6 Iconic Things To Do In Kansas City This Weekend

Oct 19, 2017

Janet Jackson performs Thursday in Kansas City.
Credit Amy Leiton / Wikimedia Commons

Icons drive the mind – or at least the one in this skull trying to coax serviceable images out of a computer keyboard for your weekend preview pleasure.

Here’s some of what’s taking shape: Crazy female hairdos swaying to the beat of nostalgic new-wave rock, a socially-conscious pop empress shaking and baking while carrying on a family tradition and the return of Mr. October – no, not Reggie Jackson, but our fall friend, the jack-o-lantern … although picturing the venerable home-run hero taking a mighty swing with a pumpkin for a pate holds an odd appeal.

Can you see it? If icon, so can you!

1. Janet Jackson

No one could have known that when little Michael Jackson was electrifying the music industry with the Jackson 5 that his even littler sister, Janet, would one day be a world-famous attraction herself. Sexily grooving on stage with a cadre of crack dancers and delivering melodic messages of love and strength, Janet Jackson doesn’t want to merely entertain audiences, she wants to inspire them to make the world a better place. Catch her in the iconic act of expressing progressive viewpoints that everyone may not whole-heartedly agree with, but we can all dance to.

Thursday, 8 p.m.; Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $37.50-$87.50.

2. The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys’ 1963 hit, “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” makes a fanciful suggestion: “If everybody had an ocean across the U.S.A., then everybody’d be surfin’, like Cali-for-nigh-A!” And there you have the central iconic image of the early Beach Boys – an entire nation of teenagers cresting one big wave of never-ending summer fun. Led by pop-music genius Brian Wilson, the group’s skillful combination of rock ’n’ roll and barbershop harmony evolved in the 1960s to address sonic innovations, deeper feelings and even psychedelia. The current touring version of the band, fronted by stalwart co-founder Mike Love and longtime periodic member Brian Johnston, still delivers the good-time goods. Surf’s up!  

Sunday, 7 p.m.; Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $49.50-$125.

3. The B-52s

Nutty beehive hairdos (or rather wigs) and off-kilter yet irresistible dance-party songs marked the mold-breaking intro of the B-52s in the late 1970s. Part of the emerging new wave music scene and also a singular attraction, the iconic group of revelers hit instant pay dirt with a bevy of whacky tunes, including “Rock Lobster,” “Private Idaho” and “Dance This Mess Around.” The late 1980s saw the B-52s turning to more formal pop-music structures and the lively and frequently intertwining lead vocals of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (the two with the wild hair) in such singalong hits as “Love Shack,” “Roam” and “Deadbeat Club.” The group, which still features dynamic sing/talker Fred Schneider, hasn’t released a new album since 2008’s “Funplex.” But any lack of fresh material is beside the point at a B-52s gig, where you’re sure to be among a most happy audience of human pogo sticks.

Sunday, 8 p.m.; Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $35-$69.50.

4. ‘100 Years of Violeta Parra’

Known as the “Mother of Latin American Folk,” Violeta Parra would have turned 100 years old this month. To honor the centennial of the Chilean-born music-and-more icon, Kansas City musician and native of Chili, Pablo Sanhueza, has organized a tribute concert featuring the KC Latin Jazz All-Stars, guest vocalist Camry Ivory and a poetry reading from Chico Sierra. In addition to writing and performing her own groundbreaking music, which fired up the “Chilean New Song” movement of the 1960s, Parra was also accomplished in the fields of folklore, ethnomusicology and visual art. ¡Viva Parra!

Saturday, 7 p.m.; Prospero’s Books, 1800 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $12.

5. Glow: A Jack-O-Lantern Festival

Yes, pumpkins are edible, but this time of year the orange gourd is most memorably represented as a jack-o-lantern. Leave it to Powell Gardens to get a jump on Halloween with its two-day jack-o-lantern fest that should deliver both an eerie and ebullient glow – depending on the facial expressions carved into the iconic pumpkins that promise to dot the landscape. Walk a long jack-o-lantern-lined path, learn from expert pumpkin carver Rudy Garcia, join a hayride or just settle in at the fire-pit with a satisfying beverage. But first things first for the inspired pumpkin carver: Should Jack wear a grin or a frown? Don’t worry, if you finish and change your mind, you can always turn him upside down.

Friday and Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; Powell Gardens, 1609 N.W. U.S. Highway 50, Kingsville, Mo.; tickets: $5-$12 (ages 4 and younger free).

6. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde’

Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic novel about the ultimate split personality, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, gets the oh-so-silly treatment in Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company’s latest send-up, “Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde.” The family friendly production is part of the troupe’s Top Bananas program that involves youth and adults with disabilities and special needs. Following the one-act play, stick around for a talk-back session with the actors and those behind the scenes. Mrs. Hyde? A new icon is born!

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.; Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company, 702 Blue Ridge Blvd., Grandview, Mo.; admission: free (reservations required at 913-642-7576 or info@martincitymelodrama.org).

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at brianmctavish@gmail.com