Listening Post

It's been a rough couple of weeks for the St. Louis music community: We've lost two of the city's most talented musicians...

UNSUNG HERO OF ROCK & ROLL: A lot of people write songs. A lot of people play guitar, bass and drums. Jeff Barbush, who took his own life on June 9, was one of the fortunate few who excel in all these areas. And if that wasn't enough to make you sick with envy, he was graced with a truly amazing rock & roll voice, which started out good and got better, deepening from a sweet teenage tenor to a confident baritone. It could go from a brash, sneering, Robert Plant-ish roar to wild "Helter Skelter" keening; it could croon, growl and wail. His was real, honest-to-God singing, not the feeble bleating or obnoxious braying most male vocalists get away with.

Barbush's first real band was the Painkillers, a great power-pop outfit from Webster Groves that performed sporadically in the 1980s and released one must-have cassette. The songs Barbush wrote during this period were better than those of most other groups, local and national, but he rarely played them live. Most of the Painkillers' sets consisted of covers: inventive, entertaining ones, sure -- from Run-DMC to Wire to Led Zeppelin to Big Star -- but still more than a songwriter of Barbush's caliber should have bothered doing.

From 1989-1995, Barbush was in the Deadbeats, another excellent pop band. He didn't write many songs during this period, and, true to form, the ones he did write he generally refused to play live. But if you were lucky enough to know him, he'd give you self-produced, mostly home-recorded cassettes of his wonderful songs. One of them, "You Got That Right," is four minutes or so of perfect, glimmering pop euphoria; probably fewer than 100 people have ever heard it, but it ranks as one of the best pop singles of this decade.

According to Mike Stuvland, who played with Barbush in the Deadbeats and collaborated with him until his death, "Jeff could be difficult sometimes, maybe inconsiderate or forgetful, but he was never mean. He wouldn't tolerate making fun of some guy who was trying to get up there and sing. He had a certain generosity of spirit." Friends and fans may make contributions to the Webster Groves High School Music Department (100 Selma Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119), in memory of Jeffrey Barbush. (RSS)

BLUE MOURNING: Before Lori Blue, who commited suicide on June 19, joined Johnny Magnet, the band played fantastic old-school punk songs, but they were always a tad elusive and uncentered. Lori locked them into place with seamless drumming. She'd sit there in back and, while Jill Smith and Erin Gulley fiddled about between songs, toss off a few dry comments and watch the others for a while, relaxed but impatient, before finally reeling them in with a cranky but endearing leer and the one-two-three-four click of her drumsticks. Lori never forced the issue, but even though she was, at least at the beginning, just one in a string of Magnet drummers, she seemed to be in charge -- or at least she thought she was, which is the same thing.

And from the first time she gigged with Johnny Magnet, everyone knew that the band had finally found its drummer -- before her, their drummer problems rivaled those of Spi¨nal Tap. But she immediately made her presence known; she had the 'tude, the cynicism and the wrist snap. Before playing with them, Lori was a member of both Alchemy and Soul Kiss. But it was with Johnny Magnet that she made her mark. One could go on and on about her abilities as a drummer, or her wonderfully freaky personality, but it would sound like dumb cliche, something that Lori would spot and dismiss immediately.

It's heartbreaking, the music community's two losses in the past few weeks. A moment continued on page 70Listening Postcontinued from page 68of silence, my ass. Let's make some noise. Thanks, Lori. Thanks, Jeff. (RR)"FREE E" FORALL: Not sure what exactly is being advertised in naming a happening "Free e," but there's only one way to find out. The party is Saturday, July 3, and features some sounds that are rarely heard in the St. Louis techno community. "The electronic scene in the Midwest is a bit on the conservative side," says organizer and T.R.I.P. Sequence brainchild Dan Dysphonix. "We're usually behind by a few years what's happening on the coasts and especially Europe. And there are certain subcultures of techno music that are very rare to be coming here to St. Louis. So we decided to find some DJs from farther away. There are two Dutch DJs coming in, DJ Jokey and Innerchild. Both are on h2oh Records out of New York. They're oriented toward the more aggressive aspects of techno -- the really extreme aspects, almost. Some call it "gabber music," some call it "hardcore techno" -- very fast, very oriented toward extreme, menacing synthesizers."

If you can't tell the difference between gabber, hardcore, garage and whatnot, you're not alone, and you shouldn't worry about it. It's beat-based music, all of it, and it's hard, most of it. Says Dysphonix, "They're all subgenres of electronic music. There are so many. People sometimes want to associate them with new schools, or new categories, but what it really comes down to is it's all electronic music, progressive and futurist music. It's always trying something new, trying to reach audible frequencies that have never been heard before."

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