By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
It gets tricky, though, on examination of the pieces; more than just a collective, there is a Rooster Lollipop aesthetic, one that permeates the bands' sounds and sticks between their beats. The guitar is king with the Lollipop bands, and all seem to come out of the punk rock, "here's three chords now go start a band" aesthetic. Some have a bit more twang; others go straight for the throat. A few suck; others are inspired. What they share, though, is a reckless enthusiasm for music, one that places celebratory expression above musicianly chops, one that views music as an art, not a commodity. The Rooster Lollipop aesthetic is closely tied to Stephens' colorful images; he came up with the logo, designs most of the fliers and has created a look that evokes the spirit of the collective.
The magnet that drew the bands together in the first place is the Way Out Club, the glorious South City venue whose strict policy of mainly booking local acts (as opposed to most rock clubs in town, which concentrate on touring acts) has resulted in a vibrant, thriving scene. Owners Bob Putnam and Sherri Lucas have what is virtually a roster of house bands, most of which are associated with Rooster Lollipop. "It wouldn't have worked if we hadn't had the support of Bob and Sherri," says Buescher. "We can pick a night for these types of things, and they'll make it work for us."
"They made a big point of supporting local music," says Rose, "whereas other bars would book bands from all over the country which is good but there wasn't really a home for St. Louis music, and that's what this bar is."
"Axes and Snackses" promises, as the name implies, loads of guitars and food. In the grand tradition of any Rooster Lollipop event, the gig seems to be taking on a life of its own, and, with so many people providing so much, slowly evolving into an extravaganza. Included in the festivities, which begin at 7 p.m., are games, a kissing booth (featuring Highway Matrons drummer Freddy Friction customers are invited to pay Friction for a kiss, pay him to kiss someone else or, perhaps most important, pay him not to kiss), food and, the highlight of the evening, performances by 10 Rooster Lollipop bands. The show will be recorded, and the end result will be a second Rooster Lollipop collection (the first was the inspired Way Out Club collection).
The collective is evolving; Rose, Stephens and Buescher often say that they're still not exactly sure what Rooster Lollipop is. In the future, though, are a few concrete plans. Says Buescher: "It's growing kind of slow because everybody's got their own stuff to do; it's to the point where we're about ready to work on the T-shirt shop in the basement. We move so slow because you make incremental progress every month. This ("Axes and Snackses") is our focus now, and after that it's probably going to be the darkroom and the silkscreening in the basement.
"As soon as we get the screen printing set up," adds Stephens, "I thought it would be cool instead of just printing T-shirts to print fabric with band names on it; we've got a lot of people who sew really well. We could make clothing out of the fabric so people could buy a Ouija minidress, or a Highway Matrons cowboy shirt."
Rooster Lollipop is still a St. Louis-centric organization. Their distribution is limited to a few area record stores and a tiny display case at the Way Out Club. On the national independent-rock scene, the collective has yet to make any impact. They're working on a Web site and are in the process of booking ads in national magazines. From there, they'll need better distribution, as well as a broader vision. Otherwise, only a handful of people in the area will ever utter that magical name, and Rooster Lollipop will continue to be South City's little secret which, in the end, would be a crime.