Listening Post

To help reveal the subtle variations among the four stations, the RFT polled each of the programmers to learn where they draw the line with their classic-rock offerings. The gestalt should provide the curious with a primer for classic-rock programming in St. Louis, if you need one. And is anyone else not the least bit upset that "Dog and Butterfly" no longer gets airplay in St. Louis? Apparently, according to one of the program directors, it "didn't test well." But "One Toke Over the Line" did? Ouch.

GIMME SOME LIP: At one point during Sunday's Third Lip Cabaret performance at Cicero's, the entire crowd was transfixed on a dozen or so red balloons. Like a group of kindergartners, the crowd was lunging and leaping to keep the balloons afloat. Occasionally a misfit with a cigarette would pop one of them, which would set off a chain reaction of like-minded aggression. Amid the frenzy, a human coyote howl would spark a chain reaction of similar howls, until the balloons and howls and popping intertwined with the shrieking of someone pinching the air out of a balloon. The scene was chaotic and blissful, the result of the Cabaret's freeform devotion to organized confusion.

The Third Lip Cabaret has been throwing variety shows around town for a few months now under the direction of Mike Marwit and Eric Hall. Their intention is, according to their press release, to expand "St. Louis' horizons by spotlighting the wealth of performing arts talent the city has to offer." Marwit, who comes from a performance-art background, started pushing his art a few years ago at warehouse space on Washington but ran into a few problems: "Performance art is hard to push," he says. "It's got a bad reputation -- it's been made up to be pretentious, ridiculous and no-talent-involved stuff, so people are weary of it. So I figured it would be a good idea to mix and match all the different talents out there that weren't getting played. I felt this way, and I figured there were some other people who felt like they had something to give and weren't getting anyplace to show it. Plus, I always wanted to push art in this city because I feel like it needs it. This city is lacking in education around art, and they don't know what they have. Everybody leaves. We have a Masada every summer. Everybody splits." Enter the Third Lip Cabaret.

Sunday's incarnation at Cicero's featured music by Tory Z. Starbuck, Panicsville, Hall and DJ Ses; performance art by Marwit (who orchestrated the balloon incident), Derrick Mosley and the Brand X Comedy Troupe. Spoken-word pieces by Lawrence Revard and Mark Dischinger (whose inspired short fiction featuring one Inspector Seven recalled the work of Harlan Ellison and David Foster Wallace).

Tory Z. Starbuck was wearing one of his choice triangular new-wave outfits that revealed as much flesh as fabric (the kind in which you could see, er, everything, but you didn't really wanna); he and his band have a vision that combines Bowie-esque art-rock with updated blustery synthetics and Starbuck's deep retro yowl (say what you will about Tory, but he sure is consistent). At times you don't know whether to be inspired or embarrassed, but I get the sense that that's the point. Panicsville guy Andy Ortmann was wearing a leather S&M mask as he did a choreographed song and dance to a Yoko Ono song -- then proceeded to fuck with his Korg for a half-hour.

The highlight, though, was Hall's synthetic compositions, which recalled the organized beats of Boards of Canada and the Aphex Twin. The music he created was at times gentle, at times a bit abrasive, but always a curious and engaging examination of computer-based beat music. He leans toward the ambient side of the music but never strays into boring soundscapes. Instead, melodies and rhythms collide and merge into one, and the result is some of the most imaginative music in the city.

The next Third Lip Cabaret performance is at Cicero's on Sunday, July 11. Mark your calendar.

-- Randall Roberts

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