The Bands of Summer

Here are ten hot, not-to-miss local acts

If you need something short to jolt you after the lushness of Dozemarypool or Musicfor, the punchy Sex Robots might be just what you need. Sadly, they're neither libidinous nor robotic, but if you can overlook the false advertising, their poppy, propulsive punk works great on its own terms. The Robots shun the angst of modern radio punk and the mess of the Sex Pistols, preferring to zero in on catchier influences such as the Jam and Buzzcocks, and their songs bounce like rubber balls. As an added bonus, the young group does a great cover of "12XU," by '70s punk experimentalists Wire, which gives their repertoire an extra bit of edge.

On the other hand, the mysterious punk/folk collective the Whole Sick Crew doesn't need post-punk to add edge to its set. Edge is already built into the Crew's strange, haunting show, with its spooky sea shanties, whiskey-tinged dirges and members' tendencies to wander aimlessly through the audience like lost souls. Though the Whole Sick Crew gets slapped with the tag "pirate rock" for its vaguely eighteenth-century sensibility, the band sounds more like the atmosphere in an old film noir, especially as it continues to broaden its sound. With the band members' preference for offbeat, intimate venues like the City Museum and Dressel's Pub Above, their extensive concert schedule is like a trip through the city's oddest corners, too.

Finally, even though it's about a season too early for homecoming, two proud prodigal sons will be making their triumphant returns this summer. Bunnygrunt, a trio of college-rock superstars who were probably our best-known pop act in the pre-Nelly lull, has reformed after a breakup and web of side projects that you'd need a flowchart to track properly. The genius of Bunnygrunt (and what separates them from the scores of sugary independent pop groups out there) is that the band never drew any line in the sand between being catchy and being noisy. Cutesy "la-la-la"s coexist peacefully with prickly guitar blasts, as in the 'grunt's recent hyperactive cover of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control." Never has such a dark, spooky song sounded so much like pure pop.

Also, our latest MTV darlings, the north-county punk group Story of the Year, will be making a return of a different sort, headlining the Warped Tour on July 25 at the UMB Bank Pavilion. Earnest, soaring and flush with the pains and thrills of being young, the anthem "Until the Day I Die" (worryingly, one of three morbidly titled tracks on the band's debut, Page Avenue) has conquered punk circles nationwide, but this will be the emo superstars' first hometown gig since fame struck. What better way to celebrate summer than with an outdoor festival, and what better way to celebrate the increasingly vibrant St. Louis scene than by seeing the band who filmed their breakthrough video at our dingiest of dives, the Creepy Crawl?

Correction published 6/2/04: In the original version of this story, we erroneously referred to the members of Femme Fatality as "ladies" when, in fact, they are all male, all the time. The above version reflects the corrected text.

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