Going into our first Farmer’s Ball, we had no idea what to expect. At first, the most notable thing to note was the number of people in overalls and cowboy hats, people who clearly understood the meaning of Farmer’s Ball more than me. But over the hours that followed as the numerous local bands and artists began to perform, there was a growing crowd. Each band played about a twenty minute set, and then there was a ten minute or so intermission while the next band set up. Among these bands were Oxford Remedy, Tione, Royal Chief, Chess Club, Cuddle Puddle, Ben Dipper, Night Class, and After Judo. You can find all of their music on Spotify and Apple Music.
Cuddle Puddle opened Farmer’s Ball semifinals with an entertaining and dynamic set. They exude a kind of casual and relaxed vibe that cements your initial assumption that they are close friends. Their stage presence is both calm and wildly entertaining, and their six-song set captures that same feeling. It’s impossible to predict the style or content to come next. The opening song is an energetic, humorous, and fast-paced sound, the next is resigned pining for the days when you used to take better care of yourself. Jumping songs means jumping styles for Cuddle Puddle, and winding melodies turn to loud and heavy vocals about the benefits of soup. The Kansas City based band has a unique sound and inviting feel, and puts on an impressive performance.
A slightly biased part of this review is that After Judo was my favorite band of the night. Their band consisted of three guitar players, one drummer, and one trumpet player. Their music style was alternative, but the trumpet player definitely helped them stand out. Their set helped get the crowd dancing and it was nice to see the band having fun playing with each other on stage. The energy on stage was also good, with the guitarists bouncing and the trumpeter dancing when there was no trumpet part.
To be further biased, Oxford Remedy was my second favorite band of the night. The band also introduced the first female presence on stage that night, with three female guitarists and one male drummer. This band’s genre was alternative. Their instrumental blend worked well to push through the energy in each song, and the frontman’s voice was great. I could hear the lyrics clearly and I enjoyed the songs a lot. Looking at the crowd, it was clear to see that they enjoyed them too.
Chess Club was a great band to have this Farmer’s Ball. They brought good energy with them up on stage and the audience was very pumped through their performance. This band consisted of two guitarists and a drummer. Their website describes their style of music as emo math pop, and while I’m not sure what that is, I am sure that it sounds good. Their songs were high energy and were just one banger after the other.
Night Class was one of the smaller bands of the night, with only a drummer and a guitarist who doubled as the vocalist. Their style falls under indie alternative and they stood out during the night as a dynamic duo. A very local band starting in Lawrence, some of their songs such as “Wakarusa” take inspiration from their hometown. The band consists of two brothers, and it was cool to see how the talent might run in the family. Their Spotify page lists them as beginning in 2015, and it will be interesting to see them grow as a local band in the following years.
The Royal Chief is another artist hailing from Kansas City. Though he usually performs gigs as a solo artist, his performance at the Bottleneck involved several backup artists on various instruments. His set opened with an autobiographical rap about his story as an artist, which gives context to his performance and makes him instantly likable. His energy is undeniable, but his appreciation for his band became a defining feature of his set. His second song was really just a showcase of the talent of his co-artists. Each one was recognized by name and invited to play a short solo. For his final song, The Royal Chief performed an ode to “pipe dreams” and lofty aspirations. It fit his story perfectly, but before the song he asked the audience to think of their own big dreams. With the entire audience on his same page, it closed his performance perfectly. This set resonated with the crowd, who moved him on to finals the following Friday.
Tione’s energy makes him a standout performer. His sound is lively, quintessential hip-hop. From the beginning of his set, his volume and motion made him uniquely popular with the crowd. Tione performs with a spackling of backup instrumentalists, soundboard operators, and others. His talent and raw energy electrified this crowd from on stage, but the blistering excitement came when he jumped off the stage to dance and perform in with the audience. If that weren’t enough, Tione invited audience members up on stage to dance for his last song. Upbeat and clever lyrics meet expert crowd work to deliver a performance that moved him swiftly into finals.
Ben Dipper boasts the only scenery change in the entire show, and for an excellent reason. His opening statement “I’m Ben Dipper and once I start I do not stop,” was confusing, then clear. Dipper sings with accompanying visuals projected soundlessly behind him. The images cut in and out quickly, more like glimpses of content than a story, and they ranged from short clips of daily activities to still life portraits. All were rendered in a grainy, vintage-feeling color palate and timed along perfectly to the music. The sound fit too, and Ben Dipper doesn’t lack vocal talent. One instrument, one voice, one visual gimmick could land a less talented artist a “boring” designation, but Dipper masters a wide vocal range and several speeds and styles. His music is authentic, dynamic, and a really good show.