michael byars

Midwest Music Foundation Staff Spotlight: Michael Byars

The Midwest Music Foundation staff constantly works behind the scenes at live music events you have likely attended. They’re the ones who search for facilities, supply entertainment, coordinate with vendors, and generally ensure that your live music experience will be a good one. They’re also the ones that get the word out about musicians’ health care and other educational resources for musicians, filling a vital gap in the community.
Before the advent of the sixth annual Apocalypse Meow benefit, we hear back from some of the staff to find out what they do and why they do it. We’re talking here with Michael Byars, Executive Assistant.
The Deli: When and how did you first get involved with MMF?
Michael: I had fairly recently begun exploring the local music community after having gotten a glimpse of it from people I knew, and as I learned about more bands and artists and as I became acquainted with more of them, I wanted to do something to be more supportive than merely attending shows. When I learned about the MMF, I thought this might be an opportunity to serve those who I admire and respect because of their talent and the work they put in to create the amazing music I was so lucky to be exposed to.
The Deli: What is your current role with the organization?
Michael: I think my official title is assistant to Angela Lupton, one of the administrators. Unofficially I'm sort of a "maybe I can help here or do something there" volunteer, just trying to lend a hand or a voice wherever best needed. (Editor's note: He writes some damn fine reviews for The Deli KC, too!)
The Deli: Why is MMF such an important cause to you? What do you hope it will accomplish in the future?
Michael: It's important to me, and important in its own right, because the women and men who go up on the stages of recordBar, Davey's, The Brick, Liberty Hall, Knuckleheads, Replay Lounge, and various other locations in the Kansas City/Lawrence area provide a vital service: the music they make not only serves as an expression of their art, it draws patrons to the bars and clubs and venues. It's a cycle of support that's very fragile and needs to be nurtured, and with the MMF offering a somewhat more secure future for the musicians of our area—maybe that little easing of the mind will help them take their music further by allowing them to focus more on the creative side as opposed to constant concern over the fiscal side.
The Deli: Who are some of your favorite local artists?
Michael: This is a difficult question; it's like asking me, "Who are your 724 favorite children?!" There are so many incredibly talented people who add to such a widely diverse palette of sonic entertainment that it really depends on what kind of mood I'm in and what soundtrack would best suit that mood. Just to rattle off a few: The Pedaljets, The Conquerors, Grisly Hand, Betse Ellis, The Blackbird Revue, Cowboy Indian Bear, The Philistines, Be/Non, Lennon Bone, Vi Tran Band... and I know I've left out loads more.
The Deli: Do you have a favorite memory of a past Meow? 
Michael: I think my personal favorite Meow was in 2011, because it was my first one as an official volunteer, and while I was floating around and doing what I could do to help wherever I was needed, I started taking pictures—but not only of the performers; I wanted to capture some of the staff and attendees in natural, unposed settings to try to show some of the work that went into putting on such an ambitious event. I think that may have been when I first felt as if I really was fitting in to the community in a way, because I got to share laughter (and a healthy amount of Jim Beam) with some of the finest people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. It was a successful event from a fundraising perspective, but from a personal standpoint it was successful beyond my wildest dream.
The Deli: What are you most looking forward to about this year's Meow?
Michael: Let's see... I'm looking forward to Knuckleheads as the Saturday setting because I love that space. If Mother Nature cooperates and lets us use the indoor and outdoor stages, it's going to be pretty special. Musically I'm excited to witness the debut of Kansas City's newest sensation, Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds, Friday night at Midwestern Musical Co., and Saturday will have so much going on that I'll try to catch a little of it here and there in between working on things and stuff and more things and even more stuff. I can't wait to see Freight Train & Rabbit Killer, I know Gregg Todt is going to close the acoustic portion of the evening with greatness, and Sister Mary Rotten Crotch... come on. Need I say more than that?


Say hello to Michael this weekend at Apocalypse Meow. It starts tomorrow, November 1 at The Midwestern Musical Co. and Saturday at Knuckleheads. Doors open at 6 pm both nights. Friday’s show is free and all ages, Saturday’s show is $10, 21+. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule. Ticket linkFacebook event page. To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org, and learn about Abby's Fund for musicians' health care.

