Riverfront Times Music Awards '04

Grand UlenaIf 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 CrewLast 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

YowieThe 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

B-WiseMost 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.

Charlie ChanUnless 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

ClockworkDo 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.

CrucialWhile 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

NeedlesWhile 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

Best Club DJ

Alexis"House" has become somewhat of a curse word among electronica enthusiasts, who have grown used to associations between house music and the latest remix of a trashy pop song over a perverted Latin beat that thumps with as much rhythm as a jackhammer. Luckily there are still pillars of the genre, such as DJ Alexis, who tirelessly reminds St. Louis party- and club-goers that house music can be so much more. Alexis fills her sets with obscenely large helpings of funk, soul and acid jazz, mixing rhythms, beats and vocal hooks. You may start out just tapping your feet, but beware -- Alexis' assault is scarcely detectable until you find yourself shaking in the middle of a sweaty throng on the dance floor. 11 p.m., Pin-Up Bowl

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