Local musician, DJ, and trivia host, Max James has a big dream for Kansas City. He wants to create a rehearsal studio for musicians, devoid of distractions or irritable neighbors who don’t enjoy saxophone solos at 3 AM. A place that would recapture the nostalgic feeling of sitting in the band room after school, practicing and chatting with like-minded artists. This project, codename Fermata, was slated to begin development in March of 2020.

But, in a twist that will surprise no one who has been watching this season of ‘The World in 2020’, COVID got in the way. With gathering in groups being a big no-no, Max was forced to put the plan on hold. He, like literally millions of other entertainers suddenly found himself super unemployed. Without live music events, weddings, or other social gatherings, the music community as a whole suddenly got a whole lot sadder, and a whole lot poorer.

Although some musicians were able to successfully pivot to live streamed performances, the demand online simply has not matched that which had existed for in person music. And, seeing that his client base was suddenly out of cash, Max realized that it was best to pause the project.

But rather than giving up on the dream, and upon the advice of Joel Barrett, Business Development Consultant for Missouri’s SBDC at UMKC, Max decided that if he wanted to create a business that would rely on a community of KC musicians, he should try and figure out a way to support them in their hour of need. And, a few months into the pandemic, while attending a Marc Ribillet drive-in concert, it hit him.

He could create a socially distanced music festival showcasing local acts. While big names could pull off the technical marvels to create a successful concert during COVID, indie bands simply couldn’t afford to do so.

Fortunately, being a DJ by trade and an extrovert by nature, Max was able to connect with his friend Sarah Foltz, who ran the highly successful Jazz on the Lawn socially distanced concert, and she introduced him to Chris Wyche, and the plan began to take shape.

That plan – is to create an outdoor, socially distanced music festival featuring 8 bands, and 8 DJs. Hosted on the SE Lawn of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, each of the acts performing are KC locals with unique stylings. Here’s a lineup of the bands, in order of their appearance:

Country songstress and KC native Emma Jo will appear with her new band, The Wild Division. They’ll perform her several of her signature retro-infused and ultra-catchy Americana tunes.

By day, mild-mannered Amber Underwood is an educator, band director, and model. By night, when the stage lights go on, she takes the role of Flutienastiness, Kansas City’s premier jazz flutist and vocalist.

Eccentric, funky, and unapologetic; Attic Light brings unique energy to every performance, with hits like “Hot in Kansas City,” and “Whiskey Love.”

Back Alley Brass Band is a group of local musicians who simply love sharing music with the community. Back Alley provides a family-friendly environment with energy that is contagious, playing tunes that range from pop covers to the party streets of New Orleans.

What A Wreck, though only 2 members, has the explosive energy and power of a band 3 times their size. Their catchy and hard-hitting tracks will not only make you sing along word-for-word but will leave you craving more, even if it’s your first time experiencing their sound.

Microphone swinging, Vanessa Carlton covers, Capri Suns, and confetti; this is what you can expect at the Way Way Back’s explosive live shows. The Way Way Back are a Kansas City-based pop-punk quartet for fans of Jimmy Eat World and blink-182. Their sophomore EP “Baggage or You’re Never Going To Leave It All Behind” drops October 10th.

Larsen is a collective band of six friends whose individual styles and influences blend together to create a uniquely orchestrated sound. The heart and passion of their writing is to convey deep-rooted stories that simultaneously allow their listeners to be drawn into the music and experience relation in their own lives.

Calvin Arsenia has been described as  “Jeff Buckley meets Nina Simone with this soul of Sam Cooke and the sparkle of Bjork.” A healthy serving of indie rock, neo-soul, R&B, and a splash of art pop, this multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter is a shimmering force to be reckoned with.

So, you may be wondering how exactly this is going to work. How can anyone really ‘socially distance’ at a music event?