As the afternoon turned into a Friday night, Shenya Robinson and two friends sat on lawn chairs under the sky bridge in the shade of Union Station.
It was Robinson’s birthday, and she celebrated with her first live concert since the COVID-19 pandemic changed almost everything for everyone.
“I’m super excited to be back,” said Robinson. “Live music is just a part of life for me.”
Like many music lovers, Robinson needed the relief that only live music can provide. And more than three weeks after Kansas City, Missouri, ditched his face mask and social distancing rules indoors, the announcements of the president that the country will have enough vaccines for all adults by the end of May encourage him to find it.
Robinson, who lives in Lenexa, said she has no hesitation in going out this weekend. She didn’t even bring a mask.
“On a beautiful day like today, it’s just the perfect way to end an s —– week,” she said.
Judith Appollis didn’t think much before joining Friday’s crowd at Union Station for Troostival’s first pop-up concert. The show featured hip hop groups Black creatures and Brass and Boujee, a big band of 18 musicians led by rappers Kemet the Phantom and Kadesh Flow.
“The type of audience that I go out and associate with – mainly my age group, very responsible people. So I’m sure most of them, I guess, are fully vaccinated, ”she said.
Appollis, 61, is a jazz and big band fanatic, and has ventured to her favorite place, The Phoenix, as soon as they started having shows again.
“It was great because in the beginning they were still doing social distancing with the chairs and everything, so you felt a little bit protected. But now they’re at full capacity, so we’re sitting almost back to back, ”said Appollis.
She summed up what many were feeling in the mostly unmasked crowd.
“I don’t think it’s completely, completely back to normal because there’s still that caution, you know?” This apprehension, this “is it really?” »», She declared.
Lemonade park has been one of the city’s most popular outdoor operations since it opened during the pandemic.
The safety-focused entertainment venue is a partnership between Wes Gartner and Jill Myers, of Voltaire and Moxie Catering, and Steve Tulipana and Shawn Sherrill, who also co-own the RecordBar and MiniBar live entertainment joints.
The two indoor venues have mostly been dormant for more than a year, Tulipana said.
“I loved what we got to do at Lemonade Park,” said Tulipana. “It’s definitely putting money in the pockets of groups and money in the pockets of our employees, but the numbers that we do there – it’s the livelihood.”
Also, he said, outdoor concerts just aren’t the same as indoors, where you can get immersed in the music, the audience, and the vibe.
“It’s really magical for people who really love music, and we miss it sorely,” said Tulipana.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of Missourians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 47% of Kansans.
Tulipana said that as vaccination rates increase across the country, bands are increasingly telling agents they are ready to book live concerts again.
“I see a lot of events in July,” he said. “We are announcing a lot of things, and a lot of people are going back on tour.”
If the share price of live nation concert company is any indication, Tulipana isn’t alone in believing Americans are keen to see the return of live music. Actions for this company reached an all-time high in March, and have been hovering there ever since.
But the fate of many places, RecordBar included, is not guaranteed. Tulipana said he was still waiting to hear about his request for federal assistance.
“And if that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to bring the business down three times, when all of our inactive loans and everything that paid our rent for last year comes due,” he said.
“I actually just attended my first (live show) since the pandemic,” said Kevin morby, who spent part of his childhood in Kansas City and moved there again in 2017, having made a name for himself on the indie and folk rock stages.
The band was Heartless Bastards, the venue was the Mohawk in Austin, Texas.
“It was kind of like on a whim,” he said, “and it was so awesome. It was such an amazing experience.
Since the pandemic subsided, Morby has booked his first performances: three nights at Tulipana’s Lemonade Park, which was full days in advance. Morby will take the stage with Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield’s indie music project, every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings.
The two have lived together since before the novel coronavirus took hold of the world.
“I think people really want, really need the return of live music,” he said.
Morby has plans for outdoor shows and festivals throughout the summer and does not plan to transition to indoor work until fall, provided outbreaks remain rare.
“I think it’s a huge blessing that we can all keep in touch… through the internet,” he said. “But I think the spontaneity (of live music) is exactly what everyone craves, and now we’re starting to see it coming back.”
Other signs of normalcy are also appearing. Reviving a long-standing tradition of live music, a member of the band at Friday’s Troostival event urged audiences to come closer to the stage.
“Now it looks like a concert! He said into the microphone, as dozens of plastic chair legs simultaneously spun across the concrete.
“We have a mobile scene that allows us to go anywhere in the country… so we thought, why not start now by spreading the good news about the amazing black musical talent here in Kansas City,” said Kemet Coleman, known on stage as Kemet the Phantom, in a pre-show interview. “We have also gotten through this COVID pandemic a bit, and we are now in a position to celebrate. “
Coleman is also the founder of Troostival, a festival in October aimed at amplifying black creatives while fighting racial injustice. Not only is he hoping to see this main event unfold as usual this fall, but Coleman has plans for two more pop-up events in June as well.
“If anyone has a place they want to see a pop-up, we’re open to that,” he said. “We would like to take him to KCK, we would like to take him to Overland Park, other more suburban areas.”
On coronavirus precautions, Coleman said he would follow all city guidelines this weekend and for the foreseeable future.
“We encourage people to keep a little social distance, by encouraging people to bring their own chairs,” he said. “But, you know, obviously, if you’re feeling sick, please stay home.”