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Kansas is overshadowed by most other states in the union. Just about the dead center of the United States, it is frequently imagined as tumbleweeds and rural roads. There is some truth to that idea; the state is part of the Great Plains, with crops like wheat and corn growing and one third of the population living in rural areas. Music fans may wonder what the entertainment in Kansas is actually like, especially with Kansas City competing for attention just across the border in Missouri. Keep reading to learn more about the sounds of Kansas and why the state might be worth a listen.

With relatively few large cities in Kansas, most national and regional acts center around one spot in the state: Wichita.

One benefit of being a state with a relatively small population and few larger cities is that if there is something big coming to state—a politician, band, or exhibit—its location is predictable. In most cases in Kansas, that central location is Wichita. In the next week alone, national acts such as Unkle Kracker, Todd Rundgren, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Keb Mo, Eric Shumaker, and Laura Stevenson are coming to Wichita to perform. For those itching to have their pick of concerts, Wichita is the focal point, bringing all of the talent to one spot. Good planners may be able to chart in multiple concerts into one big night out on the town. Places like Rock Island Live, The Artichoke Sandwich Bar, The Cotillion, and Mead’s Corner are sure to have something good playing every week.

In Kansas, all local musicians get a chance to take stage.

In major music hubs around the world, only the best of the best musicians have a chance to play on a regular basis and make a difference in music. The rest of the musicians get pushed out without much grace or sincerity. In more underrated and underdeveloped music communities, that cutthroat attitude is usually gone. In places like Kansas, local talent is fostered and appreciated. Beginners, novices, students, hobbyists, part-timers, and professionals all have a chance to show off their skills. Old School and Golden Era Hip Hop Nights at Barleycorn’s, Live Music Night on Fridays at Margarita’s Cantina, theme music nights at Rock Island Live, Emo Night on Wednesdays at Barleycorn’s, and Open Mic Night at Barleycorn’s are a handful of these opportunities. For more seasoned musicians, plenty of restaurants, bars, and other venues proudly host local and regional bands. The Industry Old Town brings in live performers every Monday, every month. Brickyard regularly hosts live artists in blues and beyond. Kirby’s Beer Store features Jazz Sundays with a mix of live jazz musicians. Various pizzerias, cafes, breweries, and bars are committed to the music, too. For musicians and listeners alike, these low barrier to entry mean that there are more performances happening in Kansas than there otherwise would be for a community of its size.

Kansas listeners know what’s good in town, supporting new creators such as Aaron Lee Martin, I Heard a Lion, JabberJosh, The Josh Berwanger Band, Moreland and Arbuckle, Narkalark. XV, and Your Friend.

Not many artists from Kansas make national news, except groups like the state's namesake band, Kansas. However, local and regional artists enjoy a strong presence in state. In a poll administered by Paste Magazine, some of Kansas listeners’ favorite artists were identified. One of these favorites is Aaron Lee Martin, a singer-songwriter and guitarist making familiar folk tunes with jovial harmonies and emotive lyrics. Moreland and Arbuckle is another local pick; they bring bluesy rock with an indie take to local stages. A third winner is The Josh Berwanger Band who make awesome rock with indie, alternative, and folk elements. Their music has a feel-good, nostalgic sort of sound. All of these local groups and more can be found on Kansas stages on a regular basis. Listeners who want something homegrown and down to earth should check out what Kansas has to offer. The genre variety may surprise you.