U.S. Maple is the sound of a masterful illusion being deliberately torn asunder. It is carefully measured entropy, doled out in jagged mouthfuls of quickly disintegrating bitterness and sorrow, followed immediately by a phantom sweetness that lingers in the back of the throat. Time and again drummer Adam Vida creates a shaky propulsion, snaking forward toward a discernable melody only to have Mark Shippy and Todd Rittman unravel the ends with serrated guitar runs. These tangled outbursts of chord spark and fizzle in a semblance of pop music that collapses inward to dissonance, then rises back to pop. And then Al Johnson wheezes and shudders and hisses and groans, sometimes slurring out actual words but often just muttering thickets of syllables that shimmer with urgent, obfuscated meaning. U.S. Maple is a roiling sound that conveys a sense of brokenness, yet it retains a wholeness -- albeit a fractured, barely-held-together wholeness. As such, the group's performance at the Creepy Crawl (412 North Tucker Boulevard; 314-851-0919) will be an excellent capper to what will be one of the final Conformists shows for a while. Drummer Tom O'Neill leaves the band soon for something else, and the rest of the members will take time off to regroup and plan for a new future. Tickets are $8 to $10, and doors open at 9:30 p.m. Goodbye for now, Conformists. You were better than St. Louis deserved. -- Paul Friswold
Too Sweet to be Sour Change is good
So you've soured. Your adult life isn't what the teenage version of you expected: Your job sucks, the opposite sex (or same sex, for that matter) ignores you, and perhaps you even have bad credit to boot. "Change Your Mind Day 2004" may sweeten even the sourest of countenances. Trek out to the old Chain of Rocks Bridge (one block south of I-270 along Riverview Boulevard) and join guest speaker the Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma (an honored nun) and local Buddhists for the free St. Louis celebration of this nationwide event (1 to 3:30 p.m.; www.maba-usa.org). Meditate and let the wise nun teach you how to turn that frown upside down. She's more than qualified: She's the first nun ordained in Sri Lanka in 1,000 years. Sweet! -- Alison Sieloff
Pride of the Art Coop Artists are humans, too
The Pride Show art exhibit, debuting at the Art Coop downtown from 7 p.m. to midnight, is really just like any other art show: a roster of 33 artists -- gay, straight, bi, black, white, whatev -- displaying works of mixed media. So why pin a rainbow flag on it and call it a pride show? The point, according to Art Coop executive director Don Erickson, is to draw attention to gay rights by including all artists, not just gay ones. "In a time when a firestorm of fundamentalist bigotry threatens the gay community's most basic human right," says Erickson, "the Pride Show is an affirmation that while most of us aren't gay, we're all human." Amen, brotha!
Part of June's First Friday Downtown Art Crawl -- the monthly happening where a number of Wash. Ave.-area galleries keep their doors open late and for free -- the Pride Show will remain on display for Saturday night's Rainbow Unity Ball, also happening at the Art Coop, located at 1620 Delmar Boulevard. For more info, call 314-644-7676. -- Rose Martelli
Outside of baseball, one of St. Louis' favorite pastimes is trying to predict which down-on-its-luck city neighborhood will be the next to rebound. You could place a worse bet than one backing Forest Park Southeast. Currently undergoing new construction and some general sprucing up, the neighborhood shows off its goods with a free home showcase from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Start at 4471 Arco Avenue, and call 314-533-6704 for more information. -- Paul Friswold