May 7, 2016

Middle of the Map Fest continues expansion, but still breeds local music

When Chris Haghirian and Nathan Reusch came together to start the Middle of the Map Festival in 2010, they shared a vision of what it could be. That vision was an all-encompassing arts and culture event in Kansas City which mimics South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual music, film, and interactive media festival in Austin, Texas.

Now, six years later, after considerable expansion, both in content and in location, they’ve accomplished much of what they set out to do in emulating the exceptionally popular SXSW. But, at the same time, they’ve kept the festival their own.

Fittingly, Haghirian and Reusch met through local music. And local music, from both Kansas City and Lawrence, is what has kept Middle of the Map Fest different than SXSW. Although now the festival has numerous national acts — this year they hosted the Cold War Kids and Vince Staples — they’ve curated a breeding ground and a community for local artists.

“That was the idea, and the idea for Middle will always be to showcase local talent from great Kansas City and Lawrence bands,” Haghirian, a co-creator of the festival, said. “In order to do that, sometimes you have to bring in the big guns: you need to bring in the Cold War Kids and the base of the Cold War Kids fans, and their fans will come early, and they get to see great local bands.”

This year more attention was turned to the national acts than ever before. That process to bring in more national names came naturally, though, as the Middle of the Map continued to grow from its roots in Westport.

Now acts are branched all over Kansas City; from the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland in the middle of downtown Kansas City to multiple venues in the rapidly growing Crossroads district. That sprawling map of shows, along with the streetcar, which opened up this week, gave everyone in Kansas City access to shows and, more importantly, the local music from Thursday to Saturday.

“Just like Kansas City itself is growing and expanding, we as a festival decided that was a good move for us as well,” promotions and events coordinator Ashley Dowgwillo said. “One tagline that we’ve used is, ‘A festival born and raised in Kansas City.’ And that’s exactly what it is.”

Alongside Kansas City, multiple Lawrence acts have helped raise the festival as well. One of those acts is Ebony Tusks, a rap group which is composed of Marty Hillard, Nathan Giesecke and Daniel Smith. 

The group performed for a crowd of about 100 people before national acts Gallant, Vince Staples and ZHU played at the Midland on Friday night. Before Ebony Tusks performed, the stage belonged to Kansas City rap duo BLK FLANL, a group which has made plenty of noise in Kansas City since coming onto the scene, just like Ebony Tusks have.

“The festival goes to great lengths to bridge a lot of community gaps,” Hillard said. “They recognize all the community creators, all of the people who foster community between Lawrence and Kansas City, and I think they do a really good job of having them represented in the festival.”

But alongside individual acts, Haghirian and Reusch have admittedly stolen another part of SXSW which has made so popular: showcases. This year, as well as in 2015, Middle of the Map invited Lawrence website I Heart Local Music to host a showcase, which this year featured exclusively Lawrence bands, including Your Friend.

Middle of the Map also organized a 21 and under showcase this year, as well as multiple local record company showcases, including Kansas City record companies High Dive Records and Haymaker Records.

“We saw at SXSW how there are all these different day parties, like NPR, so what we’ve done is work with interesting organizations within our own communities to give them day parties and to let the shine,” Haghirian said. “You piece things together that make sense and you see those things — well, I saw them — for the first time at SXSW.”

But most importantly, for the creators of Middle of the Map, the community has embraced both the national and local music. With the festival’s rapid success, now sprawling 11 venues all over Kansas City, it’s clear that Haghirian and Reusch have learned exactly how to weave music lovers together from all over Kansas City. 

Then, in one way, the Middle of the Map Fest is its own. It does not bridge gaps between states, or cultivate music from all over the globe like SXSW has for years. Instead, it has truly mimicked it’s name, bridging the gap between all varieties of music lovers — music aside — in Kansas City.

“We’re lucky to have it so embraced by the community that it’s their own festival; it’s a festival you make of it, and people have embraced it as their own, which is awesome because we’re trying to do something really cool,” Haghirian said. “That’ll always be the goal: to shine a light on the music that’s coming from Kansas City that we think — that everybody in the community thinks — needs to be heard.” 

