Keep Westport Weird
One of the first concerts I went to was at The Beaumont Club–the snake pit of a venue now occupied by Char Bar. I remember standing in front of the stage as UnderOath‘s front man swung screaming from the rafters, as Thursday‘s dissonant riffs filled my then angsty body. Another early concert of mine was at the Grand Emporium, now occupied by Aura, a night club. It was the first time I heard Pixel Panda, the first time I fell in love with Kansas City’s local scene. These nights, after the shows were over, I would drive home with my friends in near silence, the air absolutely electric.
And these times can only live in memory. Through the years, the Westport area has changed–focusing less on venues and more on seducing “the Brookeside foodie” (keep in mind the racist undertones of this focus shown in the linked article). And this inability for the Westport owners to keep the focus on music pains me. Where will high schoolers go to get a taste of music, to find an outlet to express the pain “crystallized with puberty.” And where will veterans of the scene go to enjoy the bands they love?
A fourteen floor apartment building (complete with a Starbucks!) is proposed to take the spot of the parking garage between Char Bar and Westport Coffee House. The construction of this would not only detract from Westport’s identity but also hurt local business like Broadway Cafe and Westport Coffee House.
But the future doesn’t have to look like this. A group calling themselves Help Save Old Westport has started a GoFundMe page to raise the money needed to fight this encroaching gentrification. With an eye to keeping Westport’s layered history intact, the group would, in essence, work to keep Westport weird, which is something that would benefit us today as well as future generations of Kanasas Citians. Do we want our district to be transformed into a commercialized strip mall, one whose businesses see us as indistinct numbers to add to or subtract from their bottom lines? Or do we want to keep the district local, owned by people who have a stake in what happens in Kansas City?
I would say the latter. I shudder to think of the person I would have become had I not had the opportunity to see and hear live music–from recordBar to Riot Room, from Art Closet to Mistake Mondays at The Union, live national and local music have undeniably and fundamentally shaped who I am as a person. Geoff Rickly’s lyrics made me want to be a poet–a dream that has directed my studies, my energies, and my interests (and I still consider talking to him after the aforementioned show about Octavio Paz one of my first literature classes, which would not have happened in a larger venue, in a different city). Keep Westport weird, Kansas City, consider donating to this cause or sharing it.