Tales from the Kelce Jam: We came, we saw, we have some regrets
We were at the red carpet setup behind the stage at the Azura Ampitheater. Travis Kelce rocked a wavvy denim bucket hat with a matching outfit—his “Canadian tuxedo,” he told our cadre of several dozen press members.
After slowly parading down the carpet, plugging sponsors, and posing for photos, he crossed paths with a pair of fellas wearing Illicit shirts—one of those event sponsors—on his way to prep for his “mainstage moment,” which was set for about 8 p.m.
“Y’all gonna babysit those things for me?” the 33-year-old, seven-time All Pro selection asked.
A brief pause on all fronts.
“I’m talking about the booze,” Kelce said, referring with a laugh to the coolers of cans available to his official posse via a ramp behind the stage. His party was only just beginning.
At approximately 8:08 p.m., Kelce waltzed onstage to the sight of nearly 2,000 fans and the end of a highlight video which included cuts of himself spiking one of his many career touchdowns to the beat. It’s so over the top you can’t help but smile.
“Ya jabronis!” he yelled as flames and smoke machines flank his entrance.
Way, way out from stage right, where I was, some girl walked by and repeated it back at him with vigor.
Kelce cracked a canned cocktail and spiked a replica of the Lombardi Trophy onstage as “Fight for Your Right” queued. The masses went nuts.
Twenty-one miles away at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, prospective members of the newest class of the National Football League awaited one of the most exciting moments of their lives as they hoped to hear their name called to join the greatest in the game at the highest level it could possibly be played.
Meanwhile, Kelce was already living out his wildest dreams and then some. He’s one of the greatest the game has ever seen. This was his moment, and, honestly, he’s earned it.
Following the Wingstop Chicken Wing Challenge, Tech N9ne came out with a handful of songs, including staples like “Hood Go Crazy” and “Red Kingdom.” Towards the end, some fans echoed the general sentiment on Tech’s set: It was too short.
Most of the crowd was ready for whatever would be thrown at them. In the intermission, I headed towards the watering hole closest to the main entrance and sat on one of the stones at the perimeter. As I took some notes on my phone, it appeared that a rather sizeable portion of the festival’s men had established a low-key pissing spot off in the treeline nearby. Others joined with little to no hesitation as one or two supportive-but-mortified girlfriends kept watch.
In time, I continued wandering and ended up trying my three free Wingstop Wings and nursed a large Miller Lite. Rick Ross, who had, naturally, come out to help oversee the wing-eating competition, was second up on the billing. The rapper was supported only by a massive group of insiders lining the back of the stage throughout. On brand, again.
Seeing the all-ages crowd mouthing, swaying, and moving to Ross’ radio-sprawling hits like “Every Day I’m Hustlin’” wasn’t entirely unexpected. Still, it was notable how many old-timers also seemed enthralled with the proceedings. At one point in the middle of his set, Ross told the crowd he wanted to say something special: “a shoutout to all the ladies.”
I personally had doubts as to just how special this was, seeing as it’s been said at every concert in every city since Jesus was born. This internal criticism was drowned out by a pair of legendary dads laughing with one another behind me. Apparently, their daughters were up in the pit.
The one with the impeccable Southern accent said, “Motherfucker, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
Just before Ross began “Stay Schemin”—perhaps the one song I was undeniably hyped to see played—somebody came up to that same group behind me where the pair of dads sat and recognized somebody he went to middle school with.
Bravo, Kelce Jam. I must say, I was entertained.
In the downtime between sets, and indeed often during the third act, Canadian electronic duo Loud Luxury, people were wandering off to try some of the oft-advertised heavy culinary hitters like Joe’s, Jack Stack Barbecue, Q39, Hawaiian Bros, and Longboards.
As Ross’ part concluded, Kelce came out, as he had been throughout the night, and led the crowd in an enthusiastic recitation of “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Again, I couldn’t help but smile. If you asked anyone in the crowd at this point if they’d consider the night a success, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person not into it.
“Sweet Child Of Mine” played next, and Kelce was still out there crooning like a party god. It’s undeniably a moment.
Finally, the DJ cut the song, and the crowd sang the last chorus.
“That’s it, baby!” Kelce shouted. Ross belted out his signature grunt seemingly at random; everyone laughed.
Loud Luxury played their set next, and I started to have flashbacks to 2012—my first year in college and the height of the few years when dubstep was in vogue. By the time they finished, it was just after 10:30 p.m., with Machine Gun Kelly as the last artist set to perform.
“We’re about five minutes away from something so amazing; you cannot believe,” Kelce told the crowd.
A drone show came out shortly thereafter, and it was legitimately pretty awesome. As the hundreds of drones spelled out things like “KC,” “Welcome To Our House,” and “#87,” the crowd went ballistic, as should be expected from a Super Bowl championship city as they hosted the NFL Draft.
And then, the most memorable event of the night for me took place: The drones flew together to draw up the T-Mobile logo.
Azura/Sandstone erupted with boos.
As a snobbish prick, I was somewhat skeptical about this Kelce Jam. But fans consistently booing the T-Mobile logo plug at this moment made me so fucking proud of us. As the corporate plug floated around in the sky, Bruno Mars’ mass-manufactured pop-explosion “Uptown Funk” fittingly played on the speakers.
Even after that, fans continued to cheer the other, less corporate drone configurations. When T-Mobile did another one, the cheers stopped once more as boos roared.
I love you, Kansas City.
Machine Gun Kelly was next. I’m far, far from a fan, but I stayed for what I thought was at least half of his set out of a commitment to journalistic integrity. For what it’s worth, there was a sizeable portion of the crowd rocking his merch, and, for a lot of them, I think MGK alone was worth the billing.
While it took him a bit longer than I and many around me expected to come out after the drone show finally, MGK went on to play 18 songs that evening. Many fans were getting a leg-up on the competition in the parking lots and filed out. Eventually, I did, too.
While leaving, I heard Kelce’s voice again as he came out for another round of “Fight For Your Right” alongside a guitar-clad MGK.
I want a little of whatever the fuck Kelce is on. For legal reasons, I can only speculate that it was several barrels’ worth of beer and sheer winningness, baby.