Much the same as any other American city, its past is so often illustrious or even ignominious. The Kansas City Jazz scene in the 1930’s and ’40’s is well documented as the City heralded the tradition from big bands to the Be-Bop influence. Artists like Count Basie with his well respected Bennie Moten band and Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker with his mastery of improvisation started their careers here. This combined with the Huge Irish influx and influence made Kansas City a major player on the World music map.
In the time between sound check and show, Graeme and Tom wandered round the city in search of the grave of Charlie Parker, Tom send me a couple of the pics they took illustrating the city’s devotion to the legacy of that era. It must have been quite a scene back then. Mark wrote a song about it intended for the last album which remains an unreleased gem.
Sitting in traffic on the I55, the main and most direct route to Midway airport, Mark and I gazed out from our SUV at the huge numbers of trucks and containers on the roads in this city. Chicago is of course a major hub for transportation as it’s the only place in the hemisphere where all six ‘Class 1’ railroads meet. Chicago transports half the nation’s rail freight.
Seven interstate highways crisscross the Chicago region. Only two states have more interstate highway miles than Illinois and Chicago is a two-day truck haul from 219 million people, or 42% of the continent. It has the third-largest container port in the world, after Hong Kong and Singapore and as a result, almost a trillion dollars worth of goods pass through the Chicago region every year.
Our destination is Kansas City, a short flight from Midway and an even shorter drive from the airport in Kansas City to the venue. The airfield is literally right next to downtown, just across the bridge over the Missouri River. The Midland theatre heralds from 1927, right when the ‘scene’ was beginning. As such, backstage is small, quite basic and essentially quite dirty but the vibe in the building is great as all the staff are so lovely and couldn’t be more accommodating. There was plenty of time for a small bite in the basement catering but I decided it would be a very small bite as breaded, pounded chicken breast cooked beyond recognition didn’t exactly inspire.
Upstairs, Laurence was running through the rigs once more with Brent, who will take over from Laurence tomorrow. The band made the most of the tiny dressing rooms, fine for a trio but 11 musicians can cover some ground. It was all good and when 8:10pm came, we were primed and ready.
Right from the start, it was another fired up audience as they all have been in North America so far. We enjoyed a very relaxed set with no issues, lots of laughs and great moments…as always. The get out was interesting as we all had to get to the street level in the load-in elevator, the same as used by ALL the gear. These places can offer up real challenges for our crew, getting the huge amount of gear we carry into the buildings, but you’d never know. The power of experience.
In cars and on the way to the plane again, we were onboard within 10 minutes and Natalie was ready and waiting with huge G&T’s, wines and beers plus possibly the best ribs, beans and mash I have ever tasted. I know, I probably said that last time we were here…but they were! There wasn’t much food left by the time we descended into Chicago once more on a beautiful late Summer evening, well midnight to be more precise. The views over the city on approach were breathtaking and for once the camera doesn’t offer any justice. Another perfect touchdown by Captain Chris and we fell out of the jet and walked to the cars for the short drive back into town, with NO traffic.