By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
VITAMEN A AGAIN: Over the years, Vitamen A employed nine or 10 musicians, with the lineup changes reflecting some vastly different influences and outlooks. From its proto-funk beginnings through some flings with prog-rock and, ultimately, a kind of HORDE-ish edge that would satisfy most members of the Dark Star Nation, the group kept a core following while keeping the rest guessing.
Vocalist Tony Vrooman, the one constant member of the group through the various incarnations, moved to Vail, Colo., for a couple years, though he kept in contact with guitarist Tracy Lowe. A couple of times during that period they got together for low-key gigs at the Venice Cafe, testing out new directions and new players. When Vrooman moved back to St. Louis this year, the next phase of Vitamen A's winding career began in earnest.
"It's totally different," Vrooman says. "It's kinda weird because it's gotten almost hard. Remember how we used to mix between the happy, hippy bullshit and some more moody, dark things? It's split more in that direction, which is definitely enjoyable for me. I feel there's a roller-coaster ride. It takes you from a top echelon of faster dance songs with a funk groove, then dropping down to a harder feel, stuff that's not oriented to dance. It goes from side to side but meets somewhere in the middle.
"With Andy and Jake and Mike, we've got a very strong, percussive rhythm section. Andy hits the low ends a lot, drops in bombs, then you accent that with Jake on the cello. It's really unique."
The new group includes Vrooman and Lowe splitting lead vocals and guitar, with Andy Barnes (bass), Jake Brookman (cello) Mike Clement (vocals, keys) and Mike Garret (drums, percussion) rounding out the new look. "It's a lot of mouths to feed," jokes Vrooman, "but other than that it's working out well."
In contrast to the past versions, this group is also taking a measured, more planned approach to building back their base. After all, they were once voted the best band in St. Louis and played dozens of shows at any number of bars. This time, a slower, less cluttered pace will be employed.
"Tracy's got a home studio that we're currently working at on a project," Vrooman says. "That's in the works. Basically, the focus of things is to develop some markets, get back in the Midwestern tour scene on the weekends. Try to do South by Southwest and PMC, things along that line. And put out a strong project, see where it takes us."
On Saturday, Dec. 12, it'll take them to Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, where they'll headline, with Chocolate opening. (TC)
SILVER TRAY BENEFIT: Note the byline immediately above: As well as being a writer for this paper, Thomas Crone is also on the verge of publishing issue No. 2 of Silver Tray, a zine devoted to uncovering the history of St. Louis rock music from the '80s and '90s, a respectable endeavor worthy of mention whether he's a member of the staff or not. The first issue featured fantastic reminiscences of John Green, who struggled to put punk shows on in the mid-'80s; the Wabash Triangle; and the early days of MU330 and the Urge, as well as a half-dozen-or-so others. Issue 2 is on the way, and a benefit show to fund it will take place over two evenings at the Side Door -- Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 16 and 17. The benefit will feature eight bands. On Wednesday you'll see Mike Apirion (formerly of the Unconscious), Drift, O'Ryan Island and Go Dog Go! -- a remarkable lineup of St. Louis music past and present. Thursday's schedule is just as interesting: Mark Cook (of Corporate Humour and E.J. Quit), Donald Williams and Jay Sommers (of Sugardaddy), the Poppies, Zero and the Boorays. All proceeds go to fund Silver Tray. Both shows start at 8 p.m. (RR)
Contributors: Thomas Crone, Randall Roberts