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Mark Manning celebrates 10 years of Wednesday MidDay Medley

Every Wednesday, between 10 and 12 pm, the soothing, dulcet tones of Mark Manning take over the KKFI 90.1 FM airwaves. For 10 years, his program Wednesday MidDay Medley has highlighted a variety of music—both local and non-local, and includes in-depth interviews with bands, local music aficionados, and others in the community. But many of us don’t know much about Manning himself; not only is he a radio personality, but he’s been an active part of the theater community since moving to Kansas City in the mid ‘80s. Check out our Q&A with him, and find out more about one of the most ardent supporters of the Kansas City arts community.
The Deli: How long have you been in radio? Give me a little about your background there. 
Manning: I started volunteering at KKFI in the spring of 2001 and worked as producer/host/engineer for The Tenth Voice for 8 years. Prior to this, in 1994, I co-produced and contributed as a writer/performer for The AIDS Radio Show with friends Lisa Cordes and Jon "Piggy" Cupit. The show was a radio adaptation of a live show we had done on stage, and was reproduced and recorded especially for radio. It won a Silver Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
The Deli: What other work have you done in performing arts and entertainment?
Manning: I moved to Kansas City in 1986 and immediately found a home at The Unicorn Theatre where I worked on 18 professional productions. I was given the opportunity to work as an actor, stage manager, assistant stage manager, designer, and production assistant. I also worked with Paul Mesner Puppets on 18 productions, as a stage manager, technician, and sometimes puppeteer. I've worked as a site manager for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and as a freelance artist and stage manager. I have also worked as an actor for The Coterie Theatre, Gorilla Theatre, Theatre League, Actors Against AIDS, Quality Hill Playhouse, One Time Productions, and The Fishtank.
As a performance artist and writer I've created several original pieces and plays including: "Jesse's Dream Our Nightmare," "Every Gay People," "Gay Bash," "It's A Man's World," "Anti-Gone in Kansas," "Slightly Effeminate Men," (with Ron Megee & Jon "Piggy" Cupit) "Straight Marriage," "70's Cocktail Party" and "The Children of Karen Carpenter" (with Sandra K. Davies).
The Deli: You also co-founded Big Bang Buffet, an underground performance collective. How has that organization fostered the arts community?
Manning: In 1990 I co-founded Big Bang Buffet with my friends Ron Megee and Janice Woolery, a producing organization that worked to provide venues for original works in performance art, spoken word, theatre and visual arts. BBB fostered an underground scene. Founders met at The Spoken Word at Cafe Lulu (until it closed in Oct. '91) and Club Cabaret (a gay bar on Main St, now demolished). Between 1990 and 2005, BBB presented 75 different productions at many venues including American Heartland Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, The Midland, Harling's Upstairs, Quality Hill Playhouse, back alleyways, Unity Temple on The Plaza, The Hobbs Building, Just Off Broadway, The Farm, KC Fringe Festival, Phoenix Books, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Bang Gallery and Lou Jane Temple's living room. Shows were benefits for the Free Speech Coalition, Human Rights Project, Missouri Naral, ACT-UP KC, Free Health Clinic, SAVE. Core contributors: Ron Megee left BBB to create Late Night Theater; Beth Marshall became Producing/Artistic Director of Orlando Fringe Festival and now runs Beth Marshall Presents; Lisa Cordes is now Director of Artist Inc. and Janice Woolery now runs weekly in marathons. 
With Big Bang Buffet, I appeared in over 75 different productions playing roles as diverse as Jesse Helms, Phil Donahue, Tonya Harding, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush and Andy Warhol.
The Deli: You started Wednesday Midday Medley 10 years ago. What was the goal of the program then, and is it still the same now?
Manning: I was asked by then 90.1 FM program director John Jessup to become a host/producer of Your MidDay Medley. The concept of the show was to play all the different music genres heard on KKFI: blues, jazz, rock, folk, world, electronic, reggae, punk, etc. I really took the "medley" part seriously and I've always loved mixing it up. I remember once when I played gay singer-songwriter Peter Allen followed by Jimi Hendrix. A listener called in and asked, "So this is how it's gonna be on this show?" I wasn't sure in the beginning what the show was, I mainly used it as an opportunity to play everything I loved that I never heard on commercial radio.
I started doing more interviews and special shows. One of our signature shows we started was "A Story in A Song," where we invite listeners and writers to share an original short story about a song that changed their life in some way, and then we play the song. The concept is simple but the shows have been some of our best, and a big favorite with listeners. We also have done a series of satire radio shows called "Then He Touched Me Gospel Hour." We produced the first edition on April Fools Day in 2008. The show was inspired, co-written and starring Jim "The Blind Guy" Hoschek, who played a down-on-his-luck, Christian fundamentalist radio evangelist who recently relocated to Sugar Creek with his wife and many children. Their ministry has taken over the community airwaves. A cast of actors plays all of the roles of the family, and we play actual vintage, locally produced Christian music from the early 1970s.
I was really inspired by my good friend Anne Winter, who helped me a lot in the early days. Anne had already done "the KKFI thing" but her experience and love of the station was still present. After her death in 2009, I dedicated my efforts with a new direction to continue the work of Anne. I remember holding onto friends Betse Ellis and Kasey Rausch and making a pact with them that we would be there for each other as friend and never forget.
I always wanted someone from a record store to have a regular contribution to the show. I met Marion Merritt at Barnes & Noble on The Plaza. Marion has been joining us on WMM for over 10 years, sharing her discoveries and info from her musically encyclopedic-brain. This year Marion Merritt, left Barnes & Noble to pursue a dream and she opened Records With Merritt (1614 Westport Road) in May.
