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Midwest Music Foundation Staff Spotlight: Michael Byars

Midwest Music Foundation Staff Spotlight: Michael Byars

The Midwest Music Foundation staff constantly works behind the scenes at live music events you have likely attended. They’re the ones who search for facilities, supply entertainment, coordinate with vendors, and generally ensure that your live music experience will be a good one. They’re also the ones that get the word out about musicians’ health care and other educational resources for musicians, filling a vital gap in the community.
Before the advent of the sixth annual Apocalypse Meow benefit, we hear back from some of the staff to find out what they do and why they do it. We’re talking here with Michael Byars, Executive Assistant.
The Deli: When and how did you first get involved with MMF?
Michael: I had fairly recently begun exploring the local music community after having gotten a glimpse of it from people I knew, and as I learned about more bands and artists and as I became acquainted with more of them, I wanted to do something to be more supportive than merely attending shows. When I learned about the MMF, I thought this might be an opportunity to serve those who I admire and respect because of their talent and the work they put in to create the amazing music I was so lucky to be exposed to.
The Deli: What is your current role with the organization?
Michael: I think my official title is assistant to Angela Lupton, one of the administrators. Unofficially I'm sort of a "maybe I can help here or do something there" volunteer, just trying to lend a hand or a voice wherever best needed. (Editor's note: He writes some damn fine reviews for The Deli KC, too!)
The Deli: Why is MMF such an important cause to you? What do you hope it will accomplish in the future?
Michael: It's important to me, and important in its own right, because the women and men who go up on the stages of recordBar, Davey's, The Brick, Liberty Hall, Knuckleheads, Replay Lounge, and various other locations in the Kansas City/Lawrence area provide a vital service: the music they make not only serves as an expression of their art, it draws patrons to the bars and clubs and venues. It's a cycle of support that's very fragile and needs to be nurtured, and with the MMF offering a somewhat more secure future for the musicians of our area—maybe that little easing of the mind will help them take their music further by allowing them to focus more on the creative side as opposed to constant concern over the fiscal side.
The Deli: Who are some of your favorite local artists?
Michael: This is a difficult question; it's like asking me, "Who are your 724 favorite children?!" There are so many incredibly talented people who add to such a widely diverse palette of sonic entertainment that it really depends on what kind of mood I'm in and what soundtrack would best suit that mood. Just to rattle off a few: The Pedaljets, The Conquerors, Grisly Hand, Betse Ellis, The Blackbird Revue, Cowboy Indian Bear, The Philistines, Be/Non, Lennon Bone, Vi Tran Band... and I know I've left out loads more.
The Deli: Do you have a favorite memory of a past Meow? 
Michael: I think my personal favorite Meow was in 2011, because it was my first one as an official volunteer, and while I was floating around and doing what I could do to help wherever I was needed, I started taking pictures—but not only of the performers; I wanted to capture some of the staff and attendees in natural, unposed settings to try to show some of the work that went into putting on such an ambitious event. I think that may have been when I first felt as if I really was fitting in to the community in a way, because I got to share laughter (and a healthy amount of Jim Beam) with some of the finest people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. It was a successful event from a fundraising perspective, but from a personal standpoint it was successful beyond my wildest dream.
The Deli: What are you most looking forward to about this year's Meow?
Michael: Let's see... I'm looking forward to Knuckleheads as the Saturday setting because I love that space. If Mother Nature cooperates and lets us use the indoor and outdoor stages, it's going to be pretty special. Musically I'm excited to witness the debut of Kansas City's newest sensation, Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds, Friday night at Midwestern Musical Co., and Saturday will have so much going on that I'll try to catch a little of it here and there in between working on things and stuff and more things and even more stuff. I can't wait to see Freight Train & Rabbit Killer, I know Gregg Todt is going to close the acoustic portion of the evening with greatness, and Sister Mary Rotten Crotch... come on. Need I say more than that?


Say hello to Michael this weekend at Apocalypse Meow. It starts tomorrow, November 1 at The Midwestern Musical Co. and Saturday at Knuckleheads. Doors open at 6 pm both nights. Friday’s show is free and all ages, Saturday’s show is $10, 21+. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule. Ticket linkFacebook event page. To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org, and learn about Abby's Fund for musicians' health care.

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