Ernest James Zydeco combines the funky styles of the bandleader’s native Louisiana with the good-time blues and swing of Kansas City. Local Listen features “Tough Times Waltz,” a selection from the band’s new album “Automatic Harvester.”

Ernest James Zydeco performs Friday, September 25, at BB’s Lawnside BBQ and Saturday, September 26, at Llywelyn’s Pub.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Artist: The Popper aka Walter Lee Edwin

Career: The Popper’s been rapping in Kansas City since 1996, straddling some of Kansas City’s different hip-hop scenes.

The Story: After a few days in jail early this summer, Edwin was on house arrest and wrote and recorded a whole album, Write (Right) Thru The Pain, about that experience. With that out of the way, he wrote, recorded and released the summer anthem "I’m KC" in a matter of days. 

Deco Auto

Deco Auto
The Curse of Deco Auto

In an earlier time and with a little luck, “One of a Million,” the opening cut to Deco Auto’s latest release, The Curse of Deco Auto, just might’ve been a hit.

It’s the sort of would-be single — power-pop-crunchy, sing-along-catchy, turn it up and play it again — that would’ve sounded right at home in heavy rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes. 

Courtesy of Charlotte Street

This Tuesday might be a school night, but it’s also a special occasion, one that, if we're truly in touch with our existential status in the natural world, deserves a ritual. It’s the autumnal equinox, when the sun shines directly on the equator and the lengths of the day and the night are essentially equal.

Two Kansas City musicians want to help celebrate, so they’re putting on a sleeping-bag concert. They did the same thing for the spring equinox six months ago.

Making Movies, one of Kansas City most notable bands for the past five years, is committed to giving back to the community. The annual family-friendly Carnaval is a fundraiser for Making Movies' after-school music education program.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “Cuna de Vida,” the lead track from Making Movies’ most recent album “A La Deriva.” Making Movies’ Carnaval starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Knuckleheads

Courtesy of Sky Smeed

Sky Smeed
Drive All Night (Sky Smeed Music)

Drive All Night, the fifth album from Sky Smeed of Chanute, Kansas, is a troubadour’s lament to the helplessness everyone feels.

Knowing that Smeed’s core backing band is Lawrence’s wonderfully irreverent Truckstop Honeymoon may prepare listeners for “Smoke N’ Spice,” a tribute to Kansas City barbeque in the form of a personal ad. But that irreverence makes for a deceptive opening, and even the darker “Blue Highways,” about a touring musician beginning to see two-lane blacktops as bars on a jail cell, isn’t likely to prepare anyone for the rest of the record’s quiet desperation.

  Katy Guillen & The Girls are a hard-driving, blues-drenched trio with deep Kansas City roots. Steve Kraske asks the band how they got together and developed their signature sound.

Katy Guillen and the Girls will perform at 1:15 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 13 at KKFI's Crossroads Music Fest. They'll play at  the Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival in St. Joseph, Missouri on September 12

 Karrin Allyson is one of the premier jazz vocalists in the world. On her latest album, "Many A New Day," she revamps Rogers and Hammerstein classics with jazz-world superstars Kenny Barron and John Patitucci.

Karrin Allyson performs tonight at The Blue Room in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The McFadden Brothers, Ronnie and Lonnie, have been front-line entertainers in Kansas City for years with their combination of singing, tap dancing, sax and trumpet. In this conversation with Steve Kraske, they recall the influences that shaped their professional lives.

  Joe Stanziola, the Kansas City man behind Second Hand King, doesn’t make run-of-the-mill hip-hop. Elements of doo-wop and an unusually sentimental perspective of love inform his thoughtful music. “The Right Way,” a track from Second Hand King’s new album “Before the Bomb Drops,” is inspired by vintage R&B.

Second Hand King performs on the patio of the Riot Room at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 12.

Courtesy of Victor & Penny

Victor & Penny and their Loose Change Orchestra
"Live at the Living Room Theatre"

Many a young band could learn a thing or two about rocking from the uke, acoustic guitar, clarinet and bass combo featured on this live set.

Shooting Star was the most commercially-successful rock band to emerge from Kansas City in the 1980s. International hits like “Tonight” combined progressive rock with radio-friendly pop.

This week's edition of Local Listen features “This Is Our Town,” a hard-charging track from Shooting Star’s new album “Into the Night.”

Shooting Star will open for Boston at Starlight Theatre on Sunday, Aug. 30. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, Kansas Citians who responded to the storm share memories and perspectives. We also retrace the musical pipeline from New Orleans to Kansas City.