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Show review: David Burchfield and The Great Stop's Farewell Show at recordBar, 8.10.13

In the early evening hours of August 10, a crowd of well-wishers gathered at recordBar to witness a somewhat unusual event: a band celebrating the release of its first full-length CD … and doing so by performing for the last time. The term “bittersweet” seems tailor-made for just such an evening, but David Burchfield and The Great Stop seemed intent on ensuring that the sweet far surpassed the bitter on this night—and it did.
Burchfield will soon be leaving us, swapping the plains of the Midwest for the mountains of Colorado where he will be working toward earning his Ph.D. in Environmental Studies; in his words, “studying ways that disenfranchised communities can be better included in land-use planning and conservation decision-making.” His commitment to his future is commendable, as was his dedication to completing Perseids, a ten-track cornucopia of gentle, rustic charm and swirling, harmonic grace with roots that can be traced back five years to the penning of its oldest track. To label the album as “Americana” is far too broad a brushstroke; Perseids is 33 minutes of comfort food for the ears and the soul.
Full disclosure: Chris Haghirian of Ink magazine and I used to host a weekly podcast called The Mailbox (to which Deli editor-in-chief Michelle Bacon lent her expertise in making it ready for online presentation). For a show dedicated to the Chevy Local Music Showcase, Chris reached out to area bands and asked them for some new songs to play. Upon receiving this request, Burchfield decided to go one better: he got everyone together and wrote and recorded a brand-new song just for The Mailbox. That song became “Rite Two,” which is the sixth track on Perseids. So yeah, you might say that Chris and Michelle and I are fans. Check out that episode of The Mailbox at the link.
The Great Stop has gone through a few lineup changes since its inception in the spring of 2010, and is now predominantly a five-piece as opposed to the quartet that recorded the album. Only one other original member remains: bassist Seth Jenkins. The rest of the troupe of troubadours on stage (Camry Ivory on keys and vocals, Neil Ginther on banjo, kick drum, and vocals, Scott Shaw on fiddle, and guest bassist Matt Cathlina) were lock-step with Burchfield as he led those in attendance on a forty-five-minute show of gratitude for allowing him and the Great Stop to have their moment in the sun. That appreciation was clearly mutual, with several sustained rounds of applause throughout their set.
Keeping things light and loose seemed to be the intent throughout (from an impromptu “let’s hold this note impossibly long and see what happens” moment during the title track to asking if anyone in the crowd would be able to video their performance of a new song, “By the Coast,” so he could send it to Leslie Hammer, a friend and former member of the band), and I wondered if this might have been by design to keep the mood from getting too nostalgic and sorrowful. According to Burchfield, that didn’t seem to be the case: “The show was a culmination of a lifetime of hard work and passion for the music. I felt a great sense of satisfaction and completion—just great contentment to get to play these songs with so many people that I loved for so many MORE people that I loved! I just felt glad.”
The band closed with, appropriately, “The Great Stop,” which strikes me as the thoughts of a man realizing that there is far more in his world than he is aware, and because of that realization he may be aspiring for something—more meaning, more purpose perhaps. It could be interpreted as relating to Burchfield’s desire to set foot on a new path that may not always be comfortable, but one which he feels sure he must follow. As he prepares to close this chapter of his life and put pen to paper on the next one, these lyrics seemed to speak to this:
“Though there be unquestionable danger
In things not understood
In some you find the feeling
That this indeed is something good”
Cheers, David – here’s to The Great Stop giving yield to a greater start.
Here's a video of David and The Great Stop on the Chevy Music Showcase. They're being interviewed by KC band The Silver Maggies.
--Michael Byars

Michael Byars has an infatuation with cider, which we all think comes from his internal Britishness, but he works cheap and spells most of his words correctly, so we let him hang around. And Michelle still likes to punch him every once in a while. Executive privilege and all that, jolly good, pip pip, cheerio.

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