Photos: KCIF Mix Tape Concert puts local artists on a national stage

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Jeff Petrie. // Photo by Dave Hennessy

Music festivals are an important part of summer. Your favorite touring bands are just a road trip away. If you are really lucky, like we are in Kansas City, the festival is in your own backyard. The Kansas City Irish Festival (KCIF) closes out the summer each year on Labor Day weekend with the Mix Tape Concert held on Sunday.

The Mix Tape Concert began in 2019, featuring only the traveling acts that performed at the festival. The idea was for artists to play covers of other people’s music and grew from a tradition at many Irish festivals known as “The Scattering.” This is always the last song performed at a festival and includes all of the artists who have performed together that year.

KCIF Entertainment Director David Shaughnessy explained that an entire concert became the Kansas City twist on that tradition. It also allowed the festival to pay tribute to a long-time staff member, Jeff Petrie, who had died the previous year. 

Petrie was an aspiring artist who lost the dexterity to draw as a teenager. He was a member of the entertainment committee for the festival and became a fixture in the KC live music scene with his love of music. Mix tapes were his trademark, which he created as gifts for friends over the years from the thousands of tapes and CDs that lined his walls at home. The concert’s name was partly created as a memorial to one of KCIF’s favorite staff members.

When the pandemic hit, the three-day festival was cut back to an online virtual night featuring recorded performances, but a decision was made to use local artists as much as possible to help our hometown musicians experiencing a lack of work at the time.

In 2021, with music gigs still limited in number, the entertainment committee decided to emphasize the local talent along with the touring bands on the same stage. It became the show that everyone talked about.

This year, Nick Carswell (of the Lawrence-based band Carswell & Hope) and Ashley Davis worked together to bring a mix of talent to the Miller Lite stage. Carswell drew from his extensive contacts in the local music scene to recruit performers such as Jessica Page and Calvin Arsenia, while Davis went to her contacts in the Irish music world to bring artists like David Howley (of We Banjos 3) and Shane Hennesy to perform covers.

A dozen musicians stepped outside their normal musical roots. So why feature someone like Kadesh Flow at an Irish Fest? Carswell says, “Irish music is evolving and Irish rap is being made in Ireland. We want to reflect that.”

The show ended with Kansas City favorite Eddie Delahunt performing a song he wrote years ago about the KCIF—a suitable ending to the 20th annual Irish Fest. Next year, make plans to be at one of the single best concerts you will see all year and say a thank you to a festival that supports local KC artists. 

Categories: Music