The listeners helped make the show what it is today. In my continuing search to tell stories on radio, I stumbled into the story of Kansas City's beautiful music community. The music community never ceases to inspire and move me. Musicians started playing live on the show and appearing for interviews. We interview close to 200 people each year. I started searching for as much locally produced music as I could include, and mix this with the very best national releases that aren't being played on commercial radio. The musicians have taught me. Slowly musicians and artists began to take ownership of the show itself. I remember the day Abigail Henderson told me, "We think of this as our show,” and I couldn't have been happier. For the last 8 years we've been serious about tracking and celebrating the best music in this diverse MidCoastal area.
The Deli: Why is supporting local music and the community important to you?
Manning: I feel it is my responsibility as a host/producer of a music show on Community Radio. As a non-commercial/educational community radio station owned by a nonprofit organization (The MidCoast Radio Project), we must work to tell the story of what is going on in our culture. KKFI plays over 1000 different songs in a week, we can cover more types of music. You don't have to love it all, but if you listen you will learn, and you will get to go deeper into genre than any other media outlet will take you. Our jazz shows are hosted and produced by many of KC’s best and hardest working jazz musicians. Our blues shows are hosted by blues musicians or those who have served on the KC Blues Society board. The same can be said for our shows that feature the music of folk, punk, reggae, women's music, hip hop, rockabilly, world, Native American, new wave, clectronica, etc. 
The Deli: Why should people be interested in community radio?
Manning: Community Radio really is radio "of the people." The spirit of this can sometimes be polluted by those with narrow vision and selfishness, but ultimately community radio lives by the idea that the airwaves belong to the people. The station belongs to all of us. It is powered by people who want to hear about their own communities in our media. Volunteers who are willing to give up part of their life to produce and host a weekly show and basically give it all away for free, without asking anything for all of the work, and time and investment. With community radio you can have the freedom to tell the stories that just aren't included anywhere else. This is space that we must hold on to. It is some to the last remaining community space in the broadcasting world. With community radio I know what is happening in my communities and I don't want to have to listen to commercials for breast enhancement or diet pills.
The Deli: Who are some of your favorite KC-area bands and musicians?
Manning: This is so difficult because I love and respect so many local artists. In the last year we played over 100 local releases and had over 40 artists/bands on the show to talk about their 2014 releases. We had Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear on our program 4 times in 14 months. They always blow me away. I love everything about Schwervon!, Shy Boys, Howard Iceberg, Matt Dunehoo, The ACBs, Sara Swenson, The Philistines, Betse Ellis, Ghosty, Katy Guillen and Claire Adams, The Bad Ideas, Kristie Stremel, Mikal Shapiro, Krystle Warren, Dead Voices, The Sleazebeats, Pedaljets, Jamie Searle, Calvin Arsenia, Hermon Mehari, Amy Farrand, Chris Meck, Jorge Arana Trio, Dedric Moore, Not A Planet, Michael Tipton, Hearts of Darkness, John Velghe, Vi Tran…I could keep going.
The Deli: What do you like most about hosting your own radio show?
Manning: Every week is different. Each week I'm forced to write a script and put together the puzzle of a radio show. It is an education, I'm always learning, there is always research, planning. It is personal. I love the interviews. I love having an opportunity to make connections. To serve. I try to find equality in music and music that moves your heart and your body. I want to be a good custodian and help open the door. Through the show I've been able to do longer interviews with Tommy Ramone, Lily Tomlin, Laurie Anderson, Krystle Warren, and so many others.
The Deli: You are also coordinator for the KCK Organic Teaching Gardens. Tell us more about that and why it's rewarding to you?
Manning: In 1998 we produced a Big Bang Buffet show on stage at the Midland as a benefit for a high school student-produced poetry magazine and program in KCK. I left my job as manager of the box office at The Midland and went to work in KCK training and recruiting volunteers for a literacy program. Somehow this led to my work in creating—from scratch—a garden-teaching initiative that has built multiple raised bed organic gardens, at seven schools in the KCK School District #500. Our program is entirely grant funded and supported by the Kansas University School of Medicine’s Office of Cultural Enhancement and Diversity. We serve over 1000 students in classrooms with a 9-month curriculum that involves the students in 3 plantings and 3 harvests each year, and workshops on soil, worms, parts of plants and seeds, sweet potatoes, salsa, and how plants grow. We launched the program in 2000. I conduct 37 workshops each month at seven schools with 25 different classrooms and teachers, serving over 1000 students in first, fourth, and sixth grades.
The Deli: What else inspires you?
Manning: My partner Caleb who I've been with for 23 years and who has never tried to change me, but only offer me support and a home. His beautiful mom Julia, who lives with us, and reminds me that some of the youngest people I know are in their 80s. My mom and stepdad Arlo. My dogs Maggie and Jack (both rescued from the gardens). I'm a huge fan of David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, The Factory, Interview Magazine, New York punk, early ‘80s new wave and post punk, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, performance art, Laurie Anderson, LaBelle, local record stores, Broadway, artists, Martin Luther King, LGBT activists, Larry Kramer, Mavis Staples, trees, walking, President Obama, the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Ocean, Joni Mitchell, George Washington Carver, honey bees, butterflies, gardening, Iris DeMent, vertical files, The Smiths, British music magazines, Bold Nebraska, Rachel Maddow, RuPaul's Drag Race, photography, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Paul Thomas Anderson films, This American Life, homegrown and homemade food, coffee, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Michelle Bacon.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands. She’s also a huge fan of Mark Manning.

