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Five bands ignite a festival flavor at Starlight Theatre

July 1, 2013

YellowBrix

July 01--Friday's show at Starlight Theatre was a minifestival, a makeshift destination for five like-minded bands who had planned for months to head our way the final weekend in June.

All five bands on the bill had been booked to play the Kanrocksas Music Festival at the Kansas Speedway. But after that festival was canceled in late May due to disappointing ticket sales, they, like the other 50-plus bands on the bill, had an open date and no place to play. Several days later, they'd found one, and about 6,000 fans showed up to watch and listen.

The headliners were Imagine Dragons, a five-piece band from Las Vegas. That group was preceded by four bands with slightly different takes on the same theme: Give a big crowd some melody and groove and it will follow you anywhere. Here's a look at the show, from start to finish.

Churchill: This five-piece band from Denver opened the show at 5:30 p.m., when about one-third of the crowd had arrived. It plays a breed of indie-folk/rock that has flourished over the past few years, much due to the success of Arcade Fire. Like the two bands that followed, it made the most of a 30-minute set.

Churchill's set list included "Change" and "The War Within," effervescent folk-rock tunes that bristle with melody, harmonies and jaunty rhythms. It also pulled off a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way."

Family of the Year: It's a five-piece from Los Angeles with a pair of brothers from Wales. Like Churchill, the band's music is sunny, feel-good folk-pop filled with a warm hippie vibe -- a mix of the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys. Its 30-minute set list included the joyous "Buried," an uplifting folk anthem about the afterlife and what to take along (favorite T-shirt, records and Converse sneakers); "The Stairs," a folk anthem about watching the sunrise; "In the End;" and the irrepressibly bittersweet hymn, "Hero."

Twenty One Pilots: This duo from Columbus, Ohio, changed the mood in the place during its set. The two mix electronic pop with hip-hop, with energetic results. Lead man and pianist Tyler Joseph spent much of the 30-minute set in constant motion, mounting the large bank of speakers, jogging into the crowd and executing some gymnastic feats.

During one song, he disappeared backstage and reappeared on one of the balconies above the stage. The crowd reacted as if he'd flown up there on his own, like one of the resident bats. Twenty One Pilots' set included "Migraine," "House of Gold" (featuring Joseph on ukulele) and "Holding on to You."

Capital Cities: It was afforded a longer set, nearly 50 minutes, and with only one full-length on its discography (released June 4), the band needed to throw in some covers to fill the time. Capital Cities is a five-piece (with a trumpeter) from Los Angeles that mixes a few styles -- pop, rock, soul and a bit of reggae -- into a very mainstream sound. The band members took the stage dressed in matching white jackets and executed some dance choreography, a la the Spinners, and showed plenty of enthusiasm for their own music.

During covers of the Bee Gees ("Stayin' Alive"), Prince ("Nothing Compares 2 U") and Madonna ("Holiday"), it sounded no better than a slick cover band. The group showed more promise during its own material, such as "I Sold My Bed But Not My Stereo," the reggae-drenched "Love Away" and their radio hit, "Safe and Sound," which sent the crowd into a joyous orbit.

Imagine Dragons: The place was packed and primed for a set that would exceed an hour. The Dragons issue music that jumps around stylistically, evoking the sounds of the Killers (another Las Vegas band), Coldplay and Vampire Weekend.

Dan Reynolds is the band's front man. He's prone to bursts of melodrama and histrionics, particularly on this night when the size of the crowd clearly overwhelmed him. At one point, he paused and bent over to gather himself.

"We never dreamed we'd play a place like this to a crowd like this," he said of his band, which has but one album in its discography: "Night Visions," released in 2012. (He also messed up the Kansas/Missouri thing, but, whatever.)

Imagine Dragons' set was laden with lots of extra percussion (floor toms, a huge bass drum), which they overindulged in during one song. The set list included "Amsterdam;" "Tiptoe;" "Hear Me;" "Round and Round;" "Demons," a song about Reynolds' battle with depression; the tropical-pop jam "Rocks;" "It's Time," which got a huge ovation; and their hit, "Radioactive."

More than five and a half hours after it had started, this minifestival was over. It didn't replace the one that went away but in a pinch, it sufficed.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/phinnagain. Read more from him at our music blog, Back to Rockville, at KansasCity.com.

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