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
After 14 years as the Midwest's favorite ska-funk/metal-punk band, the Urge is calling it quits. On Dec. 10, the hard-touring local sextet announced that their upcoming shows at the Pageant, Dec. 21-23, will be their last. The group cites "musical differences" as the reason for the split. Having seen this excuse bandied about in many such announcements, Radar Station asked drummer John Pessoni for specifics. "To be honest, it's a really nice way of saying it's amicable," Pessoni explains. "You just have this nice, fun vibe, and everything's great, and then you hit a point where things aren't as fun anymore."
Could the breakup have anything to do with the fact that singer and founding member Steve Ewing lives in LA while the rest of the band lives here? "That's part of it, too," Pessoni admits without rancor. "The lines of communication have been down, and it's really hard for us to get on the same page."
Although they'll no longer exist as a band after the Pageant gigs, the Urge plan to release another CD, the self-recorded Escape From Boys Town. "It's more organic, and the recording is a lot rawer," Pessoni says. "This record is basically for the hardcore fans who just want some more Urge material."
These hardcore fans, unsurprisingly, are seriously bummed. "I went by one of the Web pages just to see," Pessoni says. "You'd think we'd all died or something. But that's so cool, to think you meant that much to people. You just think, 'We do what we're doing; we're just a band.' It's something I've been doing for almost eight years now -- it's been my means of avoiding getting a real job."
Although the Urge as we know it is ending, Pessoni hints that some incarnation of the band might resurface down the line: "The only diplomatic way I can think to say it is that five of us are still here in the same town. The chance of us not playing together is pretty slim."
Last week, Radar Station was invited to a "meet-and-greet" at Four Seasons Media at the behest of Viked Out Entertainment. The new St. Louis-based company is preparing to "launch its multilevel satellite of music and sports entertainment" with the release of Peep Game, the debut CD from rapper and co-CEO Mr. Weez (né Ron Kemp). Shamelessly angling for the tabloid scoop, we hoped "Viked Out" pertained to Vicodin, but the origins of the phrase are much weirder. Mr. Weez, who shares executive duties with Joe Johnson (formerly of the New Orleans Saints), admires the Vikings -- yep, those charismatic Scandinavian warlords of yore. "It's a mentality, you know what I'm saying?" Mr. Weez chuckles, sipping bottled water in a candlelit reception area. "Just like the Vikings, back in the day. They sailed the seas, popped up in different lands and just took over!" We notice suddenly that Mr. Weez is wearing a very fancy platinum-and-diamond pendant in the shape of a Viking helmet and try not to feel creeped out. (Call us prissy, but when we think "Viking," we think carnage.) After observing similar trinkets on a bunch of other guys , we conclude that it's some kind of Mary Kay-ish corporate-incentive thing, which seems slightly less frightening than rape and pillage.
Joking aside, these Viked Out guys are all about the money, and they don't pretend otherwise. Rock types, particularly of the indie ilk, will shudder: Music's supposed to be, like, beyond all that commodification crap, right? Wrong. The folks at Viked Out are proud to call themselves businessmen, in the tradition of celebrity CEOs such as Jay-Z, Sean "Puffy" Combs and Russell Simmons. The "thug executive" is a new corporate paradigm for modern hip-hop entrepreneurs, who rap about lawlessness and then cash in on their subsequent street cred by founding a record label or clothing line.
True to the formula, Peep Game is hard and thugged-out, rife with ho's, motherfuckers and miscellaneous hateration. (Sample lyric: "It's like silicone titties, can you feel em?/How can a fake nigga fuck with a real one?") Produced by Sylk Smoov --who, in the early '90s, became the first St. Louis-based rapper to score a major-label deal -- Peep Game is catchy enough, if not exactly groundbreaking. Mr. Weez has an impressive growl, and he spits out his rhymes with the requisite ferocity. It's his financial acumen, however, that distinguishes him from the pack, according to Viked Out's general manager, Kevin Shine: "In a time when everyone's worried about making millions of dollars, being a star, [Mr. Weez] is worried about being a businessman, establishing something bigger. He realizes, just like Jay-Z had to realize, having a desire to be an artist is an asset to the company he's building, but the main asset that he's trying to build is the company."
Adds Mr. Weez: "Jay-Z, Puff -- these men work, you know what I'm saying? You gotta get your feet dirty. Nothing comes from nothing. I just want people to be aware, 'cause Viked Out Entertainment and Mr. Weez, here we come!"
All hail the glory of late capitalism.
Radar Station is sad to report the passing of St. Louis piano legend James Crutchfield. Renowned as the "king of barrelhouse blues," Crutchfield died of complications from heart disease on Dec. 7 at the age of 89.