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  • Thomas Rose

Chicago versus Kansas City: Differences in Music Scenes and Tastes

Chicago and Kansas City are both icons in music history. Both have been hosts to many iconic concerts, and there are famous musicians and groups from both cities. These cities started with similar roots, music-wise, as industrial midwestern cities with thriving jazz scenes in the 20’s through the 40’s. As time went on, however, Chicago grew in its breadth of genres and Kansas City grew slower.

Personally, I grew up in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City in Kansas. As I got old enough to go to concerts in junior and senior year, it seemed like there were none to go to; not only had the pandemic slowed down concerts, but Kansas City itself has a problem with venues. The main handful of larger venues in town, such as the T-Mobile Center or Starlight, are city-owned, compared to Chicago’s many venues owned by private companies. Ticketmaster prefers to work with the latter, so some big or medium artists don’t end up coming to Kansas City on their tours, outside of really large concerts like Beyonce and Taylor Swift’s Arrowhead Stadium sojourns.

When it comes to local bands, I’ve noticed some differences in both scenes. Chicago tends to have a lot more hip-hop and dance influence in local and ‘house’ shows, whereas Kansas City tends to have more rock and emo influence, although there’s plenty of overlap as there are many Kansas Citians involved with the former genres like Tech-N9ne. Whereas shows of all kinds happen in downtown Chicago, downtown Kansas City has less variety, with the aforementioned emo concerts usually happening in places like Lawrence, a nearby college town, or the inner suburbs, which is also where local dance and hip-hop shows typically happen. The reasons for this, I think, are less so cultural and more so based on size; suburbs of Chicago likely have similar scenes (if they have scenes at all) to Overland Park, but since downtown Chicago is so large, there’s more influence. Kansas City also kind of suffers from a lack of ‘neighborhoods’ like Chicago has; the only neighborhood in Kansas City I can remember having a similar kind of music/club scene to the average Chicago neighborhood is Westport; most others were too suburban or too office-based.

I’ve also noticed a big difference in music taste between the cities too; in high school, a lot of kids liked country and classic rock, but here, there’s a lot more diversity in people’s tastes. In Chicago, people’s favorite artists might be Taylor Swift, or they might be an obscure local band with 3 singles on Spotify. However, I’ve yet to talk to one person who likes Morgan Wallen here (which, in my opinion, is kind of a good thing). Speaking of country, I’ve noticed the scene for it, at least on campus, is nonexistent. I don’t personally like countries, so I don’t really mind, but it’s an interesting trend.

Either way, both cities have a lot to offer, and as a freshman, I’m excited to explore it further here.

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