By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
9 p.m.: The Rockhouse Ramblers fell into our Roots/Americana category, but unlike the other bands in that slot, they're not a hybrid. There's nothing alt or insurgent or "No Depression" about them; the Ramblers are just flat-out, straight-up hardcore country, with elements of Western swing and rockabilly. Defiantly dated, the band's sound incorporates no genre that isn't at least 40 years old. The result is authentic but never quaint. The musicians -- Kip Loui, John Horton, Dade Farrar, Gary Hunt and Danny Kathriner -- are all solid and often virtuosic, making their engaging mix of classic honky-tonk and strong originals a must-see.
10 p.m.: Andy Stoutenborough pounds hard, complex rhythmic patterns that make use of every trick in the percussive handbook. Keith Mangles lays down fat, propulsive bass lines that lock in step with the drums. Ryan Stoutenborough and Erin Fry hammer at their guitars, delivering powerhouse riffs cut with deliciously languid lead lines. Ed Sykes adds counterpoint on keyboards, holding down more thickness in the chords or splicing up the thick sound with delirious melodic runs. Ryan sings lead, and although the lyrics are mostly indiscernable, the melodies and the emotions are clear as daylight and just as welcome. All these elements add up to Dozemarypool, a young band from St. Charles that's been constantly refining its sound, growing from gig to gig over the last year into one of the most consistently beautiful, inventive rock bands we've heard.
11 p.m.: Rocket Park is a band that's tooled for the long haul. Over the past few years, they've released two full-length albums, along with a handful of cuts on compilation albums, and they've recorded demos of quite a few other songs. Ideas pour from their heads like sweat. The band's focus is the songwriting of sometime RFT contributor Brian Andrew Marek, who also plays keyboards and rhythm guitar and sings. He's a melodic fountain, able to twist familiar note combinations into new, highly hummable delights. Marek's been influenced by virtually every good idea in the rock and pop fields of the last 40 years, and these influences can turn up without warning in the middle of his songs. The other band members complement his songs quite nicely: Steve Minnis is an aggressive lead guitarist who added crunch to the band when he joined more than a year ago; Dave Harris and Eric Moore lay down powerful rhythmic foundations on bass and drums, respectively.
Blueberry Hill, Elvis Room
7:00 p.m.: The Conformists are the sound of four men yelling "I AM!" like turn signals blinking on a line of cars; each signal goes light and dark according to its own inner workings, but then all the signals synchronize and the "I AM!" becomes a deafening "WE ARE!" that flashes in perfect unison. Such moments are fleeting, and no one is more determined to capture them than the Conformists. They are relentlessly abrasive and independent, and their single-minded pursuit of something known only to them sets the Conformists apart from all other bands.
8 p.m.: The twangy intifada that is the Round-Ups has about as much to do with traditional country music as a poetry slam has to do with poetry, but that's not really the issue. Their loose, boozy take on country is no less fun and infectious for being gleefully ragged. Finding strangeness in numbers, the Round-Ups may feature as many as eight musicians at a time playing their own version of the song before them. It's not often pretty, but it's most often a gas. Lead singer Tom Herd's craggy, off-key vocals aren't a put-on -- there's genuine affection for honky-tonk in his delivery. And though the material mostly ranges from drinking hard to drinking harder, one shouldn't expect subtlety from ex-punk rockers who feature that most oxymoronic of instruments, the musical saw. As it turns out, Heather O'Shaughnessy and her bowed saw are the Round-Ups' secret weapon, lending the ornery and mean rhythmic drive -- drummer Hugh Abrahams is a powerhouse -- a thereminlike spaciness. The Grand Ole Opry, in other words, will have to wait.
9 p.m.: They look like a bunch of freaks, they act like a bunch of freaks and they sound like a bunch of freaks. They're the Electric, a welcome addition to St. Louis' rejuvenated garage-rock scene. Featuring a singer whose stage presence recalls nothing so much as the Baltimore Foot Stomper from the John Waters' film Polyester (credit goes to Vintage Vinyl's Jim Utz for that observation) and primal three- or four-chord (at most) songs, the Electric has only been playing out for a few months now but has already earned the respect of the local loud rock scene.Whether playing a Sonics cover or an Electric original, the band delivers the goods with the wild-eyed intensity that makes for a great and dangerous rock & roll show -- and a great and dangerous rock & roll band.
10 p.m.: Judging by the number of nominations these garage-pop newcomers earned from those mysterious industry insiders [Radar Station, April 10], the Fantasy Four has a dedicated fanbase. Problem is, it's hard to pigeonhole them. We stuck them in Pop, on account of their bubblegum-sticky melodies, their delirious interlocking ba-ba-ba-da harmonies and the sheer compactness of their songs, few of which exceed the three-minute mark. A good case could be made, however, for putting them in the Garage or Punk or even straight-up Rock categories: Make no mistake, this trio knows its way around a distortion pedal and -- thanks in part to that wiry fury on drums, Scooter Hermes -- they rock rather hard, albeit sweetly. Singer/guitarist Marcia Pandolfi's ardent alto trembles like a bell on her ode to a self-loathing sweetheart, "Your Mirrors Must Be Mad," a song so exquisitely sad it might make Brian Wilson jealous. Singer/bassist Karen Stephens is just as handy with a pop hook, but her songs have more of a punk edge, a hint of bile in the sucrose. Together, Pandolfi and Stephens are that rare and magical thing: a perfect songwriting team.