Kansas City Connection: Folk music conference takes over Crown Center

Though you might not have realized it, Kansas City is now widely regarded as the folk music capital of America. At least that’s the contention of Louis Meyers, executive director of the Folk Alliance, a nonprofit that relocated to Kansas City last year and is set to host its 26th annual Folk Alliance International conference this weekend at Crown Center.

Meyers, who is also one of the original organizers of Austin’s South by Southwest festival, believes Kansas City’s variety of musical styles make it a natural fit for the Folk Alliance, now based in a boutique music shop in the River Market.

“This feels more like The Crossroads than anyplace I’ve been,” Meyers said last month in an interview with KCUR.org. “This feels more like The Crossroads than The Crossroads in Mississippi where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.”

The conference, which runs from Feb. 19 through 23, will feature showcases by hundreds of performers, and is expected to draw several thousand guests. Tickets to the nightly showcases are $25, and the conference itself will feature dozens of panels, discussions and events designed to connect folk music performers and enthusiasts. For details on the schedule and how to register, visit folkalliance.org.

Graham Nash

He’s probably best known for being part of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but musician and songwriter Graham Nash enjoyed an outstanding solo career as well (1971’s “Songs For Beginners” is a personal favorite). On Thursday, Nash visits Kansas City’s Unity Temple on the Plaza to discuss his new autobiography, “Wild Tales,” with Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren of Rainy Day Books. The author talk will be preceded at 6 p.m. by a 45-minute film presentation of his life and music. A variety of $28 packages include admission and an autographed copy of the book. For more details, visit Rainydaybooks.com/GrahamNash.

‘When I Come to Die’

This month, a play by playwright Nathan Louis Jackson opens at the Kansas City Repertory Theater’s Copaken stage. “When I Come To Die” tells the story of a death-row inmate who survives a botched lethal injection. Jackson, the KC Rep’s playwright-in-residence, first received acclaim for “Broke-ology,” a play set in his hometown of Kansas City, Kan.

At a time when capital punishment is under scrutiny in states including Missouri, “When I Comet to Die” will be a timely conversation piece. But in a 2011 interview with The New York Times, Jackson insists the play is less about taking a particular stance on the death penalty than examining the peculiar circumstance of someone whose days have been numbered suddenly finding out he’s got more time to live after all.

The play runs through March 16 at the Copaken Stage at 13th and Main St. Tickets cost $20 for students/children and $49 to $60 for adults. The play is appropriate for audiences age 13 and up.

This week is also the last chance to check out “Afflicted,” a 70-minute play at the Coterie Theatre that delves into the untold story of the girls involved in the Salem witch trials. The play, a world premiere by Laurie Brooks, examines the social pressures and fear of life in Puritan New England. Limited tickets are available for each of the final 11 performances, which run through Feb. 23. They can be purchased for $10 to $15 at coterietheatre.org. “Afflicted” is deemed appropriate for audiences age 10 and up.

Port Fonda

If you’re trying to find a good entry point into the cutting-edge Kansas City culinary scene, look no further than Port Fonda, one of the most chic, colorful and delicious restaurants to open in the city in recent years. Chef Patrick Ryan began Port Fonda as a dine-in food truck before expanding into the space at 4141 Pennsylvania Ave. in 2012, and it has since become a Westport staple.

Whether you order soup, chimichangas, chips and salsa or a mezcal-based cocktail, it’ll be made of the freshest, tastiest ingredients and well worth the wait for a table. The atmosphere is fairly intense, with dim lights, stylish servers and indie and hip-hop tunes instead of piped-in mariachi music. Not a bad place to hang out and watch a game or wind down a weekend night, though it’s probably not the ideal spot for quiet conversation.

Port Fonda is open from 11 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and slightly later on weekends.

— Lucas Wetzel is a writer and editor from Kansas City, Mo. Know of an upcoming event in Kansas City you’d like to see featured in Kansas City Connection? Email us about it at kcconnection@ljworld.com.


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