The COMPASS: Kansas City, MO

Kansas City

Kansas City
Check out the full COMPASS series here!

By The Phantastics

Kansas City is very much a city that lives up to its state motto, the “Show Me State” — there’s a shell of skepticism, challenging you to present something impressive— but once you crack the outer shell, you will be enveloped by a very soft teddy bear of love. That’s what we have set out to do. For over three years we were live music’s best kept secret. No publication felt compelled to cover us, venues didn’t want to give us primetime opportunities, but now, thanks to our insatiable thirst for being the ultimate party starters of live music and our love of our hometown, we can safely say we are threatening the structural integrity of Kansas City’s often impenetrable shell of skepticism. Our city has tacit cool. Price of living is cheap, downtown is bustling, the music scene is amazing and, come on, our mayor’s name is “Sly James” — too cool. KC is the best kept secret of America, the new sexy. Let ’em stumble upon a damn good time in the “middle of the map.”

We are Kansas City.

Record Bar

It’s arguable that many local musicians from this generation of the KC scene got their start by playing at RecordBar. It’s a music venue first, then a bar, then secretly an amazing restaurant. Out of all the local venues, RecordBar probably has the best food. The owners are so into the local scene that their website lists a ton of local press contacts to get the word out for your show, as well as other helpful tips to make the show a success! It’s also a favorite local haunt of “Kansas City King” Tech N9ne, who often frequents RecordBar’s hip-hop shows.

+ Learn more: Start planning a tour through Kansas City with our free course, “Touring on a Shoestring”

There’s nothing like the vibe and the smell of a small record store. You can feel the love for music as you walk in. Although Mills Record Company hasn’t been around for very long, it has definitely made its mark on the scene. They also put on some awesome events. I’ve seen album release parties and other showcases done in this space, and it can’t be more than 800 square ft!

Daveys Uptown

You walk in to Davey’s Uptown and it looks like your typical dive bar. But, as you pass through a small doorway, you’ll notice that it also houses a decent size venue. It has some of the best sound for a venue its size in the city. The walls are coated with markings and fliers, and there’s an awesome golden throne by the stage (for whatever reason). It’s also the one small hyper-local venue that has a functional green room. They even set us up with a taco bar and Twizzlers one night!

+ Read more: “The Compass: Louisville” by Rachel Grimes of indie-rock chamber ensemble, Rachel’s

YJ’s Snack Bar is a tiny 24-hour snack bar in the Crossroads Art District oozing with character. Pictures of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. line the walls, and a barely-in-tune upright piano sets the scene for impromptu late night sessions by jazz players getting out from their shows. It’s also the epicenter of live music on First Fridays, where you’ll see thousands of people lining Kansas City streets in search for art, music, and booze. On First Fridays, in front of YJ’s and Birdies (a boutique lingerie shop own be local celeb Peregrine Honig) you can see rappers freestyling, DJs spinning classic hits, B-Boys dancing with city folks, and hipsters and onlookers from the burbs getting their monthly cultural fix.

HAMMERLORD @ the Riot Room, Kansas City, MO - 01/03/2009
HAMMERLORD @ the Riot Room, Kansas City, MO — 01/03/2009

The Riot Room for whatever reason has gained a reputation as the go-to place for amazing music and dance parties. We’ve played there several times and are continually impressed by people coming off the street just wanting to hear good local music. They have amazing sound and set a great atmosphere for music. It has a cool 360-degree bar in a room that looks like it was probably a strip club in its younger years — mirrors: everywhere. Riot Room has one of the most happening patios in Westport as well, with some of the best Boulevard beer that you can’t find anywhere else.

Mutual Musicians

The Mutual Musicians Foundation or simply, “The Foundation,” has been around since 1917 and started as an African American Musicians’ Union. Arguably, it’s where the “jam session” was created and where all of the usual suspects of Kansas City jazz were well represented. It’s now a hotspot for Kansas City jazz music and serves as a rehearsal space to bands as well. History aside, it’s also the only bar, venue, ANYTHING that has been granted a 6AM liquor license, which means even if you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about jazz, there’s still plenty of reasons to come down for some late night fun. We’ve never played straight-up jazz per se, but this place has always been an important inspiration for The Phantastics.

If you need music gear, Big Dude’s probably has what you’re looking for. It’s one of the only local music shops in the city of its size. It’s located in midtown (which is at the heart of the cultural landscape in Kansas City), so we’ve found ourselves going there whenever an emergency set of cables needs to be procured before a gig.


Lastly, although its actually in Lawrence, we couldn’t possibly leave the legendary Jazzhaus off the list! We have performed many, many times there and it’s always a magical experience. Within those walls, we’ve grown our fanbase from just a few people knowing us to hundreds showing up to pop-up shows with little promotion and yelling out song lyrics.

Interested in hearing more about the sounds of cities from the artists who love them? Catch up on the full Compass series here.

The PhantasticsThe Phantastics are a seven member band specializing in tantalizing, genre-blending dance floor activators. In 2015, the music group was crowned “Kansas City’s best party band” by the Kansas City Star. But “party” doesn’t encompass the range in which The Phantastics reign. Musicianship and diversity are at the core of their success. Expect to hear rock, rap, dance, funk, jazz, and soul all incorporated into a seamless, winding river of music.

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