Story & Photos by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
There’s nothing like celebrating a birthday by taking the stage in front of a hometown crowd. That’s exactly how Warrensburg native Steven Cooper decided to celebrate, by taking the stage at the only live music venue in town – The Bay.
Cooper was joined by several artists from his recently launched record label, Unlabeled Studios. The night saw lots of collaborations and artists working together to keep the crowd revved up.
First up was Grady Frazier, a Mexico, Mo. native, who seemed just a guy with an acoustic guitar at the beginning of his set. The crowd really got into his show when he played a cover of the famous Tom Petty tune “Freefallin’” and he didn’t let up from there. Frazier played his guitar masterfully, tapping on it to the effect of a drum similar to how famous guitarist John Butler does for songs such as “Ocean.” Another big surprise from Frazier’s set was a cover of Macklemore hit song “Thrift Shop.”
Through the middle of the show, upcoming rappers Melo, Ori-A, and Duncan Bennett were on the stage. All the talent seemed at home and comfortable on the stage. They all kept the energy high, bouncy around the stage and keeping the crowd involved in the show.
Just before Cooper took the stage, it was J. Theiss’ turn. CMN first reviewed Theiss in May when he was part of the bill for Cooper’s last show in town. And the rapper has come a long way. We mentioned his statuesque performance – which wasn’t very entertaining. In the months since Theiss has developed quite the stage presence. He was interacting with the crowd, moving quite a bit, and his vocal delivery stayed on point – comparable to Eminem. He was joined onstage by Ori-A and the crowd loved it.
It was blatantly obvious who the crowd was there to see, once Cooper took the stage it was shoulder-to-shoulder in front at The Bay. Cooper’s music is on the cusp between hip-hop and pop, but not in an annoying way. His production is really up beat and his music a real reflection of who the artist is as a person. Late in his set, Cooper told the crowd a story about how he hit rock bottom and sat in his mom’s bathroom with a knife to his wrist contemplating what to do next before playing his 2013 release “Good Day to Be Alive.”
Cooper’s the consummate performer. He was all over the stage, arm bouncing to the beat of his music, presented the microphone to fans in front so they could sing along, and talking about his career over the past few months. He’s launched Unlabeled Studios and filmed a part in a highly popular TV show, and the crowd cheered and congratulated any time he broke to talk about them.
It’s exciting to see such a wide range of talent stemming from a Kansas City label. While they’re still in the first few months of being together, the artists all seem to care and respect each other. They were each other’s biggest fans throughout the night and cheering for each other and interacting when the crowd wasn’t quite into it. It’ll be amazing to see where these artists go from here.