As a big-city girl from a small-town kind of place, imagine my excitement to learn that the maiden voyage for a massive (and soon to be annual) event was coming my way. After witnessing months of advertising across the Kansas/Missouri area, thousands of ticket-holders flooded the gates of the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Approximately 50,000 tickets were sold for each day of the two-day Kanrocksas Music Festival, which took place Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6.
A local band competition winner kicked off the festival early Friday afternoon on the Main Stage. Shortly thereafter, the 38 scheduled main acts began, rotating between the three larger stages: Main Stage, Ad Astra Stage – named after the Kansas state motto – and Stageasaurus Rex, the winner of the name-choosing competition. In conjunction with the main stages, there was also the Critical Mass Tent, which was reserved primarily for the popular DJs. Over 15 other local band and DJ competition winners played on the Campground Stage around which hundreds, if not thousands, of eager festival-goers had set up tents and trailers to camp out the weekend.
Although camping space was provided for free, with charges for some facility use, many attendees (myself included) chose to seek refuge in hotel rooms for the weekend, in order to beat the heat. With the weather reaching record highs this summer, at times leveling out at temperatures of over 115 degrees, the heat was on as thousands struggled to keep cool and hydrated. Luckily, with the help of free water refill stations to avoid the high prices set by vendors, most were able to stay cool. Many patrons had the same idea of sitting in the bit of shade provided along the back wall of track that was available to the general public, nearing a third of the mile-and-a-half long racetrack or lying down in the grass in the middle of the track. By nightfall, the temperatures had dropped enough for the real party to start. Despite the wave of heat and high humidity, there was no absence of fun and energy. Crowds were raging even by early afternoon, only to grow and grow until there was barely any standing room by 11 p.m., when the headlining performances were scheduled to begin.
Even though each day started early and burned on for approximately 12 hours, with over 20 performances each day and non-stop energy the whole time, it was clear that the crowd truly came for the headliners of Kanrocksas. The audience started amassing at the Main Stage at least an hour before the set time and was cheering in unison for the artists more than 10 minutes early. By 30 seconds past 11 p.m., they were restless and eager for the show to begin. Upon hearing the first chords of the first song, they went wild with enthusiasm. The performances were not disappointing in any way. With music videos and special performances with D12, Eminem took the audience back to his early days as a performer and took them forward with his newer music. Muse was more than outstanding with special effects, a laser light show, and even blue flashing shutter shades on lead singer Matthew Bellamy to top off their already loud and upbeat performance. Not for one second did the audience cease their deafening approval. Truly, this was one of the most energetic festivals I have ever attended.
Customers were provided with the choice of purchasing either a two-day pass or a single-day ticket for either Friday or Saturday. However, each of the two days was designed to attract different crowds of people. With Eminem headlining on Friday, the acts on that day tended to be more oriented around rap, hip-hop and DJ, while Saturday’s lineup had more alternative bands, closing with Muse. Regardless of this difference in genre, both days drew in huge crowds, which is an achievement that guaranteed this new tradition to continue for at least another year. While this inaugural festival is still taking its first steps and may not be as highly-anticipated as such big-name festivals as Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, it isn’t far off. Expect to hear more about this festival in the future.