harmonica. The textures and soundscapes of Twofaced primed the basement before groups Restless Breed, The Jorge Arana Trio and Box The Compass brought their special brand of sounds and grooves to the ears of the concertgoers. Monta At Odds put on a different show than I’m used to, the chill bass licks were still there, but there was an added energy and robustness.
The 808’s and claps of Discoverer’s thick beats and smooth surges came and went much too quickly, as was the case with many of the acts. A loaded schedule of quality acts meant that each band was restricted to a 30 min set, a trend that was surely difficult to pull off, simply due to the nature of psychedelic music.
Night 2 brought more of the same. CS Luxem started the show with some well-choreographed looping. Next up was Import/Export, who impressed by crafting complex rhythms and melodies with energetic bursts of chaos and noise.
Downstairs in the basement, Carnal Torpor turned heads with a piece entitled “The Chariot” which involved a whip, a murder, a homemade guitar strumming mechanism and a whole lot of screaming. The Conquerors showered the psychfest in fat 70’s riffs and fun shouted vocals. And then there was Gemini Revolution. Another manifestation of the Moore brothers with a drummer that who quite literally could not be contained. It seemed like her drum solos would go on forever, and nobody wanted her to stop.
The last night was bitter sweet. There was only one stage, the basement and courtyard were closed down, but the quality of the last night made up for the decrease in real estate. Yuo continued in the Psychfest tradition of texture making and mood creating, before Scammers led the audience in a journey through Aladdin. Every song in his set quoted an Aladdin song, and the stage behind him lit up with distorted images of Jasmin, Jafar and Aladdin himself. Surroundher brought a gritty take to dance grooves, with rhythms building out of seemingly nothing to create moods that made it literally impossible to stand still.
KC Psychfest answers a question that I didn’t even know I had. KC clearly has the talent, all it needed was a stage to show it on. Here’s to a wonderful show, put on by wonderful people.
all photos by Chris Mills, Demencha Magazine