Trout Fishing in America members Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet have been playing and singing together for a quarter-century, more or less. It's a matter of guesswork deciding exactly where to date their partnership from.
It was 1976 when they both joined the Houston-based folk-rock quintet St. Elmo's Fire. But that band fell apart on tour in California in 1979, leaving the unlikely-looking pair -- guitarist Idlet stands six-foot-nine, bassist Grimwood five-five-and-a-half -- to fend for themselves.
"We flipped open the guitar case, and, really, the only way we ate was by people putting money into the guitar case," Idlet says.
They named themselves Trout Fishing in America, after the Richard Brautigan novel, and never looked back. Idlet estimates that they've traveled more than a million miles since then, over half of them in their late, lamented pickup truck, Robert Red Ford.
So what has changed for them over the course of the last quarter-century?
"When we first started playing music together, we were playing for our peers, people in our own age group," Grimwood says. "Pretty quickly thereafter, a teacher asked us to come play for some kids in an elementary school, and we did that. Everybody seems to come to the same show these days, and the lines have gotten fainter between what is an adult show and what is a kid show."
The Trouts have recorded ten albums and can be considered DIY pioneers, having started their own label years before it was popular (or particularly easy) to do so. "It basically came out of not wanting to wait for some great hand to reach out of the sky and justify our existence," Idlet says. Their efforts include Truth Is Stranger Than Fishin', Over the Limit and Closer to the Truth, as well as the kids' albums Big Trouble, Mine! and inFINity.
That last album was nominated for a Grammy last year but lost to Sesame Street's Elmo and the Orchestra. Their pair remains philosophical about the loss, though. "Anytime a short, fuzzy redheaded guy wins something," says Grimwood (who fits that description to a T), "you've gotta feel good about it."
Hear the Trouts at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Avenue ($35-$40, 314-534-1111). -- Daniel Durchholz
This ain't your madre's tango
In a fairy-tale ending to a childhood dream and the beginning of a promising career, the world-renowned contemporary-dance company Ballet Hispanico accepted St. Louis-born Rodney Hamilton into its ranks last spring. Hamilton, a Juilliard School grad and Center of Contemporary Arts alum, makes his professional hometown dance debut with Ballet Hispanico at the Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, $22-$27, 314-534-1111).
Acceptance into Ballet Hispanico was no small feat. The company's style is fiery, theatrical and highly technical. Hamilton beat out roughly 88 male competitors for one of the two available slots. Artistic director Tina Ramirez has built an international reputation for the Manhattan-based company as both culturally inclusive and thoroughly Hispanic by consistently delivering flamboyantly expressive and sensuously virtuosic dances created by Latino choreographers and anyone inspired by Hispanic music or dance forms -- it's a melting pot, and dinner is like nothing you've tasted before.
This one's a chiller: The premise of the 2000 Rebecca Gilman drama Boy Gets Girl is the postmodern crime -- stalking. Magazine reporter Theresa goes on an innocent blind date with a certain Tony. The next day, flowers arrive at her office. Theresa decides this ain't the guy for her; she breaks the news to him, he turns spooky and the flowers keep coming, followed by perverse letters and phone calls. It gets worse. Theresa's world closes in, terror reigns and the audience can feel the paranoia. We don't want to ruin the ending of this arguably anti-man play (there are no sympathetic male characters in the piece, and that includes an odd, aging film director patterned after Russ Meyer), but let's say it takes big ovaries to write a tragedy that ends with no catharsis at all. The kids at St. Louis Community College-Meramec (11333 Big Bend Boulevard, 314-984-7562) perform the drama in the campus theater at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday through April 27. Admission is free. -- Byron Kerman
Zoo for Two
Hydeware Theatre Company director Richard Strelinger describes Edward Albee's one-act play The Zoo Story as "real theatrical red meat for both actors and audiences," and though that may veer toward hyperbole, there's no denying the stark power of Albee's language. He transforms the chance meeting of two strangers into a grinding assault on complacency, wielding his prose like a machete to slash apart the barriers that separate superficial communication from authentic understanding. The Hydeware production emphasizes the nuances of Albee's characterization and language by having actors Brian Hyde and John Shepherd perform the ten-minute play twice at each show, with the actors exchanging roles for the second performance. It just might be more bleak humanity than some can handle. The Zoo Story runs April 24-May 10 at the Art Coop (1520 Washington Avenue, seventh floor), with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday- Saturday. Admission is $10-$12, and more information about this innovative production can be gleaned by calling 314-368-7306 or visiting www.hydewaretheatre.com. -- Paul Friswold