In the early hours of Aug. 21, 1863, several hundred Confederate raiders led by William Quantrill rode into Lawrence while the town slept, gunning down its citizens and setting houses ablaze.
That infamous event isn't exactly synonymous with live rock bands. But for the last four years, Lawrence musician Mike McCoy has put together an unusual concert tribute to celebrate the anniversary of Quantrill's Raid.
Starting Thursday, Lawrence will supply the setting for the fourth annual North vs. South Music Festival. More than 70 acts hailing from either Minneapolis, Minn., or Austin, Texas, will encamp for three days at four downtown stages. The resulting performances should offer a rock music equivalent of the blue vs. gray.
"It's a labor of love for all these bands," McCoy says. "Lawrence is lucky to have it, and the festival is lucky to have Lawrence as well."
McCoy says the Austin acts have to sacrifice a bit more than the Minneapolis ones in order to perform in Lawrence.
"The Southerners take it on the chin by about three hours," McCoy says. "That means it costs $80 bucks more in gas per van that the Southerners have to pay - thanks to their former governor. But they deserve what they got."
Veteran singer/guitarist McCoy - best known for fronting the seminal punk-rock act Cher U.K. - is rather familiar with both competing cities. The Hutchinson native recorded two records with Cher U.K. in Minneapolis during the early 1990s and also spent 1998-2002 living in Austin and immersing himself in the "live music capital."
He hatched the idea for the festival while traveling up and down Interstate 35 on tour, and he credits pals Hunter Darby from Austin's Wannabes and Minneapolis singer Baby Grant Johnson with helping bring the concept to fruition.
"This year has a rougher edge to it," McCoy says of the 2007 lineup.
"It's definitely got more punk in the mix. It might be a reaction to all the bad emo bands that are out there. Actual human beings are making good punk rock bands again, which is great news for most of us."
Headlining acts include Meat Purveyors, Grand Champeen, Youngmond Grand, God's Favorite Band and Grant Hart.
McCoy suggests, "Because of the name alone, I wouldn't miss Manheat. Also, take any chance to see Charlie Parr. You're a lucky person to witness one of his shows."
As for which city dominates the other in terms of quality bands, that's still a matter of opinion.
"I think it's a draw each year," McCoy says. "I think (Austin's) Grand Champeen brings their best game and stomps everybody into the ground, and everybody just lets them do it."
Convenience is a big factor for audience members attending the festival. The venues - The Jackpot Music Hall, Louise's Downtown, The Replay Lounge (inside and outside stages) - all reside within about 100 feet of each other.
"It's kind of a microcosm of Sixth Street in Austin," McCoy says. "You could literally watch four acts every hour."
Interestingly, McCoy is moving back to Austin at the end of the month.
His Texas-based band, The Service Industry, is releasing its second record (which features Meat Puppets frontman Curt Kirkwood on four tracks).
Does this mean he's contemplated abandoning North vs. South next year?
"There was no debate whatsoever," McCoy says. "It's gotten to the point where it's self-sustainable. It's going to keep going. Everybody wants it to. I don't even have to be there to do it - I don't think. We'll find out."