Riverfront Times Music Awards '04

Best Hard Rock/Metal

HarkoninIts name an alternate spelling of Harkonnen, the evil clan of planet-dominators in Frank Herbert's classic Dune, the black-metal band Harkonin...but need we go on? You can probably already hear the double-kickdrum assault and harsh vocals that've been destroying the eardrums of metal fans all over the Lou. Sci-fi and fantasy references are to black metal what luxury cars are to rap-album covers -- signifiers to let you know what's inside. And what's inside Harkonin is ass-kicking: raw rock that thrills while it beats you all to hell. You have been warned. 5 p.m., Hi-Pointe

Killjoy4FunListed on stoner-rock fan pages across the United States, Killjoy4Fun is the preeminent local act for those who like their metal heavy, hard and over the top. Song titles such as "Warpaint" and "Drawn and Quartered" tell listeners what they're in for -- an assault. As Playback magazine contributor John Kujawski has observed, the tension onstage at Killjoy's live shows is palpable, not only between band and audience and among the band members themselves, but between the band members and their instruments, which they beat to a pulp song after song, letting the audience breathe a sigh of relief between attacks as the bandmates retune their guitars mid-set. With a sound somewhere between Black Sabbath and Alice in Chains, Killjoy4Fun hits slow, steady and hard. [Editor's note: A correction ran concerning this capsule; please see end of article.]
6:30 p.m., Market in the Loop Outdoor Stage

LoFreqIf you need your rock hot, rowdy, greasy or sweaty, LoFreq delivers it all. Hard at work on a new full-length with ex-Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus in the producer's chair, these resilient sons of the south side have maintained a strong, steady presence on the dirt/stoner rock circuit here and nationwide. Need extra-low-tuned guitars growling butt-riffs at obscene volumes for the next ramming session with your porn-star mate? LoFreq is there for you. Need a good, solid cowbell to tell you when the spankings should commence? LoFreq will see you through, then pack you a bong hit and fry up a striped-bass sandwich to complement your postcoital cuddle.

The Saw Is FamilyWhere have all the weirdos gone? It seems as if rock bands just roll out of a factory, all wanting to be the next whatever-is-selling-at-the-moment. In recent memory, waves of hair-metal drones crashed into the high tide of Pearl Jam clones, followed by rap-metal mooks and then the trust-fund rock of Strokes wannabes -- an endless, turgid churning of bands lacking any real individuality. Not so with The Saw Is Family. Best described as art-damaged psycho-punk served with a potentially lethal dose of spacey noise trash and gonzo theatricality, the Saw serves as the eccentric yang to the bland yin of Modern Rock™ with such songs as "Corporate Worm Guts" and "Thicker Than Electric Peanut Butter."

Shame ClubShame Club has been together for four years now, four blissful years of the best hard rock in St. Louis. No other local act commands the stage with the same hedonistic dominance; no band comes close to reaching that pinnacle of permeable guitar work that soaks through walls, skin and various other membranes. In Shame Club's own sarcastic and brilliantly undermining words, its rock is a cross between Slayer and NPR. The band manages to be loud, hard, sickeningly likable -- and smart. SC's songs make crowds thrash and dance, bang and scream, without being dumb and without pandering to the sensibilities of the loving scenesters who follow them around to dark bars and cramped clubs in hopes that when their ear drums finally blow, it will be at a Shame Club show. 9 p.m., Hi-Pointe

Best Rockabilly/Surf/Instrumental

The Civil TonesIt's still a free country, which means you have a choice: Listen to critics who describe the Civil Tones as "wonky," "crazy-far-out," "spooky/cheesy freak-show music," or just listen to the damn band. And try to keep from dancing while you do it. Instrumental soul music is the Civil Tones' first calling: the beefy, organ-driven tradition of Booker T. & the MG's and the Bar-Kays, and if a little surf and more than a little jazz slip in, don't mistake it for cocktail-sippery. Lounges are not funky; the band's latest record, Vodka and Peroxide, is: creamy and bouncy Hammond B3 beds, raunchy and wah-wahed guitar lines, and a rhythm section that swings and grinds like a bootleg bar on the outskirts of Memphis. They be impeccable musicians, but the only thing civil about them is their name.

The CrazyBeatsFor some, the rockabilly subculture is to contemporary rock & roll what Civil War re-enactment is to current affairs. Still, the cats and kitties who practice the moves and delight in the fashion of the '50s might be on to something. If you can't actually relive the past, you can't exhaust it either. And bands like the CrazyBeats prove that the original soul of early rock & roll -- the irresistible rhythmic swing -- affords too much pleasure to resign to history books. Fronted by rockabilly DJ Al Swacker, the band, featuring Craig Petty on take-off guitar, Ryan "Tiger" O'Connor on bass and Dirty Ernie on drums (alter-egos are cool), the CrazyBeats emphasize that swing with laid-back swagger and well-honed skill. 8 p.m., Duck Room

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