By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Grandpa's Ghost has been winning the Eclectic/Uncatgorizable RFT award since the last glacier passed through here. Ben Hanna and his project/ collective, named after an episode of Amazing Stories, are the 800-pound gorilla in this category, so much so that their name on the ballot reads like a sign that says, "Abandon Hope, All Ye Nominated Here." There's a reason Grandpa's Ghost always wins: They're really freaking good. Hanna has a knack for writing beautiful, elegiac songs and then assembling unique musicians to play them. Will they win again? It's anyone's guess, but suffice to say the bookies aren't offering very good odds against them.
If you expect music journalists to chew bands up into easily digested terms and feed it back to you like a mother bird to her young, then Grand Ulena creates some sort of jazz-math-noise skronk. But to reduce the music to these terms doesn't even begin to convey the amount of information found in Grand Ulena's songs. The shit is dense, and Grand Ulena brings new meaning to the term "power trio." The band's debut, Gateway to Dignity, leaves listeners gasping for air, while its follow-up EP, Neosho, allows a brief surfacing before being thrust back under a deluge of carefully orchestrated catastrophes and cacophonies. Both releases show the range of this band and its dedication to musical exploration, and St. Louis is a better place for having birthed such colossal music.
The Whole Sick Crew
Last year, the Whole Sick Crew won for Best New Artist and accepted it in a truly anarchistic fashion. This year, seeing as the band doesn't qualify for that one anymore, it has ended up in Eclectic/Uncategorizable. Since winning last year, things have changed for the band. Its lineup has had some fluctuation, and the whole crew got sick of the "pirate rock" gimmick, so they dropped it in favor of a darker, more expansive sound, and by all accounts it has served them well. Still all acoustic and shambolic, the members describe themselves as "folk if you're lenient, punk if you're imaginative" and that fits, but what it doesn't tell you is that over the past year they have become a quite good at what they do. 3 pm, Main Outdoor Stage
The ferocious Yowie injects psychic-squirrel tag teams into your brain for wrestling matches, bends you over and beats your ass unmercifully with beaver tails soaked in stinging nettle juice. If you've ever had too much coffee and weren't sure whether you were euphoric or nauseated, you may have an idea of what to expect from the quizzically tuned dual guitars and pneumatic lurch-and-linger drums of these hyper-aggro tonal shit-disturbers. Do not venture into a Yowie set on any psychedelic unless you like the idea of mumbling random numbers to yourself until the day you die. 4:30 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage
Best Hip-Hop DJ
Most artists deplore the idea of getting stuck in a genre. "We are unique unto ourselves!" they declare, right before starting a set that sounds like every other set from bands in their genres. B-Wise is different. He may be a hip-hopper at heart, but he's not afraid to drip drops of jungle and other slices of electronica into his set. Some artists are easy to classify, but B-Wise won't get pinned down.
Unless Charlie Chan has cloned himself, he must be the hardest-working man in hip-hop. On the radio, at Beat Fest, at nearly every club in town -- Chan spins so often that it seems that he's laying down tracks everywhere but in your kitchen (oh, wait, he's doing that next week). Equally comfortable meshing old-school classics, underground gems and current St. Louis hits, Chan is a workhorse, more concerned with the movement of asses on the dance floor than with flashy turntablist skills. And from the club to your kitchen, those asses move to Chan's unstoppable beats. 9 p.m., Elvis Room
Do turntablists name their styles like kung-fu masters? If they don't, may we suggest that they do -- and that DJ Clockwork's Tiger Style is very good. Some folks lay back in the cut and let the music speak for itself, but Clockwork scratches your friggin' eyes out Tiger Style! The dexterity with which the man lays waste to wax is a thing to behold, whether on disc or, even better, live in the flesh. Just be warned -- there's no defense.
While DJ Crucial moves between St. Louis and Detroit, he is still a, ahem, crucial part of the St. Louis hip-hop scene. His collaborations with artists such as Hi-Fidel, J-Toth from Hoth and Serengeti are testament to his ability to deliver solidly produced albums despite working with wildly different material. In addition to being a talented DJ and an all-around nice guy, Crucial is one of the founders of F5 records, a local hip-hop label that puts out a wide array of (mostly) local talent. 7 p.m., Elvis Room
While Danger Mouse got all the credit for mashing up the White Album with Jay-Z's Black Album, there were dozens of other Jay-Z mashes this year. One of the best came from DJ Needles, who slid smooth beats under Hova's lyrics to great effect. But you don't need a national act attached to notice Needles -- he's a stalwart member of the hip-hop scene, rocking parties in person and on tape wherever you look. 8 p.m., Elvis Room