Shopping at PopMart in this month’s musical number

U2’s PopMart tour at KC ’97. // Creative Commons

Hello dear readers of Field. Welcome to our new annual celebration of our city’s hearing and sound superstars: THE QUESTION OF MUSIC. jazz hands.

Beloveds, we are gathered here today to go through this thing called life. And to celebrate the best and brightest of what our Metro brings to the megamix of modern melodic masterpieces.

We’ve got coverage of some of the fierce new faces making their first marks and a deep dive into a group that could become the ur-text for what’s to come for all of us. In summary, we are quite pleased with this magazine.

Growing up in small town Kansas, my big trips to Kansas City have mostly been around my dad. Despite being his father’s age, he was driving three hours back and forth on a Tuesday night to sneak me into a club to catch some rare Midwestern performance from, say, Interpol.

We only started doing these maddening mid-week adventures after discovering my love of music.

We had made an attempt to get me into rock music around second grade. We went to Wichita to see Bon Jovi. I was, at the time, terrified of fireworks and made my family promise that no one was going to “shoot fireworks on me”.

The lights went out for this gorgeous former New Jersey barber, and immediately a parade of pyrotechnics erupted from all corners of the arena. I left in tears. So any interest I had in guitars or explosions or New Jersey was discarded.

In May 1997, a little-known group of Irish guys operating under the nickname “U2” stopped by Kansas City. My dad thought he’d dump the two of us here to watch the world’s greatest rock band put on the world’s greatest dumb rock show in a sold-out Arrowhead stadium.

It broke my little sixth grade brain and I went out to get a guitar the next day.

I still treasure this as my defining moment for live music. What I saw in a football arena that night was not your typical greatest hits showcase that you probably see in your head. This was the PopMart tour, and nothing in modern rock will ever come close to the pure spectacle of this event.

U2 had just released an album called Popular. It was a glam celebration in an electronic dance club of America’s excess, capitalism, marketing and the increasingly thin line between religion and the almighty dollar. Just as the Rolling Stones’ disco track “Miss You” is considered an embarrassing outlier, Popular is an album so hated by U2 themselves that they will do everything in their power to make you forget it ever happened.

But it’s still my favorite U2 album. Perhaps mainly because I know how much his existence annoys them. Partly because it ends with an acoustic ballad titled “Wake Up Dead Man,” where famed cleric Bono begs Jesus to come fix this “damn world” – the only use of the F-bomb in the band’s catalog. [If anything, this is just a painfully layered cultural artifact.]

The PopMart Tour became what was at the time – and still remains – the most expensive nighttime performance cost in rock history.

The stage featured the largest video screen ever built, licensed pop culture intellectual property (as grave robber) would appear randomly, and at one point the band emerged from a gigantic martini glass, in which the olive transformed into a disco ball illuminating the stadium.

The whole commitment was so unreasonable that it nearly bankrupted the band. Yes, they went that big.

Nostalgic for the night KC taught me the greatest passion of my life, chasing live music to the ends of the earth, I discovered a bootlegged VHS recording on YouTube of this whole show. Amidst a grainy wave of pixelated crowds, I’m somewhat convinced that I can see myself standing next to my dad.

So, that’s me, raising a disco ball martini to all the musicians featured in this issue. Many of them will serve as indoctrination for children into the world of reverberations and abandonment. I’m just thrilled to know how many of these artists can accomplish so much more while depending on so much less.

Get started, and we’ll get there,

Brock's signature

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