MADE MOBB is reopening an era of live music and local vendors Friday — hoping to revive a Crossroads tradition silenced when its community was forced to disconnect and retreat indoors.
“Come outside, baby!” Mark Launiu exclaimed ahead of Friday’s MADE MOBB Block Party. “Enjoy some free vibes [from] the people you’ll meet, the relationships you build, the connections you make, the energy you get from being here.”
MADE MOBB’s Block Party is set for 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, June 4 in the parking lot next to MADE MOBB, 221 Southwest Blvd., as well as inside the store.
MADE MOBB’s original block parties stemmed from First Fridays — a monthly tradition in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District that once brought thousands of people together on the first Friday of each month to enjoy food trucks, art galleries and vendors. First Fridays were significantly scaled back after an August 2019 shooting and then came to a total halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Launiu and Vu Radley, co-founders of the Kansas City-based MADE MOBB streetwear brand.
After a lengthy hiatus, the duo decided June 2021 was the perfect time to start rebuilding the monthly gathering at their Southwest Boulevard store.
“We’ve been cooped up for a while,” Radley said. “Even if nobody comes out, we’ll feel good doing it. Because we will have a reason to see some live music from local artists and to give support to the homies and the other vendors. We want people to come out, but this is also something for us.”
For a full list of artists and vendors, check out MADE MOBB’s post below, then scroll to keep reading.
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The duo recalled fond memories of First Fridays; Radley went every month as a teenager to meet other artists and explore the area.
“First Fridays changed my life, honestly,” Radley shared. “I lived in the Northeast and then North Kansas City, and I never felt like there was an artistic community. I came down here [to the Crossroads Arts District] and I saw galleries; I saw street art; I saw street performers; and I was like, ‘These are my new homies.’”
Several professional and personal relationships for the MADE MOBB founders were formed during First Fridays. They especially enjoyed connecting with young, up-and-coming creatives who were looking for that initial chance, they added.
“We didn’t get a lot of help in the beginning.” Radley added. “We hit a lot of speed bumps, and it took us longer than it should have. But we’re like, man, we need more entrepreneurs in the city. We need more people within the culture that we’re in. So we don’t ever see it as competition; we see it as raising the city up together.”
“The thing I love about our [block party] platform is that a lot of the people you’ll see have never performed before,” Launiu said of the featured musicians and performers. “They’re the underdogs, and they’re in our own backyard. I don’t have to look [for them] on YouTube or social media — all these dudes are straight from Kansas City.”
For this Friday’s Block Party, the duo teamed with KCK musician Ayel to curate the artists and vendors.
“[Ayel’s] been able to stay in touch with these upcoming artists,” Launiu said. “With the pandemic, a lot of venues weren’t putting on shows, and there was nowhere for these artists to perform. So they’re just as excited for Friday as we are.”
Click here to check out MADE MOBB.
Along with good vibes, safety is a top priority for Radley and Launiu. Off-duty police are expected to provide security at the block party to ensure no one “acts a fool,” they said.
“We always try to make events family friendly, so bring the kids down,” Radley noted.
The duo hopes this block party will be the catalyst for rebuilding First Fridays and the community it brought together previously.
“I feel like back in the day, it slowly grew every year,” Radley said. “It was in the East Crossroads and in the West Crossroads; then it joined and they blocked off Grand [Boulevard]. It became super big. This is almost like rebuilding it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.