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Photo gallery by Anna Selle, Story by Lily Grant, Poster by Nick Howland
Magic City Hippies took me from the prairies of Kansas to the passenger seat of a convertible, cruising along a freeway that lines a beach somewhere in Miami, as the sun sets over the city and hours of sparkling nightlife await me. Their sound combines rap and hip-hop with indie alternative, creating a sexy, soulful, beachy vibe. They began Saturday night’s Sofar Sounds Kansas City in a loft in the West Bottoms by showing us Midwesterners how Miami’s strong Latin presence and party culture influences their music.
Front-man Robby Hunter said that “lots of Latin girlfriends” influence their music. “There’s a culture down there, nobody’s really shy about dancing. There’s a lot of really vibrant salsa dancing there, bachata, reggaeton, all that stuff is going down there, so it seeps into what we do, everything’s got kind of a groove and dance-ability,” Hunter said.
Hunter is joined by bassist John Coughlin and drummer Pat Howard. Howard and Coughlin studied music at the University of Miami, and formed Magic City Hippies with Hunter after he’d been street performing in Miami.
Saturday’s show wasn’t Magic City Hippies’ first Sofar Sounds, or their first time in Kansas City. They performed at a Sofar Sounds Miami show, and played a sold out show at recordBar a few weeks ago. But I don’t think the Hippies were expecting Kansas City’s Sofar Sounds scene to be just as cool as it was. “We did a Sofar in Miami and this is… a lot cooler, I gotta say,” Hunter said during their performance. They contrasted Miami’s shiny newness with Kansas City’s historic beauty.
While Magic City Hippies’ music is fun and sexy, Hunter said “it’s a balance, because there’s a lot of work that goes into getting that feeling right.”
Coughlin said “usually the most stressful sessions are for the darker songs,” like Hush, the band’s latest release, a sensual rock single.
The Hippies’ Sofar performance was “an intimate, coffee-house warm-up for the sloppy, sweaty rock show” that would follow at the Tank Room later that very night, Coughlin said.
Connor Leimer is the type of person who makes you feel like a long-time friend upon first meeting him, and his Sofar performance made each and every member of the audience feel that way too. He played the game “two lies and one truth” between songs so we could get to know him a little better, with the one truth being that he only drinks red wine (as opposed to white).
After his set, he said he felt “like I just ran a marathon.” He started by playing his original and unreleased song, “Rooftops,” and later told me the story that inspired the song.
“It was a specific evening last summer in New York. I was there for about a week. I was sleeping on my friends’ couches, hopping from SoHo to Brooklyn, just kind of couch surfing for a week in New York. One night we went up to my friend’s old apartment. He wasn’t renting it anymore but he had a key still to the roof, so we went up there, and we just looked at the stars. It was in Brooklyn. I was with this girl. It was a magical moment, when we were looking at the stars, looking at downtown. One of the lines [of “Rooftops”] goes, ‘my hands in your pockets.’ At the end of the night we all walked home, and my friend and his girlfriend… his hands were in her pockets around her jacket… and that visual, seeing them walk down the street, I was just like wow, that’s amazing. I just thought it was very romantic and cute. I’ll never forget it, I was like wow, that’s awesome, I want that, that’s amazing, they have a great relationship. We were a little drunk, we were walking back, and [pockets] are comfy, and it was summer.”
Leimer also played “Lonely Life,” “Cheap,” and “Thinking About You,” all original indie rock/folk songs.
“This world is so harsh, and I just think there’s a battle going on. If you want to be an artist in this world it’s so hard. Being an artist is one of the hardest things you can do. Unless you’re Adele, it doesn’t pay well, you’ve gotta spend a lot of late nights, it’s a lot of doing it yourself, you’ve gotta get up on stage and perform which is tough, you’ve gotta write really good stuff. But career-wise, I hope that kids who grow up and love music and want to play guitar, bass, drums or whatever… that they can look at me and say man, if he can do it, then maybe I can do it,” Leimer said.
The Greeting Committee is an impressive band of self-starting 18- and 19-year-olds, two of which currently attend Blue Valley High School, where they all met. Addison Sartino (vocals) and Brandon Yangmi (guitar), were connected by their moms. After they started playing music together, Sartino said she woke up one day, realized she wanted to form a band, called Yangmi up and said, “You wanna do this?” From there, Yangmi enlisted long-time friends and marching band-mates Austin Fraser (drums) and Pierce Turcotte (bass). Sartino said they’re like siblings.
They said Sofar Sounds Kansas City was the first super intimate set they’ve ever played. They started with “Your Side,” followed by “Someone Else” from their upcoming EP (expected March 17th), “Hands Down – Reprise,” “She’s a Gun,” which is going to be their next single, and “I Don’t Mind” as an encore.
“‘She’s a Gun’ is about a controlling relationship,” Sartino said. “When you’re in love, you’d do anything for somebody, even if it’s not the healthiest thing, and finding that balance is what everybody needs, but it can be hard to do. ‘She’s a Gun’ starts out with the narrator being under control and ends with the narrator being done with that because it’s just too much.”
“Hands Down” is the band’s most popular song. It gained popularity on radio station 96.5 The Buzz, and has over four million listens on Spotify. Sartino said she when she was sixteen, she wanted to write a song that was inspired by love, so she and her friend went out in Kansas City and interviewed couples of various ages, asking them what love means to them and what hardships they’ve faced. From those stories, the lyrics to “Hands Down” emerged.
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