Kansas City’s “New Wave Scene”

New Wave band at unidentified location, 1981

New Wave band at unidentified location, 1981

So a recent donation of issues from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s of Star Magazine, the weekly supplement to the Sunday Kansas City Star has provided the occasion for some observations:

  • magazines used to run a lot of cigarette ads
  • it’s surprising how quickly restaurants fade from memory (Brown’s Chicken, anyone?)
  • one of the sad outcomes of putting  newspapers on microfilm is that you lose the color that was originally used in the paper’s production

That being said, one of my favorites issues in the stack of 127 is the one pictured here, from April 26, 1981.  Writers Jo E. Hull and Art Brisbane (who would later become the Star‘s publisher and ultimately land a gig at the New York Times) reported on their jaunt into “a thriving underground culture in Kansas City”.  There wouldn’t have been a New Wave scene without the music, which could be purchased at Rock Therapy, 7511 Troost, “Kansas City’s principal New Wave disc parlor, offering the coveted and obscure import records from England, always keeping pace with the trends”. The writers detail visits to the two primary New Wave clubs, further north on the same street: the Downliner, located in the basement of the Plaza East tavern at 4719 Troost, and the Music Box, located further up the block at 4701.  This same block also served as headquarters for the stores where devotees could acquire their New Wave garb – Rags Fashion Originals, 4733 Troost, and Punk Funk at 4739.  Interestingly enough, as the decade progressed and New Wave music fractured into increasingly specific categories – e.g., goth – the 4700 block of Troost continued to serve as the fashion nexus for club kids.  By 1986 Archaic Smile, at 4715, was the place for clothes and accessories.  The store’s owners also were the proprietors of the nightclub of choice:  Epitaph, located on 31st just east of Main.  So, as Ollie Gates and other developers continue to refashion the neighborhood around 47th and Troost, it’s good to be reminded of the area’s link to the city’s eccentric musical past.

4 thoughts on “Kansas City’s “New Wave Scene”

  1. wow.. what a blog its very amazing.. i am really impressed.. and after read this site i get some new knowledge about this blog.. so that’s why i really i appreciate.. its so detailing.. thanks for posting.. keep it up..

  2. This was a great music scene!! I spent 3 yrs seeing bands at Adrians, Musicbox, Downliner, on Troost, and the VFW hall on 31st ST. But alas by 1984 it was all over. The Outhouse in Lawrence was too fratboyish and jockish for me, although they did host some great out of town bands there.

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