Story & Photos by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
After a change in venue and a push to a later date, Buzz Beach Ball was home for the weekend to 96.5 The Buzz’ faithful fans. With a move from Sporting KC’s Mercy Park to Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (let’s face it, we’ll always refer to it as Sandstone) and a change from mid-July
to early September, Buzz Beach Ball made for a mellow weekend Sept. 8-9.
Friday kicked off a rollercoaster ride from show openers The Sluts to headliner Snoop Dogg. The early part of the day had a grungy, thrashy theme with the middle being electronica and pop building to Toadies closing the Price Chopper stage and hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg on the Buzz Stage.
While all the music falls under the banner of “alternative,” it seemed almost like fans didn’t know what to expect. Local H’s prog rock and grungy sound conflicted with Marian Hill’s airy production work. It worked well in giving the radio station’s fans a taste of what’s on the air and made for an interesting mix as those fans rotated from stage to stage to catch all 12 bands of the day.
Foster the People had an enormous crowd and, surprisingly, fans left their cell phones in their pockets and enjoyed the show. The production value of the group’s set was astonishing, complete with lasers and smoke as vocalist Mark Foster was all over the stage and the group’s three keyboardists had all sorts of illumination. The crowd really let loose after what had to be one of the tamest days in music festival history.
One of the biggest surprises of the weekend came when Snoop Dogg hit the stage. Most of the crowd was born well after songs such as “Gin & Juice” and “Nuthin But a G Thang” gave rise to the rapper’s career. His setlist featured all sorts of classic rap hits as well as covers or remixes of songs such as “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled and “California Girls” by Katy Perry. Despite the old-school songs, the entire crowd was rapping in sync with the rapper, who was joined on stage by two DJs, a guitar player, bass player, and backup dancers.
It was a pleasant surprise to see so many younger fans embracing the icon, who is equally famous for his stances on jazz cabbage as he is for his music these days.
The energy level was much higher Saturday. Whether it was the bands, fans’ reactions or the immaculate September weather, it seemed the crowds were more ready to cut loose deeper into the weekend.
Beach Slang crushed their set and had fun doing it, with frontman James Alex tossing up one of the hundreds of beach balls floating near the stage and hitting it with the neck of his guitar and bassist Ed McNulty using one to strum his bass.
Enough cannot be said about Gogol Bordello’s set. The group came out with all eight members rotating around the stage and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. As lead singer Eugene Hütz spent most of the set standing on monitor speakers at the front, the crowd got louder and louder the longer the group played. It was like someone flipped the switch and the magical moment happened when the entire crowd remembered they’re at a concert, at Buzz Beach Ball, all at once and started to enjoy themselves.
The surprise of the day and almost the show-stealer was Run the Jewels. The combo of Killer Mike and El-P has been taking the music world by storm since releasing their first self-titled album for free in 2013. The crowd in front of the Buzz Stage knew the lyrics to every word better than the duo and throughout the set both rappers were pointing and interacting with the crowd, drawing the loudest applause of the weekend.
RTJ almost stole the show, but it was Weezer who made for the biggest crowd pleasers of the festival. Playing from a repertoire of more than 25 years of music, the group made for what could have been the biggest singalong of all time. With an impressive lightshow and fans going ballistic for frontman Rivers Cuomo, the group played from an arsenal of hit songs including “Hash Pipe,” “Island in the Sun,” “Beverly Hills” and encore “Buddy Holly.” The group is set to debut a new album next month, titled “Pacific Daydream” and debuted new track “Mexican Fender” for the Kansas City faithful.
The two-day show included artists just getting started as well as icons. It made for an interesting mix of music that perfectly portrayed the Kansas City fan base 96.5 has built. The move to Sandstone may have been off-putting because of how easy it was to move back and forth between stages last year, but the September weather made for an enjoyable, music-filled weekend.
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