I mean, you probably shouldn’t even try to leave town this month. Lawrence tends to spring into action this time of year, what with Busker Fest and the Food Truck Fest. But local music absolutely explodes in May. Every venue is filled to the brim with shows, and many are selling out quickly. This is the Spring concert season, people! We’re talking weekend and weeknight shows! There are even a couple of big-deal local music festivals to keep on your radar. Here are the must-see events for May in the Lawrence music scene:
The Bottleneck | May 2
The Brian Jonestown Massacre (or as we like to call them, the “millennial’s Velvet Underground,”) kicks off the month of live music when they roll through The Bottleneck on May 2. Their 19th studio album, Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees, is their first album in three years, set to release this June. The first single, “The Real,” feels like a happy romp for psych-rock fans with full crashing drums and wailing organ.
We just know this show is going to be full of cool-kid vibes, despite it happening past leather jacket season (but is it ever really too late for leather jackets). This is a can’t-miss event for the season, and we anticipate it selling out quickly.
Openers: The Magic Castles
RIYL: The Black Angels, The Dandy Warhols, The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Granada | May 14
It is my belief that Turnstile is the greatest rock band we have in America right now. These guys are legendary for their live shows, so it’s no wonder the show sold out so quickly. It’s a pretty huge deal to have the Baltimore-based hardcore rockers playing a show in Lawrence, as they’re just coming off of Coachella and heading to other major festivals after their Granada stop. The buzz surrounding the band is real, and the magic in their live performances can best be explained in this video:
Openers: Citizen, Ekulu, and Truth Cult
RIYL: Getting punched in the face
Spring Into Summer
Early Show: The Roseline, 95 Sweet Bird, Harper K
Replay Lounge | May 14
If you can’t get into the sold-out Turnstile show, just head down the block to the Replay for an exciting night of local acts. Pre-pandemic, the venue hosted a “Spring into Summer” fest every year. The mini-fest returns this year with a good mix of indie and rock bands.
The Roseline tend to attract a near-capacity crowd every time they play an early show at the Replay, so get there early. 95 Sweet Bird is a newer act from Jeff Stolz (of Frightened Stag fame), Heidi Gluck, and Justin Parr. Newcomer Harper K rounds out the early show.
Shy Boys, who haven’t been here in a hot minute, headline the late show along with Kansas City’s Frogpond and local maestro CS Luxem (with the full band).
RIYL: Local lineups, indie crooners
The Bottleneck | May 17
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, as someone who professionally attends concerts. When someone comes from overseas, make the time to see them (because they may never come near your area again).
The Chats are a fairly young Australian punk band, formed in their teens in 2016 with two EPs and an album under their belts. Coming off an international tour, they’ll be sure to bring the moshers and stage divers to this show. They’ve attracted the attention of some of the bigger names in rock (Dave Grohl, for one) for a good reason. The high-energy show is not one to miss.
Openers: Mean Jeans, Thick
RIYL: Dead Kennedys, The Bad Ideas
The Bottleneck | May 28
We can’t even remember when The Phantastics were last in Lawrence, so it was pretty exciting seeing them pop up on the calendar. This is a band that can do it all—funk, rap, soul, dance… they’ve got something for everyone thanks to their many-membered band (including a horn section).
They’re known for extra-long sets with an intermission, and just about every song is one that you will boogie to. Bring your dancing shoes (and your stamina) for this one, this is a music act best served live on the dance floor.
RIYL: Parliament, Funkadelic, Brass & Boujee
The Bottleneck | May 20
Manor Fest is a pretty notable event for the region because it takes place across two weekends in two cities, beginning with Lawrence and then heading into Kansas City.
The independent record label works to put artists’ music in physical form, but they’re using the festival to raise some additional funds after opening as a non-profit in a physical KC location. In Lawrence, The Replay, Bottleneck, Taproom, Gaslight, and White Schoolhouse will all play host to the festival (so you may have to do some running up to North Lawrence).
This is a pretty hefty lineup, featuring heavyweights (Approach, Cuee, and Bummer) as well as some up-and-coming acts (Flooding, Dylan Pyles). It’s a big schedule, so be sure to get familiar with it over on their website.
RIYL: Local music and supporting local musicians
Other shows to watch:
Gaslight Gardens | May 1
Liberty Hall | May 3
The Replay | May 5
The Bottleneck | May 5
The Lied Center | May 5
The Granada | May 5
The Replay | May 8
The Granada | May 13
The Bottleneck | May 13
The Bottleneck | May 14
The Replay | May 20
The Granada | May 27
The Bottleneck | May 27