On these early winter nights, the air is oftentimes so crisp and the sky so clear that it feels like if you could just find a quiet enough place in the city, you could hear the stars moving through the black. The sound of the heavens spinning slowly through their ancient arcs was called "the music of the spheres" by medieval theologians, and these same thinkers debated how this celestial music would sound to mortal ears. In the dying days of 2003, with an upper atmosphere clogged by satellite transmissions and studded with thousands of shards of broken high-tech equipment, the music of the spheres probably sounds a lot like Gravity Propulsion System, an Oklahoma-based band that nimbly shifts gears from hard-driving rock & roll to weightless space-rock while trailing a swath of rapidly disintegrating parts. GPS's album Poison Rays of Sound, released earlier this year on local label Ascetic Records, is as brilliant and intelligent a combination of rock-thrust, conspiracy-theory lyrics and grand, beautiful noise eruptions as you could hope for in this era of angsty, Marketing 101 corporate rock. But that is the genius of Ascetic guru (and self-described "freakishly tall Asian dude") Hieu Nguyen. While the Corporate Rock Emperors go looking for the next Limp Bizkit, Nguyen looks for "the good shit, by better people."
To show off his latest find, Kansas City's The Stella Link, Nguyen is throwing an Ascetic Records Showcase at the Rocket Bar (2001 Locust Street, 314-588-5055). In addition to the Link, whose album release was pushed back due to recording troubles ("the drums just aren't there yet," according to Nguyen), hometown ass-kickers Riddle of Steel (pictured) will be providing the sort of audience-tenderizing performance that has made them legendary. And because Nguyen has the power to make it happen, he's also lined up Traindodge, another Oklahoma band that struts its smart rock in a convincing, honest and uncorporate fashion. Tickets are $7 to $9 and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. Show up, buy everyone's record and commence to rockin'. -- Paul Friswold
Bring your own milk
For the curmudgeon, this is a tough time of year. All that happiness and goodwill-toward-man business? That's a great big crock o' crap; the holidays mean leaving the bosom of the couch so you can stand around quaint shops while your significant other spends hours pondering knickknacks and gewgaws. If you still have any control at all in the relationship, try to steer the expedition toward the Cherokee antique district (Cherokee Street between Jefferson and Lemp avenues, www.cherokeeantiquerow.com) on Saturday, December 6, and Sunday, December 7. Participating shops will have free Christmas cookies, so you can stuff your grouchy face while waiting. Cheerfully bellow "once across the lips, forever on the hips" while you munch, and you'll have the plate to yourself; ladies got no sense of humor about their butts this time of year. -- Paul Friswold
The Last DJs
Before the dawn of MTV and the Armageddon of corporate radio, local DJs were the tastemakers who made St. Louis shuffle its feet.
Once again these personalities will spin platters that matter and recount their adventures at "Radio Daze -- A Blast From the Past," hosted by local radio celeb Johnny Rabbitt. This free salute features legendary local DJs Buddy Moreno, Chuck Norman, David Lee, Johnnie King, Paul Warner and Mark Langston, among others.
Return to those thrilling days of yesteryear at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard at DeBaliviere Avenue in Forest Park) at 7 p.m. (See www.mohistory.org or call 314-746-4599 for more.) -- Rob Levy
Get a Clue
If Blake Edwards' 1964 slapstick film The Pink Panther is an underrated comedy, it's because the schmucks who followed the brilliant Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau have actually managed to obscure Sellers' achievement. Sellers was so perfect as the moronic, insanely lucky detective that those who followed him (Roberto Benigni and Ted Wass) could not hope to carry the films. (God help Steve Martin, who stars as Clouseau in an upcoming Panther.) In the original, Clouseau chases the Phantom, a jewel thief who proves to be right under his nose the whole time. Prepare for vicious pratfalls at 8 p.m. in Beatnik Bob's Café in the City Museum (701 North 15th Street, 314-231-1009, $4-$6). -- Niles Baranowski