The college baseball pitcher turned singer-songwriter has become a master of country love songs and ballads. A name to watch in the country world, he’s a must-see in this summer’s Hot Country Nights lineup. KC Live! 13 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 6 pm. $20-$100. powerandlightdistrict.com/events.
Ralph Steadman: A Retrospective
Famed cartoonist Ralph Steadman brought the words of Hunter S. Thompson, among others, to life with his political cartoons and caricatures. See additional prints of Steadman’s illustrations for the 1976 Republican National Convention, which was held at the Kemper Arena in the West Bottoms. Kansas City Public Library, 14 W. 10th St., Kansas City, Mo. Hours vary. Free. kclibrary.org.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit & Brandi Carlile
This co-headlining tour is a showcase of the best of contemporary Americana. On one hand, Jason Isbell, formerly of Drive-By Truckers, brings the dark, poetic stylings off his 2017 album The Nashville Sound; Brandi Carlile, on the other, takes on love and loss anchored by her amphitheater-sized voice. Providence Medical Center Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, Kan. 6:30 pm. $46-$86. providenceamp.com.
Say Anything with John Cusack
Dust off your boomboxes. John Cusack tours to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Say Anything, the blueprint for so many modern rom-coms. Join for a screening of the film and audience Q&As. Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 7:30 pm. $35-$150. arvestbanktheatre.com.
The English rocker made his name off a live album that showcased his dexterous guitar playing and talkbox vocals. Now, Peter Frampton embarks on a final tour in light of a muscle disease diagnosis, making this the last time to hear him jam on “Do You Feel Like We Do.” Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $29.95-$150. kcstarlight.com.
Mary J. Blige & Nas
Mary J. Blige and Nas called their new duet “Thriving,” and it makes good on that promise — the ’90s urban radio stars are co-headlining off Blige’s My Life II … (Act 2) and Nas’ Kanye-produced return Nasir. Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $40.50-$250. kcstarlight.com.
August 7 – 25
A Doll’s House
A Doll’s House has been performed, in one form or another, since 1879, and its story remains more relevant than some plays from the last decade. The Kansas City Actors Theater takes on the classic Norwegian comedy about a married woman looking to succeed in a society unwilling to make room for her. City Stage Theatre at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo. Showtimes vary. $22-$47. kcactors.org.
August 8 – September 1
In the Heights
This year’s Musical Theater Heritage season has felt at once classic and contemporary, a line Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2005 musical In the Heights walks just as well as Oklahoma! or Funny Girl. He inaugurated his signature theatrical hip-hop style with this story of Latin-American life in Washington Heights, New York City. Musical Theater Heritage, 2450 Grand Blvd., Suite 301, Kansas City, Mo. Showtimes vary. $29-$58. musicaltheaterheritage.com.
August 8 – 11
U.S. Gymnastics Championships
This year’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships, ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will prove to be just as exciting. Overland Park gymnast Leanne Wong returns to defend her 2018 junior women’s all-around title while Simone Biles looks to further cement her legacy with a sixth women’s all-around win. Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. Times vary. $24-$376. sprintcenter.com.
Sure, he’s a gospel artist in name, but it doesn’t take religious conviction to get behind Kirk Franklin’s passionate music — just a desire to feel lifted up. The iconic gospel performer and bandleader’s first album in four years, Long, Live, Love, takes a hip-hop turn after his work with Kanye West and Chance the Rapper. Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $39.50-$59.50. arvestbanktheatre.com.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The preseason opener against Cincinnati marks the first chance to see how Kansas City bounces back from last season’s heartbreaking AFC championship game. Arrowhead Stadium, 1 Arrowhead Drive, Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $27-$201. chiefs.com.
Gary Clark Jr.
Singing is a means to an end for Gary Clark Jr., whose true talent lies in his heavy, bluesy guitar riffing, which has only evolved over the years. It’s the perfect sonic adventure for a warm night under the stars in the Crossroads. CrossroadsKC, 417 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $33-$170. crossroadskc.com.
August 16 – September 1
Every Brilliant Thing
Spinning Tree’s run of three Kansas City premieres begins with Every Brilliant Thing, a one-person play that traces a journey from when its narrator was seven to his adult life. He tries to grapple with his mom’s history of suicidal tendencies, making sense of why life is worth living in the process. Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central St., Kansas City, Mo. Showtimes vary. Not yet on sale. spinningtreetheatre.com.
Mavis Staples at the 780s Series
Soul icon Mavis Staples appears at the Lawrence Public Library’s annual musician storytelling event. Staples looks back on six decades of music and activism, starting with her family gospel band and continuing through collaborations with everyone from Bob Dylan to Prince. Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, Kan. 7 pm. Free. libertyhall.net.
