This year’s Free State Festival is jam-packed with live musical performances weaved throughout the five-day celebration of film, music, art and ideas.
Watch their stories in presented documentary films, hear from the artists themselves, and then groove to the sounds of their music. From legendary artists like Johnny Winter to local talent like Drakkar Sauna, the streets of downtown will certainly sing this week. Here are some of the highlights. Visit lawrenceartscenter.org for more information and to purchase tickets.
Grant Hart, 9 p.m. Thursday, Lawrence Arts Center main stage, $10.
Grant Hart’s first claim to fame was as a drummer in influential alternative-rock band formed in 1978 with Bob Mould called Hüsker Dü. In 1997, he started touring as a soloist after his second band, Nova Mob, dissolved. Hart’s latest solo album called “The Argument,” draws inspiration from John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” and writing by William S. Burroughs. Hart had visited Burroughs’ former editor James Grauerholz when he was shown an unpublished manuscript of a science fiction novel called “Paradise Lost,” where Burroughs turned God into Harry S. Truman, and the fallen angels were men from far away planets.
He will perform a shared set with Cameron Hawk, Jeremy Sidener and Kliph Scurlock following the screening of “Every Everything: The Life And Times Of Grant Hart."
Olassa, 7 p.m. Friday, Cider Gallery, free; 6:15 p.m. Saturday, US Bank Stage, Ninth and Massachusetts streets, free
Kansas natives Allison Olassa, Cain Robberson and Tyler Bachert make up local old timey indie-folk trio Olassa. Producing a country-western sound that seems Tennessee-born (despite its Kansas roots), Olassa came together after combining Allison’s nakedly haunting vocals with Cain’s vocals and mean guitar skills. The third bandmate addition came into play after Allison met Tyler in the grocery store and rushed home to tell Cain that she found a new tuba player while shopping for frozen fruit.
Midday Ramblers, 7:30 p.m. Friday, US Bank Stage, free
Lawrence-based bluegrass band Midday Ramblers began in 1997 as the Burcham Park Boys, hosting a show to feature their music on KAW Radio called “The Midday Ramble.” Soon, they would adopt that name, play hundreds of shows in the Midwest region, and “produce an alarming amount of children,” according to the biography on their website. They are unofficially the longest-running band in Lawrence without a change in members, and they don’t intend to take a bluegrass hiatus any time soon.
Hearts of Darkness, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Eighth Street between Vermont and Kentucky streets, free
Based in Kansas City, Mo., (some members are from Lawrence), Hearts of Darkness is a 14-piece powerhouse takes traditional Afrobeat and throws in funk, soul and hip-hop while maintaining a dark, gritty undertone. Starting as Fela Kuti, Antibalas and Kokolo cover band, HOD is now known as second-wave Afrobeat music, writing original music influenced by the Kansas City rock and jazz scenes.
James Ilgenfritz, 11 p.m. Friday, Lawrence Arts Center Gallery, free
Bassist James Ilgenfritz is a composer who worked for several years in the improv music scene of New York, incorporating experimental music influences into brilliant solo jazz sets. Originally inspired by beat poets, Ilgenfritz was artist in residence at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room in 2011, where he premiered his opera “The Ticket That Exploded” based on the 1962 William S. Burroughs novel with the same title. He is currently on faculty at Brooklyn College Preparatory Center & Brooklyn Conservatory.
Quixotic Fusion, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, main stage outside Lawrence Arts Center, free
Kansas City’s Quixotic Fusion is a collaborative ensemble that combines projections, dancers and musicians to create a nontraditional, multisensory theatrical experience. It’s hard to pinpoint what kind of troupe this is, as it fuses multiple art disciplines. Founded in 2005 by renowned graphic designer, percussionist and artistic director Anthony Magliano and joined a year later by award-winning lighting and theater technology expert Mica Thomas, Quixotic uses lighting effects, gauzy costuming, sound technology and street performance inspiration to present a mesmerizing act.
Steven Spooner, 2 p.m. Sunday, Spencer Museum of Art, free
Assistant professor of piano at Kansas University and critically acclaimed pianist Steven Spooner has established himself as a noted musician across the world. Spooner has played prestigious venues such as the Salle Cortot in Paris, Holland’s Vredenburg Centre, Budapest’s Great Hall of the Liszt Academy, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Rome’s Santa Cecilia, and Singapore’s Esplanade. Spooner will perform the world premiere of Emile Naoumoff’s “Infinite Variations,” after studying under the distinguished artist. He will also perform “Preludes” by Debussy.
The Cave Girls/Kirsten Paludan and the Key Party, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, The Granada, $10.
Kansas City garage trio The Cave Girls and versatile Kansas-born singer-songwriter Kirsten Paludan (electronic, folk, alt-country) will play live sets featuring the music of Nick Cave following the screening of “20,000 Days on Earth.” The film goes through a fictitious 24 hours in the life of cultural icon Cave and examines what makes up a person’s true identity and celebrates the creative spirit. Music by both bands were featured in the short film “Threads,” which will be screened with the film "I Put a Hit on You" at the festival.