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Photo gallery by Nicole Bissey, Story by Lily Grant
On Monday night, a fresh crowd of new faces arrived at Jessica Paige’s studio apartment in the West Bottoms for Sofar Sounds Kansas City’s third show. The event was a makeup show, originally scheduled for December but cancelled due to inclement weather. The weather on Monday night, however, couldn’t have been more perfect for rounding up a group of about forty or so music-loving Midwesterners and listening to some home-grown tunes.
The night began with a performance by 21-year-old Jake Wells. Wells is originally from Florida, lived in Fort Collins, Colorado for a while, and now calls Kansas City home. He said he moved to Kansas City completely on a whim because “it’s got so much soul. I think it’s underrated. It’s got jazz and barbecue and there’s so much soul here that you can feel it wherever you go, there’s so much history.”
Wells grew up in the church, singing southern gospel music with his family and touring the country for five years together. He produces all of his music on his own, and makes a studio out of his room, garage, or wherever he may be.
Wells began his set with a cover of Allen Stone’s “Unaware.” Then he performed original songs “Water Part Two,” “Water Part One,” “Circle of Life,” a single that will be released later this month, and “Roll Like Thunder,” his number one song on music streaming services. He said he didn’t start his performance with a set list in mind. He wings it every time so that he can feel the crowd out. Wells’ upbringing in the church and his background singing southern gospel music was apparent in his vocals. He countered deep, Hozier-like notes with breathy, effortless falsetto.
After his performance, Wells said that Sofar Sounds is “one of the coolest atmospheres I’ve been in in a long time. My ideal music scene is around a campfire with your close friends. That’s what I love, and this was as close to that as you can get. Everyone is welcoming, everyone is there not with some other agenda, but literally there to be there and appreciate music and I couldn’t have asked for a better venue or group of people. It felt really nice to perform for people who were there to listen.”
Wells’ message is that “there’s always more room for more music… this is my heart and soul that I’m opening up to you. I’m very vulnerable when I’m on stage. It’s the most raw form of myself.” He wants people to know that “if music is how you connect to yourself, then that’s how you will best connect to other people. Allow that for yourself.”
Jessica Paige, the second performer of the night, played at Sofar Sounds shows in Austin and New York City just days before, and opened her home in Kansas City to us for our very own Sofar Sounds show. She’s a 28-year-old Kansas native who’s been singing her entire life. Paige is very much a free spirit. She moved to Ireland when she was 18 years old, backpacked 17 countries, cared for her grandmother for five years, released two albums and toured, and currently resides in Kansas City.
Paige played original songs “Let Love Go,” “If You Fall,” a cover of Lianne La Havas’ “What You Don’t Do” and her song “Lonely Boy.” Paige’s philosophy is that “when you love somebody, you love them.” She believes in caring about and being there for the people she loves, even if the relationship ends. That philosophy carries into her music and is the thought behind some of her songs, including “Let Love Go” and “If You Fall.” That’s just one of many messages Paige sends with her music. She writes her songs in a way that “depending on who the listener is, there are many layers of thought that can be interpreted from it… It’s whatever you want it to mean to you that makes you happy or gives you something.” Themes in Paige’s music span from the music industry itself to death and dying to break ups.
Paige has now played Sofar Sounds shows in three major cities across the U.S., and says that the vibe in each city was different, yet all had that same Sofar feel. Austin felt bohemian, open, and “immediately warm,” with a very interactive crowd. New York was on more of a schedule, but Paige said that “what’s amazing is Sofar makes this social situation where people’s guards go down and they become more vulnerable and open, and so you just start these dialogues with people and then [New York] is immediately warm and welcoming, just like Austin.”
The final performer of the evening was 26-year-old Calvin Arsenia, originally from Orlando, Florida. He was raised in Olathe, Kansas, and spent a significant period of his life living in Edinburgh playing music and supporting the arts and the creative community there.
Arsenia plays the harp, sings, and uses a loop station while he’s performing to make each and every live performance completely unique. For that reason, he goes into each gig without a set list and creates his music in real time for the audience. He played versions of “Kansas City Baby,” “Cardiac,” “Equally,” which is unreleased, and “Smoke and Mirrors.” Many of Arsenia’s lyrics hit very close to home for people from Kansas City.
“I love Kansas City because it’s so accessible, and people are very warm here and collaborative and encouraging. It’s a really good place for dreamers and people who are entrepreneurial, and it has really been good to me,” Arsenia said.
Calvin Arsenia is grateful that there’s a community in Kansas City for musicians to share their love and work in an intimate space. “In this environment I felt very free to explore and to be myself and to do some looping. I curate [the performance] for the people in the room. That’s really important to me” Arsenia said.
Don’t miss the next Sofar Sounds Kansas City show. Apply for your ticket here.
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