  • Dan Verbeck, retired broadcaster who covered the storm live, KMBZ and KCUR
  • Micah Herman, Kansas City jazz musician
  • Loren Pickford, New Orleans jazz musician
Iris Dement

Iris Dement
"The Trackless Woods"

Iris Dement’s new album is both right in line with all the music she’s ever made and unlike anything else she’s accomplished in an already iconoclastic career.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR

Growing up, Amanda Fish used to lock herself in her room to sing. So, her younger sister Samantha Fish would lock herself in her room and play guitar.

"We were independent experiencers," Amanda says.

"She calls it a loner thing, I call it a leader thing," Samantha adds.

Fast-forward through the days of wailing with Tom Waits and rocking out to Nine-Inch Nails, and these two musicians are, sure enough, leading their own blues bands around Kansas City and across the country.

Charlie Parker's birthday is coming up, and Kansas City is all a-twitter. Hear a visiting jazz scholar's take on the history of Bebop, and Kansas City-born Charlie Parker's place in it. Bonus: a recording of a jam session where you can hear the Bird talking.


Two sisters, both Blues singers, talk about being creative siblings, and what drives them to make music.


  • Samantha Fish, musician, new album: Wild Heart
  • Amanda Fish, musician, new album: Down in the Dirt

Samantha Fish’s billing at the Spirit of KC Fest reflects her elite status in Kansas City’s music community. The blues-rock artist headlines over five other noteworthy locally-based acts.

This week's Local Listen features “Highway’s Holding Me Now,” a blistering song from Fish’s new “Wild Heart” album.

The Spirit of KC festival is at Crossroads KC on Saturday, August 22. 

Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and upended the lives of people who called the city home.

Mike and Katie West lived in the Lower Ninth Ward, and in the time since the hurricane, they have relocated to Lawrence, Kansas.


Dark Black Makeup (Little Man Records)

Glenn Danzig, the rock veteran often characterized as the Evil Elvis, performed in Kansas City last month. The New Jersey native founded the influential horror-punk band the Misfits in the 1970s, but Danzig ceased being cool years ago. Radkey shamelessly recreates Danzig’s sound, but there’s little about this band from St. Joseph that isn’t extremely cool.

Wondaland Records

Kansas City, Kansas, native Janelle Monae on Thursday released a new single that's an anguished litany of black men and women who've been killed by police and other injustices.

Jeremy Thompson / Flickr-CC

One local music venue is in a narrow storefront and it doesn’t have a stage. The other is in the East Bottoms.

You’d think these locations wouldn’t work, but the Green Lady Lounge and Knuckleheads Saloon have succeeded in carving out a niche in Kansas City’s music scene — even to the point where Knuckleheads has opened the Garage, a mid-sized venue, next door.


One of the best parties in Kansas City occurs every Friday afternoon at the Phoenix as the vocalist, trumpeter and tap dancer Lonnie McFadden eases celebrants into the weekend.  An old-school entertainer in the tradition of Sammy Davis Jr., McFadden is one of Kansas City’s most beloved personalities.  

This week's Local Listen features McFadden’s jovial invocation “Let’s Party.”

McFadden performs at the Phoenix every Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Jenny Wheat Photography

Mikal Shapiro
The Musical

On her third solo album, Mikal Shapiro essentially divides the songs into two sides. And it's tempting to line up "Act One" and "Act Two" as songs of innocence answered, track for track, by songs of experience.

As the summer winds down, are you looking for some music to rev you up? Our critics here at Up to Date have scoured the best of local, national and international music released this year to give you a wide selection.

Chris Haghirian

Local picks:

The Sluts, "Let Me Go" from The Sluts

  • "It's a nice, loud ruckus-y garage band sound. It looks like he's protecting himself with his drumsticks."

Hipshot Killer, "Give Me Something Better"

Chris Haghirian

Whether you're working out at the gym or drifting to sleep, it's nice to have some music to keep you company and Kansas City has plenty of great artists to add to your playlist. 

Kansas City music critic Chris Haghirian has compiled his favorite albums of 2015 — so far. 

Haghirian writes about music, organizes the Middle of the Map Fest and you can hear him on his local music show Eight One Sixty every Tuesday evening on 90.9 FM The Bridge.  

Anyone with a laptop computer can act as a one-man band in 2015, but A.J. Gaither goes about it the old-fashioned way as he simultaneously howls, flails at a guitar and pounds on drums during his frequent performances in Kansas City’s barrooms.

This week’s Local Listen is Gaither’s typically-unhinged song “Natural Habitat.”  

Gaither performs at the Westport Saloon August 8 at midnight.