Archive for Thursday, September 9, 1999


September 9, 1999


Steve and Kathy Peters are on the lineup of this year's West Side Folk fund-raising concert.

Don't call Steve and Kathy Peters professional musicians.

"We're not professionals," Kathy said. "We are amateurs with a love of music."

Although the Peterses are practically synonymous with Lawrence-Kansas City folk music, they keep a deliberately low profile.

"Maybe in a good year we'll play half a dozen concerts," Steve said with a laugh. "Some years maybe a couple. If somebody asks we tend to do it."

The acoustic duo will appear Friday night at the annual West Side Folk fund-raising concert at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church. Iris DeMent, Greg Allen, Pamela Bruner and Billy Ebeling also are on the bill. West Side Folk is an organization dedicated to bringing quality acoustic music to the area.

"It's a labor of love," Steve said. "There's not much money in this line of music. But the people who like it are passionately dedicated to it. It's never going to pay the bills, so it's not uncommon to have a fund-raiser to help cover the season's costs."

Kathy, who is an attorney by day, plays guitar and mandocello, while Steve, a carpenter, concentrates on banjo and Anglo concertina.

"Our sound is traditional and traditionally based," Kathy said.

"If you could listen to one of my songs and readily identify it as being original to me, I would have failed," Steve said, with a laugh.

The Peterses have been staples of the Kansas City-Lawrence music scene for decades, promoting events such as CrossCurrents and the Songwriter's Circle Concert Series.

"We've been involved in putting on folk music on a grassroots level for 30 years," Kathy said.

When asked about the changes in the acoustic scene during that time, Steve noted the technical improvement in area musicians.

"It's the instructional tapes, both audio and video, that have made a difference -- an astonishing difference. It used to be that the only way to learn to play was to sit down with someone who knew how and watch intently, looking at one little thing at a time and then practice, practice, practice.

"Now you can sit down with a videotape and watch a really complex move a dozen times, until your fingers just know it. The consequence is that the quality of performance has gone up. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind."

When asked about the frustrations involved with the area folk scene, the couple was reflective.

"It's fly-over country," Steve said. "In the Boston area, a musician can get a string of gigs 30 miles apart and have an entirely different audience each night. Here, there's nowhere else to go. Kansas City and Lawrence are the same audience."

Kathy agreed, adding, "We don't have a big enough audience base to really pay people well here. It's difficult to put together a tour through the Midwest when most of our audiences come out on the weekends. It's hard for people to find mid-week gigs. So, it's just difficult to get as many artists through here as we'd like to see."

Kathy also talked about the ever-changing dynamics of the music industry.

"A lot more people seem to be making their own music," she said. "That's what folk music is geared toward and there's a lot of good musicians these days. But the demise of independent radio stations is a problem. Everything's so damn commercial. You have to have sold 50 million copies before you can get on the air. You have to have somebody really big pushing you. It's the major label syndrome. The commercial radio stations are limiting what they play and limiting the ability of the DJs to select what will be played. Especially for folk music it's a problem."

Steve, who does a folk music show from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays on KKFI-FM 90.1, added, "For people with our musical tastes, there aren't nearly enough pirate radio stations."

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What: West Side Folk fund-raising concert, featuring Iris DeMent, Greg Allen, Pamela Bruner, Billy Ebeling and Kathy and Steve Peters.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 964 Kansas Highway 40.

Tickets: Available at Mass Street Music or by calling 842-1163.

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