You can celebrate with Mark this Friday at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club, where KKFI will be celebrating 10 years of Wednesday MidDay Medley. The show is a benefit for KKFI 90.1 FM, and will feature performances from The Philistines, Dolls on Fire (who will also be releasing their LP that night), and The Pedaljets. Facebook event page 

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Signal To Noise pays tribute to Lou Whitney

Longtime KC mainstay free-form show Signal To Noise, hosted by Barry Lee, will present a special show in honor of Lou Whitney, who passed away Tuesday after battling cancer. The radio show will include in-studio guests Kristie Stremel, Tony Ladesich, Fred Wickham, and Joey Skidmore. Lou's longtime friend and guitarist D. Clinton Thompson will also join in via telephone from Springfield, Missouri. Tune in this Sunday, October 12, at 8:00 p.m. to hear the music of the Morells, The Original Symptoms, The Skeletons, and songs recorded by the guests with Lou producing. And great Lou stories as well. Facebook event page.

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Barry Lee interviews Deli KC editor Michelle Bacon (Part 3 of 3)

Listen in as KKFI 90.1 station manager Barry Lee and The Deli KC editor and all-around musician Michelle Bacon converse about growing up in Kansas City, playing music, and the current local music scene in a special three-part audio verite series.
Click below to hear part three of the series.
Here is the link to part 1.

Here is the link to part 2.

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Barry Lee interviews Deli KC editor Michelle Bacon (Part 2 of 3)

Listen in as KKFI 90.1 station manager Barry Lee and The Deli KC editor and all-around musician Michelle Bacon converse about growing up in Kansas City, playing music, and the current local music scene in a special three-part audio verite series.
Click below to hear part two of the series.
Here is the link to part 1. Stay tuned for the final installment tomorrow.

And if you’re interested in hearing any of Michelle’s bands, Bandcamp links are below. You might as well listen to her do something she does much better than speaking.

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Spotlight on Tim Finn, music writer at The Kansas City Star

Tim Finn has covered the local and national music scene for The Kansas City Star for over two decades. In that time, he's seen hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of musicians. Barry Lee, host of KKFI's Signal To Noise, felt it was time someone interviewed Tim.

The Deli: When you first started your career as music writer for The Kansas City Star, what ground rules did you set for yourself for writing concert reviews?

Tim Finn: Foremost: don't use a live review as a format for critiquing (or disparaging) the music. A review of a live show is different from a review of an album. The music itself isn't the primary focus, the performance is. No one attends a rock concert like they do a movie or a restaurant. You buy a ticket to a rock show because you've already decided you like/love the music. Likewise, no one goes to a movie knowing they hate the genre, or a to restaurant knowing they hate the cuisine. So, even if I must go to a show to see a band I don't like or whose music I don't like, I don't trash the music itself. Instead, I do some consumer advocacy: was it long enough? Did they do most of their hits? How did the crowd react? How was the sound? And in the middle of that, I may lay down a context that may illuminate my opinion of the music: "they're a mainstream hybrid/derivative mix of Band X and Band Y..." and leave it at that.

