Saturday at Boulevardia was packed with beer and bands; we paired them up

The West Bottoms, Kansas City
Saturday, June 14

The nation-state of Boulevardia needs to annex some nearby territory, because there’s an issue with population density – i.e., it was so packed. The various gravel parking lots – especially in front of the main stage – were dust-manufacturing plants. As the sun set, the weather cooled, allowing some of the sweat to dissipate, meaning I was no longer covered in a thin film of ick.

The crowd was interesting, as suburban beer geek dad types mingled with downtown hipster types, but they all wore sandals, for some idiotic reason. People watching was fun, especially when the beer lines started stretching out further and further. The lines moved swiftly early on, but as the evening progressed, you had to choose between missing part of a band or getting another beer. Unsurprisingly, the lines in view of the stages were most popular. Next year, Boulevardia could be helped immensely with more beer tents and more port-a-potties. It seemed like it was standing in line to get a beer, then immediately to standing in line to get rid of the beer. See five minutes of a band. Repeat.

On a positive note, Farmland was giving out handfuls of free bacon, which ought to be a crime, especially given that dessert was Cristopher Elbow Glacè ice cream (maple bacon pecan). Thus fortified with pig, it was time for me to see a band.

It was a no-fail option to attempt pairing beers and bands for the Saturday portion of Boulevard Brewing’s three-day Boulevardia festival. Regardless of whether or not this worked out at all, it was still going to be a success, because beer and rock ‘n’ roll, outside in the summertime, is always a good decision.

The dance acts got fruity, flavorful beers that I could analyze and enjoy while I stood there watching the music, because I sure as shit don’t dance. It’s not an elitist thing – I’m just not very good at it, and I have respect for other people. So, I chose beers to which I could pay attention, since movement wasn’t very likely. The rocks acts, for whom I would be shaking my head, pumping my fist, or otherwise physically occupied got flavorful beers of lesser complexity.

The Josh Berwanger Band was going to get KC Pils – it’s a standard beer, and Josh Berwanger plays standard power-pop. This isn’t a slag on the beer, nor the band – they’re both taking basic forms and doing them so well as to elevate them above the norm. Much in the way that you can drink a pilsner and wonder how quickly it disappeared, Berwanger’s sets have a tendency to be over before you’re quite ready for them to be. Plus, I have this strange feeling that Berwanger himself would take offense if the band was paired with something fancy.

Josh Berwanger got people up front by giving them “Bullets of Change,” promising it was a “dance number.” They won folks over – many of whom would be seeing Berwanger for the first and last time, the sad fate of many festival bands. Their cover of “Rocking in the Free World” was an admittedly calculated move to win over the suburban beer dads, but it seemed to work. They ended up getting paired with pale ale, and it paired well, for the same reasons I’d considered the pils.

Finding beers was difficult: you had to guess, and even then, you weren’t sure which booth would actually have. You’d stand in line for ten minutes, only to discover Single-Wide was the next booth down. Stuff ran out, which is why Robert DeLong was accompanied by 80 Acre.

The 80 Acre was hoppy, but wheaty. An apt pairing, considering his music walks the line between annoyingly poppy and confrontationally electronic. People were painting faces in the front row, as the bass absolutely killed any chance you might’ve had of ever hearing again. It was kind of adorable to watch people dance in place while trying to keep their head still. DeLong himself was everywhere. He didn’t stand still for more than a few seconds during his entire set.

DeLong was going to get paired with a random beer, anyhow. The logic behind pairing a random beer with Robert DeLong is that I didn’t quite know what to expect from DeLong’s performance. Live videos online are kind of at a premium, and while I’m familiar as anyone with “Global Concepts,” I really didn’t know whether there’d be a light show, if it’d just be him out there on stage, if he’d pull in a few other folks, or what. Thus, last-minute choice. It was strange to see one tiny guy, all alone on the big stage, until you looked out on the crowd and watched them dancing like mad.

The 80 Acre is kind of like a wheat beer, and kind of like an IPA. It’s two beers in one. So, you’ve got the perfect brew for Six Percent, which is a punk rock band with horns. The manner in which the 80 Acre features the wheat aspect brings up Boulevard’s wheat beer, which is the brewery’s long-running flagship beer – working well with Six Percent’s longevity, having been around in various forms since the late ’90s, but the hoppiness being a new twist that reflects their current rock ‘n’ roll heart.

However, Six Percent ended up being paired with Celebration Sour, which wasn’t as weird as it could’ve been. It was refreshing, and it was nice to get something crisp and different, and as a rock band with horns, Six Percent stands out. The rock ‘n’ roll’s pretty standard, but you’ve got a band that knows how to rock the pop-punk angle. Case in point: they followed Berwanger’s lead and got the audience on their side. In this case, it was a punked-up version of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” which led to a sing-along that echoed off the surrounding buildings.

A British band requires a British beer. The India Pale Ale was originally developed by the Brits, so it seems appropriate. The Single-Wide’s a mildly aggressive beer – not quite the astringent, resiny palate destroyer so many other IPAs seem to aspire to, but there’s a bite there – much in the same way that Catfish and the Bottlemen are catchy, but slightly dark.

Catfish and the Bottlemen were playing not just their first KC-area show, but their first US show ever. The band was better live than what I’d heard online, but was otherwise underwhelming. The quartet plays basic UK indie pop that was pleasant as anything, but utterly unremarkable. All the beers I wanted to pair with them was out, so they were paired with a French farmhouse ale, Tank 7, because I felt snotty and frustrated with the beer situation.

“We’re the Architects and we’re from right fucking here.”

It was a tough choice as to what to pair with the Architects – I went with the wheat, because it’s appropriate for fist-pumping rock ‘n’ roll singalongs, as well something strong and robust for this band. The wheat’s robust, flavorful, and dependable, much like this foursome.

I’d not seen them in what seems like ages, and catching them on a festival stage – yet attracting a sizable crowd of fans – was a strange occurrence after being accustomed to seeing them at the Record Bar or Riot Room. The rock ‘n’ rollers had a legitimate crowd for their set, which is remarkably heartening. The new stuff rocks like Against Me! mixed with Frank Turner, which is to say it’s catchy and rootsy and fits right up next to older material like “Pills.”

I’d planned to pair Capital Cities with the ZON, since the lemony Belgian ale is an easy-drinking beer, and it’s pretty mellow. Capital Cities are a fun, energetic dance-pop indie act, but nothing genre-bending or freaky like Hot Chip, much in the same way that ZON rocks the Belgian crispness without getting into the super-strange flowery aspects of the style. The whole citrus aspect seems to complement the trumpet line in “Safe and Sound,” for whatever reason. That wasn’t anywhere to be found, so I tried for the Radler, and it was gone, and then the band had to start, so they got paired with KC Pils, which I don’t remember, nor do I remember much of Capital Cities. They were danceable, but completely forgettable.

The festival’s a blast, but the first-year jitters made some things a bit tough. Parking in the bottoms is a nightmare, and walking from the other side of 670 is a little hinky. There’s also no outside food or drink, but access to free water was nowhere to be found. If you’re going to create a sovereign nation in the middle of a warehouse district, figure out a way to let people fill up some water bottles. Here’s hoping they’ve got the kinks worked out for next year. 

Categories: Dining, Music