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The Kirk Rundstrom Legacy

Frank Swider

OK, you all know by now how I feel about local music. Wichita is fully capable of making music just as well as anybody on either coast. The music of Kirk Rundstrom is a case in point and should not be forgotten.

Happily, there are a lot of other people who feel the same way and are doing something about it. Kirk’s songs rocked, the perfect vehicle for his fearless stage persona to decimate a crowd. But they also capture the timeless and desolate beauty of living on the prairie.

Kirk made things happen. He founded The Kirk Rundstrom Band, Grain & Demise, Grizzly, Technicolor Headrush and Scroat Belly. Then, of course, there’s Split Lip Rayfield. Those guys figured out how to crossbreed heavy rock with bluegrass and used it to fill The Bottleneck in Lawrence to the legally allowed limit and turn the Cotillion upside-down. Their Stage Five appearances at Winfield prove that acoustic music isn’t just about sentimentality. Kirk’s intensity made it all work, and if none of his bands could make a gig, he would electrify a whole bar with just himself, his guitar and a microphone.

The incredible amount of energy he put into performing might be the reason he left us so early. It’s been over eight years already, that’s many generations in music years, but he’s certainly not forgotten. There’s String Break, the annual Kirk Rundstrom memorial music festival. String Break started in 2006 to help pay Kirk’s medical bills, but has continued the first Saturday of every May, raising money for charity.

And on Friday, September 25, FischHaus Galleries in Wichita will host NATION: The KirkRundstromLegacy. Dozens of bandmates and other musicians will cover Kirk’s tunes, and it will all be recorded for posterity. The show will be repeated the next day at their old stomping grounds, the Bottleneck. The line-up includes Wichita’s best, and I’m sure they’ll prove we can do it as well as anybody.

Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.