The 2004 RFT Music Awards

Best Hard Rock/Metal Shame Club

It's fitting that the winner of the Hard Rock/Metal category is a group that prides itself on being St. Louis' loudest band. After four years of blown PAs and audience eardrums, Shame Club has finally won the award it was destined to win, coasting to victory on a swirl of distortion and feedback.

The band's first album, Bad Idea Realised, released last year, showcased Shame Club's ability to craft riffs and songs. Made from chunks of down-tuned stoner-rock chords and Thin Lizzy-esque twin-guitar harmonies, and laid upon a foundation of manic Keith Moon drumming, the eight tunes on that release took from classic rock's past while pointing ahead to the future.

Top: Chingy  Bottom: The Sex Robots: (left to right) Tracey John 
Morrissey, Mario Viele and Maysam Attaran
Jennifer Silverberg
Top: Chingy
Bottom: The Sex Robots: (left to right) Tracey John Morrissey, Mario Viele and Maysam Attaran
Top: Steve-O  Bottom: Soulard Blues Band: (left to right) John Wolf, 
Bob Kamoske, Kirk Grice, John Mondin and Art Dwyer
Jennifer Silverberg
Top: Steve-O
Bottom: Soulard Blues Band: (left to right) John Wolf, Bob Kamoske, Kirk Grice, John Mondin and Art Dwyer

But the guys in this club aren't lazy. Only a year after their debut, they've completed their second album, Volume, which will soon be available.At their showcase performance this year, the set was made up nearly exclusively of songs from that album, showing the band moving in a newer, more melodic direction. They're still loud and proud of it, but the newer songs are more intricate, based around swelling, anthemic choruses and vocals with a hint of Van Morrison's melancholy. The Who influence has moved beyond just the drum kit as well, with both of the band's guitarists powering Townshend-like through larger-than-life chords. Fitting, then, that Shame Club closed with a note-perfect cover of "Won't Get Fooled Again," leaving audience members pumping their fists and sweating while recklessly singing along.

Shame Club isn't punk rock or stoner rock or mod rock or grunge -- it's just a rock band, crafting songs that sound like they might fit on a classic-rock station. This isn't because the songs are needlessly retro or the band is doing things that have been done before, but because even after one listen, the songs sound familiar -- and when experienced live, they create the sensation of rock & roll being new and important again.

And let's not forget that they're really, really loud. -- Travis Petersen

Best Garage Rock The Gentleman Callers

Founded by the former members of punk band El Gordo's Revenge, the Gentleman Callers added ex-Shame Club member Mike Young as a guitarist/organist in 2001 and proceeded to put out white-boy garage soul, '60s-style. The Callers encountered the same problem that most garage bands do, in that it's hard to sound new when, well, you don't sound new. While the music was certainly well played, Callers sets just kind of blended into one long grind of Farfisa, rhythm and skronk.

But a funny thing happened somewhere along the line. The Gentleman Callers grew tighter and started to include a wider variety of sounds and influences. What was once a copy became a meaty, rocking mélange of Nuggets-era garage psych, organ-driven rave-ups and melodic pop songs falling somewhere between the Kinks and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, all put together the Callers' way. This new sound and material is highlighted by the fine instrumentation of the four Callers, with guitarist Mike Virag and Young laying down bits of melody and harmony, and bassist/ singer Kevin Schneider and drummer Matt Picker holding down the pulsing beat. Particularly effective are the drums and organ, so deep and sleazy that they sound like Young and Picker are channeling every night spent in illicit ways into forming a heartbeat pumping with liquor and beautiful half-naked women.

There is no Most Improved Band award, but if there were, the Gentleman Callers would certainly be in contention for it. They are, however, the Best Garage Band in St. Louis. The Callers had some fierce competition from the other nominees, including the Electric and the Phonocaptors, and though they came out on top, they will have to improve even more over the next year if the want to keep a leg up on the other guys. The one advantage they have is that both of the aforementioned bands have just recently released their manifesto records, and the Callers are still working on theirs (yet they have no record label -- can't somebody give the Best Garage Band in the STL a record deal?), so maybe this time next year they'll be ready with a masterpiece. -- Erik Alan Carlson

Best Roots/Americana The Bottle Rockets

If you hung around Cicero's basement bar in the late '80s, perhaps you remember Chicken Truck, maybe you even got off on its slop-twang versions of John Anderson and Lynyrd Skynyrd, on the original county-rock mash-ups with titles like "Wave That Flag" or "Waiting on a Train." Hell, you might have even whooped it up when Chicken Truck busted out a barely in-tune Paula Abdul cover as an encore. You might have guessed this band wouldn't last, but you wouldn't have guessed such a rabble would become one of the best rock bands on the planet.

In 1993 three of the four Chicken Truckers -- Brian Henneman, Mark Ortmann and Tom Parr -- released their first record as the Bottle Rockets. They had added a monster of a bass player in Tom Ray and they'd started to find songs, especially "Kerosene" and "Got What I Wanted," that made no distinction between country and rock but had the classic feel -- the instantly singable melodies, the vivid imagery -- of what they loved about both genres. That deeper commitment to songwriting exploded on the Bottle Rockets' two best albums, The Brooklyn Side and 24 Hours a Day. Over the years, every band member has written songs, and they've been aided by important, honorary members Bob Parr (who played bass in Chicken Truck) and Festus high school teacher Scott Taylor. The breadth and success of their songs owe in part to that democratic mix of multiple voices, a rare thing on today's rock scene.

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