By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
Whether you're a fan of local music or simply of music in general, the place to be this Sunday is the Loop, where the 11th annual Riverfront Times Music Awards showcase goes down from 2 p.m. until whenever the staff of the Delmar Lounge starts kicking all the serious drunks to the curb. Once a week, 51 weeks a year, we tell you, the long-suffering readers, what's what -- who's worth checking out, who isn't; who rules, who sucks; who sounds like Creed, who doesn't. Once a year, we shut our pieholes and let the bands speak for themselves (at the showcase); then we let the readers decide who's the best. (See the pull-out guide for capsule descriptions of each act, written by the RFT music staff.)
When the counting is complete, we throw a free party, where we announce the winners. This year, the awards presentation falls on Tuesday, May 14, and takes place at the Pageant. When tearful winners aren't blubbering on about how blessed they are and gratefully accepting their elegant acrylic statuettes, a few live acts that didn't get to play the showcase perform: Charlie Chan, the majordomo of St. Louis turntablism, cuts and scratches and generally tears it up; Javier Mendoza lets loose with his radio-friendly alterna-rock; the Tripdaddys deliver their flashy, incendiary rockabilly; and the Urban Jazz Naturals keep the party going with their indescribably great live house music.
That's not for another week-and-a-half, though. In the meantime, if you think your vote doesn't make a difference, think again. The ballots have been pouring in fast and furious; our official counter tells us that in most categories, two or three contestants are separated by only a few votes. "It's early days still," he reports, "but some of these categories could be decided by showcase performances."
Yeah, it's a popularity contest -- and, truth be told, it's not even an accurate measure of how popular a given band is. What the RFT Music Awards really measures is how popular you are among people who bother to pick up the RFT and fill out a ballot. One particularly, um, industrious band member, our trusty ballot-führerreports, apparently convinced his girlfriend to fill out a big stack of ballots en masse. (Hey, next time you try this, prodigy-gal, you might want to disguise your handwriting or at least give the pink glitter-pen a rest.) Another anonymous doofus made the same spelling error on every envelope, every single time. We told you that fraud could and would be detected; just how dumb do you think we are? Wait -- don't answer that.
In addition to the RFTMA showcase on Sunday, a lot of other great shows are happening this week.
Progressive house pioneer BT (a.k.a. Brian Transeau) DJs at Club Velvet on Friday, May 3. Unlike so many electro hotshots, BT doesn't make much use of turntables; a classically trained musician, he actually plays most of his compositions. Though purists sometimes accuse him of selling out -- he's worked with Seal, Madonna and Tori Amos -- the fact remains that he's a motherfucking icon, and you've got to give him some props for that. If he wants to tour with a rock band or produce an 'N Sync record, he's free to do so, and you're free to call him Trance Traitor if it makes you feel all fancy-like. You'll never have to worry about finding Britney Spears lolling around in your swimming pool, will you?
Ali, elder statesman of the St. Lunatics, celebrates the release of his first solo CD, Heavy Starch, at the Pageant on Sunday, May 5. The St. Lunatics, Rakim and Doug E. Fresh round out the bill. Also that evening, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion brings its raunchy post-blues funk/rock to Mississippi Nights. Touring in support of their smoldering, Stonesish new CD, Plastic Fang, the powerhouse trio -- legendary for its live performances -- is almost guaranteed to tear the roof off the sucka (assuming the city of St. Louis doesn't get to it first).
On Tuesday, May 7, Kilowatthours makes its St. Louis debut at the Creepy Crawl. Its dissonant piano-driven prog rock will be a nice match for local staticmongers Cloister, who open the show. (Rumors of a Cloister breakup are greatly exaggerated, by the way -- right now, the remaining members of the band, Dana Smith and Mike Cook, are busy working on their fourth full-length with producer Chris Deckard.).
Radar Station's fave rave Rufus Wainwright is bringing his luscious, extravagant cabaret-pop to Mississippi Nights on Wednesday, May 8. We've given him a lot of ink in these pages over the past year or so, but we simply can't help ourselves: We love his skinny gay genius ass. Even better, his equally brilliant singer/songwriter sister, Martha Wainwright, opens the show.
We know every single word to Janis Ian's classic bum-a-thon "At Seventeen," which served as the soundtrack to many a sulkfest in our preteen years. Chances are, if you spent the '70s as a miserable dork, so do you. If you're wondering whether she's up to her same old suicide-provoking tricks, check her out on May 3 or 4 at COCA.