View MOTM Festival's development: From 2011 to 2016 in a full screen map

J415 Final Project: Middle of the Map Gallery

April 20, 2016

J415 — TV Story

April 13, 2016

Agg. Post 3 — More NFL News

NFL's Flawed Concussion Research and Ties to Tobacco Industry — The New York Times delves into the NFL covering up some of its flaws in its research, as well as the way it reported concussions. It's an in-depth piece that prompted a response from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Even NFL Players Worry About Money — This piece, from CNN Money, breaks down the struggle of saving money as an NFL player, and the different difficulties they face.  CNN does it in an interesting way that puts you in the place of the player.

Taxpayers have spent a staggering amount of money on NFL stadiums in the last 20 years — This piece from FOX breaks down how America is paying for many NFL stadiums. All together, taxpayers have paid for more than $7 billion dollars to build or renovate stadiums. FOX goes stadium by stadium to break it down.

This former NFL player lost $2 million in 90 days — This recalls the story of Marques Ogden, and how everything went from good to horrible in a matter of months. But it wasn't because of football: it was in a separate endeavor.

Make Your Money & Get Out: The New Truth in the NFL  — Some players in the NFL are choosing to get in the league, get their money, and get out. For many, that's the path that makes sense, for a multitude of reasons.




March 13, 2016

J415: Agg. Post 2 — Spending in Free Agency

Every major NFL free agent signing this offseason
SB Nation provides a full list of the top free agent moves and signings this season in a sortable, easy to use list. Can be sorted by name, position, 2015 team, and 2016 team. It's an easy way to see where notable names have landed in the scrum of free agency.

Editorial: NFL money dominates headlines
Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty writes, "The NFL so completely dominated our sports universe," just days before NFL free agency opened up. Even without games being played, NFL captures the top headlines in sports, and Daugherty takes a peek into what that is like for the Bengals.

Peyton Manning will retire with the highest career earnings in NFL history
Over Peyton Manning's 18-year career with the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos, the quarterback acquired over $248 million, according to Spotrac. The money doesn't include endorsement deals from Papa John's or Nike, but does include all bonus and contract money from the Colts and Broncos.

Dolphins restructure Ndamukong Suh's contract
After a disappointing season from their big splash signing last offseason, the Dolphins restructured the deal of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, freeing up $15 million in cap space for the team. With a couple other restructures and the release of receiver Greg Jennings, the Dolphins freed around $23.8 million in cap space.

Los Angeles Rams still executing player contracts in state of Missouri
The Rams relocated the California this offseason, but the team is still presenting contracts to free agents with clauses which state the contract is executed in Missouri. This is an attempt at getting around California's more strict, employee-beneficial workers' compensation laws, Fox Sports believes. It seems the team has avoided a final relocation just to save a little bit of money on the tail end, and their players will take the hit for it.

March 11, 2016

J415: Photo/Cutline


Isaac Wallman, 5, from Sterling, Kansas, waits to enter the Johnson County Community College auditorium where Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was set to speak on March 2.


Ahead of his rally at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, on March 2, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks to media.


Republican presidential candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz speaks on stage at Johnson County Community College on March 2, just three days before the Kansas caucuses. Cruz spoke on the main points of his policy — from repealing Obamacare to second amendment rights — and fired plenty of shots at Donald Trump during his speech.


Republican presidential candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz pauses during a rally at Johnson County Community College on March 2, just three days before the Kansas caucuses. Cruz spoke on the main points of his policy — from repealing Obamacare to second amendment rights — and fired plenty of shots at Donald Trump during his speech.


Republican presidential candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz speaks on stage at Johnson County Community College on March 2, just three days before the Kansas caucuses. Cruz spoke on the main points of his policy — from repealing Obamacare to second amendment rights — and fired plenty of shots at Donald Trump during his speech.


Republican presidential candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz speaks on stage at Johnson County Community College on March 2,  in front of a crowd of over 1,000. Cruz spoke on the main points of his policy — from repealing Obamacare to second amendment rights — and fired plenty of shots at Donald Trump during his speech.


After speaking at a rally at Johnson County Community College on March 2, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz meets supporters and signs autographs.