We typically stick to the large shows, the ones that attract big crowds (and more readers). Occasionally, we will review a local show. But I'd rather preview local bands/shows and mention the high quality of the music and the live shows and hope the exposure gets more people to those shows.

The Deli: During those first years covering the local music scene, which bands or artists caught your attention as being the most interesting?

Finn: Those were the years of Outhouse, Season To Risk, Shiner, Molly McGuire, Tenderloin, Frogpond, Grither, The Gadjits, Mike Ireland, Iris DeMent.

The Deli: What role, if any, did local record stores play in KC's music community?

Finn: Well, Anne Winter had a profound influence on me on my role as a writer and reporter, then as a friend. She either introduced me to people or bands, or advised me to get in touch with them. Recycled Sounds was the nerve center of the local scene for so many years. For awhile, I was going in two or three times a week, not just to buy music, but to hear about what was going on. Or see an in-store.

The Deli: Historically, local artists often felt that it was necessary to leave Kansas City if they wanted to be successful and make a living playing music. Do you think that's still true today?

Finn: There's evidence to support that. Janelle Monáe being one example. And it was sad to see Miles Bonny move away. But I don't think it's necessary, especially today. I think you can certainly start lots of momentum here and then generate it elsewhere. Look at Radkey. Or Making Movies. Or Beautiful Bodies. Or The Architects. The Republic Tigers. The Elders. The Wilders. Tech N9ne still lives here.

The Deli: What's your assessment of the current state of our local music scene?

Finn: I listen to more local bands just recreationally now than I ever have. Too many to name. So, there are more good bands these days, in every genre, I feel safe saying, whether it's indie-rock/pop, singer-songwriter, hip-hop, hard rock, country... There is more variety, too. And what I like most of all: way more collaborations, whether they are side projects or tribute shows. There has always been a strain of jealousy (or envy) within this music community. But I think this has subsided and there seems to be way more collaboration and internal support than there used to be, especially across genres. I love it when, say, Hermon Mehari, a jazz trumpeter, jumps in on a set with a rock band.

The Deli: Are there any local bands or artists that are not yet well know that should be?

Finn: So many local bands have been given the big label opportunity over the past 15 years, and many have come so close. But very few have cashed in on it, mostly because you have to be as lucky as you are good, it seems. Or maybe luckier. Music isn't sports, where the spoils go to the most skilled.

If I had to name one that I think has the sound, the recordings, and the live show to be a successful touring band I'd say The Grisly Hand. And I've always thought Mikal Shapiro was a good a songwriter and performer as many I've seen.

The Deli: You've been to every kind of venue to see and hear music, from Sprint Center on down to house concerts. What do you consider to be your optimum place to experience music?

Finn: It depends on the show. I've been to shows at the Uptown Theater when it's full, and it's as intimate or satisfying as a house concert (Sigur Rós and The Swell Season come to mind). Starlight Theatre can be the perfect venue. As long as the crowd is attentive and engaged and the sound is good, any venue can work for me.

The Deli: If you could assemble an all-star band using KC and Lawrence musicians, who'd be in that band?

Finn: That's too hard to answer. I'd start with Ernie Locke, though.

The Deli: What's the best local concert you've seen so far this year?

Finn: I have to list a few. The performance of Beck's "Song Reader" by Project H (Mark Lowrey, Jeff Harshbarger, Shay Estes, and many others) was brilliant. The recordBar was pretty much full that night, and everyone was hearing every song for the first time. Yet, for the most part, everyone gave the band and the music full attention that night.

Awhile back, I saw The Grisly Hand at Knuckleheads and for part of the show they brought up a three-piece horn section and created this country/soul sound that was delicious.

At this year’s Warped Tour, the Beautiful Bodies and Mac Lethal were performing at the same time at contiguous stages. I bounced back and forth between both. Each drew a big, rowdy crowd. Both are so much fun to watch, the way they engage their fans.

And The Pedaljets album release show was great. They are such a good live band. And the more I see Ghosty live, the more they impress me.

And I have to plug Middle of the Map, which showcases the breadth and depth of local music in this town.

The Deli: What advice would you give to an aspiring area band who are just getting started in the music world?

Finn: Don't do it for the money, glory or fame. Do it because you love it. And do it with the people you love.
--Barry Lee

Tune in to KKFI 90.1 FM on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. and listen to Barry’s show Signal To Noise, a two-hour free-form radio program dedicated to the proposition that all good music transcends its genre. 

Also, you can check The Star's music blog Back To Rockville, which Tim writes for, and you can often see him out at many local and national shows. He'll be the tall guy. 

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