2002 Riverfront Times Music Award Winners

Your verdict is in: Check out St. Louis’ favorite local musicians.

In St. Louis, DJ Steve-O helped nudge the revolution when he started throwing warehouse parties in the early '90s -- "the good ones," says Boomer, who, along with Steve-O and Mike D, hosts the biweekly Deeper Pitch sessions at the Upstairs Lounge. "He started DJ-ing a little bit after that," he continues. "His style of music has stayed pretty much the same -- heavily influenced by Chicago house but also by the older soul and disco genres." You can hear the essence of all three subgenres during a Steve-O set: the four-four thump, the heavy-duty arrangements, the soulful, emotional vibe.

Steve-O looks like some sort of superhero DJ when he arrives at a club on his motorcycle, record case bungeed to his rack, helmet hiding his face. It's as though the dancers shined a mirror ball into the sky and within moments the DJ was racing to the decks. His pleasant demeanor and perpetual smile are a welcome antidote to the scowling hot-shit DJs who present themselves as way way cooler than the dancers. Steve's attitude is a perfect reflection of the music he spins: This music is for celebration, and how can you celebrate if you can't feel that same emotion in your heart?

You wanna hear the best club DJ in town? Steve-O's in residence at Rue 13 every Saturday, where he spins house until 3 a.m. Twice a month, Deeper Pitch takes over the Upstairs Lounge on South Grand Boulevard, where Boomer and Mike D mix some techno in with their house but Steve-O sticks with his beloved house. ("He's always been a house-head," says Boomer. "Even back in the day, he never really got into the techno side of things.") They do it this Friday, May 17, as well as May 31. And for a more relaxed atmosphere, Steve-O occasionally spins subtler house at the Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square. (RR)

Bottle Rockets
Best Roots/Americana

Of the alt-country class of the '90s, the Bottle Rockets are virtually the only major band left standing. The Jayhawks are no longer the Jayhawks, Son Volt has become Jay Farrar, Wilco is becoming Radiohead and Blue Mountain is no more. These evolutions and dissolutions aren't necessarily to be lamented, nor are they all that surprising. Given the current commercial climate, few bands in any genre stand a chance for more than a few years of artistic relevancy. Still, the Bottle Rockets keep trucking, keep making rock & roll with country soul -- that's really the only reasonable description for the indefinable genre -- even when they had every reason but one to cash it in.

That one reason? Take Songs of Sahm, their tribute to the late Texas roots guru Doug Sahm, for a spin, and the answer couldn't be more clear. The music -- every raunchy and tender guitar solo, every effortless rhythmic stroll, every blues-breaking thunderclap, every fearless phrase from Brian Henneman's roaring maw -- is still a kick, and they still rock as if the whole world is on the line.

The Bottle Rockets weathered their first lineup change when bassist Tom Ray split the band in 1999; Robert Kearns took over, adding some surprisingly supple harmonies and more than fitting into the band's anything-goes country/rock ethos. Now founding member Tom Parr, who has been Henneman's closest musical ally since the late '70s, has left, and still the Bottle Rockets plan to push on.

"Tom's out for good," Henneman says by e-mail. "We are not looking to replace him at this time. (But I did really love our D.C. show, where Patty Loveless' steel player sat in with us for the whole show. Steel players are cool but usually in demand, and expensive, but hell, it don't hurt to dream!) If that slot ever gets filled, I have a feeling it won't be with a 'regular' guitar player. Right now, we're kinda diggin' the 'Low-Power' Trio vibe! Might stick with it!"

The band will continue to tour behind Songs of Sahm-- a St. Louis or Columbia stop is not on the horizon -- and a new record, only half of which has taken shape, won't be out till next year. Whatever the band does will continue to matter, and not for any reason having anything to do with alternative country. The roots in their rock have always extended beyond country or blues trappings, and their songs -- most of which are as sharply crafted as any of their peers' -- have told stories of people, places and emotions that refuse to give up, refuse to stop believing. For the Bottle Rockets, rock & roll is still the most exciting reason to be alive. (RK)

Toya
Best R&B

Much has been made of the connection between Toya and Nelly, but, truth be told, they aren't really that similar. Sure, they're both from the Lou, both have sold a shitload of records and both seem to favor baseball caps. But that's about it, kids -- unless, of course, you count their shared ability to blend R&B, hip-hop and pop into an infectious, hit-ready concoction.

Toya's self-titled debut may never match the sales figures of Country Grammar -- what could? -- but you had to have been buried under a rock or sharing cave space with the Taliban in Tora Bora to have missed the constant presence of her kick-off single, "I Do!!", on the airwaves during the past year. You probably even sang along. Surely some of you even danced to it. The album's second single, "No Matter What (Party All Night)," upped the pop quotient significantly, to nice effect. Maybe this was the song her record company had in mind when they developed that inane "softer side of St. Louis" tagline. No word on a third single, but there's no shortage of catchy, radio-friendly tracks on the album from which to choose.

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