It’s been four years since Dierks Bentley has stopped in Kansas City, and it’s only fitting that the country singer, who’s making his own path unbeholden to Nashville’s standards, returns here on his Burning Man tour. Jon Pardi, with easy singalongs like “Head Over Boots,” opens. Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $40.50-$250. kcstarlight.com.
August 22 – 24
Bad in Bed Live
Shelby Simpson, author of the book We’re All Bad in Bed, has a personal question: What is Kansas City like in the sheets? She’s adapted her writing into a stage revue, with a good dose of ’90s-inspired hip-hop, to get the audience thinking — and laughing — about sex.recordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 7 pm. $35. therecordbar.com.
August 23 – August 2, 2020
Atrium Project: Angel Otero
For the fourth year running, the Kemper asks an artist to turn its atrium space into a site-specific installation. The museum has tapped Angel Otero, the Puerto Rican-born, Brooklyn-based painter whose work balances process, memory and abstraction. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. Hours vary. Free. kemperart.org.
The alternative-electronic duo initially known for dark love songs might be making its most upbeat music yet if its new single “Into Happiness” is any indication — and it’s still a heavy one. With anthemic duo Bob Moses joining, it’s a can’t-miss indie dance party. KC Live! 13 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $15-$100. powerandlightdistrict.com/events.
The three women of Olivia Fox make some of the best harmonies in the city. The band known for its country-twinged take on pop tours in support of an overdue debut album titled Carbon. Knuckleheads, 2715 Rochester Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $10. knuckleheadskc.com.
Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova — you can call her Katya — is one of the weirdest drag queens on the scene right now. The queen with a Russian backstory went from RuPaul’s Drag Race to co-hosting two web series, and now, she takes her new Help Me I’m Dying comedy tour out of drag bars and into theaters. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $25-$150. follytheater.org.
You’ll have to lean in to appreciate folk singer José González’s quiet, emotive music during this intimate, acoustic performance at the Kauffman Center’s Helzberg Hall. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 7 pm. $36-$66. kauffmancenter.org.
August 30 – September 2
Santa-cali-gon Days Festival
The Kansas City region’s oldest and largest festival, the Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival in Independence, is meant to commemorate the origin of the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails and pioneers’ journey westward. This year’s Labor Day weekend fest features multi-platinum country singer Wynonna Judd and her blues-soul-country-rock band, The Big Noise. 210 W. Truman Road, Independence, Mo. Free admission. santacaligon.com.
August 30 – September 1
Kansas City Irish Fest
In the 1800s, Irish immigrants used their knowledge of quarrying and bricklaying to, quite literally, pave the way for downtown Kansas City. Today, their descendants, who make up 10 percent of the metro area, gather on those same grounds to show Celtic pride every August.
Last year, the event at Crown Center drew nearly 100,000 people. The weekend includes several Irish folk bands, traditional and modern ceili dance, Irish pub food, whiskey tastings, comedy and a Sunday morning mass followed by an Irish breakfast.
Irish or not, anyone can take a deeper dive into their own heritage at the festival, as expert genealogists will be volunteering all weekend.
“We can’t do a complete family tree, but we can get them started,” Irish Fest’s genealogy co-chair Barbara Scanlon says. “Sometimes, if you have a very unique name, they’re easier to trace. There are names in Ireland that are very specific to one area. Some families know exactly where they’re from.”
When Scanlon started researching her own family in 1962, she made the mistake of interviewing her grandfather about his dad’s side but not his mom’s. It took her over 50 years to fill in the gaps.
Scanlon says too many people trust everything they see on ancestry websites.
“The big thing is how you find your information,” she says. “You look online, and there are a lot of trees, and somebody will put on a mistake and other people just copy.”
For some tips on how to do the work, Irish Fest is offering a new ticketed genealogy workshop. Led by international genealogy consultant Kathleen Brandt, the first three sessions will include information about where immigrants went when they arrived in America, how to trace a changing surname and how genealogists can use DNA.
As a fourth bonus session, Brandt will speak on the festival’s culture stage about tips for tracing Missouri Irish ancestors.
“To know where you came from is very powerful,” Scanlon says. “If you ever have the chance to walk the path that your ancestors did, it really is spectacular. It’s important to know the trials they went through to get here and the strength that they had to persevere.” –GRACE GORENFLO
GO: Crown Center Square, 25th Street and Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, Mo. Find genealogy staff in the Crown Center Atrium. 5-8 pm Friday, 11 am-7 pm Saturday-Sunday. The genealogy workshop will be held in Crown Center’s Washington Park Ballroom. 8:30-11:45 am Saturday. Registration is $40-65.