The 2002 RFT Music Awards Showcase

The name has changed, but the song remains the same

Hi-Pointe Cafe
5 p.m.: Any band whose members wear full stage makeup and bondage gear to appear on a radio broadcast is composed either of people really dedicated to what they're doing or a bunch of damn lunatics. When the band in question is the Saw Is Family, the answer is "a little from column A, a little from column B." As befits a band whose name is taken from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Saw Is Family most closely resembles weirdo Texas psych-punks the Butthole Surfers, with a similar ability to go from straight-ahead driving punk rock to spaced-out freakishness, sprinkled liberally with a druggy sense of humor. Behind the scenes for years, the band has made up for lost time by releasing two CDs of inspired weirdness in the past six months.

6 p.m.: Dan Campbell had been the frontman for two popular bands on the local emo scene, the long-lived Five Deadly Venoms and the briefer-lived Keyop. After the latter broke up, Campbell didn't have any new musical associates waiting in the wings -- not until less than a year ago, when a group of younger guys stopped in the record store where Campbell works. They needed a frontman, and they liked Campbell, a versatile singer who can croon during the quiet bits and scream like a banshee when the music gets angry. And lo, Asia Minor was born. The musicians shape intricately interlocking sounds, with guitars (played by Tom Sweet and Andy Brandmeyer) and bass (Bruce Klostermann) working carefully measured contrapuntal lines and the drums (James Amos) augmenting the other instruments with similar rhythmic variation. Graced with self-assurance and self-control -- not to mention some catchy hooks -- Asia Minor has already finished a demo that sounds like the work of a veteran band.

7 p.m.: Subscribing to the "everything louder than everyone else" philosophy, the Shame Club have been brutalizing eardrums, audiences and each other for a couple of years now, earning a reputation (and a handful of club bannings) as "that band that plays ridiculously loud all the time." It's doing the band a disservice, though, to think that volume is the only weapon in its arsenal. The churning songs can call to mind bands such as Jesus Lizard and the Birthday Party, and the cathartic nature of their live show reminds you that "emo" stands for emotional release. Timid folk should probably wait until the CD comes out -- that way, they can listen in the safety of their own homes -- but hardy temperaments in need of an aural ass-kicking should seek out the Shame Club at once.

8 p.m.: The Phonocaptors are the proud creators of one of the greatest recorded moments in St. Louis rock: Check out their two cuts on Rooster Lollipop's Axes and Snaxes compilation, wherein Jason Hutto guts his guitar during the pileup at the end of "I Can't Stand It." After a couple of years on hiatus, the Phonocaptors have resumed constructing their underground tunnel connecting 1968 Detroit proto-punk and 1976 New York garage-punk; more guitars are certain to die before their work is done.

9 p.m.: Rather than sit around and whine about the St. Louis scene, as most bands do, Not Waving but Drowning actually takes action. They've toured as hard as any of the signed bands from these parts, achieving headlining status in a number of cities. Back at home, guitarist Justin Mank promotes dozens of shows a month, fliering tirelessly. Although this hard work makes them ambitious and supportive, it's their music and intense live show that have made them successful. Singer Todd Finoch rips his guts out and hurls them at the audience while the band weaves and punches behind him, creating a dense wall of emo/punk/metal that, given a big recording budget and a cool video, could easily find a home on MTV2. And, unlike so many bands, Not Waving but Drowning would have earned it.

10 p.m.: Musical trends come and go, but there will always be a place for good old fashioned riff rock. From Black Sabbath to Fu Manchu, the face may change but the riffs remain the same, simple, even simplistic, but oh-so-right when done correctly. Add St. Louis' Lo-Freq to the long list of riff-worshipers and be glad. They're doing it right. Despite a brief hiatus last year and a lineup change, the ghostly power of rock & roll wouldn't let them go, and they returned with a renewed devotion to the almighty riff. This isn't Next Big Thing music, this is listening to "War Pigs" on 8-track with a styrofoam cooler full of Stag in the backseat, and that's just how Lo-Freq plays it.

11 p.m.: Listen, oh disheartened local bands, to the tale of the Cripplers, and be inspired. After years of beating their heads against the rock & roll wall, of frenetic live shows played to a small but rabid fanbase, the Columbia/St. Louis foursome was about to call it quits. Despite the fact that their tracks on the Landlocked and Loaded Midwest garage-band compilation pretty much smoked every other band, nobody was coming forward to put out a Cripplers full-length, and the band went ahead and played a farewell show. Shortly afterward, however, California-based Dionysus Records, a hugely respected name in the garage-band scene, stepped in to release One More for the Bad Guys, a steaming slab of Midwestern overdriven snarl and howl. The breakup was called off (although guitarist/co-vocalist Jeff King has since departed), the frenetic live shows recommenced and all was again right with the world. Viva Los Cripplers!

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