When presented with the knowledge that on Friday, July 4, and Saturday, July 5, nearly 20 bands of national and regional fame will perform down at Laclede's Landing as part of a free, beer-and-music holiday-weekend event being sponsored by Bud Light, you may react like one FORFT (Friend of the Riverfront Times) did: "I frigging hate these all-day crap events. All they ever sell there is, like, brats, and it's all these frigging recycle bands and frat-boy jerk-offs, and it's way too hot and you come home sweaty, with your ears ringing and your stomach ready to blow. I frigging hate those things."
Keep in mind, though, that the anonymous source of that quote is not a native. And that sometimes only a native (or at least a hardcore) St. Louisan -- someone adapted to ocean-free summers, and someone who always has a good time as long as there's beer nearby -- can truly appreciate the sweat/suds/sounds triumvirate that a festival such as Rockin' on the Landing affords.
Plus, this particular street affair (running from 3-10 p.m. both days) will be headlined by none other than the Violent Femmes -- a band whose hit singles topped the charts many MTV generations ago, yes, but also one whose memorable alt-pop hooks have proved their staying power. Think about it: when are you ever not in the mood for "Add It Up" or "Blister in the Sun"?
As with other Landing fests, this one boasts four stages erected among the quaint architecture and the Port-a-Potties; the main stage -- where you can also catch up-and-coming Florida band Socialburn, a new fave on 105.7 The Point -- will be located at First and Lucas streets. As always, more info can be found at www.lacledeslanding.com. -- Rose Martelli
Change Is Coming
You just have to know where to look
Although admission to Fair St. Louis is free, everything else costs a bundle. Food, drinks and souvenirs aren't cheap, and you are. Fortunately, the overwhelming crowds and their general drunkenness are an easy source of income. Fishing the correct amount of dollars and cents from a pocket with your off-hand while you're gripping a five-dollar beer with your drinking hand requires a manual dexterity most part-time drinkers just don't possess. Within the first few hours of the Fair's opening, the Arch grounds are littered with nickels, dimes, quarters and the occasional soggy dollar that escaped the clutches of these novice mug-jugglers. The canny fairgoer (or at least, the thirsty fairgoer) keeps one eye on the ground, casting around for the gleam of free money. On a hot Fourth of July weekend, nothing tastes better than an ice-cold beer -- nothing, that is, except a free ice-cold beer. This year, make the Fair work for you. -- Paul Friswold
Roll out the grill. Get the charcoal. Grab the gasoline. Light the Bic. Drop and roll! Drop and roll! For some of us, backyard barbecuing should be classified as one of those stunts not to be tried at home. Thankfully, 35 grilling gurus will be in town Friday, July 4, and Saturday, July 5, for the first annual Fair Saint Louis Barbecue Contest. For a taste of grilled meat free of charcoal, lighter fluid and singed arm hair, check them out on the grounds of the Casino Queen (East St. Louis riverfront, $15 gets you a half-pound of competition samples, coleslaw, baked beans and soda, 5-8 p.m. Friday). For more meat on this story, visit www.fairstlouis.com. -- Tom R. Arterburn
Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space
Space, the final frontier, has been good to mankind. Our exploration of the cosmos has yielded such neat-o appliances as mobile phones, medical devices, computers and smoke detectors. The spin-off technology begat from space exploration is the subject of "Space On Display," a NASA-sponsored event at Fair St. Louis. Earthlings will gain an understanding of how space-age science improves our lives at the exhibits within the "Technology Hall Of Fame," an 18-wheeler that unfolds to become a walk-through exhibit. The "Surround Sound Theater," a cosmological delight for astronauts of all ages, features a ten-minute video history of the space program (Thursday, July 3-Saturday, July 5, free, at Barbecue Fest on the Casino Queen parking lot, East St. Louis riverfront, www.fairstlouis.com). -- Rob Levy
Death From Above
Air shows make for a war party
It's as impressive as hell when the AV-8B Harrier jump jet does its vertical takeoffs and landings during the air shows at Fair St. Louis. To see this badass warplane slowly rise or drop on a column of air is an ooooh moment. But at air shows, the ooooh of cool technology is tempered by the oh God of cities clogged with the corpses of war dead. Sure, we need our weapons of defense, but what do we gain from ogling our Hornets, Talons and Harriers? On the one hand, we may feel a dash of patriotism, or a rush of gratitude for the folks who defend us -- who've died so that we can be free. On the other hand, there's that tingle -- that feeling we get when we see a visual reminder that human order is maintained by threat and punishment and death -- and that no one can kill like we can. Cotton candy, anyone? The Fair St. Louis free air shows are at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 3, through Saturday, July 5, with 11:30 a.m. shows Friday and Saturday, also (www.fairstlouis.com). -- Byron Kerman