WAR proves that we can still be friends at Ameristar
Saturday, March 11
I was heading towards Kansas City, with my father in tow, talking to him about live music, concerts we have seen individually, and the few that we have seen together.
He says, “We’ve been planning this one since what, September?”
“No, October. That was when we went out to see The Who in St. Louis.”
“Right, yep. I’m excited for this one.”
This one happened to be at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, Missouri, where one of his all-time favorite bands WAR was playing.
We arrived early enough that we could have a meal and watch the KU vs. Texas Big 12 Title game, but as time grew closer to the doors opening, you could see the excitement building up in my father. We went to will call and picked up my media credentials and tickets, and he darted over to the merch booth.
“Do you have any long-sleeved shirts?” he asked, and a look of disappointment and a little sadness flashed on his face when he was told that they did not. “Oh well.”
He went to get in the very short line starting to form, so he could be one of the first in the venue. He was like a teenage boy; all antsy and hyper, shifting his weight in his seat and talking a mile a minute to everyone around him as the venue filled up to full capacity.
The lights went down.
The seven-piece, multiethnic band—members with familial history going back to Mexico, the US, Africa, and Columbia—filled the stage as Lonnie Jordan, the only original member left in the band from its founding in 1969, took the mic and greeted the members of the audience with a big, “Hello Kansas City!”
The band flooded the venue with rock, funk, jazz, Latin, R&B, and reggae sounds. The audience, mixed with fans of all ages, screamed and cheered along with each feel good lyric.
By the time the band’s most famous hit “Low Rider” started, everyone in the venue was out of their seats, dancing in the walkways and in the seats.
It didn’t matter if you knew each other or not; the previous song’s message of “Why Can’t We Be Friends” was in full effect.
As the show ended, I led my father backstage to meet his hero.
The conversation, which lasted almost 20 minutes, covered the one thing that meant the most to my father and the band: unity.
My father was able to recount moments when he served in the Vietnam War where it was music by bands like WAR that meant so much to his fellow enlisted men, as a bond and an ethos to strive for. Lonnie listened with the utmost interest to this personal history lesson and when my father was done talking, spoke up and said that he had heard this story before, but never from a military service person. It was fascinating to him, knowing that their music had the effect that it did and what they intended it to have at the heart and soul of the movement that they were making music for and against.
According to my father, in the period folks would get into arguments about who could “claim the band,” and it was easy to see why fans of different backgrounds and beliefs would want to be aligned publicly alongside a group whose entire message was unification—as counter-intuitive as that may appear on the surface.
This band has kept and will keep their legendary status throughout time, proving that yes, we can be friends with one another, even if the only common factor is the music.
All photos by Chris Ortiz (Instagram: @fastboyent).