By Jaime Lees
By Roy Kasten
By Melinda Cooper
By Jeremy Essig
By Roy Kasten
By Daniel Hill
By Chris Kornelis
By Gina Tron
Speaking of the RFT Music Awards, hard-rock nominees Riddle of Steel celebrate the release of their first full-length, Python, on Saturday, June 14, at -- where else? -- the Rocket Bar. The brainy barbarians (and we mean that in the complimentary "Conan" sense, of course!) recorded the CD's eleven songs with Traindodge's Carl Amburn, in Norman, Oklahoma, and they're working on their one-armed sunburns even as we speak. The savage-but-sensitive trio -- which consists of newish drummer Dave Turncrantz (ex-Shelby), guitarist/singer Andrew Elstner (ex-Thulsa Doom) and bassist/singer Jimmy Vavak (ex-Five Deadly Venoms) -- is covering the country in its tricked-out, sunset-detailed Chevy van (nicknamed "Python," as it happens), hitting clubs and collecting converts everywhere from Los Angeles to Madison, Wisconsin. The three should be road-weary but tighter than tight when they pass through their hometown (on their way to the last stop on this leg of the tour, Kansas City, which is, weirdly enough, where most out-of-towners seem to think they're from anyway), so don't miss your chance to congratulate 'em in person before they get too fancy-schmancy to shoot the shit with lumpen nobodies such as yourself.
Released on Ascetic Records, a local label founded by the world's nicest music mogul, Hieu Nguyen (Radar Station, October 3, 2001), Python will be nationally distributed by Nail and should hit stores outside of St. Louis in August. Although Riddle of Steel's publicity and booking is handled by Steve Brydges (of 54° 40' or Fight!, home of Sicbay and Ring, Cicada, among others), the band members wanted to stick with Ascetic rather than sign with a better-known company. Nguyen has been a close friend and a huge supporter of Riddle of Steel from the beginning, and the members wanted to return the favor. With any luck, Riddle of Steel could become Ascetic's flagship band, and St. Louis could become the next Omaha. (A dame can dream, can't she?)
Last week we spoke to a groggy Vavak, who called us on his cell phone from a motel somewhere in Washington state to report that the tour was going quite well -- except for one gruesome incident in which a twentysomething fan suddenly died of heart failure after Riddle of Steel's show in Tucson. "He and his girlfriend were at the merch table, talking to Hieu," Vavak recounted sadly. "He just collapsed. His girlfriend was signing the e-mail list; maybe she bought a T-shirt or something. I think I talked to him and high-fived him and everything beforehand; it was surreal and horrible and kind of morbid for Hieu and the people who were standing right there."
At the risk of sounding flippant, at least the poor dude died happy and thoroughly rocked-out: ears ringing, adrenaline pumping, riddle solved.
On Thursday, June 12, freakazoid genius MCs Qwel and Offwhyte, both of Chicago, throw down at the Pepper Lounge (2005 Locust Street). According to Mike 2600, who ought to know, this show should not be missed: "Of the few underground hip-hop shows our city gets every year, this will be one of the finer ones."